Much Ado About Nothing
I regularly come across examples of how our perceptions can markedly contrast with reality. That always impresses me, and in the realm of major media, I’ve found that it takes quite a bit of personal digging to negate the filters of bias which tend to permeate their end products. If you want to know what they think about an event or an issue, all you have to do is read or see what they produce. If you want to find out what actually happened or what else is involved within an issue, you’re going to have to do some excavation yourself, elsewhere. You may be one of the those who trusts their news source these days, but Walter Cronkite passed away decades ago, so if you just turn on the news and accept it without question as accurate and balanced, you may find yourself becoming unbalanced. Editorializing does that. Propaganda does that. The difference between them is that editorials are labeled as such. Propaganda is not, yet purports to be a reasonably accurate representation of the true situation.
Straight news reporting and accountability for errors has become an endangered species. Propaganda works. If I listen to Fox News long enough, I find my opinions of facts and issues swinging their way over time. If I switch over to NPR, I find myself going the other way. In the end, we’re stuck with listening to the bias that we prefer, and become unable to understand both sides of any issue. When we reach the point at which we say, “there is no other side”, then we are prone to making some very bad decisions – ones that someone else wants us to make in order to advance their own agenda or ideology. When the media itself decides to go on political crusades, it begins to act much like a corrupt government, ignoring whatever does not fit its own agenda. So, we have what we have now: ignorance, polarization, hatred, acting for the camera, and the encouragement of violence in the streets. There’s nothing accidental about it.
In the example below, it’s a simple newspaper column which drew my attention. Now, although a column is an opinion piece, this one purports to describe a real incident first-hand, rounding it out with the author’s feelings and perceptions. The simplest thing to do is just read it, I guess. I found the events that he relates to be disturbing, if perhaps laced with a bit of paranoia around the fringes. The writer is Bill Clark of the Columbia Tribune in Columbia, Missouri. He writes these pieces three days a week. He’s a professional, veteran journalist, so why not give him the benefit of any doubt?
“Ol’ Clark has run-in with the law
“Posted Jun 30, 2017 at 1:01 AM
“After over three million miles of driving and using my turn signals religiously, Ol’ Clark was pulled over for not signaling a right turn, giving me a chance to better understand how minority motorists feel when they are pulled over for the most trivial reason, or no reason at all.
“Here’s Ol’ Clark’s story.
“The intersection of Grace Lane and Lake of the Woods Road carries a heavy traffic load to major subdivisions all the way south to highway 63. Cars on Grace Lane can go either left or right at Lake of the Woods, where traffic does not stop. It can be a very dangerous corner.
On one recent evening, I left my gym half a block south of the intersection and, upon reaching the stop sign, I stopped and remarked to myself that I couldn’t believe there was no traffic in either direction. There was only a car a block behind me.
“My stop had been total, not rolling. I turned right and headed toward Interstate 70. Within 100 yards, red lights flashed behind me, seeming to come from nowhere. I pulled over to allow an emergency vehicle to pass, stopping in the intersection with Bull Run Drive. Then I realized the lights were for me.
“I was now blocking traffic onto Bull Run, so I rolled slowly forward to a shoulder wide enough for both vehicles. The move made sense.
“I’m lucky I didn’t get shot. Sirens wailed and when I stopped, two officers were out of the sheriff’s vehicle. When I reached over to turn off the radio and then take my wallet out of my pocket to produce the driver’s license and insurance card, I realized my hands were not at the top of my steering wheel. Danger lurked and official arrogance was to follow.
“I had no idea why I had been stopped. I rolled down the window and when the sheriff’s deputy approached, my question was, “Why am I being stopped?”
“Because you didn’t use your turn signal back at Grace Lane.” And she added, “And you don’t move your vehicle when we stop you.”
“Hey, I was blocking a major intersection because I thought you were an emergency vehicle and traffic couldn’t move.” No answer.
“After surrendering my license and insurance card, here came the lecture while the second officer stood guard. Then I asked the question: “I normally am very good about using my turn signal,” I said, realizing that the deputy had probably heard that excuse too many times before.
“Tell me, just how did that infraction interfere with the flow of traffic since there was no one except you behind me? How did I endanger others? What did I do to compromise the safety of others and the flow of traffic?”
“The answer, “You didn’t use your turn signal. If you don’t agree, plead “not guilty.”
“Why bother? It would be me against two officers. If they said, “no turn signal,” the cost of the ticket would be increased. I said: “Give me the ticket. If you say I’m guilty, I’ll be guilty.” I felt a warning would have been sufficient.
“Now I’m charged with a moving violation, though I was stopped, by the deputy’s admission. I have no idea what the fine will be because there is no listed fine for not using the turn signal. I had to call the fine collection center in Jefferson City. The service agent there couldn’t tell me the fine because they had not received a copy of the ticket a week later. You tell me how this operates.
“Now a note for the deputy and her standby partner. I was not wearing a seat belt at the time and that is a more serious offense. And, when the two officers turned off their red lights and pulled back into traffic on Lake of the Woods Road, they did not turn on their left turn signal to let traffic know they were changing from the shoulder to the right traffic lane. Whatever fine I pay should be less than what these sheriff’s deputies should pay. I was at least stopped when I allegedly violated.
“I can fully understand how easy it is for police to make random stops. I have a rear bumper full of liberal bumper stickers and a dent. My car is old, with 425,000 miles, which probably makes me an aging hippie with a weed habit. So why not pull me over?
“I’ve just come to appreciate even more the words of those minorities when they speak of harassment and police arrogance. I had a good dose of arrogance on this evening and, in my rear view mirror, the image of the second officer out of the car, his hands ready in case I made the wrong move. My life seemed to be in danger.
“I fully understand how a person can lose their respect for law officers. When you are in the shoes of the minority, you learn a lot more about their journey.”
There are some pretty serious charges and insinuations in here. Clark’s account made me want to check this story out further.
Now under attack for making random and unjustified stops in order to terrorize ordinary citizens, Sheriff Dwayne Carey posted a brief response on the Department’s Facebook page:
“I am refuting a June 30, 2017 column by Bill Clark of the Columbia Daily Tribune where he wrote that during a recent traffic stop near Grace Lane and St. Charles Road he was issued a summons for failing to signal a right turn and was in fear of being “shot” and subjected to “arrogance” by Boone County sheriff’s deputies.
“I also found it interesting that Mr. Clark suggested he was pulled over because his vehicle is older with “a rear bumper full of liberal bumper stickers” and that our deputies surmised he was “an aging hippie with a weed habit.” Mr. Clark, who is white and 84 years old, also stated he felt he was “in the shoes of the minority.”
“I am encouraging the news media and the citizens of Boone County to read Mr. Clark’s column through a link on the Sheriff’s Department website, https://www.boonecountymo.org/sheriff/clark-rebuttal.aspx, where they can also find the complete VIDEO (also posted below) of the June 20, 2017 traffic stop in question and my full response to his column.
“I would be happy to further discuss this matter and I can be reached at (573) 876-6119.
“- Sheriff Dwayne Carey”
The above is merely a caption for the video of the stop. That link he provides above leads to a full response, which is quite interesting on several counts. If you have the time, I recommend reading it because he points out notable things in the video as well as to mention a basic issue of operation that Mr. Clark clearly does not agree with: impartial enforcement vs selective enforcement.
So what actually happened? Really, I mean. Watch and listen to the video below. And you can thank your lucky stars that I have cut about 8 minutes out in the middle and at the end where nothing was happening but filling out paperwork offscreen in order to keep the wheels of bureaucracy turning…slowly. See if you can avoid dozing off just long enough to compare Mr. Clark’s play-by-play account of law enforcement’s outrageous arrogance and intimidation with the reality of the camera and microphone. **TRIGGER WARNING!**: It’s a snoozer. Run time is now 5:22, and I’ve bumped up the audio volume to help with the conversations.
All in all, Mr. Clark’s diatribe (which he still stands by) simply serves to spread his own disrespect and suspicion of the police, all while the officer explains things to him with a “Yes Sir” and “No Sir”. Who’s being the bad guy? Who’s telling the truth and who isn’t? Judge for yourself. Personally, I find Mr. Clark’s column to be more of an indictment of his own intent and worldview than anything else that he asserts about the conduct of Boone County’s law enforcement personnel.
Where do you get your “news” from? Who do you trust to tell you the facts – all of them?