Deserving the Duplicitous Government — and Crap Corporate Media — People Deserve
What official lies about an officer-involved shooting in Westchester, NY can teach us about the mutually parasitic relationship between local government and corporate media.
I have worked as a journalist and publisher in the hyper-local news space for more than a decade primarily covering New Rochelle, NY, and the Sound Shore area of Westchester County — 13 years this August. I can only wonder at the complicity of the local media and the gullibility of the public regarding the officer-involved shooting death of Kamal Flowers by PO Alec McKenna.
On the night of June 5, 2020, in a needlessly dark corner of New Rochelle, McKenna made a dubious traffic stop. Flowers, who was not driving and therefore did not commit any traffic violations, ran from the scene. Flowers was chased by McKenna for about as much reason as a dog chases a car. The chase ended with McKenna firing multiple rounds from his service weapon, two of which struck Flowers, killing him.
The timing for New Rochelle officials, days after the murder of George Floyd, was something out of a nightmare. In a panic, Mayor Noam Bramson gathered with leaders of the Black community and convinced them to literally stand behind him, useful idiots, as he and the police commissioner spewed lie after lie about the events leading up to the fatal shooting.
Local media has failed to report on the many inconsistencies and demonstrable false claims by government officials and the public has largely stood mute in the face of the outrageous, duplicitous conduct of those same officials.
I have thoroughly documented the lies told in the immediate aftermath of the incident.
I documented the lie that McKenna had never drawn his gun in the line of duty before doing so to shoot and kill Kamal Flowers.
I have shown how City and Police officials have lied, over and over again, about what took place the night of June 5, 2020, repeatedly conflating the shooting incident with an entirely unrelated incident on June 3, 2020, which police sought to portray as linked to violent Antifa-involved riots after the murder of George Floyd.
I reported how New Rochelle officials were caught in another lie last month when City Manager Charles B. Strome and Police Commissioner Joe Schaller issued a statement claiming that an internal investigation determined that no violations of NRPD policy and procedures occurred.
"None of the officers involved in the incident committed any violations of the Department’s policies and procedures," said Schaller.
If that were true, it would mean on the night of the shooting, there was no violation of R&R 1.13 (Failure to call out a vehicle stop).
In a two-month Internal Affairs investigation in 2019, McKenna was cited for 31 violations of R&R 1.13: 6/27, 6/28, 7/4 (2x), 7/28 (3x) 7/29 (2x), 7/31 (2x), 8/3, 8/4, 8/6 (4x), 8/12 (3x), 8/16 (2x), 8/18 (4x), 8/19 (3x), 8/24 (2x) for which he received a Command Discipline.
Since June 5, 2020, I have made many and repeated requests for public records pertaining to the officer-involved shooting on June 5, 2020, including all relevant police radio communications. City and NRPD officials claim they provided all relevant police radio communications from that night.
No police radio communications of a call out of a vehicle stop is among the recordings provided to me by NRPD.
If there was no callout of the traffic stop of the Black Dodge Charger with Virginia license plates on June 5, 2020, and thus no recording, then that is a violation of R&R 1.13 (failure to call out a vehicle stop) in which case claims by the City Manager and Police Commissioner that there were no violations of the rules, policies, or procedures of the Department by any New Rochelle police personnel regarding the officer-involved shooting would be false.
If there was a callout of the traffic stop of the Black Dodge Charger with Virginia license plates on June 5, 2020, then the City of New Rochelle and New Rochelle Police Department have a recording of that call out that has been illegally withheld from me.
The complicity of local media in going along with the lies is as sick-making as it is predictable.
The seminal work on "the propaganda model for the manufacture of public consent”, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, published in 1988, describes the "editorially distorting filters" applied to the reporting of news in mass communications media.
Consider these filters in the context of the two corporate media news outlets in Westchester.
The Journal News is a wholly owned subsidiary of GateHouse Media/ Gannett, and through a series of investment firms, the Japanese conglomerate Softbank. Gannett is a publicly traded company based in McLean, Virginia with a market capitalization of $680,000,000.
News12 is a wholly owned subsidiary of Altice USA, the owner of Cablevison. Altice USA is a spin-off of Netherlands-based Altice NV which took Altice USA public in 2017 then spun off Altice USA into a separate company. Both companies operate under Patrick Drahi a French-Israeli billionaire businessman with French, Moroccan, Portuguese, and Israeli citizenship, living in Switzerland. Altice USA is a publicly traded company based in Bethpage, NY with a market capitalization of $16,710,000,000.
Anyone who imagines they will get the truth and nothing but the truth from these two corporate media outlets is kidding themselves.
Corporate media in Westchester employs 4 of the 5 editorially distorting filters described in Manufacturing Consent when covering their main beat, local news. The fifth is the “War on Terror” filter employed in national reporting.
Size, ownership, and profit orientation — as large profit-based operations, Gannett and Altice USA must cater to the financial interests of their owners in Japan, the Netherlands, and shareholders around the globe. Altice USA's cable television and Internet is business operates under heavy government regulation.
Advertising license to do business— because the majority of the revenue of major media outlets derives from advertising (not from sales or subscriptions), advertisers have acquired a "de facto licensing authority", media outlets are not commercially viable without the support of advertisers. As a result, news media is beholden to the “political prejudices and economic desires of their advertisers”. As subscriptions have declined, The Journal News is increasingly dependent on advertising revenue. While Altice USA is primarily a broadband Internet provider, News12 is dependent on advertising revenue.
Sourcing mass media news — governments and large corporate entities (whether for-profit or not-for-profit) subsidize the mass media and provide special access thereby reducing the media's costs of acquiring and producing, news. The news organizations become partners with the government in news production gaining them privileged access to government sources. Non-routine sources must struggle for access, and “may be ignored by the arbitrary decision of government officials”.
Flak and the enforcers — negative responses to media coverage whether it be tweets, letters, complaints, lawsuits, or legislative actions can be expensive to the media, either due to loss of advertising revenue, or due to the costs of legal defense or defense of the media outlet's public image. The prospect of taking on flak can be a deterrent to the reporting of certain kinds of facts or opinions so induces self-censorship.
As the publisher of an independent news outlet, I see every day how editorial distortion is aggravated by the news media's dependence upon private and governmental news sources, an aversion to flak and fear of offending advertisers or subjecting advertisers to boycotts or harassment by activists.
The Journal News and News12 are both afraid of being excluded from access to information which translates into “higher costs to acquire information and a loss of readers or viewers, and ultimately, advertisers”.
Both are terrified of flak, especially the woke social justice mob.
To minimize such financial danger, news media businesses editorially distort their reporting to favor government and corporate policies and steer clear of reporting that would provoke a backlash in order to stay in business.
From the moment the death of Kamal Flowers was made public, the government, and local media outlets had an aversion to reporting the truth about Kamal Flowers criminal history because the woke social justice mob holds that acknowledging that a person shot by police had a history of violent crime is racist, if the person was black because it is an attempt to justify a shooting where no justification may exist.
The nuance that a person can both have a serious criminal history and be the victim of police brutality or subject to the use of unnecessary force is lost.
That some people might seek to justify an officer-involved shooting because the victim of the shooting had a criminal record — as the President of the New Rochelle PBA did — does not change the obligation of journalists to report the truth.
The idea that a shooting victim’s criminal history was off-limits because the suspect was Black was a point which was explicitly stated by the Mayor at the June 6, 2020, press conference after the shooting.
This same point was discussed at a meeting the Mayor called with leaders in the Black community just before the press conference where City and Police officials agreed not to talk about Kamal Flowers criminal history or that he was still serving a sentence for an armed carjacking, having been recently released from prison on probation and facing an immediate return to prison if found in possession of a firearm.
Every major media outlet in the New York market was at the press conference. Watch the video, and you will hear only one reporter — me — asking questions at the press conference. The only other questions came from local activists who sat in on the press conference.
One of the questions I asked — twice — involved the criminal history of Kamal Flowers. Both Mayor Noam Bramson and Police Commissioner Joe Schaller shut down that line of questioning and no other reporters pressed that point. In fact, no other reporters asked any questions that day.
The primary source for a criminal history in Westchester is the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office. News12 did not bother to seek records at all. Only Jonathon Bandler and I sought these records.
Jonathon Bandler made the same Freedom of Information Request I made at about the same time I did, soon after June 5, 2020.
Bandler received the identical records I received although a month sooner which is just another example of the symbiotic relationship between corporate media and government.
I continued to collect records from other law enforcement agencies in New York State and eventually compiled a complete history of Kamal Flowers criminal records which I published a few weeks ago.
Among the records I obtained and reported on was a critical piece of information never reported by the corporate media to this day.
I learned from police arrest records that Flowers told police in 2017, after his arrest for carjacking in Mount Vernon, that he “was always strapped,” meaning always armed with a gun. He made similar statements to New Rochelle Police, that he armed himself with a gun and knives when on the streets.
Is there any doubt that Flowers past statements about weapons possession not to mention his numerous arrests involving weapons, is relevant to reporting on the June 5 shooting? Many defending Flowers insist he did not have a gun on him that night despite all evidence to the contrary.
Despite efforts by The Journal News and other media outlets to paint him in a more benign light, Flowers’ record depicts an unpredictable and dangerous habitual criminal; a member of a violent street gang with an extensive criminal history, including felony arrests for drug possession and drug sales, acts of violence including domestic violence, weapons possession, and threatening victims with weapons.
News12 has been all but silent on Flowers’ criminal history.
Having obtained the same records from the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office as I did, The Journal News sat on that information. They have never reported a complete account of Kamal Flowers’s criminal history out of fear — fear of flak, fear of alienating government officials and non-profits and fear that antagonizing the woke social justice mob will embroil the paper in controversy, costing it advertisers and thus revenue.
I am well aware of what happens when a reporter antagonizes the police, the municipal or county government, school officials, the woke social justice mob. I do it all the time by accurately reporting the news with hard facts like public records, on-the-record interviews, photos, video, and audio. I get harassed, my advertisers get harassed, I get death threats and more.
Report the truth about Kamal Flowers criminal history? I get this.
Cover police brutality rallies? I am surrounded by a mob, pushed and shoved and “voted” out of a public park as police officers stand idly by watching.
Report the truth about a white police officer punching a black suspect in the face? I get this.
The examples are too numerous to publish.
Publishing the unvarnished truth about sensitive and controversial topics requires a willingness to run a story and let the chips fall where they may.
Westchester County residents have remained docile as government officials lie.
Corporate media outlets like The Journal News or News12 not only fail to challenge those lies but perpetuate them on behalf of those doing the lying.
H.L. Mencken, an iconic journalist from Baltimore said it best, borrowing from Thomas Jefferson.
"People deserve the government they get, and they deserve to get it good and hard."
I might only tweak that further to include outfits like The Journal News and News12.
"People deserve the government and the crap corporate media they get, and they deserve to get it good and hard."