2/21/18: HORROR MINING

HORROR MINING

MONOLOGUE WRITTEN BY CLYDE LEWIS

I have said many times in my career that I believe in being an old school journalist. I was trained to be an objective source and as I was seeing the trend in news organizations to have political leanings, I abandoned working as a news reporter and decided to be a talk show host.

Many people are unaware that news reporting changed significantly after the 24-hour news cycle was invented. True objectivity in the news room became a casualty after the intelligence agencies in the country realized the power of using the fourth estate as a propaganda machine.

When I was learning the ropes of reporting solid news, I was motivated by the phrase “public’s right to know.” This phrase has been synonymous with freedom of the press and there was a time when the press was granted special privilege because of this freedom and the obligation that every reporter has to be a surrogate in vindicating the public’s rights.

Things like “fair comment” and the “public’s right to know” were not always well-defined, but they were most certainly used as a defense mechanism to allow reporters and talk show hosts the ability to express their opinions, editorials, and facts in order for the public to make well-informed decisions.

It must be emphasized that there is a deep responsibility for those in the press to keep the actions of government honest, and that includes reporting uncomfortable information to the public.

Since the attacks of 9/11, Americans have acted like frightened children, making no decisions until they receive instructions from a highly-controlled media turned propaganda machine.

We have observed since the attacks of 9/11 that the media has become a useful tool for psychological warfare. The media will go from making you think, to demanding that you react. It will go from being a fountain of solid information to an amusement park where cart wheeling clowns will infantilize the information and spoon feed it to you like formula that is easy to gulp down.

The mainstream media is banking on the fact that many of us have an insufficient understanding of the world around us. They are hoping that this is enough to frighten you into listening and obeying their line of authority.

The media is now in the business of emotional incitement and what is unfortunate is when someone can see that their emotions are being preyed upon and call foul, the media bounces back by claiming that anyone who questions their handling of a major news story is further victimizing the victims or are insensitive to those who witnessed or experienced firsthand what had happened. The question is – who is being more insensitive, those who question the motives of the media or the media itself for not only exploiting the victims but taking part in something called stringing or horror mining.

For those who are unfamiliar with stringers in the news business—they are simply hunters that provide perfect witnesses, perfect camera angles, and photos that they can sell to news networks for profit.

Many stringers piggyback on police radios to get the best shots of a tragedy before the news reporters do and many times they get witness accounts that no one else gets and even they find the best witnesses who tell the story in a way that fits the standards of the broadcast.

The word “standards” in the media now is also loosely used to describe political stances that the particular network wishes to exploit.

Sometimes stringers are called horror miners because at times the produce grizzly footage after a plane crash, or a shooting and the media is stuck with the dilemma of whether or not they should air what can be seen as discretionary material to better illustrate the horror and tragedy of the event.

This is all plant material and if certain footage or photos are used in excess or are shared by other networks – there are fees that are negotiated for the rights to the material.

This is also applies with witnesses that are being used over and over again. Some witnesses even have to get agents to negotiate money for their appearances on the major networks.

These are not crisis actors – they are real witnesses who have been used over and over again – and appearing in front of a camera every 10 minutes from networks all over the world can get a little daunting.

In the aftermath of the Parkland shootings, many news organizations, including interviewed the school’s teenage survivors — for the simple reason that they were the ones who knew the most about what had transpired.

Many of them were interviewed just minutes after they had experienced the trauma of watching their fellow students being gunned down.

The morning after the school massacre in Parkland, FL, NBC’s “Today Show” aired a dramatic live interview. The guest was Samantha Grady, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who had witnessed the shooting of her best friend and classmate.

You could see on Samantha’s face that she witnessed something horrifying.

Host Savannah Guthrie asked Samantha about how one of her friends was doing.

Savannah said that she unfortunately didn’t make it – and started to cry. There was a long pause — Hoda Kotb who also hosted said that she was so sorry for her loss. Samantha started wiping the tears on her sleeve and struggled to regain her composure.

The reaction to the interview on social media was immediate and almost entirely negative.

Commenters took NBC to task for putting a vulnerable teenager, perhaps still in shock, on national TV without apparently knowing the extent of her trauma.

NBC did not issue any apology.

This raises one of the central ethical questions in reporting on mass tragedies: Where’s the line between informing the public and mining the horror for ratings and clicks?

Another question is can a teenager, especially one who has so recently experienced trauma, really give informed consent to be interviewed?

Newspapers and TV stations regularly interview the friends and relatives of murder victims. Doing so serves not only to inform the public but pays homage by presenting a full, human portrait of the deceased. It can also spark public interest in the case, perhaps generating tips helpful to law enforcement. For these reasons, survivors typically appreciate the opportunity to speak to the news media amid personal tragedy.

However, there is something that I wish to bring up about these shootings and the odd way the media is exploiting these teenagers and using them as political pawns.

First of all I want to mention, that I believe the entire country was moved by an impassioned speech that was given by student Emma Gonzalez.

Regardless of your stance on guns and gun control, you could tell that young Emma was angry and delivered with passion a speech that reverberated the concern that many students, teachers and parents have about school shootings.

Emma Gonzalez’s name was trending on Twitter for much of the afternoon as she took on President Trump, the National Rifle Association, politicians and every argument against tightening gun laws, starting a chant of “shame on you!” in the crowd of hundreds at the rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Yes she was political, yes she was angry, and yes you could tell from the moments of tearing up and gaining composure that she wanted something to be done.

Emma’s speech caused a firestorm at the rally and on social media, many calling her a hero and a new leader in the fight against gun violence.

Emma Gonzalez appeared on CNN after the speech; however, she did not appear alone. She was accompanied by David Hogg who is also a 17-year-old student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

It was after that interview that Hogg seemed to be in every interview since his first appearance with Emma.

The odd thing about David Hogg is that his frequent appearances seem a bit odd because Hogg never personally encountered the shooter. He actually was hiding in a closet while attending his environmental science class.

This has prompted many conspiracy theorists to believe that Hogg is a crisis actor and that he really isn’t a student – only an actor to push the anti-gun agenda.

Now, in truth, every interview where he has appeared, he has attacked the Trump administration, the NRA and has downplayed the FBI’s role in not investigating the killer Nicholas Cruz.

After further investigation, it was found that David’s father, Kevin, was a former FBI agent.

In the news business, we can call David an activist, but as a reliable witness, the media could do better than to allow for his exploitation for political reasons.

He is not a crisis actor, but he certainly fits the mold of a stringer or advocate.

David is also an aspiring journalist; he has interviewed students himself about the shooting and of course inserts his political views into the mix.

He’s a Teenlink reporter for the Sun Sentinel, according to his Instagram profile, a student filmmaker, and a surfer. He and his family moved to Florida several years ago, when he was a freshman, and chose Stoneman Douglas High partially because of the TV production classes the school offers. As a sophomore, he created some of his own broadcast packages and decided that TV news was his passion.

This is why I am sure the media has chosen Hogg to be on many of the interview videos that we have seen on television.

There is a video circulating in the media of him speaking about the shooting, stumbling and then the segment being re-shot so that he could say the lines again.

Once again this is not evidence of a crisis actor, but a stringer that the media is exploiting and that he has no problem with the reason is because it most certainly doesn’t hurt his aspirations of becoming a news reporter. After David realized that social media was calling him a crisis actor he told Buzzfeed news : “I just think it’s a testament to the sick immaturity and broken state of our government when these people feel the need to peddle conspiracy theories about people that were in a school shooting where 17 people died and it just makes me sick. It’s immature, rude, and inhuman for these people to destroy the people trying to prevent the death of the future of America because they won’t.”

Unfortunately, after he made this statement and days after the shooting David and some of his fellow classmates were interviewed for CBS news. After the interview, they decided to take part in a photoshoot – posing for the camera as if they were stars of the TV show, Glee.

The photos featuring CBS reporter Gisela Perez and the students were posted by CBS This Morning staffer Caroline West and student activist Cameron Kasky.

They were taken over the weekend after the shooting. The camera crew and producers posed with the kids on the set of an interview taped for broadcast Monday morning. This means the students were only three or four days out from surviving a massacre in their school all smiling for the camera.

CBS took down the tweet – but the interview of the kids made them out to look like heroes of the resistance. Many tweets were sent out by the participating students including Hogg that said the rehearsals for the news shows were grueling and a special thank you tweet was sent out by David Hogg saying “Shout out to @LindseyCWest @GiselaPerezTV they’ve reminded me to eat, drink, and breathe seriously @cbs these people are AMAZING THANK YOU SO MUCH #NeverAgain.”

Once again, the question needs to be asked – is the media exploiting these students and are they suing David Hogg as a stringer because he is the most articulate of the bunch in expressing his disdain for the Trump administration?

All of these appearances have allegedly sparked a nationwide rally that is planned in protest of the NRA and guns in general.

Now, who is behind the rally? Has it been organized by the students themselves?

What is happening here is unbelievable.

We mourn the loss of the 17 students that perished at the hands of a gunman –but shouldn’t we say something about how students are being ideologically hijacked and used to further a political agenda?

Those who are asking these questions, those who are observing this – those who are saying something are being attacked for even questioning the sincerity of these students.

I don’t think they lack sincerity; something horrible happened to them. However, the witnesses who are often on camera were selected for their mass appeal – and of course their political leanings.

This is evident.

All we have been hearing form the media is nothing but political clap trap and no real beneficial news where people are truly informed. If the media is somehow scooped or even shown to be inept, they always seem to create a ham handed response to anyone who does not necessarily see the world as they do.

The words “false flag” and now “crisis actor” have been terms that have been thrown around a lot since the Sandy Hook shootings and the Boston Marathon bombings. This has unfortunately sparked amateur analysts to sit by their computers putting together composite scenarios where they allege that “crisis actors” are being used at these events and thus coming to the conclusion that the entire event was faked.

This is not an example of good deduction. Having crisis actors tell the story for the cameras is not something that can be dismissed as conspiracy theory, it can only be revealed as fact, if there is fact to be had.

We can’t just speculate and call it fact – this destroys credibility.

If in the mix of those interviewed comes what can be seen as a stringer, or plant, does that make the entire event or tragedy fake?

I can tell you that the answer is a definite no.

Events do take place and yes, various agents are dispatched and stringers are used for the sole purpose of planting talking points for the media.

But people who are aware of what happens behind the scenes realize that some stringers are also dispatched to deliver the talking points for a government fueled agenda.

The media along with all of their exploitation and political ideological hijacking should be ashamed of how they have treated these kids.

Their act of leading the witness is obvious – the fact that they are angry because people have revealed it – is pathetic.

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