Monday, September 16, 2013

Disposable Heroes

The press system is riddled with corporate interests - they redirection reporting to tales that sell. Our entertainment media readily spikes unwelcome stories that describe their own failings.

Sometimes these include unseemly collusion with officialdom, as with Sen. Joseph McCarthy's witch hunting. Is the crisis of Edward Snowden similar? Did we eagerly follow the hunt for Osama Bin Laden while ignoring the gross failures of National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and the inept Bush administration? Are we deflected from fear, or from germane criticism of our officials, by lurid stories?

Remember this case?

'"Jewell saved the lives of many members of the technical staff working on live TV coverage of the Olympics. Richard ran all the way up and down the four stories of the tower and evacuated everybody, it must have been between 40 and 50 people. Seconds later the thing exploded," said Bruce Rodgers, president of Tribe Inc and designer of the AT&T Global Village, where the explosion happened.'

'"My whole corner was completely obliterated - steel shrapnel, pipe material lodged into the decking of the structure and embedded inches into the ceiling. The chairs that we usually sat in were completely sheared and ripped apart. Had he not gotten those people out, I know that at least 20 people on the first two floors of the tower would be dead."'

US news & entertainment media, along with federal law enforcement officials, developed an agenda for the Atlanta bombing that didn't include offering praise or support for a pudgy hero who lived with his mom.

Three months after the bombing, and after officially-sanctioned FBI hanky panky, the U.S. Justice Dept. explicitly exonerated Mr. Jewell.  Ten years later, Georgia's Governor officially commended him as a hero for saving lives. Jewell was quoted at that time as counting himself fortunate not to be in prison or the electric chair, but "Ten years of my life is missing..." 

(A year earlier, domestic terrorist Eric Rudolph had been sentenced to life imprisonment on pleading guilty to assorted attacks including the Olympic Park bombing).

In 2002, CBS 60 Minutes II had highlighted Jewell as a hero who'd never been treated as a hero. Nobody "ever bothered to even say thanks - not the city of Atlanta, not the state of Georgia, not the Olympic Committee in Atlanta, not the International Committee. He's so tainted that even when he was exonerated, no one still wanted to really be identified with him..."

What if this cruel bombing had killed 20 - 50 people, and maimed more? Would the 1996 Atlanta Olympics have been cancelled? Or might terrorism have been more appropriately highlighted - perhaps averting 9/11? Surely at least those dozens of people evacuated by Richard Jewell, and their families, owe Jewell & his family substantial thanks. 

A year after meeting the Governor of Georgia, Jewell was dead from a bevy of health problems. Survived by his wife Dana, and his mother Barbara (Bobbi), Richard A. Jewell was just 44.