Friday, January 20, 2006

My on-air wake-up call with Mike Gallagher

I just had an extremely frustrating media call this morning from a radio shock jock named Mike Gallagher in Dallas. About 25 minutes after I woke up his producer called to get me on live representing ACLU of Texas. They wanted me to discuss a recent gift of $840,000 by the Meadows Foundation to install a surveillance camera system covering much of downtown Dallas. The Mayor gleefully declared in the morning paper that between these cameras and the red light camera systems, Dallas would be "Big Brother City," as though that's a good thing ("Cameras to watch for Dallas crime," Jan. 20). They called me, I'm sure, because I was quoted in the article declaring:
"Technology is becoming more and more invasive," said Scott Henson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas' police accountability project. "It truly is a waste of police resources. If their goal is public safety, it's really a counterproductive gift."

Mr. Henson argues that surveillance cameras "redirect crime, but doesn't prevent crime."
Anyway, so this guy Gallagher was a piece of work. I don't know why I ever agree to live radio interviews with right wingers -- 80% of them, it seems, turn out just this way. It became apparent after I was on for just a minute that Gallagher didn't really care whether cameras infringed on personal privacy or constitutional rights, or even whether they make us safer. It was just a chance to bash the ACLU for him. Three times running he declared that the ACLU was "anti-cop" in response to my point that cameras in banks and gas stations were privately owned, and therefore not restricted by the Constitution. The Constitution restricts government acting against citizens, not private conduct - that's not a particularly "liberal" view. But for him that distinction was just evidence ACLU "doesn't like cops." Just pitiful, for a self-styled conservative.

I tried to discuss the recently released long-term
study by the British Home Office that found surveillance cameras in public spaces didn't reduce crime in Britain. (Cameras did lessen crime in narrow circumstances, like when they're used in parking garages, but not when used generally in public.) Gallagher said cameras were a big success in Britain and wouldn't hear anything to the contrary, but this is the biggest camera study I know of, and he appeared to know nothing more than he'd read in the morning paper. Similarly, when I argued that surveillance cameras displace but don't prevent crime and may even reduce public safety by misallocating police resources, he ignored my comments to attack my credentials -- "are you a police officer?," etc., etc. How tiresome. "You called the ACLU," I told him. "If you want a police officer's opinion, get one of them on your show!"

Anyway, Gallagher had an interesting questioning tactic he repeated throughout the interview. He would ask some provocative question he thought was damaging or made a strong point. "Didn't cameras help catch the
London train bombers," or "What is your law enforcement background?" Then, when I would answer, instead of taking some thread of what I said and responding to it as you would in a conversation, Gallagher would repeat the question with greater and greater force, ignoring whatever I'd just said, ultimately leading to outright insulting accusations for which he provided no basis.

"Isn't ACLU just anti-cop? ... Isn't it?!" It didn't matter what I said. His goal was to repeat that phrase and others like it as many times as he could while I was on the air. Once I figured that out, I excused myself and got off before he was finished. I was finished with him.

UPDATE: A KSKY listener cc'd me on this letter to the station regarding my interview this morning. I think this excerpt speaks for itself:

I am a long time KSKY listener, a life long conservative Christian, Republican and no fan of the ACLU (presumably all qualities that fall within the demographic to which KSKY seeks to appeal). I actually favor the installation of cameras in downtown Dallas to reduce crime. However, Mike Gallagher's interview of the Director of the Dallas [sic: Texas] ACLU's Police Accountability Project this morning (1/20/06) was embarrassing. Following the interview, I switched to KLIF 570AM before Mr. Gallagher got back from his commercial break. Mr. Gallagher was rude, classless, antagonistic, self-aggrandizing and, though he possessed the stronger arguments, the first to sink to ad hominem attacks. His behavior left me sickened. ...

Michael S


Anonymous said...

Most of your views and ours about the limited value of CCTV systems in practice, either for crime deterrence or for positive identification of individuals, are echoed in this comment thread by a London Metropolitan Police blogger, the
World Weary Detective
and others, who have actual practical experience with such CCTV surveillance systems.

Surely any law enforcement professionals, with similar real life experience of such systems in the USA, will also echo these sentiments ?

If a radio "shock jock" ignores fundamentals like the USA Constitution, why do people consider him to be "right wing", rather than, say, a Communist police state sympathiser ?

Anonymous said...

There is no way to reason with a show business whore, as you've apparently found out. Gallagher is an entertainer, amusing the fascists.

Catonya said...

bleh- situations like this usually make my head spin like the exorcist. Sorry you had to endure the ignorance of an egotistical pri- yeh that.

(I responded to your question at my place today. can't believe I'd never really covered it before. :s )

Have a great weekend.

Fred said...

Most of his listeners are unable to swallow intellegent thought so slamming the ACLU with child-like questions is all his audience really wants to hear. Good job on holding your own.

OP said...

Hey Scott, you've read my blog, even linked to it a few times (thank you very much), so you know my credentials as a right winger. While I disagree with you that placing cameras in public places by the police violates our civil liberties, we do agree Mike Gallagher is a buffoon.

Given a choice between the two, I'd rather listen to Al Frankin than listen to Gallagher. And I'd rather eat beets and brussels sprouts than listen to Frankin's show.

Anonymous said...

Clear something up for me here, who's the media whore in this case?

Let's face it, the ACLU is an easy target for people like Gallagher because of the high profile cases the ACLU frequently take on that rub against the grain of the common folk, whether they be idiots, fascists, or whatever.

It would seem that the commenters here are quite at ease labeling conservatives as retarded fascists? It's almost as easy as it to call the ACLU a far left liberal whack group.

It amuses me how shallow some people will sink to point out how shallow other people are.


Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ D- There were only two of us in the conversation. Are you charging that I'm the 'media whore'? Why? I actually agree with you that the phrase 'whore' lacked civility, but noting Ann Coulter on your own often-checked blogs list I wonder whether that's a criticism you apply across the board.

@ WTWU: thanks for that link. I found especially interesting the argument by a cop that police are wasting too much valuable time viewing hours of useless video footage in every case.

@ Cat: Thanks for responding. I know that must be a touchy subject.

@ OSAPian: I actually have never argued that cameras per se violate privacy in public spaces. My position is that a) it creates opportunities for abuse, including use of zoom lens, viewing through windows, matching images with facial recognition information from DPS without a warrant, etc, b) zero restrictions on abuse are in place in Texas law to stop such abuses, and c) Texas law makes info about camera systems secret, so we can never know if or when it's been abused until it's WAAAY too late. Plus, the best research shows they DO NOT reduce crime, despite the rhetoric, but cause great expense and waste tons of police time. Look before you leap, is more my message. When it comes to technogadgets, there's a lot of leaping, and not a lot of looking.

Best to all,

Anonymous said...

I guess my comment is a shoe fits kind of thing. I refrained from charging anyone with being a media whore but was wondering by what definition would Gallagher be one when someone else who allows themself to be disturbed from their morning routine to voluntarily be on the guy's show would not be one.

I can see how easy it would be to take offense at my remark, but I really didn't mean any. I'd go on his show in a heartbeat. Hell, I'd go on the air with Colmes or Estritch, too. I don't have a problem with being a media whore, if only I had a pimp.

I agree that by mainstream measures Coulter's rhetoric is over the top. But I am just a simple country hick from southeast Texas. I do not have to adhere to the mainstream's PC guidelines. As long as Ann is not telling outright lies, I like my rhetoric with a little venom.

For the record my philosophy is more in line with Volokh than with Gallagher. I was literally shocked when the ACLU came to the defense of Rush on his medical privacy case. But I was pleased, too. Dittoes for the Texas gun case.

Though he did kill all them baby Jedis, even Darth Vader was capable of redemption.


Gritsforbreakfast said...

D- I'm just a hick from Northeast Texas, but it doesn't take much schooling to know that Ann Coulter routinely sinks lower in her rhetoric than any commenter here. best,