There are so many things wrong with the Steve Chabot town hall meeting on Monday, August 22, 2011 where he had the police confiscate the cameras of citizens recording his speech. Before I get into the details of this listen to Doc Thompson of 700 WLW cover the two videos he put on his blog site, both of them from Progress Ohio which shows the terrible act being committed.
After the whole issue blew up, and Doc was covering it on WLW, Chabot attempted to clarify that in the future, he would make the policy clear that only the media would be allowed to have cameras during a town hall meeting. Well, that created so much of an uproar on 700 WLW that later in the day Chabot came out and said that there would not be any rules about cameras in the future. The reason it created an uproar is that the media cannot always be trusted, and politicians for way too long have learned to manipulate the media to make themselves look better.
One of the greatest benefits of this modern age is that everyday people can also be part of the media. With all the video cameras out there, and cell phones, and blog sites like this one, politicians can no longer wine and dine members of the media to mold their public image. People have to actually be what they say they are, and that’s a great aspect of our current age. This is why schools can’t get away with ripping off the tax payers anymore with fluffy terminology, because it is no longer just newspapers and television that are covering the “feel good” stories that shape public opinion. Because of the internet and YouTube specifically a political blunder can now be seen, and not pushed under the rug so bad behavior can continue. Stories like the Stacy Schuler case in Mason can no longer be “controlled” by a public relations media personality, because there are other ways for the public to get at the truth, or at least remember the event. So politicians like Steve Chabot who are aware that his enemies, Progress Ohio are in attendance at his town hall meeting have tried to control their public image just like the policy shown in the video, of police confiscating the public video cameras. Progress Ohio clearly was looking to rattle Chabot and get video they could use against him in a future campaign. Chabot has to be a good enough of a politician to stay away from double-talk and not give those people any ammunition. But no politician has a right to “censor” their public image in a public forum. That just isn’t something that can be allowed to happen.
Now, here’s the worst aspect of this situation……..it’s the fact that without any knowledge of the law, the police on the whim of a politician, can instruct the police to do their bidding. Those police officers had no right to confiscate one single video camera. If Chabot wanted to enforce a video camera policy, it was up to his staff to provide that security. The police department cannot be used as his personal enforcement service. And as to the early comments that Chabot uttered about only the media would be allowed to film events, that brings up the question, who is the media? Is it the media that only the politician likes? Is it the media that represents the major television stations? Is it just the media like newspapers who have reporters that are kind to the political entity, of course not. The media are the people who chose to cover it, so in this day and age, every member of society is a member of the media, and that’s the way it has to be. So no politician has a right to pick and chose who covers them if they are a public official.
I’m happy that Steve did the right thing in the end. I’m sure his intentions were good, because he knew the sharks were in the water. But this is a perfect example of how good intentions can pave the path to hell, because police powers were abused, private rights were abused, and trust in the government was violated all because a politician wished to control his public image with censorship. That is the path that has placed our current political system into such a shambles, it is decades and decades of this kind of “censorship” that is just now being challenged because it is only in the last decade that virtually every citizen in America has their own video camera and access to the internet in order to convey the truth as they see it. So the dynamic has changed for the better, and politicians must adjust to that dynamic because the dishonesty of politics can no longer be shoved under the rug to hide which just mounts up to a hugely expensive government full of dishonest people who stay in office because they had control of the media.