Tuesday, April 24, 2007

OFFICIAL RESPONSE to The Deseret "News"

Yesterday was a joyous moment for so many young people at Brigham Young University who have shed blood, sweat and tears to organize their own "alternative commencement" in light of BYU's baffling invitation of Dick Cheney to speak at graduation. These students had only 3 weeks to organize an entirely different graduation ceremony, book the speakers, secure a venue and then raise the needed $20,000 (plus expenses) to pull it all off.

At the beginning of the day on Monday, April 23rd, they had raised about $9,500. I posted a heart-felt blog entry on The Daily Kos asking for help nationwide and, 4 hours later, the funds reached an unprecedented $21,000. This help came from people I've never met and will never have to opportunity to hug and thank. The help came from a pure grass roots effort of activism and love for a cause.

There were shouts of joy and celebration at the announcement and there was an air of democratic success.

The local press called all those involved to get the details. The Salt Lake Tribune and The Daily Herald were taken aback and surprised at this absolute miracle and they went to the protesters' website to confirm that the impossible had indeed occurred.

And then The Deseret Morning News called me. And not Tad Walch, the Deseret reporter who's been covering this from the beginning, but a sports writing intern named David Rasmussen. He asked briefly about the amazing fund-raising that day and then he went on the attack. For the next 20 minutes, he grilled me about a video clip (clip meaning a segment of a bigger picture) that I had edited and posted on YouTube earlier in the week. He said the Carri Jenkins, BYU's spokesperson, claimed that the video "misrepresented" what happened and that things had been taken out of context. She didn't, however, deny that the events in the video never happened. Seems that she's in serious spin mode.

Rasmussen then grilled me about my comments on my blog about BYU President Samuelson basically telling a student to go f##k himself. He said "Samuelson didn't say 'f##k', did he?" I said, "No, I said he BASICALLY told the student that." Rasmussen, with an obvious attitude said, "Yeah, but you kinda said that". I said, "Dude, how the hell do you interpret that? I said he BASICALLY told the student to go f##k himself. Read it for yourself, the word "basically" is right there." I think it's obvious to anyone that I was using a euphemism to characterize Samuelson's attitude toward the students leading the protest.

But Rasmussen wouldn't budge. For 5 more minutes he tried to get me to say something negative and damning. He then accused me of editing Cecil Samuelson's answer to Adam Barlow's question. This is absolutely absurd. Here's the transcript (and Adam Barlow will back me up):
(Adam gives Samuelson a description of the events following the previous day's protest and then:)

Adam: My question is: Why, as an institution of higher learning, does the university so severely limit free speech and what is the school so afraid of?

Samuelson: The school is not afraid of anything, Adam. Thank you for your input. (points to the audience) Next question.
I noticed David Rasmussen left out that last part of Samuelson's response in his biased article. For Rasmussen to criticize me for "editing things out" or "taking things out of context" is both hypocritical and in poor journalistic taste. Not to mention completely unprofessional. Not only did he take my words out of context, he refused to print my support of the video and my affirmation that it was true and that any denial on BYU's part was clearly false.

I also offered to show him the raw footage, to prove that nothing was misrepresented. Since a fair, balanced and accurate view didn't fit the article he was writing, he declined my offer.

So, to boil it down, Rasmussen's article brought up 2 main complaints:

1) The video doesn't represent what happened that day. Well, duh. It's a 4 minute clip of a much larger story. We're in the middle of filming a feature documentary on all this hooplah and we aren't even close to being finished. I mean, there's MUCH more controversial stuff that's going to be in the final project. Rasmussen, Jenkins, etc should wait until the final project comes out to be worried about BYU's image. I mean, if I showed you a 4 minute clip of my hour long vacation video, it obviously wouldn't represent the entire vacation would it? Jeez, what are Rasmussen and Jenkins thinking?

2) That I misquoted Cecil Samuelson. Ok, I already explained this above. It's just plainly a false accusation by The Deseret News and they should be ashamed. They really pulled at strings to print this baffling connection of words. And, seriously, what you saw in the video is just the tip of the iceberg. Samuelson pulled out some real zingers after that. You'll get to see them soon in all their objective glory.

So, in light of all the grass roots triumph yesterday, The Deseret Morning News (with financial ties to the Mormon church) decided to throw a fly into the soup by lazily spinning the BYU web of Public Relations. I must say, I'm extremely disappointed by it. But that's to be expected, I guess. I learned this when I made my first film about free speech in Utah County, This Divided State. When you hit the record button and capture the reality of bigotry and oppression, those perpetrating these qualities don't react too happily. Sometimes they sue you, as happened to me 2 years ago. Or sometimes, they get The Deseret News to make you look bad.

Either way, my camera has never stopped rolling.

I'll see you at the movie theater.


cowboy said...

Take note people. You are part of and witnessing something historical and something as grand as the invention of movable type and television: The era of blogging and the immediacy of using the internet to provide VIDEO of what is happening and the cause & effect of such upon the masses. What better example of democracy in action…and fast too!

Paul Revere would have loved to have had the internet. Not discounting what Patrick Henry would have used the blogging for! You are modern-day patriots.

Well done.

Anonymous said...

You have to realize that the F word is a BIG DEAL to Mormons. To imply that he said it, or even that he might have meant it, is tantamount to calling their religion false.

Hermagoras said...

That was my one quibble with your post on Kos. It said "basically," yes, but it also put the word "fuck" in quotes. So, "basically" is good, but the word should not have been in quotes. That's what led (IMHO) to the mis-impression.

Alexander said...

I saw this on kos and think it's great. Focusing on "fuck" is just the old trick of the small-minded and scared in the news business. It ain't journalism.

It's a classic distraction tactic by PR-flacks to take huge issues over truth and boil them down to parsing "basically" and "fuck". Note: words can be in quotes for more than one reason.

Any interrogation of the American ideals involved: student free speech, mixing of church/state, constitutional freedom?

It's just your classic "gotta get our side out there spin in each news cycle."

(See this great op-ed in the LATimes.)

Hell after reading that, who would want that guy at your graduation, he had five deferments, what an American embarrassment. . .

Well fuck the whole lot of 'em. Or at least that's what hundreds of progressive Americans just did with their wallets.

Matthew.Lee. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matthew.Lee. said...

I think that your coverage of the protest has been fairly accurate. As someone who was at the protest, I did feel like there was a certain hypocrasy in the way both sides were treated, and I think that the clip highlighted that. I am certain that the full documentary will include the full context, and I certainly hope that it celebrates what we have stood up for, but the clip tells the one part of the story that wasn't told by the rest of the media: the dismissive attitude of the student body and intimidating and controlling posturing of the BYU administration.

Adam's question in the forum was bold and confrontational... President Samuelson's response was absolutely dissmissive. While the words "go fuck yourself" never left the man's lips, the attitude was very certainly in his heart.

Anonymous said...

Good on YOU!
Of course the MSM is going to go into attack mode-
but they still cannot deny that you did raise TWENTYONE THOUSAND bucks!

If I had Cheney as a speaker for my commencement-
I wouldn't go. Now you and others are giving these college kids a chance to see and live real democracy in action.

Anonymous said...

Riddle me this: If I am to assume that "go fuck yourself" is a phrase particularly offensive to mormons, why the fuck would they have Dick "go fuck yourself" Cheney speak at the commencement?

jakebob said...

Get an effing clue, dude!


LOLing (laugh out louding) said...

"When you hit the record button and capture the reality of bigotry and oppression, those perpetrating these qualities don't react too happily. Sometimes they sue you, as happened to me 2 years ago. Or sometimes, they get The Deseret News to make you look bad."

Dear Victim of Yellow Journalism,

Didn't you threaten to sue a few UVSC students who (without pay) helped you film "This Divided State" back in 2004 for pulling a prank on you?

Besides, when I want to make someone look bad, I don't use the Deseret News, which is barely better than a high school newspaper, I use you, Steve Greenstreet. That'$ how you make your million$.

Really, you've made a name for yourself. You're the dude who videotapes the dumb, Republican Mormons when they ignorantly defend their religion, their school, and their private property. It won't ever get old. Ever. That's your thing. That's your art. That's your business.

Maybe you should consider moving to Pennsylvania to boost your film career. The Amish are WAY more ridiculous than the Mormons, and they don't fight back at all! Easy targets, man!

I really think you'd do well there. Most of them haven't even heard of Liberals or Naders. How do they even exist without that contrasting viewpoint? They don't! So drive out to their secluded farms and videotape some sense into them!

But don't go too fast. Make sure you bring a team of freedom fighters to carry witty signs and turn over their carriages. Without something sensational, you won't even sell one DVD...and then you'll never see your name in lights.

Don't get me wrong. I disagree with Democrats AND Republicans. I'm glad people are protesting and being politically active, especially on BYU campus. I just have a problem with the guy holding the camera, directing people to make a scene so that he can make a buck when he sells the story.

I bet Paul Revere rode off shouting to get famous too.

Don't hate the Deseret News for pandering to its target audience. Look in the mirror, filmmaker. You obviously have a very specific demographic.

steven said...

Loling (if that is your real name, but I doubt it)

When you can make a movie like I do, then you can quit talking out of your butt. I don't need to waste my valuable time messing with you, so shut up.

end of story, chalk up another victory for steven.

Bryan said...

It was amazing how little time it took to get the Greenstreet-haters and the fake Greenstreet's back in the discussion.

Good for you guys. You've got persistence and I like that.

Go BYU Democrats! said...

To 'Loling' Aka: Dumb ass

"I just have a problem with the guy holding the camera, directing people to make a scene so that he can make a buck when he sells the story."

Are you EVER there whe Steve IS filming? Do you know anything about the differences of "Documentary Film Making" and hiring actors to play a character? BIG DIFFERENCE!!! Steven CANNOT direct people to make a scene!

"ALL" he does (like he and many others have said before, incase you weren't listening/reading/etc.) is hit the RECORD button.

I know the "little red light" can feel very intimidating, but if you're going to be invloved in these political doings, DEAL WITH IT!

Matthew.Lee. said...

As one of the people involved in the protest I can assure you that everything filmed would have proceeded exactly the same without the camera.

LOLing (laugh out louding) said...

Dear Go Democrat,

Sorry dude(ette), I should have been more specific. I didn't know a media-savvy Coug like yourself would be reading.

I was just referring to personal phone calls that our favorite local filmmaker has made to active liberals in the Provo area, encouraging them to act out in public demonstration against BYU.

I guess you were just too shy to be on his recent call list. Maybe now that you've publicly announced a democratic position in Provo, you'll make the cut next time.

So be ready for the call. Tear gas is on sale at the army depot outlet. If you're like Steve, then you're anti-war in Iraq and pro-war in Utah County.

Logan said...

That's idiotic, Loling. To call what (little) protesting and debate goes on in utah county a "war", on level with the war in Iraq, is an insult to all the people who have died in Iraq.

The reason "active liberals" are happy to see debate and protest is that we believe such helps prevent real war and abuse of power.

Logan said...

And Cowboy: I agree with you in every word. It is a fantastic time to be alive.

steven said...

you go girl!

Nobody drops one on steven. Just because I called some people to spruce up the action doesn't mean jack crap. I'll see you at the movies, bitch.

Go BYU Democrats! said...

.. Someone has a pickle up their ass... (Loling). I am also appalled that you would compare a small protest for PEACE to the War in Iraq. Amazing! I was at the Alternative commencement last night. It was GREAT!!!! So many things these speakers said are exactly they way I feel this Nation should be.

Our Constitution does not begin with "We the Corporations"!

WE THE "PEOPLE"!!! That includes these amazing BYU students who worked their ASSES off to make this Alternative Commencement happen. GO ASHLEY! GO ERICK! You guys are my heros! I wish you all the best in your lives!

Go BYU Democrats! said...

Wow.. Too bad there's no spell check here... Sorry...

cowboy said...

There is nothing quite like the day after a supposedly high anxiety event and the thrill of it all is gone and the blood pressure returns to normal. Observations:

A polite applause is in order for a guest speaker at BYU but a STANDING ovation is a bit disingenuous. It would almost seem like BYU students stand up on any whim or do they feel sheep-like obligated to mimic the actions of the next sheep? Just witness a flock of sheep one time and see what I mean.

Please BYU students…you do more harm to your supposedly university status when you blindly follow the crowd. Use some discretion when you so freely give your approval. The world will respect you more.

The only companies who feel they need to recruit graduates from BYU are those who will want devotees to absolute authority. Example of this is Kyle Sampson who was the stooge for those authorities running the DOJ. Need I mention other BYU alumni?

Businesses will only recruit BYU graduates if they are shown to be free-thinkers and people who have debated all sides of the issues and may discover new ideas. BYU seems to be a one-sided, theologian seminary factory and this Cheney episode will only cement that concept of BYU.

Progressive thinking is what a university should promote. The actions from yesterday seem to demonstrate a vast majority of the students are of one-mind….not even a healthy 40-60 percent split…it’s more like 95% for just one ideology. That’s not conducive to stimulating a healthy university schooling.

Some BYU students should seriously consider leaving their school so they can exercise and develop their god-given talents better. If you are strong you will survive and be better off than staying at a comfortable zone where you are constantly treated like boys & girls.

Those students who did show some spine at the protests will be far better graduates than those who stood up for Mr. Cheney. I applaud those who looked past the follow-the-sheep mentality, then debated the core issues and had courage to publicly show where they stand on their principles. They are, truly, the stuff of what makes a great well-rounded person and an asset to the community.

Go BYU Democrats! said...

Well said Cowboy!

about bryan said...

for more pictures of steven,
go to http://aboutbryanyoung.blogspot.com/

Steven said...

Post more about me, please.

Seriously. I want more people paying more attention to me for more time.