Memo to Our Critics: Man Up
Dear Critics of FramingPaterno.com:
Our efforts have taken a lot of heat from you critics for a very long time and, for the most part, I have decided to ignore you. However, after the events of this past week, I have determined that I just can’t take it any more. I just have to respond directly to the misinformation, carping, hatred, and vitriol which has been coming not only from our natural enemies, but also from far too many people who actually ought to be supportive of our efforts.
I want to be clear that I have zero problems with constructive criticism and that I fully expect questions to be asked about what my motives and intentions are. Being skeptical of a non-Penn Stater with a “controversial” past suddenly jumping into this fray is perfectly natural under the circumstances and, frankly, I have welcomed that kind of scrutiny. I would have been asking the very same questions about me if I were in your shoes.
However, what is extremely frustrating to me is that the time for those questions should have long past. My track record on this story is both extremely clear and exemplary. If I have not gained your trust by now, I have to conclude that the problem is with you and not me.
Let’s do a quick review of how we got to where we are.
Five months ago I started FramingPaterno.com because I was outraged at how the media, BOT, and NCAA had treated Joe Paterno in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. I did it because I didn’t see anyone else leading a counter movement against the conventional “wisdom” and because I knew I was the person with the perfect skill set and experience to do so. I also thought that there was a potential documentary film here and that this would be a good way to build the foundation for that potentiality.
During this time I have made several promises and have fully kept every one.
I promised that I would commission a scientific national poll on people’s knowledge of the case and that it would prove that the media had created a completely false impression in the public’s mind. Against all odds, I did that and I was dead right in what the results showed.
I also promised that we would give away 1,000 T-shirts with our message for the first home game at Penn State, and we did that as well.
We created, basically for free, an amazing animation video of what the absurd Freeh Report cover up would have had to have looked like in the fantasies of Louis Freeh. We also shot and help facilitate the trip Franco Harris made to UCLA to try and meet with their Chancellor.
We have written and posted dozens of credible and informative original articles, which have provided our readers with a perspective on the story that they weren’t getting anywhere in the mainstream media (enabling them to have more confidence that they were not alone in thinking something was very wrong here).
I promised that we would produce a “mini movie” to illustrate our side of this story. I made two trips to State College to tape interviews and edit the film. After a ridiculous amount of work, we somehow got that video done just in time for the anniversary of Paterno’s firing. I am extremely proud of that production (especially under the very difficult circumstances under which it was created) and it has already been seen by at least 72,000 people.
Most recently, we made sure that Franco’s trip back to Los Angeles to question Mark Emmert was not in vain as I literally risked being arrested so that I could record their remarkable exchange.
I feel strongly that we have accomplished a lot. Probably far more than any one from the outside could possibly understand. I know for sure that this movement for truth is in a far better position today than it would have been had we not started FramingPaterno.com.
All of this has been made possible by two factors. The first has been the remarkable generosity of our donors/investors. We have had over 400 people contribute everything from $5 to $1,000. Without them, none of this could have been possible. They have kept me going when I have wanted to quit on this project at more times than Mark Emmert lied to Franco Harris.
The second reason this has been possible is that I have been willing and able to work at this as essentially a full time job without compensation. Contrary to the bizarre perception of my critics, I have not made any money from this (unless you count some frequent flier miles) and there is very little chance that I ever will.
Not only have I not made any money, my career has been unquestionably harmed by my participation in this story. Quite simply, people in the conservative movement think that have lost my marbles to take on this cause (hilariously, they think I have lost all credibility, even though I am about the only one in the movement to predict that President Obama would be reelected) . I even lost out on a job directing a major TV documentary on the Penn State story, essentially because I was too pro-Paterno and anti-media.
If that isn’t enough, among many other things, I have been called the “Anti-Christ” by a major Hollywood actor on national radio, hung up on twice and mocked by a nationally “respected” radio talk show host, told I was a “crack pot” by head of CBS radio in Philadelphia, and had Deadspin waste an enormous amount of my time questioning me for an obvious attempted hit piece that they apparently could never get off the ground..
Mainly because I apparently wasn’t born with gene that makes you care about what people who don’t know you think of you, those things didn’t really bother me very much. However, having had my motives, integrity, intelligence and mental health questioned by numerous people in the Penn State community who should be supportive of what I am doing (and this week impugning Franco Harris along with me) has been far more difficult to swallow.
This came to a head with the reaction to a single tweet I sent out after I had dropped off Franco Harris at the airport after his exchange with NCAA president Mark Emmert. Before I drove back home (at trip that took almost two hours) I tweeted that we had confronted Emmert, that the police were called, and that Emmert had run away out the back door. All of those things are true, but they were also facts which obviously required far more context than a single 140 character tweet could possibly provide.
I figured that this would get people wondering what happened so that by the time we actually got the video out there that some buzz would have been created. I did not anticipate major news organizations taking a tweet, creating a fantasy of what occurred based on that tweet, and then running with that fantasy as a news story without even bothering to contact me. I especially would have thought that those connected to the Penn State community would at least try to find out what actually happened before impugning the integrity of both me and, even more inexplicably, Franco Harris.
The reaction to that tweet was simply astonishingly corrupt and, frankly, exposed how and why the media now routinely gets the entire narrative of events completely wrong. They no longer give a damn about facts. As long as they have enough "info" to create a narrative that they think will be good for them (in this case, crazy ex football player and controversial filmmaker go after NCAA president so aggressively that the police had to be called!) the truth really doesn’t matter. In fact, that is the biggest reason why they didn’t even bother to contact me is because then they would have lost the plausible deniability of going with a juicy “misunderstanding.” (In other words, they didn’t want the actual facts to get in the way of a good story.)
Again, I expect this kind of insanity from the mainstream press. In fact, as sad as it is, I must say that we received far more coverage for Franco’s efforts than we would have gotten had the police not been called (this was in my mind when I brushed off the NCAA’s threat to call the police if I didn’t stop recording) and certainly if we had not been able to record the exchange. What I can’t easily tolerate is when people connected to Penn State, who have every incentive and reason to know better, buy even further into a bogus and destructive narrative.
I somehow got accused on several “Penn State” fronts of using “tactics” which somehow harm the overall cause. This charge was very interesting to me because all I wanted to know was to what “tactics” were they specifically referring.
Tweeting accurately to create interest in an event that the media would normally have completely ignored? Recording an event in a way totally consistent with the way I was told, via e-mail, by the events organizers that I was allowed to do? Not caving in to pressure and allowing Franco Harris to have wasted a trip across the country?
Come on critics, what was it exactly that I did which was so terrible? When I asked some of you directly, all I got was evidence of massive ignorance. The editor of Black Shoe Diaries actually claimed (incredibly, after berating me for writing to the writer of the hit piece on me, instead of to him, after they hadn’t bother to contact me at all before their article was published) that I had “violated clearly stated policies,” even though that was not even close to true and no one at his website had even tried to find out if it was.
Even more troublingly, he bizarrely went on to claim that the NCAA president “had no business answering your questions (asked) in that manner.” Apparently he didn’t even know (or care) that I had not come close to asking even one question during the episode! When I asked him if he was implying that it was inappropriate to even question the man who destroyed Paterno/Penn State football without having a clue about the facts (as Franco’s questioning of him revealed), he didn’t even answer me.
To my knowledge that website has never even posted either of the two videos we created which show exactly what really happened and, incredibly, as far as I can tell, not one media outlet of any sort has even questioned why it was that the president of the NCAA was so afraid to have his words recorded that his people called the police. Doesn’t that say an awful lot about the sad state of journalism these days?
If this kind of frustrating circumstance was unusual I could more easily accept it. However, I have found this kind of lack of respect for the truth to be far more the rule than the exception during this entire saga. Even more disturbingly, I have found that there is a remarkable willingness (if not eagerness) to somehow turn me into the enemy instead of those who really have created the damage here.
The number of hateful lies and unfounded accusations which have been thrown at me from elements (though obviously not the majority) of the Penn State community has been really rather staggering. While I have no problem with people honestly disagreeing with me (as long as they have some actual facts to back up their charges), most of this reaction feels very different to me than that.
My theory on this is that a lot of the Penn State people who bought into the media’s false narrative which caused so much destruction actually now have a perverse incentive for me to be discredited. After all, if I am right, then they were not only badly fooled, but they also helped facilitate the damage to the school they love (I also think his is part of what is driving the “move on” movement among Penn Staters). Not only that, but if I am right, those who are in the “media” will have completely missed the greatest story of this entire affair.
In short, they need me to wrong, or, at the very least be the wrong person to lead this cause.
The three main complaints about me from my critics are: I am in this for money/fame, I am not a celebrity and therefore can’t be effective, and that my tactics are too dangerous.
To be very clear, despite putting many hundreds of hours into this project, I have not made a dime from this, I have actually turned down donations, and I am highly unlikely to ever make any money on it or become remotely famous (having had my share of fame i can assure you that it is highly overrated). I know it is hard for people (especially those in the media) to understand, but it is still possible to be motivated by things other than money and fame. For some of us, just finding the truth still matters enough to inspire extreme commitment.
If there was a real celebrity who I was confident could do as good a job on this crusade as me, I would gladly hand over the reigns and step aside. Unfortunately, that is also very unlikely because celebrities are not known for their courage and to take this cause on in a big way requires the kind of balls very few people (especially men) have.
As for my tactics, this charge really makes me laugh. We are in a war and we are badly outnumbered, with limited resources and with very few weapons at our disposal. And yet, I am supposed to just play nice and hope that it all somehow works out? Seriously? Do any of you live in the real world?
For instance, I hate the fact that simply having Franco Harris finally asking the president of the NCAA a legitimate question and having him completely fail to answer it is not enough to get people’s attention, but it is not. If we play by their rules we will lose for sure and I don’t play to lose. This issue is far too important to take the safe/easy way out.
As far as my “tactics” (or whatever my critics are referring to when they use that term) being counterproductive, the great irony of that notion is that if these very same critics had not been some strangely obsessed with this alleged “issue” the “issue” would not exist. After all, they are literally the only ones talking about it!
As for the ability of my “tactics” (asking questions is now a “tactic” to be criticized?) to create positive results, here you need to see the big picture. I have done many things like this in the past which seemed to be ineffective in the short run, but which in the long run paid huge benefits. For instance, O.J. Simpson, Katie Couric and the former head of the American Conservative Union all had their lives/careers take huge downturns after I went after them aggressively and in all three cases you could argue the connection was not coincidental (I still have hopes for the same eventual result for ESPN’s Mark Schwartz).
I am a big boy who has been through a lot of wars and have far too many battle scars to prove it. I can take the heat. But when some try to denigrate Franco Harris, I have to call them out on this.
Franco Harris has been by far the most remarkable person I have come in contact with during this crusade. Overall, I have never witnessed so much cowardice in my life (and I have seen a lot) than I have after getting involved with this story. And yet, even though he has more to lose than almost anyone, Franco Harris has never even blinked. He simply is doing what he thinks is right and knows that no one else is willing and able to do what he can to pursue justice.
I have a very dim view of human beings in general, but based on what I have seen to date of Franco Harris, after having gone to battle with him in the same foxhole, I consider him to be a true hero. Those who criticize him without even knowing the facts should simply be ashamed of themselves.
As for me, this has been by far the hardest and most personally grueling project I have ever undertaken (keep in mind, I was the guy who once made a movie largely defending Sarah Palin!). I have felt the urge to quit this movement many times but each moment I get to that point I realize that we have gone too far to let the ignorant and the cowardly win out. Quitting is what they want us to do because in the long run, it is the only way they can be victorious. As long as the core group behind this movement hangs together, I will stay with it.
My critics can and will falsely claim a lot of things about me, but even they can’t credibly call me a quitter.