Friday, April 24, 2015

Stenographers for liars - "Ferguson" the play, personal agendas and the death of skeptical journalism

So a bunch of unknown actors - which I understand doesn't mean they aren't talented, just not household names - quit a play about the Ferguson, Missouri shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson because they (cue Jack Nicholson voice) couldn't handle the truth. From the linked L.A. Times article:
"Why not shoot him in the leg?" asked one actress, Donzaleigh Abernathy, cast to play a witness, her voice booming through the small, windowless space.
Because common sense, when you shoot at someone, you aim where you have the best chance to hit. In other words, the largest part of the target. In this case, at his body. If he's running at you, chances are you're going to miss if you aim for a rapidly moving leg. There's a reason the expression "couldn't hit the broad side of a barn" exists. Not to mention the part where things are happening really fast and you only have a split second to make a life-or-death situation. Too bad the L.A. Times did't see fit to mention any of this in their article.

One of the actors actually made these comments about the playwright:
"He claims that he wrote this to try to get to the truth of it, but everybody's truth is totally subjective,"
"It just didn't feel right to me." 
"Obviously he has a personal agenda. What is his personal agenda?"
Oh, I don't know, facts maybe? The truth? Because the play Ferguson is what is referred to as "verbatim theater". Every word in the script comes from the grand jury transcripts. You want to talk about personal agendas? Maybe this actor should be asking what was the personal agenda of every witness whose sworn testimony was part of the transcripts. Facts maybe? The truth? How about we question the actor's personal agenda?

If you'd like to read a more balanced and informative article about the play and playwright, The Argonaut (a free community publication, take that L.A. Times) has a great one this week: You Decide the Ferguson Verdict. Some highlights:
"Every word on that stage is uttered by a witness. It's all as said in the grand jury room," said "Ferguson" playwright Phelim McAleer, a Marina del Rey resident. "It's verbatim theater."
Unlike the Times article, the Argonaut piece gives you some background on McAleer and his real-life experiences with serious journalism and the harsh realities of life and conflict:
Throughout the 1990's, McAleer worked in Belfast as a reporter for the Irish News and the UK Sunday Times. 
Ireland during The Troubles gives McAleer a particular frame of reference for when Americans discuss the para-militarization of the police.
"We actually had an actual shoot-to-kill policy by the police," McAleer said.  
His interest in staging a play in which audiences can "see eyewitness testimony spoken by real people and see what the grand jury saw" was driven by dissatisfaction with media coverage of the shooting and its fallout. 
McAleer deems coverage of the Brown shooting "the death of decent, skeptical journalism". 
"They became stenographers for liars rather than skeptics." 
"They were very industrious in promoting lies."
The L.A. Times article doesn't do anything to offset McAleer's comments about the media. No wonder the mainstream media is a joke and has seen better days.

Do check out the whole Argonaut article at the link above. Props to its author, Michael Aushenker, for writing an article that doesn't have a personal agenda. You know, journalism.

No comments: