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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Guest Commentary

Guest column: Watchdog groups are the new journalists


At 57, I don’t mind admitting I’m a baby-boomer. In some younger circles, that makes me “old school,” and they’re right — I am. I remember things like black and white television sets atop which were rabbit ears, aluminum Christmas trees with angel hair, and unfiltered Pall Malls which sold for 35-cents-a-pack in the days when a 10-year-old could get them at the corner store with a note.

But I remember other things, too. For example, what it feels like to wonder why my mother was not at home while parts of downtown Washington D.C. became an inferno in the aftermath of Martin Luther King’s assassination. I remember seeing national guardsmen walking along our streets with their M-16 rifles during the curfew that followed.

I also remember seeing on TV, as many Americans did, the immortal image of a disgraced U. S, president alighting a helicopter and waving good-bye. These are a few images seared into my memory — old school, that I am.

Nixon’s fall from grace was the result of what we used to call investigative journalism.

Those were the days when a newspaper of record held the American imagination captive and served as the people’s watchdog and its voice. It could bring governmental officials to their knees and root out corruption even in the highest offices.

An interesting fact, long since forgotten, about the Watergate scandal: it is probably more responsible for the surge in enrollment in journalism schools the following year than any other event. Everybody wanted to be another Woodward and Bernstein — whose story went on to become immortalized in Hollywood lore. And “investigative journalism” became the new media darling.

Flash forward to the early 1990s. Enter the Internet and newspaper subscriptions begin to sag; two-paper towns become one-paper towns — thanks to corporate gobbling and suddenly investigative journalism by mainstream media goes into decline — and the rise of small, feisty tabloids begin to emerge to fill the void.

I know. I was writing for them during the transition.

I was writing about issues the mainstream media refused to cover: heterosexual HIV women who were long-term survivors and meeting in secret in a church basement while everyone thought it was a “Gay man’s disease”; slumlords in Houston, some of whom were attorneys in cahoots with large land-developers eyeing the prize of Allen Parkway Village because of the land it sat on, never minding its enormous historical value to the African American community already there; male rape, a grossly under-reported yet pernicious crime taking place under the noses of Houstonians; homelessness before homelessness was cool. Public News, Houston Press, Interview magazine, New Print Magazine. On and on.

Yes, those were the days.

But even small tabloids, despite their chainsaw journalism, could not avoid the inevitable onslaught of concurrent blogs by amateurs, and their endless opinions and disinformation campaigns presented as facts.

Just as I was witness to how investigative journalism brought down a U.S. president, I have also borne witness to the snuffing out of tabloid journalism and the energy and tenacity once held by genuine small papers and what Hunter S. Thompson popularized as “gonzo” journalism. This is not to say Thompson was right, but to say, he was fed up.

We’ve reached another point of being fed up. Or we should.

We’ve reached the point where, like in the 1990s, the only outlets bothering to report on political corruption, maleficence and institutional illegality are outliers – although now, rather than being small tabloids, they are non-profits. ProPublica.org, Texas Tribune, Center for Investigative Reporting, ThinkProgressive.org and so forth. The Internet landscape is littered with these small but feisty outlets, doing the work that their tabloid brethren did in days of yore – filling the void abdicated by the mainstream. Cluttering up this landscape is the work being done by a hundred advocacy groups competing for the same eyeballs and often using the same journalistic techniques as the legitimate journalistic outlets.

Which is exactly the problem: it’s not just confusing; they shouldn’t have to. The mainstream media should be doing its job.

For example, if some journalists from mainstream papers were to dig into some of the bedrock causes of why Texas universities are now facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in capital improvements in order to accommodate the shiny new S.B. 11 law, (“Campus Carry”) they might discover that that bill had been incubating in the Texas legislature ever since the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2008 introduced its model legislation.

They might also learn that the group, Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, has been advocating for those changes right alongside ALEC with the help of folks from the Tea Party Patriot organization, the Leadership Institute, and their website, Campus Reform, and the attorney, W. Scott Lewis, who took over SCCC years ago, and who has been working hand-in-glove to introduce model changes in college administrations at various college-related conventions — that is, when he’s not being an attorney. They might also discover an over-arching pattern of lawsuits, legislation and other elements of a social engineering scheme designed to advance a libertarian agenda.

But why should they? Who’s demanding it? Not the readers, who are too busy posting cutesy pictures of their grandchildren and what they had for breakfast on Facebook and Pinterest to notice that, over the last 20 years, their country has been hijacked by both the NRA — who’s behind the ALEC adoption of more than 20 states’ campus carry laws — and ALEC who has put them, like the proverbial toad, into a slowly simmering pot of water. They won’t ever really notice.

Who does that leave?

Old-school gruffs like me who will still pipe up occasionally with an essay or two in the vain hope that someone, somewhere on a metro news desk will notice IT – and do their fucking job.

Alex Colvin is the president of Gun Free UH and a history senior.


  • Opa

    A whole lot of words to finally get to your point of restricting 2nd Amendment rights. Very deceptive, but also very interesting. We arrived at this point in journalism precisely because it ceased to be journalism and became advocacy and activism rather than unbiased reporting of facts, prime of which is that Licensed To Carry holders are no risk to the public at large or the University specifically.

    • Theresa Bathory

      I would disagree, nowhere did he advocate restricting 2nd amendment rights, just the opposite. You are correct though journalism became an advocate instead of unbiased reporting. It happened when the 5 corporations (Time Warner, Walt Disney, Viacom, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., CBS Corporation and NBC Universal) where as in 1983 it was 50 companies. These corporations have their own agendas, their own lobbies and contribute millions to candidates. They set the agendas. They are not going to do anything to threaten their advertising dollars like the pharmaceuticals that spend billions advertising and they express the ideological viewpoints of their owners. There is the real threat to the 2nd amendment, when only the viewpoints and ideas of the corporations are given voice and we no longer have real investigative journalism.

      • Opa

        His attribution at the end says it all, “Alex Colvin is the president of Gun Free UH and a history senior.” And yes, a gun free space IS a restriction.

        • Theresa Bathory

          Sorry Opa, I made a mistake, I was reading 2nd Amendment and seeing 1st Amendment. I retract my first sentence of “I would disagree, nowhere did he advocate restricting 2nd amendment rights, just the opposite.” as I was incorrect.

        • http://gunfreeuh.wix.com/gunfreeuh GunFreeUH

          You must have a terrible time at zoos, seeing all those animals in restricted spaces being kept from attacking you. And anyone so neurotic he thinks a classroom is so dangerous he must be armed just to attend, probably should not be anywhere near a gun. Guns are for killing, and anyone wearing them in a peaceful setting is obviously hoping to use it.

          • Opa

            Classroom aren’t inherently dangerous, it’s the scum that comes in fro external sources to kill as many as possible before taking their own life.

            CHL holder are by definition, NOTmentally disturbed.

          • http://gunfreeuh.wix.com/gunfreeuh GunFreeUH

            You are apparently not familiar with the history and pattern of campus mass shootings: every single assailant since 1966 was a student of the campus where the shootings took place. In fact, it’s also true that the Aurora Theater shooting was by a grad student of University of Colorado, according to one of his professors. No; campus mass shootings are crimes of opportunity and every one of the shooters knew, worked with or attended classes with his victims. The research I’ve done indicates they are never psycho “strangers” involved; but rather enrolled students who used the opportunity of time, place, and surprise to execute their plan.. They are rare, but against which there is virtually no defense. But using campus shootings has been a great way for gun extremists to whip up hysteria about arming students. One small problem: the student whose gun rights you advocate for today may be the same one who kills your classmates or daughter in the future. Because there will be no mechanisms on these campuses to detect which armed student is unbalanced or who is or is not permitted to carry. That worked tremendously in a psycho’s favor.

          • Opa

            NO facts to support your liberal logic. It may have been students but not in the affected class. As I said, they came from external.

          • http://gunfreeuh.wix.com/gunfreeuh GunFreeUH

            The published accounts make it crystal clear who the shooters were and who their victims were — in every case. You can try to politicize it all you want, it does not change reality. It only makes you appear to refuse to deal with the carnage.

          • Kelly Whalen

            I agree that someone who is mentally unstable should be flagged in a database as ineligible for a CHL. However, this argument ‘mechanisms that cannot detect unbalanced..’ is trivial as there is no mechanism to detect an unbalanced person behind the wheel of a car. If i get killed by an active shooter in the classroom, will you volunteer to tell my family that the reason me and my classmates were shot is because GFUH took away my ability to defend myself?

          • http://gunfreeuh.wix.com/gunfreeuh GunFreeUH

            There are far more regulations regarding driver training, insurance, regulations etc, than there are for guns. In Kansas, for example, Constitutional Carry is now the law. Anyone can buy and carry a gun around. no permit or training required. Now let’s apply that same standard to car ownership and watch what happens. Yes, let’s start arguing that the mere ownership of a car is all that’s required to operate one and let’s remove speed limits and safety belts and the thousands of other safety features that have come along (safety windshield, glass, for example,) . If you think that idea absurd, you may not know, that was exactly the state of automobile transport in the 1920s when cars first came along. That is exactly the same state gun-rights advocates want with guns. No regulations. Just buy one and use it whenever you see fit. Brilliant.

          • http://gunfreeuh.wix.com/gunfreeuh GunFreeUH

            You’re imaginary scenario presupposes you will possess the acute training needed to deal with a live active shooter. This has not been shown to be the case 100% among trained police, let alone among untrained amateurs with guns, no matter your silly appeal to emotion with my imaginary visit to your grieving parents. As for cars, there are far more regulations regarding driver training, insurance, vehicular transportation safety, fees and fines, etc, than there are for guns. In Kansas, for example, Constitutional Carry is now the law. Anyone can buy and carry a gun around. No permit or training required. Now let’s apply that same standard to car ownership and watch what happens. Yes, let’s start arguing that the mere ownership of a car is all that’s required to operate one and let’s remove speed limits and safety belts and the thousands of other safety features that have come along (safety windshield, glass, for example or the unseen interior car cages.) If you think that idea absurd, you may not know, that was exactly the state of automobile transport in the 1900s when cars first came along. That is exactly the same state gun-rights advocates want with guns. No regulations, a minimum of safety features. Just buy one and use it whenever and wherever you see fit. Because it worked so brilliantly with cars nearly a century ago. It may be instructive to see the evolution of car safety including the push back against it at various stages as recounted by this recent article. If the tug of war implied here reminds you of of how gun regulation is also being spun by the pro-gun crowd as a hysterical reaction to gun rights just as car safety was often painted as hysterical, than you’re witnessing — whether your realize or admit it or not — is an historical parallel. It’s also true that the ONLY reason cars are as safe as they are now is because anti-safety hysteria did not win out, and car safety measures continue even today. http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/murder-machines/

          • Kelly Whalen

            I guess its only ok for you to suggest hypothetical scenarios right? Untrained? You dont know me, I served 5 years in the Marine Corps. Apply the same same standard to cars? Right, because all that training for a drivers license is preventing 35k yearly car deaths. Same gun deaths as car deaths? Were you going to mention that 61% are by suicide or were you expecting me to look that up? Keep it short, lefty.

          • http://gunfreeuh.wix.com/gunfreeuh GunFreeUH

            You really do not understand that the number of car deaths are NOT because there are NO safety measure are in place. The cause of the gun deaths are irrelevant; the fact that they are on par with automobile deaths are what matter. You’re OK with the leading cause of deaths being suicides? Can’t help but wonder what would happen to that number if there were a way to keep guns away from people who are clinically depressed or suffering from some mental illness. But why try to save a life when that might get in the way of a gun sale, or some gun nut’s right to walk around in Kmart with an AK-strapped to his back eh? Because as we all know, the right to an inanimate deadly object far supersedes anyone’s right to life, yes? And am I suppose to be impressed that you were a Marine? So were several of my nephews. So what? Lots of vets suffer from PTSD and can’t stand the sound of gunfire, many are on the streets. I know several from school — they hate the idea of idiots with guns playing hero. But hey, why should that matter, when what really important is that you be allowed to strut around waiting to wave a flag and proclaim your rights?

          • Kelly Whalen

            Your not supposed to be impressed. You lumped me in the category of ‘untrained’, so, i rebutted by saying that I was in the Marine Corps for 5 years. I love how you lump me in the gun-nut category. Im an Independant. Strut around with a Glock strapped to my hip? Open carry is very dumb IMO, I only advocate for concealed. History shows that if a person really wants to kill themselves, they do it. People who gobble pills do it for attention, they wont get the attention if they’re dead. I dont give two short and curlys about the NRA. Im surprised that YOU are the Rep for GFUH. Your family served in the wars? Good on them, still doesnt say a GD thing about you. Im surprised that YOU are speaking for GFUH, i feel like im being stereotyped and scolded by a child. Do you have any life experience besides trolling free thinkers?

          • http://gunfreeuh.wix.com/gunfreeuh GunFreeUH

            History also shows suicide is very preventable. I have been involved as an administrator and changed policy to do exactly that at our facilities. But it’s easier to use the old “it’s going to happen anyway” cop-out. Kind of like the way pro-gun people don’t even think gun violence is preventable or that gun crime can be reduced significantly with regulation because its too easy to use the old cop-out, “criminals will get guns anyway.” Or I must protect my family at all costs, blah, blah. Ho hum. Sorry about hurting your wittle feelings, Betty. That’s what happens when you go around saying crap like, “leftie.” No, actually, there are several stages to suicide. It’s not like Hollywood, just as there are several stages to treatable depression, which accounts for a large numbers of suicides. Again, its very treatable, but there’s such a sick mentality out there ready to stigmatize people struggling with it, a lot of people give up and take the path of least resistance by the quickest method because a gun is handy. And a lot of them are vets. So, in the end, we loose enormous human capital, create gaps in families, make widows and orphans and all because the NRA machinery has brainwashed Americans they need to be wallowing in guns.

          • Kelly Whalen

            So I guess you’ve never experienced the world outside UH. It’s scary that an administrator is verbally attacking me at every turn. Before my ‘lefty’ comment, you made unfair assumptions about me and called me “silly.” I’m actually flattered that a UH administrator is trolling me. Criminals will always get guns, however, I’m for more gun control and doing away with the gun show loop hole. I have a duty to my family to stay alive, that’s why I carry everywhere. UH is located in the real world and the real world is violent and unpredictable. I don’t see you arguing against campus carry. All you’re doing is going off on a tangent and making snide comments. I think someone wronged you in your life, and your taking it out on people who don’t agree with you. I’m willing to move on though.

            Why is your group so terrified of campus carry? I haven’t heard one sensible argument yet. Please, allow a meaningful dialogue.

          • http://gunfreeuh.wix.com/gunfreeuh GunFreeUH

            Not a UH administrator. Yes. the world is violent. Violence is everywhere. Yes, that’s the standard cop-out used by people who want to fight violence with more violence. They wear the gun *hoping* for an encounter to validate their possession of it, not to prevent anything. If one gun is good, 10 must be better. Yes, I know the argument. And those who oppose violence, well, there must be something “wrong” with them. Must be a character weakness or a flaw of some kind. They must be paranoid. Yet, we’re not the ones who want to walk around with instruments of death strapped to our hips. certain that around every corner death is stalking us. Yet, we’re the one’s who are fearful because we do not accept paranoia as a constant companion or that institutional violence is “normal.” Violence is ended by ending it. You remove the thing that allows it from those who will likely abuse it. All you’re doing is giving voice to the same rhetoric that the NRA uses. It’s not even an original argument. It’s so tired and worn out, I know it by heart as does everybody else who’s heard it. It’s become a broken record. You will never hear a “sensible ” argument because you do not want to hear one. What you want is an excuse to fire your gun. You have one. Your a warrior by training. And really what good is a warrior without his weapons? I come from a long line of warriors. I get the mentality. It’s just that just broke with 200 year old family traditions and found another way. Weapons are only as good as the person using them. Just owning a gun doesn’t turn someone into a warrior. But don’t try to tell that to the NRA or the thousand of people buying into their crap. I don’t know what you mean by “trolling.” I was responding to your comment. Don’t flatter yourself Princess. If you want to have a serious discussion, well have it. but knock off the BS. Because you should know that the whole Campus Carry gig has nothing to do with what YOU want; it’s social engineering by groups like ALEC and NRA and SCCC and Leadership institute. All of which is well documented but not well publicized. Your being exploited for your naivete, to help sell guns. [email protected]

          • Bobocefus Jones

            GFUH … you’re messing with my Love Handle Mama. And plagiarizing memorized hearsay from other SocDem sites.

          • Kelly Whalen

            Why do you smack talk veterans? Is GFUH anti-military?

  • Bobocefus Jones

    If memory serves me correct … the writers of two commentaries this week have combined ages of … 142. GFUH (Alex Colvin) is 57 and The Oct — 80’s guy is 84 or 85.

    And throwing the F-Bomb GFUH? I make a point to be nice and not call people names, etc. But GFUH always attempts to belittle those that do not kowtow to his megalomania.

    GFUH calls me every name under the stars, and it just rolls off me. He literally throws every stat he can find at me on Concealed Handguns. I told him to go to his Safe-Space, but he refuses.

    I’m not one of those Establishment Republicans who cowers to SocDem attacks.

    • David

      ****TROLL**** Ignore him.

      • Bobocefus Jones

        Troll? David … you fear me.

  • Kelly Whalen

    As a student/parent that drops my child off at the UH daycare everyday, I have a duty to my wife and child to survive. I get it, your afraid of something you don’t understand. There’s not a legitimate claim against campus carry, only fear. Yet, wherever you go in the real world you are unknowingly surrounded by what you fear, lawfully concealed handguns. Campus is part of the real world, which is not a “safe place.” It’s time to join the “new school” and begin thinking objectively 🙂

    • overtonejunkie .

      not to mention the lawfully open carried handguns too now. I have not seen one single openly carried handgun yet, except those carried by police and others that were able to before.

    • David

      What a dumb comment. He is objective. You are so afraid you need to carry a gun to kill. I have NEVER been concerned for my safety in Houston. Never. If you are so afraid stay home.

      • Bobocefus Jones

        David … not concerned for your safety? Hmm. Makes one wonder.

        Do you mumble incoherently, stare, and yell at people as you walk around campus and town?

      • Kelly Whalen

        David, you’ve obviousely never been to my neighborhood. Robberies, drive-bys. As i white male, im a minority where i live, i worry about my family being targeted for their skin color. I’m not afraid, i’m prepared. Just like your not afraid of crashing your car, but you still buy car insurance.

        • David

          Kelly, I appreciate your thoughtful comment. I lived in Greenspoint in the early 90’s. The media perpetuated that it was the most dangerous place on earth. They called it gunspoint. I was never concerned as I was out and about. I personally don’t have a big issue with concealed carry for personal protection. The problem is the weak requirements for someone to carry. It should be very stringent with really good training. Right now the training is a joke and it does put the larger public at risk in the long term. The requirements for exclusion for private businesses is not business friendly. It is an attempt to force the issue on people and business. My family and I own a lot of guns. We hunt and enjoy shooting sports. The thing is several of them now say that the 2nd should be looked at again. They are tired of the gun-nuts, as they call them, throwing out their garbage about the topic. If they say that privately there is an undercurrent of concern for the 2nd.

          Just read the comment from the troll from 16 days ago below. That is the problem with this issue and our country right now.

          • Kelly Whalen

            David, i dont give 2 short and curlys where your from or how many guns you own. If you lived in this violent area as you ‘claim.’ Basic instinct would cause some worry. It seems that you shape the world to your own opinions. I shape my opinions around the world and this world is violent and unforgiving. I spent 2 bills on a CHL and 8 hours of training, the problem is guns in the wrong hands not training. I dont see CHL holders murdering or robbing.

    • Bobocefus Jones

      I’m surprised GFUH has not called you a name yet. Very well said BTW.

  • Organite

    This article is tremendously deceptive.

    You start off in an interesting direction talking about how journalism has changed over time, and I thought maybe for a second you would have touched on how bloggers and the internet have helped bring light to deep entrenched problems within the country, but introduce their own biases skewing world views.

    But, no.

    Then it randomly absconds onto anti-campus carry, and THEN I saw who the author was. And now I’m not so surprised.

    This article would be much better suited being called, “Campus Carry Has Been an Idea Since 2008, and Here’s Why You Didn’t Know It.”
    That being said, the whole first half of this article was very well written, and I’ll give you credit for that, but to your discredit, this column is two very different pieces forcibly melded into one, and it’s jarring to read.

    • http://gunfreeuh.wix.com/gunfreeuh GunFreeUH

      But you read it anyway. Now go pour some peroxide in your eyes to cleanse the burn.

      • Organite

        For allegedly being 57, you take criticism like you’re 12.

        • http://gunfreeuh.wix.com/gunfreeuh GunFreeUH

          Thank you for that very “mature” criticism. Everything I noted in my guest column I can substantiate with documented evidence. I would have included footnotes but that’s not the format in non-academic writing. But when I release the longer, full essay, the hundreds of footnotes will be part of the MS. Now go wa-wa elsewhere. Only extremists defend other extremists.

          • http://KyleJohnston.Net/ Kyle Johnston

            I do look forward to seeing these citations.

          • Bobocefus Jones

            Kyle … GFUH will stat you death. Don’t ask for it.

          • Bobocefus Jones

            GFUH or Alex, as mommy called him … simply hasn’t the smarts to end a comment without childlike criticism.

            Organite … now you know how I feel.

          • Organite

            Please Jones, I’ve had my days with Alex.
            http://thedailycougar.com/2015/10/08/oregon-shooting/

          • Organite

            You say that as if I am in the habit of defending anyone. And your message isn’t the problem; your methodology is. As I’ve told you before, I share most of your sentiments regarding campus carry, but your constant and baseless attacks on others invalidate your position and make you sound childish. A la this article and your comments within: If you hadn’t stated you were 57 I would have guessed you were closer to 18 based on how you use words like a frat boy trying to defend his ego and toss insults like someone who grew up playing COD on Xbox Live.

        • Bobocefus Jones

          Organite vs GFUH fight. It’s like Sanders v Clinton.

  • Kelly Whalen

    Just got GFUH comments deleted further down the comment section #winning

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