Caution is Advised

LAPD Sirens
LAPD driving fast down a public street with sirens.

On the way to a crime scene

By James Preston Allen, Publisher

Sitting in my office on 13th Street, I have gotten used to the sirens routinely screaming up and down Pacific Avenue. The northbound ones are usually the Los Angeles Fire Department engines and the southbound are mostly Los Angeles Harbor Division squad cars racing toward the Point Fermin area in the afternoons. On any given day I can almost tell what time it is by the sirens heading south but on this Tuesday before we went to press the sirens came early and I started to count them.

I counted up to six when I got up to look out the door only to hear more coming down the street. They drove past at high speed running the red light. The homeless guy on the corner looked at me and said, “That’s been eight now.”  I hear more on the way and think, “This must be something big.” I looked down Pacific Avenue and see the red lights have passed 22nd Street but have stopped someplace just beyond.

Later that morning when I arrived at the yellow tape crime scene an officer tells me that they are looking for “a black man with a gun who assaulted someone.” The helicopter is flying overhead and there are at least three K-9 units and some 20 or more Metro Los Angeles Police Department officers in combat gear getting ready to search Denison Street.

I asked the senior Metro sergeant who they’re looking for. He described him as a “male Hispanic with a gun.”

I wondered if they actually know who they’re looking for?

There’s often confusion that fogs these incidents, like the investigation into the 11th Street rapist a month ago in San Pedro. The police put out an artist’s sketch of the suspect which was widely distributed that depicted a clean shaven Latino man with a thin mustache and straight hair.  When the LAPD finally arrested a suspect the picture sent out in the press release is of a black guy with a scruffy beard. It makes me wonder about jumping to conclusions and how both police and the media report on active crimes.

Reporters and broadcast news media are particularly vulnerable to the mistakes of “instant news” reporting that often goes uncorrected leaving the public with misconceptions.

In one recent incident that happened at the Port of Los Angeles hearing on the Pier 400 automation permit, a TV reporter called the ILWU protest “a strike.” It was not. It seems quite frequent that some reporters don’t know the difference between a strike, a stop action, a lockout and a protest. The union members who picked up the report instantly on their cell phones confronted the reporter immediately demanded and received a retraction. This, I might add was a rare occurrence — a direct confrontation between a broadcast journalist and the subject(s) of a  report actually resulting in corrective action. The waterfront unions should make note of this moving forward.

More often, the subtleties of the facts that are gathered into the news of a crime get lost in the rush to report on them.  The recent apprehension of a would-be terrorist bomber by the FBI before he could explode an “inert device” at a white nationalist rally at Bluff Park in Long Beach is a curious example.

Very little was made of the fact that who showed up at the rally were exclusively some 200 counter-demonstrators of the white nationalists and that this misguided “terrorist,” if he’d been successful, would have killed the wrong victims as this hate crime was directed — curiously enough — at the group routinely responsible for acts of terrorism. The white nationalists just didn’t show up. What I find even more curious is how little reporting has been done to expose the roots of this group, which obviously wants to disrupt our communities.

However, greater caution should be advised when reading foreign news reports in the American press.  The current rush to judgment in the mainstream press reporting on “the coup in Venezuela” harkens back to the days of reporters being fed the news from the Department of Public Information under the Ronald Reagan administration or worse, the CIA-influenced news reports on every country not aligned with American interests. This creates wildly false conclusions about foreign governments and in this particular case the apparent meddling of the United States in the political process of a sovereign nation’s elected president. Does this sound hypocritically familiar to what the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report accuses Russia of doing in the 2016 elections?

There is so little critical reporting of the Venezuelan “crisis” in our national press that I advise readers to log onto Democracy Now!, the Real News Network or to read the foreign press to get a less adulterated version of what’s truly taking place abroad.

As a last note on critical reporting (and thinking), if you ever have any doubts about what our government has been doing overseas since the end of World War II, which has earned the US so much animus abroad, I recommend reading Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner. It is a detailed history of the Central Intelligence Agency from its inception after World War II, through the Cold War years and the War on Terror, to the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 and beyond. The book is based on more than 50,000 documents, primarily from the CIA’s own archives and hundreds of interviews with CIA veterans, including 10 directors of Central Intelligence.

One of the stellar endorsements for this book is the CIA declaring that anyone who wants a “balanced perspective of the CIA and its history” should steer well clear of this book. Obviously the revelations in this well researched critique of the agency are so embarrassing that in another era it would have been banned!

In the meantime, caution is advised and critical thinking required when consuming the news!