Friday, April 18, 2008

The Unfiltered Truth

The Unfiltered Truth

This isn't a game of video or political "gotcha".

For many years politicians were accustomed to being able to misrepresent themselves and their views and speak half-truths with complete impunity. Anyone who challenged anything that a legislator said often ended up in a game of "he said/she said", with little or no proof. Almost everything contradictory to what a politician said was considered hearsay.

Those days have finally come to an end.

Video has become a very useful tool in providing citizens with oversight of their leaders. If a politician plays fast and loose with the facts, or contradicts their own statements, there is usually a tape somewhere that shows this.

Sometimes the video is shot by a video blogger like myself. Other times it's a local or national news organization. In some cases, the video is provided by the state owned video network.

An Example

Today's little flap about Gov. Rell is a prime example. The Hartford Courant is reporting that while the governor is running around claiming that she denied knowing that the cost overruns on the New Haven Rail project would exceed the $300 million budget, a CT-N (Connecticut government Network) video clearly shows her at the ceremonial ribbon cutting back in December of 2006 being told by DOT officials that the project would most likely come to $800 million.

This is a wonderful example of video oversight. Now, whether the governor intentionally misrepresented the facts, or if she honestly forgot the speech (which is entirely plausible) doesn't really matter. What matters is that an inaccuracy wasn't allowed to be repeated endlessly in the mainstream media and used as a political weapon. Gov. Rell can no longer insist that she wasn't informed about the cost overrun.


(Disclaimer: I wrote most of this article before the statement from the Attorney General's office was released. It's important to make clear that there hasn't yet been any evidence of suppression of fact by his office.)

Another example is Attorney General Dick Blumenthal's denial of knowing anything about the FBI conclusion back on October 25, 2006 that neither Ned Lamont's campaign or any bloggers had anything to do with Sen. Lieberman's web site crashing the night before the hotly contested primary election. My video interview from four days later, October 29th, shows the AG denying any knowledge of the FBI's investigation being closed.

This information was obviously known to the FBI and was circulated as an internal email more than a week before the November general election, and could potentially have had a significant impact had it been made public.

Not to mention it would have cleared Ned Lamont's campaign and all of us local bloggers of the cloud of suspicion that had a negative effect on our efforts to work and report on the events. I can't remember exactly how many people asked me if I had anything to do with the alleged "hacking", but every single one of those instances annoyed the hell out of me.

And, because the Lieberman noise machine was unrelenting in it's accusations of us, it sort of became accepted public knowledge that we MUST be guilty of it.

This morning the Attorney General released a statement that reads in part:
"Neither I nor any member of my staff has ever seen the October 25, 2006 FBI email. Nor were we ever informed of its contents. I first learned of it when I read a report in The Stamford Advocate on April 9, 2008."


"Throughout the investigation, there were discussions between my office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office regarding the direction of the federal investigation, but not any conclusions until after the election. To have made any premature public predictions before our investigation ended in December 2006 would have been irresponsible and improper."

(thanks to Chris Hoffman from the Office of the Attorney General)
This begs the question as to WHY an important email from the FBI regarding the investigation wasn't entered into the discussion by the U.S. Attorney's office? Everyone involved must have been aware of the importance of reaching a conclusion before the election. Letting the investigation go on for over seven weeks after this information was available is difficult to understand.

I'd like to follow up on this story with Mr. Blumenthal at some point soon. His office has been very good about responding to my inquiries lately, so I'm looking forward to gaining more insight into the circumstances that resulted in this situation.

"I will crush them!"

This tongue-in-cheek video that I produced of House Speaker James Amann speaking off the cuff certainly caused a bit of a stir. While I'll be the first to admit that this wasn't "journalism" by any means, it DID reveal an interesting aspect of the Speaker's personality that all his staged public appearances and carefully crafted speeches never captured. And it allowed the people of Connecticut to learn a bit more about one of their leaders.

Months later, when Jim appeared on a radio show and discussed the incident, I did object to his characterization of me as a "video paparazzi", as if I was some kind of video stalker. When in fact the entire unedited video shows me greeting him cordially and identifying myself as a video blogger and that I intended to use the video on the internet.

I then posted the entire 27-minute video online soon afterwards without a single cut or camera stoppage to prove my point.

And some months later I removed the longer video from Youtube when I found a political opponent of Amann's was using it on his website without notifying me. I felt it was being used in a manner that I didn't agree with, especially considering that my editorial comments on the video were irrelevant to his purposes, so I blocked access to it.

If at some point the entire interview becomes relevant again, I'll post it again. The point is, the video record exists, and is accessible if needed.

The Video Revolution

There are certainly drawbacks to this culture of video. I'm sure we can build a mountain out of all the video cassettes used to shoot Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton buying a cappuccino at Starbucks. Video is often used to intrude on the private lives of public people. I've never been a fan of that kind of tabloid reporting.

But video is indispensable in the efforts to find the truths underneath the double-talk, evasions, and outright untruths that some politicians seem to depend upon. When there is an indisputable video record of everything a politician publicly says and stands for, it forces him/her to own up to their words. The likelihood of a politician saying one thing to one group, and the exact opposite to another group has dropped significantly due to the unwavering eye of the video camera.

This isn't a game of video or political "gotcha".

It IS a way for the voters to gain valuable insight into their leaders' character, honesty, and viewpoints, unshaped by corporate media or special interests.

It is the unfiltered truth.

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