Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Teen Bullied To Death, Dr. Phil (Why?!), Militia Plot Update, Scientology Investigation Part II, And Sean Penn Interview From Haiti

Hi everybody. Like last night, we begin with what Anderson Cooper refers to as a "short preview" of the Scientology report that will be shown later in the show. I would quibble with his use of the word "short." Our top story, however, is the sad death of Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old who was viciously bullied for six solid months before ultimately hanging herself in her home. Nine teens have been criminally charged in connection with her death and other students have been expelled.

Anderson takes us to the Magic Wall, and I honestly don't know if I find the show's now predictable use of CNN's overabundance of technology to be bordering on ridiculous or a positive addition to the story. I'll take a page from their playbook and "let you decide." Our anchor notes other teens and pre-teens who have also recently committed suicide due to bullying. To their credit, 360 has very much been on top of this overall story.

In a Gary Tuchman piece, we learn more details of this newest case. Phoebe had just moved to America from Ireland and briefly dated one of those aforementioned nine teens. The other girls were not happy about the relationship, and when it ended, the bullying began. Phoebe received threatening messages and was also harassed in front of others, including faculty members. School administrators were aware of the situation, which leaves everyone wondering why it wasn't stopped. So sad.

For discussion of all this, we're joined by...Dr. Phil. Why 360, why?! In case it's not clear, I am not a fan. I appreciate him being passionate about the subject and bringing awareness and whatnot, but ugh, please get him off my TeeVee screen. Also? Way to think outside-the-box there. Of note as well is the b-roll footage of teens being shown during his segment. To me, the conversation made it unclear as to whether they were the victims or the bullies, though my guess is victims. Not really something to be ambiguous about.

Moving on now to a Drew Griffin piece that updates us on that Christian militia group called Hutaree. He's stalking Ray Stone, the son of the group's leader, but the guy speeds away in his truck. The real take-away from this report is how authorities broke up the plot. Apparently, other militia members, referred to in the piece as "mainstream militia," thought Hutaree was a little too out there and came forward. Mainstream militia? Wow. You know you're crazy if self-described militia members think the government needs to have a look at you.

Transitioning now to the second installment of the Scientology series. Tonight we meet Jeff Hawkins and Tom Devocht, two former church members who also claim they were abused by leader David Miscavige. Also, Amy Scobee and Steve Hall corroborate Marty Rathbun's charge that Mike Rinder was repeatedly a victim of Miscavige's violence. The church pointed CNN to a BBC interview in which Rinder vigorously denied all allegations. But that was before he quit Scientology. Rinder now claims he lied to the BBC in order to protect his career and membership in the church.

Apparently, Miscavige is the end all and be all of Scientology and if you cross him, your future in the church is not bright--hence all the denials. And there are a lot of denials. Anderson sat down with the ex-wives of some of the men who are now coming forward (including Rathbun). They're all adamant that their husbands were never abused, telling our anchor that they knew "every square inch" of the men's bodies and they had seen no evidence. It's a little creepy if you ask me.

Also, CNN gets letters. See, last night 360 reported that Miscavige had declined to be interviewed for the report. Then today they received a letter from a Scientology lawyer saying that the statement was untrue. Anderson proceeds to play us a clip in which spokesman Tommy Davis tells our anchor that Miscavige is much too important to come on CNN and respond to the charges himself. "Booyah!" says Anderson. Okay, no, but that would have been awesome. Instead he just reiterated that the invitation to Miscavige is still open.

After that big-ass preview last night, where was the part where the ex-wife calls Anderson rude? I wanted to see his response. Dudes, you are making a blogger frustrated. Don't waste show time with an extended preview, teasing us with that little bit of controversy, and then fail to deliver in a timely manner. Just sayin'.

Finally tonight, the subject of Haiti. Anderson hits up the Magic Wall once again, this time throwing down some stats and showing us some scary/depressing video of the mud in the camps. The rains have pretty much arrived and disaster is on the horizon. For an update from on-the-ground, we have a taped interview with Sean Penn of beattherain.org. He paints a rather dire situation. The majority of the camps are simply made of tarps and sticks. There are flood zones all around. Obviously the combination could spell catastrophe.

The discussion also touches on the escalating violence in the camps, particularly sexual violence against women. Still such a horrible situation. For those interested, tonight's Frontline on PBS was focused on the Haiti quake. I haven't had the chance to watch yet myself, but the full video can be found here. The series consistently does excellent reports. It actually aired opposite 360 for me, and I have to say, when I saw Dr. Phil on my TV screen I came really close to ditching our CNN friends for PBS. In fact, if the video wasn't online, I probably would have.

The "shot" tonight is Buddy the black lab playing ball with Theen the baby deer. Cuteness abounds. But the Silver Fox is still very much hung up on the tickled loris from last night, which I suppose I shall link to again, since my sitemeter tells me that is clearly what you people want.

Tonight's show was pretty good. Though I may dislike Dr. Phil, I can't exactly count that as bad journalism, though I do wish they'd get less predictable. One thing I thought I'd share is a message I got from a friend after the show:
I haven't been watching 360. How's the Scientology reports? I was put off by the fact that Anderson said in his blog post that they never drew any conclusions; at that point I figured it was just going to be a bunch of he-said-she-said and I have no patience for that shit.
For the record, I defended 360, stating that without video evidence of abuse, I'm not sure that this is a story they can really take a firm stand on. But I think my friend speaks to a bigger issue in that the viewers have come to expect sometimes mediocre reports that fail to identify the truth. I can only speak for myself, but when Anderson says they're going to let the viewers decide for themselves, it's like nails on a chalkboard to me. Literally I have a visceral reaction, even though I know intellectually that not all stories are the same and sometimes the approach is warranted.

To be clear, I do not want 360 to think for us or force their opinions. But when I hear Anderson say they're going to let us decide for ourselves, I don't hear a network reiterating their objectiveness and respect for viewers (which I'm sure is what he has in mind). Instead, I hear someone telling me that, essentially, they're not going to finish their job. This all goes back to the balance thing, which I've harped on more than enough on this blog. It's a shame if their poor track record with that subject is also hurting quality reports. Anyway, just something I thought I'd put out there. That'll do it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"FIGHT BACK"!!!! That's what I'll tell kids who are being bullied! I fought back the bullies in my school when I was young; sent them to the hospital! The bullying STOPPED! " F I G H T B A C K" !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

10:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:31 PM  

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