By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Last week was the first time Susan and I had been at the Statehouse when a large number of people were gathered since close of 2012 session. It was an amazing pleasure to see some of the people we have come to know, admire and actually love.
Many people who seemed truly glad to see us asked two questions, “How are you doing and why is the rest of the media so quiet on what you have been reporting?”
The first question is easier to answer than the second, but I thought I would give my opinion on both.
How are we doing? Like most people there are good days and there are not so good days.
But people are not really asking about how we feel, they are asking about the fallout from reporting on the shady dealings of the House Speaker Mike Hubbard and his cohorts.
Has there been blowback, has it made life unpleasant? Yes.
Let’s see, we no longer receive press notices from the Speaker’s Office or the Office of the President Pro Tem Del Marsh. We now have to look on Facebook and other sites to find even basic press information from the Speaker and Pro Tem. It is more inconvenient than anything else. Of course, it is kind of a childish game that their staff is playing, but if acting like petulant children were a crime, lots of politician would be under a grand jury investigation and not just Hubbard and friends.
We have been sent messages by operatives telling us we were on a suicide mission. We have been told that our lives were in danger, etc. Is it scary? Oh, yes. Are we deterred? Oh no.
These words of caution from friends and enemies are sincere, we take all threats seriously.
The number of warnings has been overwhelming, as a result my wife and I are now forced to carry 9mm handguns at all times. We even lock our house, something we have not done since we left New York City.
We have seen men photographing our house when they thought we are not home. We have noticed the same cars following us around town on occasion. It is eery but above all it is disheartening.
I never would have believed that in America or Alabama a free press would be under such threats of denial of access or physical harm. What is most appalling is that these thugs sit at the highest levels of state government.
As we have only warnings, what do we tell authorities?
Sadly, it seems Mr. Hubbard and his people are more like Hitler’s Brownshirts than Washington’s Bluecoats. I actual had thought about sending them some brown shirts for Christmas, but I couldn’t figure out a good logo. How does one portray a trailer park mafia? Plus I work for my money, I didn’t get it by PAC-to-PAC transfers, no-bid contracts and intimidation.
So, they have cut off communication, threatened us directly and mostly indirectly, they have tried to cut off advertising and have launched smear campaigns against us. How are we doing? I would say we are doing a really good job.
In our line of work a quick measure of how you are doing is to look at the people who are mad at you.
Why is the media not reporting what we are?
The Capitol Press Corps is comprised of some fine reporters so why they are not working these stories? I would think that question is one for their editors and publishers.
It is a sad commentary that an organization comprised of three individuals with no corporate backing are the only ones who dare challenge those who seek to rule Alabama like their own personal fiefdom.
Everyone in the press corps knows there is a Grand Jury, the “Montgomery Advertiser” and “Al.Com” have reported it. CORRECTION: Earlier we reported that we had HEARD that Phillip Bryan has appeared before the Grand Jury. Bryan text this morning to say he has not appeared before a Grand Jury ever. We are sorry that we were misinformed and printed in error. Bryan, as enforcer for Hubbard and now Marsh, has threatened and bullied enough people that obviously someone wanted retaliation. Again we apologize.
My guess is that the corporate masters at the other news outlets do not want to cross Hubbard. The journalist who cover these stories need permission from their higher ups to have these reports published. Also, why should they subject themselves to the kind of threats that Eddie Curran or Bob Lowery endured for a company that might lay them off tomorrow.
Most news organizations have become little more than Chamber of Commerce cheerleaders.
Ad revenues are low why rock the boat, right?
I have copies of news reports from years ago written about Hubbard that were never published because of fear of reprisal.
Perhaps the Grand Jury will not be kept in the dark like the people of Alabama have been.
This lack of media coverage is a serious situation, a pattern set under Bob Riley and now continued by Mike Hubbard–a pattern of intimidation, bullying and lies to keep the free press at bay.
When the free press is cowed or silenced, all our other cherished liberties are in imminent danger.
Today, we see a media that is absent from the scene of the crime.
I am reminded of an old fable of a tyrant who was offered one wish from an evil sorcerer.
The sorcerer said, “But be careful how you choose because whatever you wish for I will give all your countrymen double.”
The tyrant thought for a moment and then said, “I would like to have one of my eye put out.”
Today, we have a political establishment that turns a blind eye to the corruption that runs rampant in Montgomery, and a press corps that is mainly silent, therefore, the court of the one-eyed king rules the land.
How are we doing, we are not doing great but we are okay. We are ever so thankful for those who support us. Somedays that is what keeps us going. Thank for asking.