Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Vigilantes of the Truth

Everyone knows what a vigilante is. It's someone who takes the law in his own hand to correct a perceived in-justice. It could be someone who beats up a snatch thief before the cops arrive or someone who guns down gangsters like the comic book character The Punisher. Those are the common examples, but there is another type of vigilantes... the vigilante bloggers. These type pursue a different type of justice, they want to spread the truth, or what they think maybe the truth.

The problem with these type of bloggers is the same with vigilantes, society in general may not agree with their methods but they agree with the outcome. Some bloggers say they're brave; to hell with lawsuits and the privacy of others... the truth must be exposed! However, there is a problem with that... what if someone innocent got hurt along the way?

What if the snatch thief the mob beat up was the wrong suspect? The mob melts away when the police arrive leaving behind a badly injured innocent victim.

What if the person who was slandered on line by the blogger was really innocent after all? The blogger disappears into anonymity while the reputation of someone has been destroyed. What if the privacy of an innocent bystander was violated in the interest of exposing this so called 'truth'? Too often, editors and bloggers say "we did it without malice, we were just pursuing the truth".

Those who were hurt along the way were just collateral damage in the bigger picture. In university, one of the hardest class I ever took was Mass Media Law. The professor who taught us was an experienced print journalist who had practiced journalism for many years. He was the drill sergeant for all of us aspiring journalists. The passing rate each semester was really low, only less than half the class passed. I was lucky enough to pass the first time with a C.

There was two things that I remember him drilling into us, Shield Laws and Privacy Laws. Shield Laws are basically laws that protect the journalist from legal action such as not having to reveal their source when reporting. The trust between a source and a journalist is one of the most important assets of a journalist, it is the crust of their credibility. With it, journalist can always say "trust me, I'll protect you".

The other laws are privacy laws, some states in the US have privacy laws that protect people from the media. The media cannot reveal the identities of certain type of individuals, for example rape victims, children in criminal cases, etc.

I always saw it as if Lady Justice was balancing privacy on one hand and the sword of truth on the other. The press should be pursuing the truth but must also have rules to obey by. The rules are there to protect the innocent, to prevent 'collateral damage'. In large media organizations, every fact that they print has to be verified by at least one or even two sources. It doesn't matter if the source is anonymous, as long as they are credible. Bloggers on the hand don't live up to that exacting standards. An army of one often cut corners.

Bloggers who don't follow the rules are these new media that the public turns to now. While the traditional print press follows the rules, blogs with sensational claims and 'news' only feeds the public hunger for conspiracy theories.

I blame the government for pushing the public to these bloggers for their news. Their original intention of controlling the press was to prevent public disorder was well intentioned but the implementation was bad. Now the more sensational the unverified claims of the vigilante blogger, the more unrest there is.

There is a famous ethical question I often ask in times like these, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" which means "who watches the watchers?" or "who guards the guardians?". The answer is this:

The question is put to Socrates, "Who will guard the guardians?" or, "Who will protect us against the protectors?". Plato's answer to this is that they will guard themselves against themselves. We must tell the guardians a "noble lie". The noble lie will inform them that they are better than those they serve and it is therefore their responsibility to guard and protect those lesser than themselves. We will instill in them a distaste for power or privilege, they will rule because they believe it right, not because they desire it.

Yeah, another reason why journalists are poor hacks who love their jobs as gatekeepers of the truth.


Merle Savage said...

Are these the Actions of Our US Lady Justice?

Tipping Scales?
Peeking for Corporate Interest?
Accepting Bribes?
Knee Deep in Exxon Oil?
Allowing Human Life as Exxon's Collateral Damage?

To view Lady Justice:

An investigative study needs to be conducted into the thousands of Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (EVOS) workers' health issues, and acknowledged as Exxon's negligence; not left as Exxon's Collateral Damage.

This letter is released in the hope of informing the media, public and anyone who is concerned about human interest stories relating to the present oil and gas issues. Exxon has been fighting an Alaska jury's verdict for 14 years, contending that the $3.5 billion it already has spent, following the worst oil spill in U.S. history is enough. The Alaska jury initially awarded $5 billion to 33,000 commercial fishermen, Native Alaskans, landowners, businesses and local governments.

After 19 years and only four months of deliberating, on July 25,
2008 the US Supreme Court Justices announced their decision. They cut the punitive damages yet again. When that amount is divided by Alaska's plaintiff's lives that were destroyed by the oil spill; is $15,000 the Supreme Court's price of life? Exxon has still not accepted full responsibility for the tragic EVOS alleged cleanup of 1989. Yet, Exxon continues to boast of profits each year, and along with other oil companies raise prices at the gasoline pumps.

Here is the rest of the story: In 1989, while media and public attention focused on the thousands of oil-coated and dead seabirds, otters, and other wildlife, little attention was given to the harm done to the EVOS cleanup workers.
As workers blasted oiled beaches, with hot seawater from high pressure hoses, they were engulfed in toxic fumes containing aerosolized crude oil—benzene and other volatile compounds, oil mist, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. View photos at: www.silenceinthesound.com/gallery.shtml
It is a major concern that the cleanup workers from the 1989 EVOS are suffering from long-term health problems resulting from toxic chemical exposures. A significant number of the workers have died. Some of the illnesses include neurological impairment, chronic respiratory disease, leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors, liver damage, and blood diseases. View stories at: www.silenceinthesound.com/stories.shtml

Dr. Riki Ott has written two books; Sound Truth & Corporate Myth$ and Not One Drop. www.soundtruth.info
Dr. Riki Ott has investigated, studied the oil spill spraying, and quotes numerous reports in her books, on the toxic chemicals that were used during the 1989 Prince William Sound oily beach cleanup.
For more information or to issue a letter of concern to originations about these issues, please contact:
Riki Ott, PhD, phone: 907-424-3915; email: info@soundtruth.info
Pamela Miller, phone 907-222-7714; email: pkmiller@akaction.net
View the letter at: http://www.usmwf.org/bills/Alaskarequest%20.pdf

Submitted by: Merle (Bailey) Savage, General Foreman during the (EVOS) cleanup attempt of 1989. Phone: 702-367-2224; www.silenceinthesound.com email: msavage12@cox.net

luxen said...

looks like I should have used lord justice instead of lady justice. Someone's internet trawler picked it up and randomly inserted their post here.

Bloody hell... I should just delete the comments above instead.