Speaking of stories the media neglects, here’s a little local anecdote. about a village police department using its official status to punish its political enemies. When things like this happen in Russia or North Korea, we get upset. But this happened in Brockport, New York.
There’s a SUNY there. Granted, it looks like a prison. But still, shouldn’t we expect moderately enlightened or at least civilized behavior in a little college town?
In a way it pains me to have to say this, but far too many of these little village police departments behave like especially vicious criminal gangs. They are a real problem, and there’s a good argument to be made that they shouldn’t exist at all. We have sheriffs and as many deputies as people agree the Sheriff should hire. We don’t need every little town or village government having its own group of caporegimes enforcing its will, which most often has nothing to do with “the law” except breaching it. Brockport is a terrible, petty little department, of course, but they are paragons of police honor and integrity compared to Mount Morris. Or Geneseo, where there is also a SUNY. Or Livingston County generally, for that matter.
But I digress.
A couple of things. First let’s give the local newspaper a marginal credit for covering this at all. Okay, there’s only one story in the entire universe about it, there will be no follow up coverage to see if the story has any “legs”, and really the coverage is more in the nature of pre-emptive inocculation; that is, if it becomes a bigger story later because, say, the Plaintiff wins the lawsuit, then in response to accusations that they dropped the ball they can say: “What do you mean, we covered it.” and point to this one, lone blurb buried in the back section of the paper.
Well. All right, forget giving them any credit. And notice how none of the television stations even mention it. And here’s another thing that bothers me even more: what if instead of a civil complaint this had been a criminal indictment by, say, the feds? How much play do you think it would have gotten by comparison? Yet the complaint in this matter and an indictment are essentially the same thing. The Plaintiff here is represented by a lawyer. The complaint looks to be well grounded and must be the product of reasonable inquiry and investigation or the lawyer would have committed an ethical breach.
In other words, civil complaints duly filed in courts are inherently more credible and reliable than, say, confidential sources that journalists use to support major stories all the time. What explains the disdainful treatment such pleadings receive by the media?
Private, independent attorneys are the natural antagonists of the police, and government and/or estaiblishmentarian entities (like banks and insurance companies) for whom the media obsequiously toady. The news outlets would rather have ten thousand meaningless stories lifted from the Brockport cop newsfeed ranging from the trivial to the more trivial, but it’s always there when you need to fill space in the paper, than jeopardize that “information flow” by giving a story about what a bunch of corrupt morons the Brockport police really are some play and risk alienating the Brockport police.
Very sad but true. Of course if they wanted interesting things to fill up their papers with there are plenty to go around, but it may require more mental effort than simply listening to cop dispatches and regurgitating them for public consumption.
Like the intermediate appellate courts that also bear a lot of responsibility for unaccountable and out of control police departments, the media can be primarily characterized by stagnancy, mental sloth and ossification at a distressingly low level of professional function. Power fills the vacuum they leave. Even the crudest and lowest form of power will do, if it comes from the police or other government officials.
Arbitrary power is the chief characteristic of tyranny. Is that what our free press has helped us achieve?