2014/09/02

Making a difference

A number of proposals have been made for reforming government abuses. Here are a few points:

Documentaries

Documentaries have already been done. They have some use in recruiting activists, but almost none for effecting real reforms. If they ever make it to a wider audience, the only result is a downtick in public opinion polls, but no action. Anything less than detailed, step-by-step, daily plans for the coordinated action by tens or hundreds of thousands of dedicated individuals will work, and they need to focus on real changes:

1. Legislation adopted and enforced. (Exact wording provided.)
2. Court decisions made and enforced, after winning on appeal (trial decisions might help parties but don't make real changes). (Exact wording provided.)
3. Removal of officials from office, imprisonment of some, and perhaps replacement by much better ones. (Win elections, remove immunities.)
4. Changes in school curricula and what students are tested on. (Change the teachers and textbook authors.)
5. Changes in the incentives for officials to do the right things, and to open government to intervention by outsiders. (It's the System — structures and procedures.)
6. Get control of the media. (Social media is a start, but that doesn't reach the majority.)

Never arouse concern without providing specific action plans that can be carried out by individuals using the resources under their control. Otherwise the only result is despair and discouragement. Discouraged people don't make reforms. When individuals do take steps, they need to be commended and supported to keep them going to take the next steps.

Recruiting journalists

1. While most journalists may not want to investigate or write stories, they usually know a lot of stories they can convey to you, and thus can be a good source of information. They are worth cultivating for that reason alone.

2. You need to write the stories for them. Most journalists don't know enough about law to write about it. Most news reports are just someone's press releases, so you need to flood the media with press releases that tell the stories you want told, in effect making you the investigative reporter. There are press release distribution services that can do it for you at a cost you could not afford.

3. It is worth cultivating journalists through regular personal encounters to develop your credibility and perhaps get them to cover your own story sympathetically if you get in trouble doing all this.

4. The most receptive journalists are likely to be found in foreign or foreign-owned media, such as the British Guardian and Telegraph (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, a friend from 1995 when he investigated wrongdoing in the U.S., is now the editor of the Daily Telegraph.), or Al Jazeera. They are also more likely to follow through on a story over a period of time. Once they pick up on a story, that makes the story news and provides domestic media some cover to pick it up themselves. Fox News has been somewhat receptive, especially since some of their associates and commentators are lawyers.

5. Television media are reluctant to do stories without visual media that can hold the attention of their viewers. Often their decisions to cover are based more on good video footage than on the merits of the story. The problem with coverage in this field is that so much of what would make good visuals is barred from cameras, so you may need to be clever about it. (That is the main reason judges ban cameras from courts.) The good news is that they are increasingly susceptible to using your footage rather than having to shoot their own. But if you give them a copy (always keep the original), do it with a contract that allows them first public use, while you retain the copyright.

6. Some reporters learn about law by serving as courthouse reporters, although they may be most fearful of losing access by reporting the wrong stories or reporting the wrong way. Most reporters, however, will only know enough to understand abuses involving evidence, rather than abuses of due process or other areas of law. For them, you may need to focus on the evidence rather than confusing them with precedents.

7. In jurisdictions where judges are elected, their election campaigns make stories about them more newsworthy, and provides opportunities to insert critical material.

8. Keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of judicial judicial abuse is combined with prosecutorial abuse, because most such cases involve the government as a party, or at least as an interested background party. Indeed, the prosecutorial abuse is likely the leading component of the overall problem. You can't fix one kind of abuse without also fixing the other. And journalists are sometimes more receptive to going after prosecutors than judges.

9. You can become a "stringer" for a media organization, feeding them stories at a lower cost than from their regular journalists. After feeding them with enough good material on general topics, you can then start slipping in material on this more specialized topic.

10. Always keep copies of all the evidence you gather in a safe place that will be disclosed if anything happens to you. Have more than one copy in more than one safe place, because the opposition is likely to always be able to find at least one of them. Don't let your story die with you, as happened with Danny Casolaro or Gary Webb, who were "suicided".

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1 comment:

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