What should I be doing instead of this?
Home · Articles · Columns · On Second Thought · Enquirer Supports Less Privacy?

Enquirer Supports Less Privacy?

By Ben L. Kaufman · July 7th, 2008 · On Second Thought

Enquirer nuttiness is making me think I'm a conservative.

An editorial blandly accepts CCTV -- not Phil Burress' illiberal cult -- but 120 Closed Circuit TV cameras to police our streets. Any true conservative would reject CCTV as a metastasizing big government intrusion into our freedom to travel, assemble and speak in public without police watching and possibly listening.

Not The Enquirer. It values the spreading surveillance society.

Do authorities really need to know where you've been, where you're going or to whom you are speaking? Do they need to track your license plate? Can you say "voyeur?"

Eighty years ago, Justice Louis Brandeis wrote that "(Privacy is) the right to be left alone -- the most comprehensive of rights, and the right most valued by a free people."

Not in Cincinnati.

Jeff Gamso, legal director for the Ohio ACLU, confirms that we have no general legal right to -- or expectation of -- privacy in public but we have an interest in not being observed when we go about our personal, noncriminal affairs. That's what CCTV violates.

CCTV advocates don't claim it significantly prevents crime. British police had perfect CCTV images of the Islamists en route to detonating subway/bus bombs, but that didn't prevent the carnage. In London, violent crime has risen steadily despite the spread of CCTV.

Here, undeterred punks rob our stores, gas stations, financial institution or ATM users in full view of private CCTV.

On occasion, CCTV helps solve crimes. More are solved by smart, slogging police work without invading everyone's privacy.

Does The Enquirer believe that local police ever will be satisfied with 120 cameras? Nowhere are police satisfied with the information they have on the rest of us.

Despite the admitted inability to prevent crime, the asserted goal of CCTV is, as always, to protect us. Do you really feel protected by myriad private CCTV cameras at stores, malls, pharmacies, parking lots and banks? Protected from whom?

As our mayor repeatedly demonstrates, the only way to be safe in Cincinnati is to hire a bodyguard.

Curmudgeon Notes

• Who will have access to CCTV data collected by Cincinnati police cameras? How long will it be kept? What controls are planned to minimize abuse? What are the sanctions when someone misuses or loses the data?

Scofflaw cops and abuse of police data bases already are a Cincinnati problem and, as The Enquirer's Dan Horn documented recently, bad cops usually are rehired because of flawed arbitration procedures.

• The controversy over Vic Wulsin's work for Henry Heimlich made it to an ABC blog last week. The issue is Wulsin's involvement in Heimlich's discredited attempts to cure AIDS by infecting patients with malaria. Abcnews.go.com/Blotter recounts accusations by incumbent U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt and Wulsin's denial of impropriety. Wulsin says Heimlich hired her to review scientific literature and fired her when she concluded that it argued using his malariotherapy.

• A Sunday story in The New York Times scooped The Enquirer on a national story with a Northern Kentucky angle. Some Obama backers adding Hussein informally to their middle names online to mock those who would use it against their candidate. The story begins, "Emily Nordling has never met a Muslim, at least not to her knowledge. But this spring, Ms. Nordling, a 19-year-old student from Fort Thomas, Ky., gave herself a new middle name on Facebook.com, mimicking her boyfriend and shocking her father. 'Emily Hussein Nordling,' her entry now reads. With her decision, she joined a growing band of supporters of Senator Barack Obama ... who are expressing solidarity with him by informally adopting his middle name.

The result is a group of unlikely-sounding Husseins ... from Jaime Hussein Alvarez of Washington, D.C., to Kelly Hussein Crowley of Norman, Okla., to Sarah Beth Hussein Frumkin of Chicago."

Weekly Standard's Mackuben Thomas Owens asks why we hear so little about the combat heroism of individual Americans when lethal screwups are covered so closely. Has the anti-war spirit become hostility to the military itself and the men and women who are serving?

• McClatchy newspaper reporters tracked down and interviewed 66 released prisoners from the prison at Guantanamo Bay. They found that "the U.S. imprisoned innocent men, subjected them to abuse, stripped them of their legal rights and allowed Islamic militants to turn the prison camp ... into a school for jihad." I hope this probe doesn't share the fate of Knight Ridder's prewar debunking of Bush's justifications for the Iraq invasion. That late great chain also lacked a paper in New York, Washington and Los Angeles.

• John McCain doesn't court all conservative Christians. Just the right kind. But mainstream news media continue to give McCain a pass on those to whom he turns for right-wing credibility. McCain was in Cincinnati courting big money, undecided voters and those whom The Enquirer named as Christian leaders. But will the paper tell us what the Chosen preach and teach? Will the Ohio news media shake off their passivity and pursue this with the vigor they reported comments by Obama's then-pastor? Will the news media tell us why other conservative or evangelical Christians are not invited to the table?

• Every reporter knows rumors we didn't report, not even the classic denial of the previously unreported rumor. However, Internet buzz has become news. To ignore it is to be accused of partisan coverup or censorship.

If the rumor is too juicy to ignore but residual good taste interferes, we let someone else carry it first. Then we report that they reported it. We call it the Virgin Rule. A perfect example is credited to blogger Larry Johnson:

"I now have it from four sources (three who are close to senior Republicans) that there is video dynamite -- Michelle Obama railing against 'whitey' at Jeremiah Wright's church. Republicans may have a lousy record when it comes to the economy and the management of the war in Iraq, but they are hell on wheels when it comes to opposition research.

"Someone took the chance and started reviewing the recordings from services at Jeremiah Wright's United Church of Christ. Holy smoke!! I am told there is a clip that is being held for the fall to drop at the appropriate time. The last thing Barack and Michelle need is a new clip that raises further questions about her judgment and temperament."

Bloggers picked it up, some gloating, others tut-tutting. News media generally held their noses and fire.

Now that my.barackobama.com/page/content/fightthesmearshome is counter-attacking, The Los Angeles Times writes about the brouhaha, noting with pride how so many traditional news media ignored the rumor.

After listing examples of "the lie," Obama's web page says, "No such tape exists. Michelle Obama has not spoken from the pulpit at Trinity and has not used that word."

People who still believe Barack Hussein Obama is the Meccan candidate won't believe the denial. Yet Obama isn't repeating Sen. John Kerry's fatal mistake of ignoring Swiftboaters' Internet accusations until it was too late.

• Two unscripted comments on The Daily Show by CBS Iraq reporter Lara Logan:

"If I were to watch the news that you hear here in the United States, I would just blow my brains out because it would drive me nuts."

Asked if she had to fight to get her war stories broadcast, Logan responded, "Generally what I say is, 'I'm holding the armor-piercing RPG (rocket-propelled grenade)," she said. "It's aimed at the bureau chief, and if you don't put my story on the air, I'm going to pull the trigger."

She has been recalled to the Washington bureau, where steamy rumors/comments about her sex life in Iraq are heating the Blogosphere. That is a rumor I can repeat because others reported it first.

• National press and bloggers realize that McCain backer Carl H. Lindner Jr. was Chiquita CEO when the company paid $1.7 million in protection money to murderous terrorists in Columbia. That was a crime. Chiquita later paid $25 million fine in a Department of Justice settlement.

• Unhappy as they are at the Associated Press providing news to Google and Yahoo, editors at The Enquirer and seven more major papers that belong to the AP haven't lost their sense of humor. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Ohio News Organization they created to share stories is called OHNO.

• Reporter James Pilcher is back at The Enquirer business pages. He left to smell the roses and found thorns. Hard on him, but his initial stories restore rare initiative to that section.

The Nation's Eric Alterman and George Zornick produce a catalogue of missteps in McCain coverage. They identify news media so enamored that they ignore his policy flip-flops, his lobbyist staffers and his hardline anti-abortion consistency. They also suggest why this happens: McCain schmoozes reporters in ways we haven't seen since FDR and JFK, and this makes journalists feel good about themselves.

Progressive editor Matthew Rothschild offers a revealing interview with Scott Ritter, a former leading arms inspector who correctly warned that there were no WMDs and asks if an American withdrawal from Iraq could create a greater human tragedy than the invasion and occupation.

• A New York Times columnist eulogizes vanishing copy editors. Their most basic task is to make reporters look more literate, more accurate and smarter than we are. They correct our errors, draw readers with smart, contextual headlines and protect us and our papers from libel by challenging defamatory statements.

They're the last defense of skepticism, vital to the traditional multilayer editing of every story. Or they were.

No computer can replace them. I've had midlevel management invent and insert fake material in my stories, but not copy editors, and I'm unaware of most of the embarrassments copy editors have saved me. Yet I remember a very young, very new copy editor asking this then-veteran religion reporter, "Ben, how do you spell parishioner?" Seems I forgot (or didn't know about) that second "i." I'll bet she dined out on that catch. I should have bought.

• Associated Press reports that The Orange County Register is hiring copy editors in New Delhi to handle some work for that Pulitzer-winning California daily. It's a one-month trial. Should be fun.

Indian English isn't quite British English and isn't American English. Peoples separated by a common language.... Can't wait until a headline uses the verb "Felicitated" or "Bobbitised." I've seen both.

• ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative journalism initiative, joined 60 Minutes to probe Al Hurra, the Middle Eastern television network created by the U.S. government four years ago. ProPublica says Al Hurra's audience is small and "at times (it) has been indistinguishable from the hateful propaganda" on Arab networks.

CONTACT BEN KAUFMAN: letters@citybeat.com



comments powered by Disqus