Category Archives: Civil Rights

What’s in a name? Ask Julian Assange…

A version of this post originally appeared in the Arvada Press and is reprinted here with permission.

To paraphrase the young lady on the balcony…

in Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet who says, “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” — I ask today:

“Is news by any other name still news?”

Although I’ve asked this question before, it’s continues to be important, especially after the international saber-rattling over the charges, extradition requests, and asylum granted for Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

A cause célèbre, yes? But maybe not the whole story.

Not that the Assange/asylum issue isn’t news; it’s big news, with heads of governments in Australia, Europe, Latin America, and the UK jockeying for position and pointing to one another (or someone else) behind their hands.

No, I’m asking the question—“Is news by any other name still news?”—because I have maintained all along—to anyone who would listen—that if Assange had named the organization “WikiNews” instead of WikiLeaks,” this whole story would have played out differently.

Why wouldn’t a name like “Wikileaks” get people up in arms, literally?

Why wouldn’t any government be incensed about material blatantly and globally labeled as “leaked?” Why wouldn’t agencies whose sole purpose is to prevent “leaks” then descend with a fury on those who allowed and perpetrated the “leaking?”

On the other hand, though, news outlets all over the world take great pride—and go to great lengths—to “break” news stories, some of which come from “unnamed sources close to the situation.”

Are these considered leaks? Breaking news? Both?

Let’s face it; authority and the media have been grappling for centuries.

Why? Because freedom of the press improves transparency of information, and transparency of information creates a better society for all people. It’s the different definitions of transparency that get everyone’s dander up.

For example, in its landmark decision on the Pentagon Papers in 1971, our own U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose corruption in government.” (Note, however, that the Court ruled that the government failed to meet the heavy burden of proof required in this case, and its decision did not give the press unlimited freedom to publish classified documents.)

But news is not just about corruption, or even just about government, for that matter.

The holidays are news. Syria is news. The cease-fire is news. Dancing with the Stars is the news. The price of gas and the weather are news.

And, to varying degrees, all of us need this news. With the advance of digital technology and the Internet, we can access all the news we want. In fact, we can gorge on the news; it’s up to us to be responsible consumers of the media. But that’s a topic for another post.

Are some of the documents on WikiLeaks explosive? Yes. Are some embarrassing, some horrifying? Yes and yes. Are some of the documents illuminating, enlightening? Of course.

I do understand that classifying some information is a valid standard. I also know that improved transparency of information in society comes from a free press.

Consider this, too:

There are people who are free today—or are becoming free, or are helping others to become free—because of uncensored news…leaked news, breaking news, or both.

I’ve worked on both side of this debate, in government and in the media, and I remain convinced that “WikiNews” would have been a more palatable portal.

With fewer struggles, WikiNews could have provided the kind of service that WikiLeaks is fighting to provide for people in free democratic societies—and for people who want to live in one.

 A little more about the author:

Andrea Doray is a writer who believes that transparency is not invisible anymore. Contact her at a.doray@andreadoray.com.

Please feel free to visit my other blogs:

New postings (almost) every day! 365 Days of Divesting — Living more, with less…one day at a time

New posting—first-ever Inspiring Blogger Award! Mirth-Marks — For people who enjoy the irony in life

Lessons from Colorado’s Poet Laureate! This Writing Life — Craft, comment, critique

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Don’t hate political ads…our freedom makes them possible.

If you’re like me, the eight words you never want to hear again (at least until 2013) go something like this:

“I’m [first last], and I approved this message.”

There are good reasons why many of us are weary of this phrase…about 7,770 reasons in my hometown in September alone.

Between September 9 and September 30, the two presidential candidates and their supporters placed nearly 8,000 television ads in Denver, more than in any other market in the key states of Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, and in the District of Columbia.

In terms of dollars spent, the Kantar Media Group/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project, reports that, from June 1 through September 30, the volume of presidential advertising across the country was already nearly double that of the 2008 campaign.

In the Denver metro market alone, the candidates spent more than $700 million for 26,000 TV ads from June through September.

Why has Denver received such concentrated attention?

The October 3 debate on the University of Denver campus is one answer, but the primary explanation is that Colorado is a swing state, a battleground state, a state that’s “too close to call.”

Such states have a number of likely voters who are undecided, or are iffy about their candidate.

Before the debate at DU, the presidential race was tighter than in Colorado than in any other swing state. And current poll results says it’s staying that way.

It’s interesting, though, because Colorado contributes only nine of the total 538 votes in the Electoral College.

By my calculations, this equates to about $77 million and 2,889 TV ads per vote…and that’s just through the end of September and just in the Denver-area market.

Also, these numbers refer only to television advertising for the presidential candidates.

But, when the race truly is too close to call, those nine votes—of the 270 votes needed to win a majority—could be the difference between winning and losing the presidency.

I shared these numbers with friends who—almost universally—wondered aloud how many people could be fed with this amount of money.

The total dollars spent by all candidates is truly staggering; yet, as much as I would like to see the same amount of money go to fight hunger and poverty, I have to stand on the side of access to information.

When I lived briefly in Turkmenistan this time two years ago, there was no question about who was or would be president.

Current president Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov took office in February 2007 after the death of President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov and the imprisonment of Niyazov’s constitutionally appointed successor.

Although the new constitution allows the formation of multiple political parties, the former Communist Party has been the only one effectively permitted to operate.

Political gatherings are illegal unless government sanctioned.

There are no commercial or private TV stations in Turkmenistan, and articles published by the state-controlled newspapers are heavily censored.

That’s all different here, of course, as a quick spin just through television news shows and online media will confirm.

We here in the U.S. need to be conscious consumers of news and advertising.”

We need to listen and learn, seek the facts, and make decisions that are right for us.

However, this is only possible because we have access to the information.

When I tire of hearing the ads, especially the negative ones, I remind myself that free speech and freedom of the press make this knowledge available to me…and that I am able to make my own decisions and vote for the candidate of my eventual choice.

I’m Andrea Doray and I approved this posting.”

A little more about the author:

Andrea Doray is a full-time writer who, to the probable dismay of family and friends on both sides of the political aisle, is still among the truly undecided. Contact her at a.doray@andreadoray.com.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Please leave a comment…
Thanks!

l

Also, please feel free to visit my other blogs:

New postings every day! 365 Days of Divesting — Living more, with less…one day at a time

New posting! Mirth-Marks — For people who enjoy the irony in life

New publications from Quinn Press! This Writing Life — Craft, comment, critique

 

l

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Can we all just get along? Staying the course for civil rights

An earlier version of this article was published in the Arvada Press and its affiliated newspapers and is reprinted with permission here.

My recent discussions in the  Arvada Press (and its affiliates) on courtesy and civility was supposed to end quietly there. Then Rodney King died. He was only 47, yet each day of the last 20 years of his life has made an impact on civil rights in America.

Mistaken identity…

In a conversation not long ago, I mixed up Rodney King with Reginald Denny. I thought Rodney King was the trucker nearly killed 20 years ago during the violent aftermath of a jury verdict acquitting Los Angeles Police Department officers of brutally beating a motorist they stopped after a high-speed chase.

I was wrong, of course. Reginald Denny is the trucker dragged from his vehicle and viciously attacked by a riotous mob in random retribution for the jury verdict…because he is white. Rodney King was a black man, victim of the brutal beating by the LAPD officers in 1991 that was captured in 81 seconds of videotape by George Holliday from his apartment balcony.

What happened…

So, when I heard that he had died, I looked up Rodney King. I watched the 81 seconds of video—dark figures and glaring lights and no mistake about what was happening to the man on the ground.

I read about the April 1992 trial of the four officers involved, the trial where a jury with no black jurors acquitted three officers, and a mistrial was declared for the fourth officer. The verdicts touched off a week of riots in South Los Angeles that left more than 50 people dead and an estimated $1 billion in damage.

Then I watched the poignant interview in which a tearful and clearly shaken Rodney King begged for calm and asked—in a phrase that has become a cultural symbol for race relations—“Can we all just get along?”

A new appreciation…

I appreciate Rodney King all over again now.

The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times have reported that Rodney King knew he was a ne’er-do-well with an alcohol problem, and that much of his life after the attack was like a tabloid drama. He said he just wanted to work construction, and, in his words, “to survive.”

He didn’t want to be a symbol of racial tensions and police brutality. He didn’t want riots over the outcome of the trial. And he especially did not want anyone to die because of what happened to him.

That’s why my recent discussions of civility in everyday life cast a very different shadow when held up to the light of what emotionally intense people will do in extreme frustration or anger. (Just Google “road rage.”)

Could it happen here?

What if such a thing were to happen in our communities?

I know it’s not easy to solve some of our societal problems and I know there are no immediate answers to the some of the issues we face.

But I also know that we have to stay the course for civil rights. One step at a time, maybe, but we have to keep stepping.

Civility. Civil rights. Human rights.

We can’t separate them, so we must carry them all with us on this course. It’s not such a heavy burden when everyone gets along.

I believe Rodney King would agree.

A little more about the author:

Andrea Doray is a writer from Denver who serves on the board of “Writing for Peace”—an organization dedicated to developing a more peaceful world through understanding and empathy—and who believes in the power of the pen. 

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