I’m a social media luddite. I’ve never had a personal FaceBook or Instagram account. I reluctantly dipped my toe in social media waters only 2.5 years ago in order to advertise my new business. I quickly learned that social media is rife with bad actors who distort facts and manipulate public opinion to further their own agenda. Disturbingly, I also learned that this is the way that a considerable portion of the population consumes the majority of their news.
Last night, I was sent a video posted by local attorney and aspiring muckraking journalist Tim Anderson regarding protests in Portsmouth. In the video, Anderson identified three public defenders in Portsmouth by name and excoriated them for spray painting a confederate monument. He called for the lawyers to be criminally prosecuted for vandalism and asserted that state senator Louise Lucas had “incited a riot” by ordering police to stand down to a crazed mob. Anderson further claimed that he had high level information that a protestor named Chris Green struck by a falling statue during the protest had died from his injuries.
Within hours, the video had been viewed over 60,000 times with over 1,500 outraged comments. Many called for the state senator to be charged as an accessory to murder. Many called for the lawyers to be disbarred. A number of sociopaths celebrated that Green had gotten what he deserved. Well, imagine my surprise when it turned out that Chris Green is alive and in stable condition. Anderson’s shocking scoop was instead utter bullshit offered under the tempting guise of insider knowledge. And one thing I’ve learned from years in court is that once a witness or lawyer has lied to you once, there’s probably another pile of steaming dung right around the corner.
Lo and behold, the crap cornucopia was only beginning. Anderson’s claim that the public defenders were lawless criminals was also pulled straight from his nether regions. The reality is that several public defenders attended a large community protest in broad daylight at 2:00 in the afternoon. White and black community members gathered together to express their disgust at the presence of a racist confederate statue sitting at a site where slaves were once punished on a whipping post. With the apparent blessing of law enforcement and local politicians who were on-site, the public defenders participated with hundreds of others in (clutch your pearls) spray painting “BLM” for black lives matter on statutes as an expression of community solidarity. Criminals? Not so much. Standing up for the oppressed? That’s what public defenders do every day.
Should questions be asked about why authorities stood by and allowed amateurs to pull down statutes weighing thousands of pounds? Yes, it obviously wasn't safe. Unlike Tim Anderson, I won't pretend to know the facts and won't assign blame until an investigation has been done. As it turns out, ownership of a cell phone camera doesn't turn someone with no journalistic experience into the next Woodward or Bernstein. When facts are complex, good journalists provide reliable factual background information, “context,” to enable readers to draw their own conclusions. In this case, 60,000 people got the personal interpretations of a lawyer making shit up because he has a beef with a state senator.
But the family of Chris Green and the public defenders whose good names and reputation were dragged through the mud deserve an apology. To somebody like Tim Anderson, they're a means to a political end. Well guess what numb nuts? They're real people with real families getting hate messages from your followers. So while you're having fun playing amateur investigative journalist, your bullshit has real life consequences for them. Unlike you, they actually live in Portsmouth and serve their city with honor doing the thankless work of fighting for the poor. They don’t concern themselves with playing dress up journalist, FaceBook likes, or political kabuki theater. For their efforts, they’re rewarded with baseless attacks from a clown outsider with a political score to settle. Shame on you.
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