Fascism 101: The Police and Media Control

If you are a cadet in training with the St. Louis County and Municipal Police Academy, good news! Beginning at 8:00 AM on October 24, you are welcome to attend a seminar titled “OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTING – YOU CAN WIN WITH THE MEDIA.”

No, really. This is an actual thing. The course was first flagged on Twitter by activist Shaun King.

“The shooting death of a black teenager by a white police officer on August 9th in Ferguson, Missouri and the events that followed were tragic,” reads the flyer announcing the seminar. “In addition to the Ferguson case study, this fast-paced class is jam-packed with the essential strategies and tactics, skills and techniques that will help you WIN WITH THE MEDIA!”

Those block-letters, by the way, are recreated here as they actually appear on the flyer.

So. Students of the profession of policing in St. Louis are invited to a seminar, the advertisement for which devotes one (1) sentence to the tragedy that was the multi-round shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown at the hands of a white Ferguson police officer, but only after announcing in block letters that the key aspect of the seminar won’t be, “Don’t shoot unarmed black kids,” but will be how to “WIN WITH THE MEDIA!”

It goes on:

“It is practical training,” continues the flyer, “not theoretical: Take what you learn and put it to work for you on the street right away! The training is also highly entertaining: numerous video clips illustrate key points, and there is NO Power Point!”

Highly entertaining! No Power Point! Never mind all that guff about not shooting black kids! WIN WITH THE MEDIA WITHOUT POWER POINT AND BE HIGHLY ENTERTAINED!

“You will learn a lot,” continues the announcement, “and you’ll have fun doing it! In addition to the detailed case study of Ferguson…”

More high entertainment, which apparently includes “The” case study of Ferguson. Not “A” case study, but “The” case study. “The” case study delivered by whom, exactly? Has a full police report of the incident actually been filed? And by “full,” I mean, “A document that has more information than ‘Someone got shot by someone somehow and somewhere, we think, maybe, now go away.'”

Continuing:

“In addition to the detailed case study of Ferguson (including numerous practical tips for handling the media in an officer-involved shooting)…”

This is about controlling the media when someone gets shot down by a cop, and oops, maybe when that person is shot six times while on his knees with his hands up, the cop really screwed up, so let’s hold a seminar on how to make sure no one ever, ever finds out the truth of what actually happened.

Continuing:

“In addition to the detailed case study of Ferguson (including numerous practical tips for handling the media in an officer-involved shooting) topics will include:

  • Meet the 900-Pound Gorilla
  • DWI and the Media
  • Feeding the Animals
  • ‘No comment’ is a comment
  • Don’t Get Stuck on Stupid!
  • Managing Media Assault and Battery
  • Managing the Media When Things Get Ugly (think Ferguson)
  • Managing the Media in a Crisis (including lessons learned from the Newtown, CT school shooting)”

That is the actual itinerary, apparently set by the main speaker at this event: Rick Rosenthal, president of RAR Communications, Inc. and a former long-time WGN Chicago news anchor, who now teaches “media relations” to the police, everywhere he can. This will be Rosenthal’s tenth appearance at the St. Louis County and Municipal Police Academy, following a career speaking at hundreds of state, federal and local law enforcement agencies.

…but here’s the thing: there is zero web presence for “RAR Communications.” The closest amalgam is ROS Consulting, the main web page for which was last updated in 2008. The page for Rick Rosenthal was last updated in 2006, but includes tidbits like, “He delivers the inside story on who reporters are, how they behave, and why.”

Maybe Mr. Rosenthal simply hasn’t updated his websites…or maybe he doesn’t want the public to know exactly what he is peddling to police forces all across the country.

The titles of the seminars he delivers – “Meet the 900 Pound Gorilla,” “Feeding the Animals,” and “Managing the Media When Things Get Ugly” – all refer to the tips and tricks a long-time local-news media maven has learned about how to “report” the “news” without actually reporting the news, making sure at all times that the police are portrayed in the best possible light, while the dead are left to rot in the memory hole of media suppression.

Raise your hand if you can think of seminars your community’s would-be cops might be served by.

  • How to Communicate With Your Community
  • Race Relations and You: What You Don’t Know Could Hurt a Citizen
  • When to Pull Your Weapon 101: Almost Never, So Calm Down
  • The Citizen Is Not Your Enemy
  • Why You Became a Cop

…but no. Instead, we get people like Rick Rosenthal traveling the country from police force to police force – local, county, city, state and federal – teaching the next generation of officers how to shut down the news media in the event of an “unfortunate incident.” The people don’t need to know, after all, and accountability is for other people.

They even gave out flyers.

But, hey, pssst…almost everyone’s a journalist now, because almost everyone has a phone, and the Internet exists, whether they like it or not.

“YOU CAN WIN WITH THE MEDIA!”

Yeah, no. Not today. Not yet.

Teach a seminar on that, Mr. Rosenthal.

I’m sure he will. Fascism sells, especially to US police forces in this brave new century.

Film on, citizen and reporter. They’re teaching classes to would-be cops on how to “handle” you.

Raise, point, film, and handle them right back.