Not All 'Protesters' Created Equal
Yesterday, Time Magazine named the "Protester" its person of the year. Lumped in this category were sundry Tunisians, Libyans, Greeks, Russians, and -- the without which not of Time's interest -- those Americans "who occupy public spaces to protest income inequality." Not surprisingly, Time championed this protest: "Everywhere, it seems, people said they'd had enough."
At Time Inc., not all protesters are created equal. Last year, when it had a chance to give that "diffuse collection of furies and frustrations that calls itself the Tea Party" its due, Time named Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg "Person of the Year." It was an obvious slight, especially since the Tea Party protesters actually knew what they had "had enough" of. In November of 2010, their efforts led to something tangible -- namely, the gain of 63 Republican seats in the House and the loss of Democratic control. That obviously did not impress Time in the way Time would hope to be impressed.
Equally troublesome, but less obvious, is Time's disregard for the individual protester whose cause does not hew to the progressive party line. I have gotten to know several of these people well. Up close, through their travails, I have been able to see just how media bias shapes not only the fate of the protesters, but also the flow of history.
As might be expected, Time Magazine did not choose to cite the one serious protester who served real jail time in 2011. That would be Lt. Col. Terry Lakin. Unknown to Time readers, Lakin spent five months in prison at Fort Leavenworth before his release in May of this year. His crime -- his real crime, that is -- was to challenge Barack Obama's constitutional eligibility to be president.
Lakin never claimed to know where President Obama was born or whether he was eligible. The problem, as Lakin saw it, was that no one knew. As an Army officer, one sworn "to support and defend the Constitution," he felt an obligation to pursue the truth.
I got to know Terry through helping him with his memoir, Officer's Oath, due out in January. If the U.S. Army has a more decent or dedicated officer than this 17-year veteran flight surgeon and father of three, I have yet to meet that person.
For more than a year, Lakin plied all regular channels to get at the facts. He had no intention of becoming a martyr to the cause, but in 2010 he received deployment orders to Afghanistan. Said the order: "Bring five (5) copies of your birth certificate."
For Lakin, that did it. If he had to produce a birth certificate to deploy, Obama needed one to send him. By refusing deployment -- he had already served in Afghanistan and Bosnia -- Lakin hoped to take advantage of military due process to resolve the eligibility question. He did not succeed. The media brought no pressure to bear on his behalf. To the degree taht the media noticed, they ridiculed him. Our progressive friends had found a military protester they could not embrace.
Lakin was not the first. In researching my book, Ron Brown's Body, I got to know a few other equally unloved military protesters. One of them, Petty Officer Kathleen Janoski, I got to know well. In 1996, Janoski was the head of the forensic photography team for the AFIP (Armed Forces Institute of Pathology), the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. It was she who discovered what appeared to be a bullet-hole in the head of Ron Brown, the Clinton Commerce secretary killed in a Croatian airplane crash.
Frustrated by the lack of official action, she and her colleagues, most notably Lt. Col. Steve Cogswell, a doctor and deputy medical examiner, went public with their concerns. "When you get something that appears to be a homicide, that should bring everything to a screeching halt," Cogswell was quoted as saying of Brown's death.
The following day, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post did what the mainstream media routinely did during the Clinton years -- attacked the protesters. Said Kurtz with preposterous certainty, "There definitely was no bullet because there was no exit wound."
In a refreshingly noble gesture, Lt. Col. David Hause, a pathologist who had been present for the Brown examination, went public in support of Cogswell. Hause and Cogswell both agreed a bullet could have traveled down the neck and lodged elsewhere in the body. Given White House pressure, there had been no time to search for an exit wound, let alone perform an autopsy.
A third AFIP pathologist, Air Force Maj. Thomas Parsons, came forward. He confirmed that the hole was "suspicious and unusual" and worthy of an autopsy. Janoski offered public confirmation and support as well. For their protests, the White House saw to it that all four of these military careers were derailed, even ruined. True to form, Time Magazine offered not a word of support for any of them. Despite losing a reporter in the crash, The New York Times did not even bother reviewing the official Air Force crash report.
In a third case I got to see up close, the media turned their collective back on a fellow reporter. A former cop, James Sanders partnered with me on the 2003 Book First Strike and the 2001 documentary Silenced, both about the crash of TWA Flight 800.
Sanders had done the original, boots-on-the-ground reporting on the 1996 crash. With the aid of the chief 747 pilot inside the investigation, Sanders first broke the story that the plane had been downed by missile fire. For his efforts, he and the pilot, as well his flight attendant wife who introduced them, were arrested on federal conspiracy charges.
At their arraignment in 1997, it stunned Sanders that no one in the media crowd managed to frame a single First Amendment question. When Sanders' lawyer at that time attempted to bring this issue into focus, a Newsday reporter began to argue the government line. Another reporter asked the attorney why his client did not immediately return the evidence the pilot had sent him to the FBI. CBS, which had promised to run a story on that evidence, had relented under government pressure. Why not Sanders?
The truth, as Sanders learned the hard way, is that Time Magazine and its fellow media travelers have no use for protesters or whistle-blowers or dissident journalists who threaten the progressive agenda or the Democratic powers that protect it.
Now, if only Time and the others would admit as much before they embarrass themselves further in the potentially Orwellian media year of 2012.