THE NEW MCCARTHYISM
The new McCarthyism has established a new standard.
Heretofore, professional destruction and personal defamation have come about when public employees – usually first responders – were shown on the Internet doing or saying something offensive or politically incorrect.
Usually it was a cop or a firefighter, and usually it was a Facebook posting.
Self-righteously, we were told that the Internet is public, and that those who are paid by the taxpayers are held to a higher standard, and so we, like Romans watching blood sport, heartily demanded the thumbs down.
Many lives have been ruined that way.
But now there is a new standard.
According to the NBC television affiliate in Rochester, New York, the bar is actually much lower.
That station this week has done stories based on the secretly recorded rant of a taxi dispatcher on private property having a private conversation. The video, made by an apparently disgruntled employee, shows the dispatcher, between calls and dispatches, angrily swearing.
He uses the f-word and the n-word.
He answers the phone and speaks to customers courteously. He promptly dispatches cabs for all customers who call.
But between calls, obviously perplexed and stressed, he swears and yells and speaks crudely.
Behind closed doors, on his own property, in a private conversation.
The television station, pointing out that the cab company frequently transports college students, played the video on the evening news.
Two colleges quickly condemned the cab company, scrubbed it from lists of recommended businesses, and all but banned it.
Then the television station reported that the cab company also carried Medicaid patients, and asked, with feigned indignation, “Is that how you want your tax dollars used?”
Within 48 hours, the cab company’s three largest accounts were in tatters, and its business was essentially gutted.
Because somebody trying to stick it to the cab company made a secret video of a private conversation and the TV news gobbled it up.
The survivability of the cab company is in doubt, its fleet of cab drivers have had their jobs destroyed in one fell swoop, and the reputation and employability of the dispatcher in question are ruined.
Lives and livelihoods are wounded if not killed.
Mortgage payments and tuition bills and families’ incomes are gone.
Because in the new McCarthyism nothing is private and everyone is fair game.
This video wasn’t on the Internet. We didn’t hear the dark rantings of a police officer. There were no public employees involved. There was no indication of discrimination or denial of public accommodation.
But TV got the video, and TV got the blood.
Piss on whoever gets in the way.
So let’s be clear about the new standard and its ramifications.
First of all, it is apparently ethically acceptable to maliciously and secretly video anyone at any time. There is no assumption of privacy, there is no common courtesy, there is no protection of private property or closed doors.
There is no balance, there is no context, there is no explanation.
Just push Record.
If you are leaving a job, if you got a bad review, if you are in the mood for revenge, just video the boss. Keep at it. Eventually you’ll get something. Edit out what you said, delete what exonerates, just get the snippet of crudity or intolerance, the angry tone or poorly chosen word, and head to the TV station.
Think of it as your insurance policy or your payback plan.
And don’t worry about having your motives questioned. That doesn’t seem to have been an issue at all with this report.
This is a one-strike system, with just one penalty – complete social destruction.
So be warned.
If you wait tables or run a cash register, stand in the window at the bank or check in patients at the E.D., don’t step into the break room and vent.
Don’t ever let off steam or de-stress.
Don’t shake your head and wonder how customers can be so rude or clueless. Don’t make a joke, don’t mutter an expletive, don’t presume you have free speech.
Because you never know which “citizen journalist” or blogger wannabe is going to crucify you.
With the help of the local TV station.
Which, now that we know the ground rules, might want to scrub some of those ever-popular reporters-at-bars Facebook pictures before the cop-hating Internet activists run out of police memes to bitch about.
And TV stations might want to review what theory of newsworthiness it is that they believe justifies broadcasting the surreptitiously recorded non-criminal private conversation of a private person to that person’s great hurt.
There is no legitimate public interest in private conversation. There is no public impact of private conversation. Cab dispatchers are not public figures and cab companies are not significant social institutions.
There is no legitimate, traditional newsworthiness in this matter whatsoever. But the TV hard on was obvious, and there’s another notch in the belt.
It is the new McCarthyism.
And it has just sunk to a new low.
If you doubt my word, go ask the cab drivers’ wives and kids.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2015