Jul 2012 27

by A.J. Focht

In my previous article, I discussed the way in which the mass media has mishandled the Aurora theater shootings. While some in the media approached the story with respect, the majority of them showed little consideration for the victims involved. But it’s not just the media that has been careless in the aftermath of the massacre. Many politicians have used this event as a spring board for their campaigns, while already failing to live up to their promises to the victims.

It’s been a week since I sat down in Theater 9, unaware of the hell that awaited me. I remember the high pitched screech, like a bottle rocket, as the coward tossed the gas grenades into a theater full of unsuspecting moviegoers. I can hear sounds of gunfire and see the bright flashes coming from the corner of the theater in the back of my mind. The screams of the victims in the theater haunt me at night. The vivid memories of wandering shocked through a crowd of people covered in blood, with no way of knowing whose blood it was, will stay with me forever.

I am just one of hundreds of movie patrons that share this horrific experience. Despite these mental scars, I am eternally thankful I have no physical wounds to match. Seventy people in the theater were not as lucky, and twelve of them paid with their lives.

The death toll could have been much higher if it had not been for the amazing first responders. The first police officers arrived on scene within minutes of the shooting. Several officers took it upon themselves to deliver victims to local hospitals in person, instead of waiting for the ambulances. Their quick action likely saved several lives. While the police, dispatchers, medics, firefighters, and ER doctors all did an amazing job that night, I feel they have already received a lot of praise. I therefore want to personally thank the unmentioned heroes of that evening; the victims’ advocates and local RTD bus drivers that worked alongside the ranks of emergency responders that night.

After we were all forced to wait outside the theater for a few hours following the shootings, the police finally got everyone organized and bussed us down to a local school. The bus drivers were very kind to all of the victims and tried to cater to our needs. Once at the school, the victims’ advocates showed up. They brought us food and water, and helped however they could. For those of us with missing members in our party, they were the ones that organized our information so we could be contacted as soon as anything was known.

Unfortunately, for many of the victims, that was the only night we saw this kind of support. Organizers had promised that there would be counseling available for the victims before a vigil held on Saturday. All of the victims that showed up early, including my group, were disappointed to find that the counseling before the vigil was reserved for the deceased victims’ families. All the other victims, even those who had been injured but released from hospital, would have to wait for the vigil to start and the victims’ advocates to come outside. Until then, we were left to fend for ourselves against the press.

The victims’ advocates did eventually come out to see us, but they hardly knew where to start given our number and the fact we were now spread out in the crowd. They did what they could. They consoled groups in mourning, whether they were at the theater or not. What stung the worst was to then hear the speakers stand up, one-by-one, and talk about how there needed to be support for all the victims, often emphasizing the mental scarring. Despite the diversity of the term victim in their speeches, their policies had a much narrower definition as to who the victims were.

On the day of the vigil, President Barack Obama visited the families of the deceased. He chose not to attend the vigil because he knew he couldn’t be there without pulling the focus away from the victims. His choice not to make an appearance at the vigil, even though it would have likely given him a boost in the polls, shows that he really did have the victims’ best interests at heart.

I only wish others could have been so selfless. There were dozens of politicians on the stage, most of whom didn’t speak. While he didn’t call them all off by name, Mayor Steve Hogan of Aurora stood for two minutes naming the ranks and affiliations of the dignitaries present, several of whom are up for reelection this coming fall. I understand giving credit to all of the first responders who were in attendance, but the long stream of elected officials felt too much like campaigning to the grieving.

For many in Colorado, this incident is hitting to close to home after the Columbine High School shootings. One victim of the Columbine shooting, Samuel Granillo, is working on a documentary about the school shootings. Through it, his goal is to find a way to provide counseling for those seeking it after the shootings at Columbine High School – which is desperately needed for those who still suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder in the wake of it. The funds for the Columbine victims dried up long before everyone had healed. Many of us that were in the theater on July 20th now worry that the support for the Aurora victims will also prematurely disappear.

There is hope; gestures of support have started to come through. Many speculated that Warner Bros. might make a contribution of some kind. On Tuesday, the studio made it official by announcing they were pledging a ‘substantial’ donation, without releasing details of the actual sum they plan to give to the Colorado Community First Foundation Aurora Victim Relief Fund. Many small businesses in the local communities are holding fundraisers for varying charities and victim support efforts. A group that helped bring the first Comic Con to Denver, organized a human wall at the vigil to counter protest the Westboro Baptist Church, even though the church never showed up. The Aurora Rise Benefit Event is being planned by All C’s Collectibles Comic store in Aurora, Colorado. Comic publishers including DC Comics and Image Comics have contacted them to pledge donations. The event is still coming together, but it so far looks to include a silent auction with proceeds going to victim support.

This outpour of donations from the local, online, and comic book communities has been phenomenal. The biggest worry is that the funds won’t reach most of the victims. My message to the politicians is simple: Have some class. Stop using this tragedy to get reelected. The best thing all the politicians can do now is to make sure that the support for the victims is allocated appropriately. There are several victims who have no way to pay their substantial medical bills, and many more that will need therapy for years to come.

In the final segment, I will discuss the ways in which social media has affected the tragedy. On a large scale, social media has created the most support for the victims. That isn’t to say there isn’t a downside to the internet hive mind.

Related Posts:
Back Row Perspective Part 1: An Aurora Theater Survivor’s Message To The Media


A.J. Focht is a student, writer, and self-identifying geek. He has a BA in English, and is currently pursuing his Master’s degree at the University of Denver. He is a regular contributor to SuicideGirls. His work is also featured in Kush Magazine.

Jul 2012 26

by A.J. Focht

Thursday July 19th, I rushed home from work to get ready to catch the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises with a group of friends. We were all excited to finally be seeing the epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman series. After wading through the crowd to get our tickets and stocking up on overpriced food and drinks, we made our way into Theater 9 and took our seats. The showing was packed and there weren’t enough empty seats in a row for all eight of us to sit together. We split up, sitting in small groups throughout the theater. I ended up in the second row from the back with my roommate and another friend.

Everyone waited patiently through the lackluster trailers for the feature film to begin. When the movie started, the theater went silent and everyone fixed their eyes in on the screen, mesmerized. Scene after scene, I became more enthralled with the story. About twenty minutes in, we were all snapped out of the epic fantasy world and into a nightmarish reality. A gunman opened fire on the unsuspecting crowd. I made it out of the theater unscathed, but I can’t say the same about the rest of my group. One of them was injured and went to hospital, and another didn’t came out of the theater alive. While I survived, 12 people were killed in the massacre and another 58 were injured.

It took seemingly no time before the twenty-four hour news networks had informed everyone across the nation as to what had happened. The mad rush to present the world with information caused the media vultures to deliver several false reports as they stopped at nothing to get their stories. In the midst of this living nightmare, the media circus fed off the victims’ despair like it was fresh bread in a famine.

With only a small charge left in her phone one of the members of my group thought it best to send out a blanket distress beacon via Twitter so she could conserve her battery to call her parents and a ride home. Caitlin tweeted from her account @dingos8myTARDIS informing her family and friends of the chaos and that she was physically alright. Her tweets were some of the first online, and within the hour BBC, CNN, and others were broadcasting her messages on the news. The hundreds of media outlets that contacted her throughout the night were unexpected, but we could understand they were just trying to do their jobs. Once we had been released, Caitlin, not wanting the mass media attention, released these tweets:

dingos8myTARDIS: To the media: I was tweeting earlier because my phone was on 10%batt & I needed to let people know I was okay. I am (in) no shape for interviews.

dingos8myTARDIS: To rephrase: I have no interest in interviews at this time. I was merely sending an emergency beacon.

Despite her requesting to be left alone, she was perpetually bombarded by yet more media requests via Twitter from outlets including FOX News and The Huffington Post. As if the mass attention on Twitter was not enough, other news networks took it upon themselves to get her phone number and start calling her.

While we all sat anxiously awaiting information on the MIA member of our group, phones and email notifications continued go off till all our phones had died. Before even our families and friends had a chance to check in, the overzealous reporters were all but knocking on our doors. Right after our group finally learned our missing member didn’t make it, Caitlin’s phone began to ring; It was the Today Show on the other end requesting an interview about him. She told them off and asked them not to contact her again. However, her pleas didn’t stop them from calling again the next morning, still trying to get an interview.

This is not to say that everyone in the media treated this tragic event and the victims like they were just a breaking news story. A select few talk show hosts and reporters handled their responses to the incident with the utmost tact. Craig Ferguson changed his opening monologue in response to the Aurora shootings. His heartfelt reaction was a signal that some of the media could show signs of humanity and compassion for the victims. On his Hulu show, Spoilers, Kevin Smith opened with a sincere speech and spent the rest of the time talking about the incident with the Spoilers crew. Responses like these made a huge difference for the survivors in my group who had begun to feel the media had turned on them.

Since the shootings happened in the early hours of Friday morning, it wasn’t until the following Monday that Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert had their say on the events. As longtime fans of both shows, I, along with everyone in my group, was interested to see what they both had to say. For once this week, we were not disappointed. Stewart called out the media circus for reporting false facts and refusing to talk about certain related issues. Colbert further pointed out how useless the media was with their inaccurate reports and misguided debates.

While an array of talk show hosts had excellent responses to this tragic massacre, only a handful of career journalists handled it with the same level of professionalism. Out of all the reporters that covered this tragic story, only a few reported it both honestly and with consideration for the victims and survivors. Anderson Cooper conducted an interview with the father, girlfriend, and best friend of Alex Teves, the deceased member of our group. Cooper was genuine, and he allowed each of them to speak their mind. At the end of the interview, Teves’ father challenged Cooper and CNN to, moving forward, stop talking about and showing the gunman, since doing so only gave him the attention he sought, and asked them instead to focus to the victims.

[Anderson Cooper interviews Alex Teves’ father, girlfriend and best friend]
[See extended version here]

In contrast, ABC continues to provide the wrong information five days after the shootings. In the ABC News interview with Alex’s father and girlfriend, Dan Harris ended the segment by saying that Alex graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in Physical Therapy. In reality, Alex recently graduated with his Master’s Degree in Counseling from the University of Denver. Even after being called out on The Daily Show, ABC fails to check the facts to their reports before airing them.

As if the misleading media wasn’t enough, their voyeuristic nature is making the victims and survivors feel uncomfortable even attending the memorials and vigils held in their honor. During the prayer vigil held on Sunday outside the Aurora Municipal building, reporters and photographers were swarming the lawn as the mourners arrived. There was a sectioned off area up front, but it was only for the families of the deceased victims, and it was located right in front of the podium for all the cameras to see. There was no media perimeter, and photographers from all ranks of media aggressively roamed through the crowd. Everyone from bloggers to international news organizations forced their way onto grieving groups. When Caitlin asked for her picture not to be taken, the only response she received was that she should not be in a public space. When friends of the victims would act as human shields, getting in the way of the pictures, the cameramen became increasingly volatile. At an event that was supposed to be for the victims, the victims couldn’t find any sanctuary from the press.

The political speeches throughout the vigil and the mass media presence raise the question: who was the vigil for? As a survivor of the Aurora massacre, I can say that I didn’t feel comforted by any of it. Amongst the several prayers, mostly Christian, all I heard was political name dropping ahead of the upcoming election, as the victims and survivors were left to defend themselves against the heartless, overbearing, and at times downright hostile actions of those in the media.

My message to the media is simple: First, as Mr. Teves asked Anderson Cooper, stop showing the face of and talking about the shooter. He is a coward that massacred an unsuspecting group of civilians. Every time you talk about him, you only help add his name to the pages of history. Next, I beg that you give both the victims and survivors their space. There are plenty of victims and families that are willing to talk to you, and could use the attention for good reasons such as medical bills. For those who want to be left alone, it’s the least you can do.

In Part 2, I will talk about how the politicians have handled this event, both good and bad. For many, this is becoming too reminiscent of the Columbine High School shooting, both in the tragic nature of what occurred and in the mishandling of the victims and survivors. For the final segment, I will explore the awe inspiring responses and support that has come from social media.


A.J. Focht is a student, writer, and self-identifying geek. He has a BA in English, and is currently pursuing his Master’s degree at the University of Denver. He is a regular contributor to SuicideGirls. His work is also featured in Kush Magazine.

Jul 2012 26

by Lee Camp

If “naughty words” offend you, then for the love of God DO NOT WATCH THIS VIDEO! Well, actually, if naughty words offend you then maybe you need to watch this video more than anyone else. Seeing as you’re already on, I can’t imagine curse words upset most of you. But perhaps there are other words that piss you off more than a word like “shit.” Let me know what they are in the comments section below!


Jul 2012 25

by Steven Whitney

[The Fighting Back series began with a simple question: given their minority status for most of the last 80 years, why is the GOP so successful at winning elections? Exploring one answer, the series has first focused on Karl Rove’s free adaptation of Joseph Goebbels doctrines of PropagandaIndoctrination, Intimidation and Revenge, Distraction and Disinformation, and Divide and Conquer. In coming weeks, we’ll seek more answers in a myriad fields and offer solutions aimed at turning the tables on the party that favors corporations and the 1% over the vast majority of Americans.]

Through Fox News and other media outlets, Karl Rove has inculcated a false world view for the past dozen years through indoctrination tactics perfected by Joseph Goebbels, the former Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda for Germany’s Third Reich.

How has he gotten away with it for so long? His resume reveals the answer: by intimidation and revenge – the true standards of “win at any cost” politics.

Certainly, part of the blame falls to those who were cajoled or browbeaten into compliance. As children, we’re taught to stand up to bullies, especially since they are essentially cowards…so it’s disheartening when elected officials fold their values under pressure (and, like the post-1994 Republican Congress, even became bullies themselves). But to be fair, Rove and his henchmen dish out frighteningly more punishment than a bloody nose.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, drug kingpin Pablo Escobar employed a simple tactic that led Forbes magazine to list him as the world’s first narco–billionaire. Escobar would approach someone from whom he wanted something and offer them either silver (plata) or lead (plomo), meaning he would either make them very rich (silver) or riddle their body with bullets (lead). His plata o plomo strategy was copied quite literally by every subsequent cartel…and figuratively by Karl Rove, who adjusted it a notch for the American political arena.

As one White House aide put it: “Karl operates under the rule that if you fuck with us, we’ll fuck you over.”

In 1994, Rove-backed candidate Harold See ran for a Supreme Court seat in Alabama against Democrat Mark Kennedy, who had honorably served as president of the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect and whose commercials included a shot of him holding hands with at-risk children his group had literally saved. Enter Rove, who started a particularly malicious whispering campaign smearing Kennedy as a pedophile. The Atlantic Monthly’s Joshua Green correctly described the incident: “What Rove does is try and make something so bad for a family that the candidate will not subject the family to the hardship.”

That same year, George W. Bush ran for governor of Texas against incumbent Ann Richards, widely admired for the diversity of her administration. Soon, persistent rumors spread across the Lone Star state that Richards was a lesbian, several steps too far diversity-wise for Texans to venture at the time. Journalist Lou Dubose spotted a common Rove tactic: “Identify your opponent’s strength, and attack it so relentlessly that it becomes a liability.”

In 1991, while visiting one of Mother Theresa’s orphanages in Bangladesh, Cindy McCain spotted two sickly infants who, frankly, weren’t going to make it. On the spot, she decided to take them back home for medical treatment that saved both their lives. Two years later, John and Cindy McCain officially adopted one of the girls, Bridget, and arranged for the adoption of the other (Mickey) by the family of McCain aide Wes Gullet. For many, these were heroic acts of kindness and compassion…but to Karl Rove, they served merely as an opportunity to smear someone who stood in his way.

In 2000, Sen. McCain squared off against the Rove-controlled Bush in the Republican Presidential primaries. After McCain’s 18 point victory in New Hampshire, the smart money was on the Senator to win the nomination, especially as he held a 5 point lead heading into South Carolina. Rove cut into that margin with TV attacks implying that McCain’s days as a POW had left him mentally scarred (a real-life Manchurian candidate) and that Cindy was a drug addict. But then, asserted another White House aide, Rove devised the coup de grace – a fiendishly damaging question to ask Southerners via a phony poll: “Would you be more or less likely to vote for John McCain if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?” Since McCain was barnstorming the state with Bridget, his dark-skinned daughter from Bangladesh, voters in this Old South state quickly began marching to the darkest of Rove’s tunes. Bush won South Carolina by a healthy margin and the race was essentially over.

Following his formula of hammering his opponent’s perceived strength, Rove had taken McCain’s admirable sense of character and turned it into a racist affront. It was a strategy so depraved only Rove could have stooped so low as to implement it – as noted by Meghan McCain: “Karl Rove is a pathetic excuse for a human being.”

Rove’s tactics in these scenarios incorporated the Big Lie, but he could bully with the truth, too – when he needed to.

In 2002, with America already at war in Afghanistan, the Bush administration tried desperately to produce even the flimsiest rationales for invading Iraq. Tipped to an unsubstantiated rumor that Niger had supplied Saddam Hussein with yellowcake uranium, the CIA asked former Ambassador to Iraq and 23 year Foreign Service veteran Joseph Wilson to investigate. After more than a week in Niger interviewing key players and examining technical information (including forged memos), Wilson correctly reported that the rumor was “highly unlikely.” Months went by and he thought the rumor had been discarded…until Bush cited it again in early 2003 as a compelling reason to invade Iraq. Wilson countered by writing an OpEd in the New York Times stating unequivocally that the yellowcake connection was highly suspect.

Almost immediately, Rove leaked to reporters Matt Cooper and Robert Novak that Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, was in fact a covert CIA agent specializing in WMD. It was the truth, of course, and once her cover was blown, Plame’s career was kaput. Never mind that Plame’s clandestine colleagues across the globe were put in grave danger and America lost its most effective nuclear intelligence operative. Bush got his “revenge” war (Hussein had put out a contract on W.’s father years before) and Rove got his revenge on Wilson, a man who refused to shade the truth for administration purposes. The cost was thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and more than a trillion dollars spent on the Iraq war.

Of course, Rove’s actions were actionably treasonous in this case – the FBI even believed they had him nailed. But for some reason never adequately explained, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald failed to prosecute Rove.

When pop-recording stars the Dixie Chicks publicly voiced their opposition to the Bush 2003 invasion of Iraq on stage, Karl went to work with his “Southern Strategy” friends. Soon, the Dixie Chicks were not only demonized and persona non grata at many venues and media outlets, with concerts cancelled and radio play diminished, they were even accused of treason via the underground rumor mill that Rove had long relied upon.

Rove’s hostile invective was even aimed to discredit whole countries. Just like in our own Revolutionary War, the French were our greatest allies in the War in Afghanistan. But they rightly wanted no part of Iraq; As bad as he was, they argued, Hussein did not attack the U.S. and there was no reliable evidence that he posed “a clear and present danger” to anyone, much less to the Western allies. France did not believe a country had the moral right to go to war just because its President wanted to, which pretty much sums up the Bush Doctrine. But by this time, Rove had convinced Bush he was “a war President,” and needed perpetual war (shades of 1984), so all things French became nearly traitorous (down to the absurd renaming of French Fries to Freedom Fries in the Senate cafeteria), and the build-up to Iraq II continued unabated.

When Senator John Kerry posed a credible threat to Bush’s re-election in 2004, Rove went after Kerry’s most obvious political asset by swiftboating his admirable Vietnam service. From a legitimate war hero, Kerry was turned into something akin to a Timothy McVey serial killer, while Bush, who went AWOL for about a year during the same era, literally strutted around in a flight suit with Commander-in-Chief emblazoned on its breast. Like a cherry atop an ice cream sundae, there was even widespread talk that Kerry somehow “looked French.”

Even the press was not immune to Rove’s intimidation tactics. First there were the wildly illegal wiretaps and surveillance by which the administration tracked “suspect” reporters. If any of the White House press corps still didn’t toe the line, Rove reduced their access to White House personnel in stages until they either came around or had no access at all and were necessarily replaced by their media employer. The message came through loud and clear – play Rove’s game or lose your job.

Rove is not going to change, and neither will his modus operandi. His inestimably low character and slimy strategies have been too successful (in the worst sense of the word) to alter.

But we can change. Politicians and journalists must be made of sterner stuff than we have seen in the last decade. We must start not only standing up to his intimidation tactics, but begin an all-out offensive against him – harsh, unyielding, and repeated endlessly, shouted from every media outlet and whispered in every dark corner of every American community. We must bloodlessly attack every particle of his loathsome being until he is thoroughly discredited and utterly destroyed. Until no one – not corporations, not his super rich amigos, no one – can afford to have anything to do with him. We must stomp on him until his reputation and his GOP architecture is dead. Then we must set fire to the remains to ensure that nothing arises from the ashes.

It’s plata o plomo without the silver, just the lead – the same game he plays but with one huge difference. Instead of spinning Big Lies, we have only to divulge and spread the truth – relentlessly, with a vengeance heretofore unimagined by liberal and progressive wusses. And repeat those truths over and over and over. We cannot rest until Karl Rove, and the willfully deceitful tactics he employs, are permanently interred in the graveyard of modern American politics.

Related Posts:
Fighting Back Part 3: Fighting Fire With Fire
When The Past Is Prologue
Fighting Back Part 2: Defining Rovian Politics
Fighting Back
The Electoral Scam
Being Fair
Occupy Reality
Giving. . . And Taking Back
A Tale Of Two Grovers
A Last Pitch For Truth
America: Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.

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