Anybody Out There?

In the closing days of Christy Walsh’s hunger strike a piece appeared on Daily Kos under the by-line Thirty Three and a Third. The title was Man Kills Himself Holding 'Tax The 1%' in Front of the Capitol -- and Nobody Hears About It. The author was inspired to write about the case largely because an earlier opportunity to explore the motives for exceptional forms of protest had been missed. That came and went with the death of 64 year old Vietnam Vet John Constantino who had set himself on fire on the DC Mall in October 2013.

I couldn’t stop thinking about this man and his act. Who was he? What compelled him? What was his life’s story? What were his political views, his life’s station, etc? I wanted to write a blog then but didn’t. Then Saturday happened.

Well, Saturday always happens but what happened on this particular Saturday is what should have made it newsworthy but didn't.
A man decides to commit suicide as an act of political courage, and is dismissed by both the police and media as unworthy of further examination? ... The police captain on the scene who addressed the news cameras eerily avoided the question, mumbling that it was “something about social justice,” as if he were annoyed to address any specifics. So we know nothing else. Not even a name was given. A dog run over by car might have gotten more respect and news coverage than this unknown man. What kind of a society have we become?

The man is no longer unknown to society. We now know that he was 22 year old Leo Thornton. That much could not be concealed from us.

A hunger strike in terms of news value can be a slow burner. And the type of protest mounted by Christy Walsh at home and not outside Parliament or some other camera-magnet building was always likely to make it a contender for an out-of-sight-out-of-mind category. But there seems no reason that the grievance raised by Walsh should have been firewalled against the public interest (a concept not lending itself to immediate and easy definition by media outlets). Walsh had previously been found not guilty of the charges for which he was initially convicted, yet is still subject to allegations at ministerial level that he is in fact guilty. There are echoes of the Birmingham Six in this ... we had to let them off but we have no other suspects, so draw your own inferences.

It is not that Walsh is an OJ or somebody who just about won his case on a technicality because a T on some court document had not been crossed or the I dotted. After serving a lengthy prison sentence he eventually won his case in the courts because the prosecution was an edifice of lies, evidence-tampering, prosecutorial misconduct, and a defence team failing to act per its client’s instructions.

There is also a vested interest on the part of the state, despite its professed commitment to deal with the past, to keep the past distorted. This is nowhere made more manifest than in David Ford's cynical assertion that Walsh must not win because if he were to, other wrongful convictions might be overturned: better that Walsh be faced down so that miscarriages of justice do not see the light of day.

In the cases of the self-immolation of the John Constantino and Leo Thornton's death by gunshot 'both stories have been utterly buried by a colluding mainstream media.' Is the 'vacuous handling of this story by corporate media' similar to what happened in the Christy Walsh case?

As the author of the Daily Kos piece concluded is anybody out there?

Injustice calling media, injustice calling media. Come in please. Injustice calling ...

1 comment:

  1. the thrust of the post seems to be a complaint about media bias. This has been a sore point in Scotland since before the referendum, particularly with regards to the BBC. Here's one example of the type of thing that's annoying them.
    The Scots seems to be moving towards a refusal to pay the TV licence. You can read all about it here