August student blogger of the month and former Marine Robert Maniak (3L) recently wrote a powerful, moving post called Rules of Engagement that appeared on this blog. This morning, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and ran that post as an opinion piece. Congratulations to Robert. Be sure to check out Robert’s other blog posts here, here, and here.
This Friday, January 24, 2020, hundreds of thousands of people will gather in Washington D.C. for the 47th annual March for Life. This year’s theme for the March for Life is “Pro-Life is Pro-Woman.” Last year’s March for Life invited additional news coverage thanks to a video that depicted Nick Sandmann, a high school student, smiling at a Native American elder as the elder beat a drum in front of the student. This initial video made it seem as if the student was mocking the elder. In the wake of this viral video and the news coverage that ensued, there was an immense backlash against the student and his high school. I recall seeing posts on social media listing the email addresses of the school’s administrators encouraging people to flood their inboxes with less than courteous emails expressing disapproval of their student’s behavior.
However, later video evidence revealed that a group of Black Hebrew Israelites had been yelling racial slurs at Sandmann and his peers, and that the Native American elder approached Sandmann as a way of diffusing the situation between the Black Hebrew Israelites and the students. Moreover, it became clear that neither Sandmann nor his peers were at fault in the confrontation.
Sandmann filed a defamation suit against CNN seeking $250 million dollars for its inaccurate coverage of the confrontation and the emotional distress that he endured as a result. Earlier this month it was released that Sandmann had agreed to a settlement with CNN for an undisclosed amount. Continue reading “Tort Law and Fake News”
Soledad O’Brien remembers a girl in her high school on Long Island, New York, who broke a front tooth and went for many months without getting it fixed.
O’Brien grew up in a stable, comfortable home and never had to worry about shelter, food, medical care, or other valuable parts of stable living. And she never gave much thought to why the girl didn’t get her tooth fixed.
But the girl and her front tooth are still on her mind decades later. That girl makes her think about all the young women, then and now, who live unstable lives, who can’t meet daily needs that are met without much thought in other homes. “I was so naive and stupid about those things,” O’Brien said during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School on Tuesday.
“What sixteen-year-old girl walks around (with a broken front tooth). Think about her family circumstances, and think about what this girl was going through that that was completely normal. I don’t think I ever thought about poverty, I don’t think I ever thought about access to health care, or all these things as a journalist I would really dig in to.” Continue reading “Soledad O’Brien and the Girl with a Broken Front Tooth”
In 2007, with President George W. Bush’s second term as president coming to an end and Vice President Richard Cheney not aiming to succeed him, open races for both Democratic and Republican nominations for president were developing. Bill Adair thought it was time to bring more fact-checking into American political journalism. Adair, then a Washington-based journalist with the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) began a project that the newspaper called Politifact.
The idea took off and, more than a decade later, PolitiFact and other political fact-checking efforts have become an important part of the national journalism landscape. PolitiFact is now an independent non-profit organization. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel became a partner with PolitiFact in 2010, ahead of the election that year in which Republican Scott Walker defeated Democrat Tom Barrett for governor, and continues to run PolitiFact pieces, with either national or local focuses, almost every day.
In an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program Tuesday at Marquette Law School, Angie Drobnic Holan, now the editor of PolitiFact and a part of its team since the start, and Tom Kertscher, who has worked on the Journal Sentinel’s PolitiFact team since its start, described the goals of what they do in terms core journalistic values. Continue reading “How the Basic Journalism of PolitiFact Has Changed the Political Landscape”
Recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took up and reversed net neutrality. If you are unfamiliar with net neutrality, it is the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are not allowed to discriminate against certain users, websites, content, or whatever else. For example, Spectrum (formerly Time Warner) is not allowed to block its users from or charge them for accessing Facebook. Or, for a real-life example, Madison River Communications was fined $15,000 by the FCC for restricting their costumers’ access to a rival service. John Oliver explains net neutrality here. (Language warning.) In a way, you could think of net neutrality as an equal opportunity law for the internet. Or, at least you could have. On December 14, 2017, FCC chairman Ajit Pai and the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality, which leaves the internet in the United States in a fairly bad spot.
Luckily, in my opinion, the FCC has a gauntlet of lawsuits to go through now that it repealed net neutrality. It also seems there is a fair number of people who share my viewpoint. As it stands, the FCC had something around 22 million complaints filed against its ruling. FCC Chairman Pai canceled his scheduled appearance at the to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas due to death threats. On top of this, the Internet Association is bringing together powerhouse companies to join the fight against the unpopular ruling. Companies like Google, Amazon, Etsy, and Alphabet have stated they are joining the lawsuit. The Internet Association’s President and CEO Michael Beckerman stated, “The final version of Chairman Pai’s rule . . . dismantles popular net neutrality protections for consumers. This rule defies the will of a bipartisan majority of Americans and fails to preserve a free and open internet.” Netflix even took to Twitter and sent the message, “In 2018, the Internet is united in defense of #NetNeutrality. As for the FCC, we will see you in court.” Furthermore, a number of states have come forward stating their opposition to the repeal and have indicated that they, too, will join the fight.
Seeing this net neutrality issue unfold has solidified my choice to attend law school. Continue reading “Welcome to the Line”
Bill Cosby has made two distinctly different splashes in American popular culture. He starred in “The Cosby Show” (1984-92), a sitcom that was America’s most highly rated television show for five consecutive years. Then, his trial for sexual assault in the spring of 2017 became the most recent “trial of the century.” Ironically, the immense success of the former prevented the latter from attracting the attention many had predicted.
As for “The Cosby Show,” it featured the Huxtables, a fictional upper middle-class African American family living in a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights. Cliff Huxtable, played by Cosby, was a jolly obstetrician, while his wife Clair Huxtable was a successful attorney. The Huxtables has four daughters and one son, and although each episode had its tender tensions, they always dissipated by the end of the hour. “The Cosby Show” was about a happy, loving ideal family, and Cliff Huxtable became the nation’s fantasy father. When TV Guide ranked the 50 greatest dads in television history, the magazine named Cliff Huxtable “The All-Time Greatest Dad.”
While the show rarely addressed race directly, it was what the show left unsaid that was important. Cosby and the show’s producers consciously set out to “recode blackness.” They turned stereotypes upside-down by presenting a tightly-knit African American family that was affluent, had friends and neighbors of different races, and was headed by a married couple, with each member belonging to a learned profession. In the midst of the Reagan-Bush years, Americans took to the portrayal, and it, if only for a moment, obfuscated the nation’s shoddy racist inequality.
When twenty-five years later in time two dozen women claimed Cosby had drugged, sexually assaulted, and raped them, America was shocked. When Cosby went on trial in the spring of 2017 for sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, many thought the public would be obsessed with the proceedings. Coverage of the trial seemed likely to equal that for celebrities such as O.J. Simpson in 1994 and Michael Jackson in 2005. Trials of the rich and famous, after all, have been pop cultural delights since the days of the penny dailies in the early nineteenth century. Continue reading “Bill Cosby and American Popular Culture”
Yesterday, Fox News ousted Bill O’Reilly, who for two decades was the top-rated host with his show, The O’Reilly Factor. O’Reilly’s blustery on-air persona—which inspired Stephen Colbert to create ultraconservative pundit Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Show—minced no words, ever.
As a result, he often said outrageous, offensive, if not downright inaccurate things on the air. For example, he said that the slaves who built the White House were “well-fed and had decent lodging provided by the government.” He called child hunger “a total lie,” and said that feminists should not be allowed to report on Trump “because Trump is the antithesis of” feminism. He’s also been known to make inappropriate comments to women on the air.
O’Reilly’s personal conduct (like that of his former boss Roger Ailes before him) apparently has been similarly offensive. Over the course of his time at Fox News, O’Reilly has been accused of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior involving both women at the network who worked for him and women who appeared as guests on his show. Continue reading “Bill O’Reilly & Fox News: Does Money Matter More Than Doing the Right Thing?”
As we discussed potential procedures following the aftermath of acts causing tension between citizens of the Milwaukee area and police officers, a small group I was part of presented an interesting point. That point was that many times citizens are unaware of the on-goings of the criminal legal system. When situations arise in which officers or citizens are not found guilty subsequent to what seems to be a criminal act, onlookers are furious and the city burns—literally.
The media does little to help reduce the animosity, pointing fingers and creating distrust between residents and law enforcement by informing on the what, but failing to expand on the why. We as law school students are all legally educated, and most of us, at the least, have taken criminal law, even if we are not so knowledgeable as those who teach it. So, when an event takes place that seems unjust and nobody walks away in handcuffs, we understand why. The citizens of Milwaukee, however, don’t have that same knowledge and are understandably outraged. Continue reading “Media Should Inform the Public on Why, Not Just What, of Criminal Legalities”
How does racially-tinged police violence toward civilians affect city residents’ willingness to summon aid in an emergency? A study in the October 2016 American Sociological Review asks what happened to the number of 911 calls after the public revelation that off-duty white Milwaukee police officers beat Frank Jude in 2004. In “Police Violence and Citizen Crime Reporting in the Black Community,” Matthew Desmond, Andrew V. Papachristos, and David S. Kirk find that in the year after the initial publicity around the beating, Milwaukee residents placed 22,000 fewer 911 calls than might have been expected, resulting in a total of 110,000 calls. Although white neighborhoods saw a spike in 911 calls and then a long but shallow dip, the loss of calls was especially pronounced in black neighborhoods. The authors found no such loss of calls reporting traffic accidents.
Desmond et al.’s 911 study received extensive mass media coverage. Juleyka Lantigua-Williams wrote about the study in The Atlantic, and the New York Times’s “The Upshot” column reported the findings. The study was the subject of two articles in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, one reporting on the findings and one offering responses from District Attorney John Chisholm and Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn. Two of the authors, Desmond and Papachristos, also published an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times commenting on the significance of their research. A small host of other reports suggest broad interest in the study’s implications in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement and widespread coverage of police shootings of African American civilians.
Sociologist Desmond is one of our most thoughtful observers of the cultural significance of the 911 emergency call system. In Evicted, his 2015 ethnographic study of housing and poverty in Milwaukee, Desmond observed how victims of domestic violence put themselves at risk for losing their homes if they call the police too often. Continue reading “Calling 911 in the Wake of Police Violence”
The legacy of Jim Foley? Tom Durkin intentionally put it in terms that connected to Marquette University’s core mission. “We’re either people for others or we’re not,” Durkin said. “That’s the legacy that he created – we do stuff for others.”
Durkin was a close personal friend of Foley, a Marquette alum who committed himself to reporting from some of the most troubled spots in the world. Foley wanted to get to know the people living in those places, to tell their stories, and to help others around the world understand the world we all live in. Durkin said.
Foley was captured in Libya in 2011 and held hostage for 44 days before being released. After returning to the United States – a trip that included a visit to Marquette, where he took part in a public discussion about journalism in war-torn places – Foley went back to work, this time in Syria. In late 2012, he was captured by ISIS. In August 2014, he was executed by ISIS, a gruesome event that drew worldwide condemnation. Continue reading “Close Friend Praises Jim Foley for Putting Marquette Values to Work in War Zones”
For some, presumptive Republican nominee for president Donald J. Trump’s biggest appeal is his blustery persona and his take-no-prisoners attitude in his quest to “Make America Great Again.” For example, he started his campaign with a bold promise to build a wall on the United States border to keep out Mexican immigrants. More than that, Trump said, he would make Mexico pay for that wall. Mexican President Vincente Fox said Mexico would not and Trump just upped the ante. When Wolf Blitzer asked Trump how he would get the Mexican government to pay for a wall, Trump responded simply, “I will and the wall just got 10 feet taller, believe me.”
And, in the wake of the mass shooting at Pulse, the gay nightclub in Orlando, Trump renewed his call to profile on the basis of race/ethnic origin and religion, in order prevent future terrorist attacks. (The Pulse nightclub shooter was American-born and raised; his parents were refugees from Afghanistan, but his father became a naturalized American citizen.) Though claiming he hates the “concept” of profiling, he says other countries profile, and “it’s not the worst thing to do.” Earlier in his campaign, after the San Bernardino shooting in December 2015, he talked about increasing surveillance of Muslims and mosques and has suggested registering Muslims or mandating that they carry cards that identify them as Muslims.
Trump also doesn’t suffer fools gladly—or more precisely, he doesn’t suffer his version of “fools” gladly. When the Honorable Gonzalo P. Curiel, the federal circuit judge presiding over two class action suits against Trump University, ordered documents in the suit be unsealed—documents that are likely to shed negative light on Trump University, Trump spoke loudly and often about Judge Curiel as a “hater” and biased against Trump because, in Trump’s view, Judge Curiel is Mexican and, presumably, would not like Trump’s wall. (Judge Curiel is an American, born in Indiana.) Trump went even further, seemingly threatening the judge: “They ought to look into Judge Curiel, because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace. . . . O.K.? But we will come back in November. Wouldn’t that be wild if I am president and come back and do a civil case?”
As well, just over a week ago, Trump revoked The Washington Post’s press credentials to cover his campaign because he did not like how it wrote about some of his comments after the mass shooting at Pulse, calling the publication “phony and dishonest.” Trump seems particularly thorny about The Washington Post’s owner, Jeff Bezos, who founded Amazon. Like Judge Curiel, Bezos has been on the receiving end of what seems very much like a Trump threat. According to The New York Times, Trump said in February about Bezos, “He owns Amazon. . . . He wants political influence so Amazon will benefit from it. That’s not right. And believe me, if I become president, oh do they have problems. They’re going to have such problems.”
These examples and more have a common theme: Trump’s disdain for the rule of law, if not outright ignorance of it. Continue reading “Trump’s Rhetoric, Proposed Policies, and the Rule of Law”
In recent decades, awareness of narrative and of stories in general has increased in many fields and academic disciplines, law included. However, it is nevertheless surprising to see that even law enforcement specialists in the Justice Department have developed an appreciation of the workings and importance of narrative.
This heightened sensitivity surfaced in the recent Justice Department report on police conduct in Ferguson, Missouri following the shooting of Michael Brown. Issued by the Department’s “Community Oriented Policing Services” office, the report outlines no fewer than 113 lessons that police in Missouri and elsewhere might learn from developments during the seventeen days following Brown’s death and funeral.
Much of the report is predictable. It criticizes such police tactics as the use of dogs, tear gas, and so-called “overwatching.” With the latter, police use rifle sights to survey a crowd from positions on top of police vehicles. Overall, the report warns that “militarization” of a volatile situation will probably make things worse.
Toward the end of the report, its authors turn to what they label “lost narrative.” In their opinion, Missouri law enforcement was too slow to provide information about the shooting of Brown and thereby created an opening for alternative representations of the incident. Supporters of Brown and his family seized the opportunity and offered an alternative narrative, one conveyed largely but not completely through the social media and one stressing that “Black Lives Matter.” Continue reading “Narrative and Social Control”