Executive Director and Chief Research Officer
The Media Violence Project / Center for the Study of Politician Sociopathy
At the Media Violence Project, our charter is to protect public safety by researching, documenting and raising awareness about the ever-increasing wave of violent, disgusting crimes perpetrated by members of the American news media. It is a largely thankless task -- often requiring a cast iron stomach -- but if our work has prevented one more American child from falling victim to a criminally insane anchorman or newspaper reporter, it will all have been worth it.
Every day at the MVP we receive emails from concerned citizens, such as this:
Dear Mr. Burge:
I have read with increasing alarm new reports of violence erupting around our country. For example, the recent rampaging campus murderer in Huntsville, Alabama; the Austin, Texas man who flew his plane into an office building; and the unhinged shooter at the Pentagon. Do you suspect these people may have been journalists? Also, what can I do to prevent my family from falling victim to these violent journalists?
Please do not print my name, as I live near a journalist and am concerned about my safety.
Name Withheld By Request
Dear "Name Withheld By Request," let me first say these are excellent questions. Second, let me also say that I do not withhold names by request. Your name is Michael R. Bartolo, and you live at 2311 Briarcliff Court, Brown Deer, WI.
But let's get to the crux of your questions: yes, in the cases you cited there is some circumstantial evidence that the alleged perpetrators harbored pre-journalistic tendencies (for instance, violent hatred of George Bush and capitalism, and messianic obsession with President Obama), but it doesn't appear they were actual professional members of the news media. For one thing, unlike the vast majority of journalists, all of the suspects involved in these crimes reportedly had actual marketable skills -- biochemistry, computer programming, growing weed, and so on. Until further evidence of journalism emerges, I believe we can attribute these incidents to a handful of those rare random psychopaths who do not possess press credentials.
Unfortunately, it now appears that these are the exceptions that prove the rule. In the two years since the MVP issued our first report, another tidal wave of media-related bizarre or violent crimes has come to light, each more shocking than the last. Like CNN reporter Richard Quest, arrested in New York's Central Park in 2008 brandishing a noose or ABC Miami reporter Jeffrey Weinsier, charged with entering a school with a firearm. Or New Hampshire Union Leader sports writer Kevin Provencher, charged with operating a prostitution ring. It is unknown whether Provencher's alleged activities were related to WABC New York sports anchor Marvell Scott, who was arrested earlier this year for allegedly raping a 14-year old prostitute. It is also unclear whether this Granite State "mack daddy" used a "strong pimp hand" with his "bitches," but he might have shared tips and techniques with fellow journalists like Jason Scott Kidd, charged in 2009 with hitting a woman in the face at a Mexican restaurant, Gawker editor Richard "Date Rape Tips" Blakely, arrested for domestic violence, or Boise anchorman and alleged wife beater David Tester.
Shocking as they are, these incidents scarcely scratch the surface of the global crime wave caused by rampaging journalists. Our in-depth biennial 30 minute Google search uncovered a seemingly endless catalog of journalist-related crimes, astonishing as much for their depravity as their number. The reasons behind this phenomenon are complex, according to Media Violence Project staff psychologist Divad Egrub.
"Journalism school leaves these people ill-prepared for life in conventional society," explains Egrub. "They see typical American people expressing normal opinions, and it causes confusion. In time, they become boiling cauldrons of paranoia and rage. This triggers a 'fight or flight' reaction, and sometimes they simply lash out."
Often the journalist reacts with petty violence, like animal cruelty, but he or she can quickly graduate to more serious crimes like criminal trespass, theft, extortion, and arson. Some reporters seek release from violent urges through sex crimes like assaulting hypnotized women, window peeping or public masturbation or bondage acts with underage prostitutes, but with little long term effect. Often the journalist will seek to slake his thirst for violence though bar fights or scuffling with police officers or kicking elderly people in laundromats. The brutality soon moves inside the home, in forms like child abandonment and spousal abuse including beatings and throwing scalding water.
These are mere warm ups for what often comes next. Emboldened, the reporter begins packing heat and attempts to bring it into a courtroom, like KDKA Pittsburgh journalist Rob Milford, or join the "Mile High Journalist Assault Club" like Toronto TV anchor Colleen Walsh. Left untreated, he or she graduates to the "big leagues" of journalist crime. Examples include TV anchor Elena Skordelli, charged with arranging a murder hit on her producer, accused terrorist and Al-Jazeera reporter Baltasar Garzon, and alleged murderers like reporter Vlado Taneski, Ray Gosling, and TV anchorman Ted Failon.
In many cases, the violence is self-directed in the form of substance abuse. Wallowing in bitterness and self pity, clinging to his J-school memes, the journalist will seek escape in a fog of drugs and alcohol. This path remains only temporarily victimless as the drunk, drug-addled journalist can no longer resist the urge to get behind the wheel of his car. Television anchormen and anchorwomen seem particularly susceptible to this weakness, with recent arrests including South Bend IN anchor Debra Daniel, Tulsa anchor Jerry Giordano, Chicago anchorman and 2-time DUI loser Walter Jacobsen, Fort Wayne IN anchor Mary Collins, Austin anchor David Scott, Minneapolis anchor Beth McDonough, Mobile AL anchor Bob Solarski, and San Diego anchor Allison Ross. Before you can say "you stay classy, San Diego," the vehicular casualty count begins to skyrocket as innocent bystanders begin falling victim to drunk anchormen like CNN veteran Rick Sanchez and Winston-Salem's Tolly Carr.
For typical news reporters, these episodes teach an important lesson: a 4000-pound vehicle can be an amazingly effective and deadly weapon. Even in their brief, dimishing moments of sobriety, motoring reporters still enjoy the adrenaline rush of running over unsuspecting animals and pedestrians who stand in their way. Witness New York reporter Michael Sheehan, arrested for allegedly running his car into a police horse, and fellow Fox employee Don Broderick, accused of dragging a bicyclist 4 blocks through Central Park and menacing a female assistant with threats to "rip your f---ing head off."
And what do professional journalists do when they're not busy with murder, rape, assault, and vehicular manslaughter? Sadly, as will come as no surprise to those who read our initial 2008 report, they continue to prey upon America's children.
As bad as these cases are individually, collectively they represent only the tip of a vast, bloody iceberg of media brutality. Most experts believe that the overwhelming majority of media crimes are never reported. "Think about it," says Egrub. "We are actual relying on reporters to report on the crimes of reporters. All we really know about are the cases other journalists were too incompetent to cover up. For every one of them there are likely dozens lying on the media's cutting room floor."
Politicians: An Even Greater Menace?
And yet, Americans may be facing an even worse wave of domestic attacks from the only organized group arguably even more violent, stupid and useless than the news media: elected public officials.
In response to growing public outcry, the board of the Media Violence Project earlier this morning established a new affiliate organization, the Center for the Study of Politician Sociopathy. What our comprehensive 15 minute Google search revealed was an explosive outbreak of violence that, if trends continue, may actually eclipse the media public safety crisis by November. Most Americans were relieved to hear of the resignation of Congress's disgraced predator Eric Massa, but we must realize his ticklefight dungeon was only one cell in a complex nationwide network of politicians with a thirst for violence or perversion. Like Illinois Lt. Governor candidate Scott Cohen, arrested for assaulting and holding a knife to throat of his prostitute ex-girlfriend. Or former U.S. congressman Craig Washington, indicted for aggravated assault in a shooting incident. Or Tennessee State rep and judiciary committee chairman Rob Briley, who allegedly tried to kick the window of a state patrol car after leading police on a drunken 100 mph car chase. Or California U.S. congressman Bob Filner, arrested for security tresspass and assaulting airport workers. Or Racine, WI mayor Gary Becker, facing five counts of felony child sex crimes.
"There's an deep undercurrent of anger, alienation and frustration in Congress, as well as America's statehouses and city halls," explains CSPS study director Vadid Grube. "They feel that voters are no longer listening to them. Then come the drugs, followed by the extensive, journalist-like paranoid fantasies. And then... snap."
The result can be devastating, as seen in the domestic abuse arrests of Ohio US congressional candidate Stephanie Studebaker, Washington state rep. Geoff Simpson, North Dakota state legislator and two-time domestic assault arrestee David Weiler, White Plains NY mayor Adam Bradley, Louisiana state senator Derrick Shepard (arrested for punching an ex-girlfriend and stealing her cell phone) or Queens city councilman Hiram Monserrate (accused of slashing his girlfriend's face with a broken bottle). Eventually the violence moves to the streets, as in the cases of NY state senator Kevin Parker, Massachusetts state senator Anthony Galluccio, Rhode Island congressman and violent airport shover Patrick Kennedy, Republican Virginia legislative aide and accused violent gay-basher Bryan Fumagalli and California Democratic Council chief Christopher Stampolis, arrested for punching a female U-store clerk in the face. Sometimes legislators enlist their own children in the escalating mayhem, like Wisconsin U.S. Congresswoman Gwen Moore whose son was arrested for slashing the tires of political rivals.
The descent of a typical politician into a dark miasma of psychopathy does not happen at all once; in many cases it take weeks, even months, after election before evidence of full-blown criminal dementia becomes clear. The key is to recognize the warning signs. One early symptom is angry, threatening, and abusive verbal behavior: examples include U.S. senator Charles Schumer and his expletive-laced harrassment of a female flight attendant, Senate colleague Mary Landrieu and her threat to "punch [George Bush] in the face - literally," California U.S. congressman Pete Stark, who left an angry message on the phone of an Iraq war veteran challenging him to "tell me why you think you're such a great goddamned hero," and the notorious live TV appearance of former presidential candidate Jesse Jackson where he expressed the urge to "cut [Barack Obama's] nuts off."
This behavior is frequently encouraged by other group members. Before his felony arrest and conviction for defrauding the government, NY State Comptroller Alan Hevesi publicly goaded Schumer at a Democratic fundraiser to "put a bullet between [George Bush's] eyes." A similar collegial appeal to shoot George Bush came from Kentucky governor Steve Beshear, addressed to famed face shooter Dick Cheney. The former vice president has yet to respond to this reach across the aisle, but frequently Republicans and Democrats can work together in a spirit of bipartisan violent cooperation. After Suffolk County NY Republican legislator Michael D'Andre threatened to attack Latino immigrant constituents with baseball bats, his Democratic legislative colleague Elie Mystal upped the ante by vowing that "I would load my gun and start shooting, period."
"The ritualistic violent rhetoric acts as a kind of pregame lockerroom talk for the political class," explains CSPS forensic psychiatrist Dr. Ivadd Ugber. "It builds and builds, sometimes including the vilest possible racial epithets, like in the cases of U.S. representative Carolyn Maloney and her senate colleague and former Ku Klux Klan official Robert Byrd. A charismatic team captain knows how to feed it, telling his teammates to 'get in their face,' and 'punch back twice as hard' and encouraging the use of weaponry such as pitchforks. Soon, they are worked up into a catatonic trance-like state of violent euphoria, like the Thuggee cult of ancient India."
Hopped up on this rhetorical "Roid Rage," politicians will begin banging helmets and savagely shoving each other, like in the case of Maxine Waters and David Obey, or ex-con fellow U.S. representative Alcee Hastings. By "game time" they have reached the point of explosive, near-murderous frenzy against their real opponents - random American citizens like you and me. Witness Massachusettes state senator and accused nighttime park stalker James Marzilli, or Virginia congressmen Jim Moran whose physical fury has been inflicted on his own wife, female friends, and an 8-year old boy whom he considered insufficiently deferential. Luckily, that young boy got off easy compared to the childhood victims of Portland Oregon's mayor and admitted statutory rapist Sam Adams, and former Illinois congressman Mel Reynolds, convicted on 12 counts of sexual assault on an underage constituent. Police stings on politicians like Thomas Bodall have been partially successful in preventing further trauma to America's children, but law enforcement officials say innovative programs like beefed-up capitol safety patrols and Special Politician Victim Units suffer from an unsurprising lack of funding -- from politicians. Left unchecked, the politician graduates to more and more dangerous criminal activity -- like Texas state representative Borris Miles, accused of waving a gun and assaulting female guests in a Houston hotel lobby.
When they first learn of the extent of this crime wave, a typical layperson will often ask me why the politician's family, friends, consultants and staff don't step in and hold an intervention before the behavior goes too far. Sadly, prolonged exposure to the politician's violent extremism and sexual perversions can have a contagious effect on their aides and campaign workers. One example is Andrew Young, the former top aide / surrogate baby daddy / biographer of disgraced presidential candidate John Edwards, who was arrested several times while in his employ. Others include Missouri political consultant Skip Ohlsen, sentenced to Federal prison for firearm violations, or Durham County (NC) Democratic Party official Joy Johnson, charged with kidnapping, rape and assault related to her membership in a satanic cult. All too often, political aides allegedly train their perverse attentions on America's vulnerable children -- like Benjamin Jakes-Johnson, Barbara Boxer U.S. senate staffer Jeff Rosato, and Carl Stanley McGee, top aide to Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick. Although experts believe that most child molesters were themselves victims of an older attacker/mentor, we should note that so far there is little evidence that Governor Patrick or Senator Boxer were personally involved. But even after criminal conviction, some politicians are all too happy to welcome child predator aides back to work with a nod and a wink.
Laymen are often confused why we "just don't kick these people out of office." Unfortunately, this often results in unintended and bloody consequences. In many cases retirement does little to affect the urge for violence; consider former US Congressman Chip Pickering, arrested after a fight with a youth soccer coach; or former speaker of the Missouri statehouse Rod Jetton, accused of felony assault after allegedly hitting and choking a woman, and afterwards blaming it on her for failure to use their agree-upon safe word 'green balloons'; or former US Congressman Tommy Robinson, cited for assault after a bloody attack on a man in a Brinkley Arkansas BBQ restaurant. "I mean, I'm a nonviolent guy, but you push me far enough and that's what happens," explained Robinson, giving vent to the seething, violent rage that all too often consumes the minds of the American political class.
"There is an ongoing 'chicken-and-egg' debate about this phenomenon in the research community," notes Dr. Ugber. "Does a primal urge for violence drive the need to be in politics, or does being in politics drive the urge for violence?" Ugber cites the contradictory cases of Bobby Rush, who served as an officer in a domestic terror organization before joining the U.S. House, and Mark Siljander, a former Michigan congressmen who left the House prior to his indictment as part of an Al Qaeda money raising scheme.
What you can do to protect yourself and your family
Even after being confronted with the facts some citizens try to wish the crisis away. They naively believe it will take care of itself -- pointing to instances of politician-on-journalist violence, like congressman Pete Stark's threat to a journalist that "get the f--k out of here or I'll throw you out the window," and Senator Al Franken's repeated angry challenges to fistfight another journalist. While this in theory would potentially thin the ranks of politicians and/or journalist, the battle-hardened survivors would constitute an even more dangerous threat to public safety. In the "Armageddon scenario," journalists and politicians may even unite forces to wage an all-out bloody crime war against the public.
While it is impossible to completely eliminate the risk, there are specific steps each of us can do to minimize the body count. The key to survival is knowledge. Previous awareness-raising efforts by the Media Violence Project have helped Americans reduce their exposure to criminally insane journalists, but the threat of politicians continues to explode.
"Americans are accustomed to viewing their political representatives in an idealized light," explains Divad Egrub. "We assume them to be clean, friendly, hard working, nonviolent criminals, peacefully thieving away at the public trough and diligently extorting bribes from special interest groups. The politician takes advantage of this gullible trust to draw an unsuspecting constituent within striking distance. Before you know it, the constituent is dealing with an erupting volcano of psychosexual rage."
In order to protect yourself and your family the MVP and the CSPS recommend that you recognize the warning signs and take quick corrective action. In specific:
- Hone your senses to be aware of journalists or politicians in your immediate vicinity. Be vigilant for satellite trucks, cameras, placards, bunting, and strangers with an excessive interest in hand shaking and baby kissing.
- If your 'gut' tells you something is amiss, leave before the situation escalates.
- Avoid eye contact, and walk by in a brisk, confident, determined manner.
- If contact is unavoidable, use distraction and evasive maneuvers. If confronted by a journalist, tell him his makeup is splotchy. For politicians, yell "hey, look over there! A rich campaign contributor!"
These simple steps may buy you the critical seconds you need to avoid a lifetime of physical and psychological disability. But you can also do your part to help and inform your fellow at-risk citizens. Do you know of any journalist or politician-related crimes that have somehow slipped through our monitoring dragnet? Share them in the comment section of this post, along with appropriate links. To avoid server overload, please confine these to actual or potential instances of bodily harm, rather than garden variety immorality (graft, plagiarism, infidelity etc.).
Finally, you can help by contributing to the Media Violence Project and the Center for the Study of Politician Sociopathy. Your generous donation will support the research and entertainment expenses of dedicated staffers like Divad Egrub, Dr. Ivadd Ugber, Vadid Grube, and new intern Ddavi Grbeu.
Stay safe, and remember: forewarned is forearmed! Metaphorically.