by Beverly Eakman
November 8, 2013
Most readers know that public opinion is molded by the mainstream media, by schools, and by most TV news anchors. What most people don’t know is precisely how the deed is accomplished so systematically and pervasively.
The technique itself is called “perception management,” a topic on which I wrote last fall (“It’s About Perception Management, Stupid”). Just this past weekend, a breaking news item provided an opportunity to see the process at work up close, in the form of an arrest of one of conventional journalism’s favorite nemeses: Bernhard Goetz. For those still not quite clear as to the means whereby distorted information gets a free pass—so much so that no amount of evidence to the contrary, presented by credible experts after the fact, alters the originally planted misrepresentation—the following should serve as Exhibit One.
NEW YORK (AP) — Subway vigilante Bernie Goetz, who ignited a national furor over racism and gun control after he shot four panhandling youths on a train in the 1980s, has been charged with misdemeanor sale and possession of marijuana, authorities said Saturday.
Goetz was nabbed in a sting operation in Union Square park Friday evening for selling $30 worth of pot to an undercover officer….
First, note the use of the operative terms: vigilante, racism, shot, panhandling, youths, and sting operation.
The public has already been conditioned to view any report carrying these words negatively, especially when packed together in the first two sentences of a story. Vigilante, of course, is associated with an out-of-control loner — a “nut-case” who is also most likely a criminal. The term racism needs no further explanation. The other terms, while not so blatant in their emotional baggage, in this case add to the bias, because of their proximity to the first two buzz-terms. People are acclimated to feel sorry for children (“youths”), especially if they are begging (“panhandling”), and conditioned toward outrage whenever a person is described as gunned down (“shot”). Similarly, John Q. Public views detective work (a “sting operation”) as an appropriate use of police power.
Most readers faintly remember Bernhard Goetz. But almost 30 years has elapsed since the original story, so the details get fuzzy. Only a couple of major media outlets bothered to get the story right, even in 1984. And even when they got a second chance at it in 2011, journalists didn’t dig their way to the bottom of the story, when one of the original teen culprits “inexplicably” took his own life in prison on the anniversary of the 1984 subway victimization of Goetz—while serving time for an unrelated violent crime.
Now here’s what really happened,along with the background context of the story that sparked so much angst in the press in 1984:
In 1981, a then-34-year-old, bespectacled, nerdy-looking electronics entrepreneur, Bernhard Goetz, suffered permanent damage to one knee and his chest at the hands of three hoodlums at a subway station. They attempted to rob him as he carried equipment. They were later charged only with “criminal mischief.”
Although injured, Goetz helped a nearby off-duty police officer arrest the ruffians. But he wound up spending more time at the police station than the thugs who attacked him. He decided then and there that, given his physical appearance, he’d better purchase a gun for self-protection. He had no confidence that anyone else would protect him in a city where the crime rate was so out of control that every opinion poll taken at time expressed indignation. But surprise! Goetz found himself turned down for a gun permit on the grounds of “insufficient need,” even though in the course of his business he routinely carried expensive electronics and enough money to conduct completely legitimate business transactions. So, on a trip to Florida to visit family, he purchased a handgun.
The incident in New York both scared and traumatized him. Even though he thought deep down, like most victims, that the attempted mugging had probably been a one-time event and would never happen again, he was later reported to as saying: “Prior to being mugged I did not feel I had to carry a gun, [but] you can't let yourself be pushed around. You can’t live in fear. That's no way to live your life.”
Sure enough, three years later he was accosted again, this time inside a subway car by four assailants, not three. One demanded Goetz’s money; another cut off the passageway out of the subway car; and a third attacker, James Ramseur, according to witnesses, hovered menacingly with a screwdriver in hand. Goetz figured he was really in for it this time: four against one.So he pulled out his gun and shot them, injuring all four, one critically.
It turned out that each of the four had already been arrested and/or convicted on criminal charges. Yet, they were roaming the streets. In fact, several reports from 1984 stated that the foursome seemed to be on their way to rob some video arcade machines when they happened upon Goetz.
Because of the public backlash against openly vicious and uncontrolled crime, Goetz suddenly became a hero to much of the public.But he was villain to leftists in the media who were hot to strip away the Second Amendment. So they labeled Goetz “the Subway Vigilante,” over and over—until a public perception of Goetz as a loner out for revenge took hold. He wound up serving six months—for carrying the unlicensed firearm—thanks to scores of unsupportive journalists with an ulterior agenda.
But there’s an additional clincher to this story. You have to dig deeply to find it—not because it was unreported, but because of the way it was reported:
In December 2011, the screwdriver-holder of the four, James Ramseur, committed suicide—exactly 27 years to the day after the attack on Goetz. The media fixated on the obvious link—the date of the suicide—even managing to obtain a quote from Goetz himself, who voiced the natural assumption that Ramseur “probably was depressed.”
Most of the news reports went on to imply that James Ramseur likely held a fierce grudge against Goetz’s public-hero status, while the four attackers were simply seen as criminals.
Could it be that the thug with the screwdriver was the one Goetz critically injured, James Ramseur? Well, news reports don’t exactly say. You have to go back to the original incident police reports to find out—and no, he wasn’t. In fact, what only a few reports mentioned, and then only in passing, is that James Ramseur subsequently served 25 years for raping and sodomizing a pregnant woman in 1986.
Look at that year again: 1986!
Goetz was accosted by Ramseur and the others in the subway car in 1984. For saving his own life, Goetz served six months for (horrors!) carrying a weapon of self-defense. With the 2011 suicide, the press created the impression that Ramseur was a victim, not by anything said or written down, but by omitting factual context.
So, Mr. Screwdriver-holder was where? Out on the streets, raping and sodomizing someone who was definitely in no position to fight back! A pregnant woman! Furthermore, Ramseur had had major run-ins with the law even before the 1984 Goetz incident.
So why did Ramseur kill himself on 27th anniversary of the Goetz attack?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out: More than likely, the nerdy Mr. Goetz looked like an easy mark, whereas he turned out to be the only one who’d ever fought back and lived to tell about it! He had surprised the thugs by taking on four big, strong, menacing attackers. Ramseur, no doubt, had relived that moment during his 25 years in prison on the rape-and-sodomy charge, and he seethed at the thought that an unimposing figure like Goetz was the only one ever to foil him.
In the context of the crime the evidence was hiding in plain sight. This is how perception management is propagated in the media. Public opinion is molded by repetition; lack of a consistent and vocal challenge; and the overwhelming numbers represented by leftist media. Schools of journalism train budding newscasters in the use of manipulative strategies, and editors of mainstream publications expect the facts to reflect a certain spin.
Thus, most of the reports on Ramseur’s suicide made it appear that, because of the timing, he killed himself over Goetz’s actions that day in 1984. Well, yes, sort of. Goetz refused to be a doormat for a violent crime—one perhaps not so unlike the one perpetrated on the helpless pregnant woman!
Only as an aside would alert readers ever learn that Ramseur went free to commit that savage crime two years later.
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Oh, and by the way, not a single story ever reported on the mental state of the poor woman Ramseur brutally assaulted in 1986, or the fate of the child she was carrying—or, for that matter, whether either of the victims lived or died.
As for this past weekend’s story of the marijuana “sting operation” that got Bernhard Goetz arrested over $30 worth of a substance that the Left is finally succeeding in legalizing, let’s just say that Goetz’ defense attorney could rightfully take a page out of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi playbook,on Jan. 23, 2013, when she famously spat:
And then say “Gotcha!”
© 2013 Beverly Eakman - All Rights Reserved
Beverly K. Eakman’s 8th book, PUSH BACK! How to Take a Stand Against Groupthink, Bullies, Agitators and Professional Manipulators (Skyhorse Publishing), has an expected release date of January 2014.Mrs. Eakman began her career as a teacher, left to become a scientific writer for a NASA contractor, and went on to serve as a speech writer for the head of the Voice of America and for the chairman(a former U.S. Supreme Court Justice) of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. She was a writer for the U.S. Dept. of Justice before retiring from federal government. Her first book in 1991 blew the whistle on misrepresented standardized testing of schoolchildren. She specializes in covering education policy, mental-health fraud, data-trafficking, privacy and political agitation strategies.
Her website is: beverlyeakman.com