Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Boston Phoenix: Our Paper is Free; Your Speech is Not

The Boston Phoenix is the flagship publication of the Phoenix Media/Communications Group, closely held and totally controlled by one Stephen M. Mindich. Mindich recently sold (pending FCC approval) WFNX, the storied alternative rock radio station, to Clear Channel Communications Inc., pulling the rug from under the Boston market's last rock station. (Lest anyone accuse him of making a straightforward business decision, Mr. Mindich did agonize, in a WBUR interview, about this sale being the "most difficult day of my 47-year business career.") ClearChannel has since announced it plans on using the 'FNX signal to broadcast a conservative talk format.

The Phoenix keeps circulation up (cited as 253,000/week) by its $0 cover price and its ubiquitous presence in sidewalk boxes and convenience store piles as well as the fresh Thursday stacks that yield Monday messes in regional college foyers. Revenue for the rag comes from adult classifieds, nightclub listings, and advertisments including the always salacious, often jailbaity, back-cover layout advert for American Apparel.

The Phoenix makes no pretense to journalistic balance: its editorial orientation is flat out leftist, and, as the President Obama's political fortunes dwindle, its slant is trending ugly leftist. Last fall, as Occupy Boston graced our downtown domain, the Phoenix was not merely an Occupy cheerleader, it was its de facto house organ. Then, what appeared to the cloistered to be a burgeoning  people's movement evaporated, revealing a thinly populated gang with a sour attitude whose doctrines were  based on spurious axioms.  The result is a 2012 full of bitterness among the Left - the shrill disappointment of sore losers as the evanescent utopianism hit a wall of reality that has sent the nastiness over the top.  This is why the Boston Phoenix has dropped even the veneer of objectivity, making the liberal Globe, Boston's boring broadsheet, seem, by comparison, a model of editorial judiciousness and impartiality.

The Phoenix's Occupy Boston editions were laughable, giving self-important partisans an echo chamber for their inanities - a closed loop if you will, leaving the impression of a world-changing movement, with Occupiers taking point, not just politically, as agents of change, but as an organizational model: this is what democracy looks like. No, this is what foolhardy sanctimoniousness looks like!

All this is by way of introduction, for those who may not be familiar with The Boston Phoenix and its left-wing proselytizing. For those of us who are, it is no surprise that the periodical's output is one sided.  However, the article that prompted yr obt svt's logorrheic reaction is out of bounds even by Boston Phoenix standards - combining a nasty personal attack with a premise so breathtakingly stupid that it ends up actually making the case it purports to decry. The piece is entitled "Shit Boston Cops Say" and was last week's cover story (though on the front page the word shit is demurely rendered sh*t).  It aims, evidently, to be a shocking expose  of rampant "far-right wing" thought that local law enforcement  dared to put in print over "at least six years" in a professional newsletter, Pax Centurian, the "official union newsletter" of the BPPA (Boston Police Patrolman's Association).

The Charge? "Boldly bigoted" sentiments put to paper. The Phoenix's crack investigative team went to work scouring the formerly "obscure paper's archives" shining a "spotlight" on its heretofore unrevealed "vile content."  Starting by likening the periodical to a "[Ku Klux] Klan fanzine...", the Phoenix writer, Chris Faraone, immediately characterizes his journalistic brother-in-arms, Pax managing editor James Carnell, as a monkey - and an intellectually challenged one at that: "...scribbled by a chimp pushing a crayon."

Imagine if the spotlight team had uncovered its target similarly ascribing simian qualities to the author of, say, an NAACP  essay.  My guess is that it would not merely elicit indignant scandalization, but would have evinced a a firestorm of outrage and revulsion, with calls for immediate resignation of the writer and whole editorial staff, if not demands for arrests on hate-crime charges.  But such standards don't apply to the righteous, of course.

Faraone lays it out in the second sentence - the accused - mostly one poor cop it turns out, James Carnell, writes "screeds." Screeds. It's hard to believe Faraone wrote this with a straight face, but I suppose he was just so shocked by the sentiments uncovered, he lost his sense of irony. 

The verbal hate crimes alleged run the gamut: racism, homophobia, misogony, Islamophobia, and (how low can you go?) insensitivity toward crime victims, as well as, gird your grid, "progressives." The horror!

Upon reading such an intro, the reader is prepared for the worst, and Mr. Faraone tries to bolster his case by citing long-standing "ire" from unspecified "activists" and "union members" as well as the always articulate Boston Mayor Tom "Mumbles" Menino.  According to Faraone, Hizzoner last week weighed in with a characteristically nuanced analysis, calling the Pax in its entirety "garbage".  And, in a sign of the momentousness of the burgeoning scandal, the Commish himself, Ed Davis, took to twitter and "condemned the rag" says Faraone. Wow.  Moreover, "recent developments" we are pompously told, include "big-brand advertisers" yanking sponsorship, as if the ad dollars involved approached Super Bowl status, and the dauntlessness of these companies' stance would soon lay bare a moral turpitude that would bring down the entire bad element among  Boston's finest . Stay tuned!

A veteran reporter like Faraone wouldn't bury his lead, so the most appaling examples of the twisted right-wing mind would be up front, right? Well, maybe, but each of the first three examples of alleged bad-cop intolerance elicited in me not just puzzlement as to why anyone reasonable would take offense, but out and out agreement with the (police) writer's sentiment.  Actually, and maybe it's just my Neanderthal mind, I was tickled with a "damn right!" moment with each supposedly hate filled quote from what the author calls, alternately, tirades, spiels, rants, and screeds.

You be the judge:

ON PREGNANT HOMELESS WOMEN: "And now the city, in its infinite wisdom, will be acting to enable these little trollops to have exactly what they want simply by getting knocked up."
Hmm. Using the "put the worst first rule" it is clear the whole story is going to be way overblown. Trollop?? Whew, tough stuff. We'll have to amend Carlin's 7 dirty words with an eighth I guess if you are a lockstep liberal, but "trollop" to this ear sounds rather quaint.  I suppose questioning any welfare program is mean-spirited and should be verboten.

ON MURDER VICTIMS: "I'm so sick of hearing how each gang member that gets shot is 'turning his life around' . . . because I have never actually seen one turn his life around."
How many of you have made the same comment?  I'll bet every one of you because "turning his life around" is among the most laughable of hoary cliches, and, at best, a way to avoid speaking ill of the recently deceased.

ON MUSLIMS: "They want to kill you. Do you understand? THEY WANT TO KILL YOU."

And? is this something unknown to the Phoenix? Was this not the paper, in an uncharacteristic, if somewhat bizarre moment, that put the Daniel Pearl execution video on its website? You know the one, Mr. Faroane: it shows Khalid Sheik Mohammed aka "the architect of 9/11", CHOPPING OFF THE HEAD OF A JEWISH REPORTER! Maybe in Faroane's world the Danny Pearl beheading and 9/11 did not happen.
These are the three bullet points that are supposed to render the reader indignant.  Pretty mild stuff, but the next one has potential.  Faraone accuses Carnell of an "attack" on the mother of a young lad (hey only 'cos there was no dad in the picture to rough up - Carnell's old school, right?) - a recently deceased young lad who was, I'm sure, on the cusp of, you guessed it, turning his life around, when he unfortunately "died" in "a police shootout." Brace yourself:
Carnell wrote: "All due respect to motherhood and fully understanding a grieving mother's attempts to put blame anywhere but where it belongs, but your son was a maggot and a scumbag."

This one's not a matter of opinion but pure fact, which I'm sure Mr Faraone knows, but chooses to - and I'm being generous here - be a bad writer and mislead his audience.  A bit of searching revealed the truth: the kid  shot at cops from a porch at 2 Navillus Terrace (off topic trivia: how did Navillus Terrace get its name? 
Sullivan backwards, as in the WWII heroes 5 Sullivan brothers) with a .45 caliber automatic handgun, drops a clip and reloads, then while under police fire, puts the gun to his head and commits suicide. Forensics and many witnesses confirmed the account, yet this information is hidden from the Phoenix reader. But when the straight talking policeman calls for a bit of personal responsibility, we are asked to see it as a beyond the pale
example of out and out racial animus, because the "tirade" we are told, ticked off "black and Latino 
community leaders, as well as officers of color."

One can only construe Carnell's admittedly blunt statement as racist only if one is misled as to the circumstances, which Faraone does in a disgraceful way unworthy of a real reporter.  He deems the incident "a shootout" as if two bad hombres cleared leather at high noon, and though he does not come right out and say it of course, by playing the race card, he obviously hopes to evoke in the reader an image of a Charles Bronsonesque-type dirty cop taking justice into his own hands vigilante-style, then adding insult to injury by verbally "attacking" the black-clad mourning mama, calling the dead boy mean names.  Such a cop has blood of ice, we are to think.

This is not journalism, but negative writing at its worst. With negative writers such as Mr Faraone, the logic is never explicit, it's placed between the lines, counting on the readers' imaginations to suggest.  The technology of negative writing is deftly employed by propagandists such as Mr. Faraone in hit pieces like Shit Boston Cops Say. It is of course the exact opposite of what a good writer does which is to elucidate facts or conduct a narration. A negative writer throws in unrelated ideas as a foil to confuse, and employs squishy, hard-to-define concepts, such as racism, which have different meanings to different readers, thus obfuscating the truth, and letting  readers develop the coaxed insinuations without realizing they are being manipulated.

Another arrow in the quiver of the negative writer is to leave direct accusations to a third party -  someone who is introduced as an expert, or an ostensibly unbiased voice such as a colleague of the target, whom the reader will presumably find credible.  For example, in this article, an African-American detective named Ellison is brought out.  He is quoted admonishing Officer Carnell for "his blanket indictment of people of color." Those strong words from such an unimpeachable source serve to burnish Mr Faraone's case that Carnell is a bad apple to his rotten and racist core.

Ellison's censure, plus Carnell's on-the-record tough talk, are likely enough to close the case for the person predisposed to think ill of policemen.  Remember people seek out information in ways that confirm what they already believe.  But the skeptic or someone new to the issue will reserve judgement til he gets confirmation. In this article one might expect to find such damning additional statements in the sidebar "The Worst of Pax" of whose 10 blurbs, 7 are attributed to Ofc. Carnell. With 58 issues of Pax Centurian to choose from one would expect the excerpt under the heading "On Race" would be impeachable enough to seal the case for the prosecution, as it were.  The gruel has been pretty thin so far, but with gobs and gobs of police editorials and commentaries to pick through, how hard can it be to ferret out an incriminating racial generalization? Perhaps the sentiments of a burned-out cop who has cuffed countless offenders, who are disproportionately "of color", and who blurts out a bigoted condemnation of black people at large? Nope. Or maybe we'll find an ill-advised (for a white guy) Bill Cosby-type dressing-down of young black males for their reputed irresponsibility and lack of commitment to marriage, family, and fatherhood? Not there either. How about a "Sister Souljah" moment then, a la Bill Clinton, taking on "hip hop" rap lyrics and their moral vacuousness? Sorry, uh uh.

What horrible is found then under the treacherous "On Race" category? Of all things, a mild reproach to a Boston Globe report on an "anti-violence summit and listening session" starring the Rev. Bruce Wall (Boston's local version of the Rev Al Sharpton, but less of a huckster. Wall has dedicated his life to helping inner city youth steer clear of thug life, but with little to show for it) The sidebar quotes Carnell in Pax as quoting the Globe, which quotes the Rev., who quotes nobody in particular, as the powwow was yet to occur, saying that "young people want to work with officers that look like them" meaning they won't talk to the white cops whom Wall seems to say they'll be stuck in rooms with at the event, even though the description implies only "police officers of color" will be invited . Got that? Carnell adds a tongue in cheek parenthetical that he is "of color" too: tawny pink and lobster red.  This corny anachronism is I suppose an acme of boorish disrespect worthy of a Klan dragon, such as, say, the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-SC).

It seems then we'll have to look elsewhere for the smoking service revolver that will hang Officer Carnell as an intolerant  race baiting fanatic.  Perhaps the final outtake, entitled forebodingly "On Racial Profiling" will provide the conclusive proof of a flawed character.  But here, Ofc. Carnell only explains that, in practice it is more often than not impossible for a cop engaging a traffic stop to make out race/sex/ethnicity of a vehicle's occupants prior to pulling it over. Evidence of bigotry is totally lacking here as well.

One can now surmise that what rankles Mr Faraone and his sidekick Neil Patch (and by the way I've had Peter Kadzis, the Phoenix's executive editor, in my cab as a passenger, and have often seen him on TV's "heavy hitters" with Cosmo Macero, and he seems like a heck of a nice guy), who helped him compile the sidebar of shame, is simply that a uniformed city servant dares to voice conservative opinions at all, even in a format meant to be consumed only by other members of Boston's finest. This may be, but there's something else at work too, and the first clue to what I believe really frosts Faraone's nose, to paraphrase The Mayah, is found in the 5th paragraph. After mentioning a Pax reference to "disgusting J.P. liberals" (all quotations are offered naturally with zero context) Faraone tells us what (metaphor alert) "lit the fuse...that popped the powder keg." Are you ready? A scurrilous attack on President Obama? Nope. Perhaps an inappropriate reference to somebody's kids, as Faraone himself indulges later in the piece? Wrong. Maybe an off-color comment re the late great Ted K, Lion of the Senate? Wrong again. I'll let Chris Farone tell it:

"It was an evisceration of an Occupy Boston activist"

Now that's hitting below the belt!

As Faroane relates the tale, alert "Occupiers" - for those of you who thought they went away, they only did in the way cockroaches scurry for the crevice under the fridge, where they lurk unseen - happened upon "Carnell's latest carnage" (figuratively speaking one presumes) "around the internet", "even making its way onto" (so stated, as if if you are unfamiliar with such site, you don't deserve an introduction as to its nature.)  These "offended Occupiers and their allies" (also unelaborated is who these allies may be - shy scribes for an alternative weekly perhaps - or ones who know direct involvement in the story might detract from its credibility) "alerted the tract's many advertisers."

We are told that these models of corporate courage either "backed off", whatever that means, or "told the Phoenix they are investigating".  None of the sponsors identified were directly quoted.  We must take the reporter at his word that the companies either claimed "they were unaware of the newsletter's toxic content" or, of the "investigating" group, are "trying to figure out how their logo wound up funding so much race-baiting and gay-bashing." If anyone told the Phoenix to fuck off, Faraone does not say.

By the way, "gay-bashing" and innuendos about insults to "gays" are mentioned numerous times (I counted at least 6) in the piece without ONE instance of any ACTUAL anti-gay slur or even a single reference to homosexuality by the allegedly homophobic writers-in-blue. Space considerations? Sure, and I'm Lady Gaga in real life. If they had the goods, I'm sure they would've served 'em up with relish. Just more oily insinuations to leave the reader with an icky impression. I am sure they don't teach that in journalism school. (Goebbles said a 100 times repeated lie becomes the truth and this is why leftists believe their own fantasies - they repeat them back-and-forth till they become unquestioned presuppositions, such as global warming.)

At the heart of the S.B.C.S. article is a whole section that expresses outrage at the Pax bits that "viciously deride Occupiers" whom they feel cops "have been gunning for" since their gig babysitting the Dewey Sq. encampment last fall. Much is made of a particular personal letter exchange between Carnell and a Bil "One L" Lewis, a "progressive activist and school teacher".

Carnell poked fun at Bil's name, evidently an offense tantamount to the worst of the race-baiting and gay bashing.  I think it is all they could find fault with Carnell's Occupy Boston analysis, which is so spot on it should be featured on op-ed pages across the country. (I will reprint it below.)  Miffed by the insults, we are told in the Phoenix. Occupiers "rallied around Lewis." Could this be the whole problem?  Disappointed that their movement fizzled, and frustrated at their inability to provoke the professionals of the BPD to violence, the Occupy grudgemeisters opened their book of dirty tricks and orchestrated this campaign to cause the BPD embarrassment or even foment racial discord among Police ranks?

I personally visited the Occupy campgrounds several times. I took pictures, and talked to activists, homeless hangers-on, cops, day-visitors and others there.  Here's a photo of the wall that featured an honest if not deep expression of an Occupy credo:

I am sure this "ALL COPS ARE BASTARDS   GET OUT OF OUR CAMP" sign prominently placed endeared the boys and girls of camp OB to the rank and file officers assigned to keep the peace at the site. The cops seemed to spend a deal of time keeping the dedicated idealist Marxist types separated and protected from those not so intellectual individuals who were variously homeless, petty thieves, drug addicted, mentally ill, or combinations of these, who were attracted to the place like bugs to spilled garbage. 

Here, two fine fellows, dedicated to economic equality I am sure, go to the mat over a sandwich. Notice the BPD officer in yellow declining to referee. In other venues this would have been considered an assault (the fight had started, broken up, and resumed and I was told it was a continuance of a previous bout.) The cops nicely let the peaceniks sort it out: the aggressor, actually the thinner guy on the bottom, was banished - his free lunch and supper privileges revoked, at least until the next day, when other hippies would rotate to the unwanted peace officer duties. 

As the camp spiraled down to a disordered sinkhole of filth, boredom, and petty squabbles, it was the BPD that showed the forbearance of a Mahatma Gandhi. Sorry. And, as the detritus accumulated to levels raely seen outside of a "Hoarders" episode, these supposedly community conscious citizens let someone else clean up the mess. Thanks, dad!

Back to the S.B.C.S piece: other Pax quips that got under the writer's skin were a joke (which was labeled "sinister") about a fat woman in "a stupid animal hat"; a complaint about drunken college kids from Saudi Arabia that 99 out of 100 people would sympathize with; and a comment about welfare scams that is so succinct and on target that it should be incorporated into every pol's stump speech.

The idiocy reaches its summit as the Pax writers are chastised for tweaking "metrosexuals" (as close as they get to a gay reference) for their unmanly "sissified" habits such as pedicures. Complaining in print about being called sissified proves the designation, in my opinion.

The Phoenix hits a low point when they allow their reporter to stray off-topic and attack the police writers on a personal basis. A son in trouble with the law is gratuitously thrown in, as well as the salary of one of the officers, and the amount of sick pay he drew last year - hey aren't these progressive guys the ones who lobby hard for generous pay and bennies for civil servants?

When writing a hit piece based on the supposedly outrageous speech of others, an assumption is made about the audience. That is, outrage, not concurrence will result. So the Phoenix writer here makes a very amateurish blunder which undermines the precept of the whole article, at least to this reader.

The paper also made an error, albeit of bad timing, when Dorchester State Rep. Carlos Henriquez' words are cited as a moral nag. See today's news.

But the stupidest assumption, the one that proves that leftists are totally lost in a pretend world, is the one that seems to presume that sensible persons would expect tough old Boston cops will exhibit a level of sensitivity and PCness normally only found in a Seven Sisters college girl going for her PhD in Social Work - WHEN THE COPS ARE TALKING TO OTHER COPS!

Fuck the Boston Phoenix and its liberal writers. Boston cops are among the best cops in the world, and having been in the cab business in Boston for over 30 years I've had plenty of interaction with 'em. Sure they get a lot of stand around detail work, but they also go face to face with danger every day, and each decision they make is a combination of intuition, experience, training and judgement that synthesizes the best qualities a human can have.  The Phoenix wordslingers couldn't tie the cops' shoes.

Then again, maybe the whole article was an excuse to use this priceless quotation which ends the piece, by one Jamarhl Crawford "a Roxbury community organizer and past target of Pax slander" (and one supposes, a potential future POTUS):
 "It's the Boston Police Department's dirty little secret. They talk about gays, about Muslims, and everything else you can imagine. It's that Archie Bunker outer-space banana-cake type of thinking that people don't even realize goes on anymore."

You got a quote like that, you gotta use it, somehow.

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