I've been writing this series all week, and it's generated a fair share of controversy. There have been a few posters who consider the Minutemen nonviolent protestors, patriots, and the whole enterprise a big "much ado about nothing."
I'd like them to read this report
from a CBS affiliate in Phoenix.
It's clear that the Minutemen are obsessed with public relations and making their statement to the press. The entire thing is stage managed, from the wild overstatements of the number of volunteers to the "embedded" reporters everywhere. Problem is, they're not that sophisticated. Not enough to stop a simple "I-Team" investigative report. This CBS affiliate did so. They confirm the obsession with image:
A lady on Hidden cam says, "We don't want the press to find out where the information is being handed out because we'll have CNN and FOX and yeah."
To get the real story, we went undercover, camping and patrolling with the Minuteman volunteers. We blended in because we had signed up as volunteers ourselves. A woman on our Hidden Cam says, " Noon and four.. Chris will give you your assignments - probably walk you in to the spot."
Our "spot" is at the base of the Huachuca Mountains, on the side of a state highway, just south of Sierra Vista. Along with instructions on what to do if our group spots illegal immigrants, we're told something else over and over. One man says, "Don't be talking to the press. They'll misconstrue things.. not all of them, but we don't know which ones will and which ones won't."
The concern over the media is so great all of the volunteers are given these guidelines, that give suggestions for what they should say if they are interviewed. One woman says, "Economically it's ruining us. Environmentally it's ruining us." Suggestions that make it onto the major news networks.
Not surprising, here's what the Minutemen say when they're just talking to each other:
But the stories we get from our fellow volunteers when they don't know they're on camera give an uncensored version. Marc says, "You walk into a MacDonald's and you wake up and realize the entire third world is here." This Tucson resident tells us he doesn't like what Mexicans do to his neighborhood. Marc says, "It's not like these are poor immigrants are coming here for minimum wage jobs. A lot of these people have thousands of dollars in their pockets."
This couple from Georgia tells us they believe their small town is being invaded. The Georgia man says, "Until the Mexicans started moving in in '94..'95.. Dalton was about 35,000."
And then there's this, which I see as the exact reason why I've taken this issue so personally. I knew this was going to happen:
Everyone in our group - except us - is armed with handguns... as the sun goes down, problems keeping control of a group as big as the Minutemen begin to surface. Marc says, "There was a standoff and people got killed."
I don't know why the reporter doesn't expand on that. This was a TV report, so it's on tape. I'll need to track down the video.
Like I said, the real tragedies during this escapade are going to happen when the cameras aren't rolling and the reporters have gone home. Illegal immigrants aren't going to have much of an ability to appeal to US authorities. Especially dead ones. While Gilchrist and Simcox and the Minutemen may think their project is noble, it's a slippery, dangerous slope they're headed down, and if we're to believe this quote they've already begun to reach the bottom. There is murder on the border. And there are men with shotguns, NOT UNDER MINUTEMEN CONTROL:
And as the night goes on, a drama unfolds across the highway. Some of the volunteers are carrying shotguns, which is against the rules and our group leader admits: Minuteman organizers are having trouble deciding what to do about it. Adahm/John says, "(What's up with the shotgun guys? How are you going to deal with those two?) I have no idea.. that's out of my.. I don't even want to go up there." Adahm/John says, "(Well don't they have a guy like you are with us? Don't they have their?) He's not there. I can't find him." The man says, "I hope they're not drinking or anything. I didn't see any beer there."
Predictably the organizer Jim Gilchrist called these guys "rogue patrollers." Well, what did you expect?Marc Cooper's
article for the LA Weekly is more measured, calling the project a "flop," claiming that "very few" patrollers are armed, and calling them "a disproportionately elderly, disproportionately male, all-white crew whose most ambitious plan was to spend a day or two under an umbrella, sitting in the desert, drinking some cool ones and bitching about illegal aliens. These Minutemen are to real vigilantes — who risk getting shot at while they’re out shooting others — what the Disney Jungle Boat Ride is to Amazon exploration."
I think Cooper's being played a bit. Yes, this is a small group of knuckleheads, but that doesn't minimize the potential (or quite possibly REAL) problems. The organizers outright tell him they're spinning him IN THE ARTICLE:
If the message about border enforcement was so important, I asked him, then why didn’t he discourage his followers from bringing guns with them?
“Doesn’t this distract from your core message?” I asked.
“We’ve done this on purpose to show your bias and your vile distortions,” he answered.
“So exposing this media bias is more important than exposing the failure of border policy,” I said.
“Exactly. We don’t discourage the guns on purpose,” Simcox said. “Your reaction exposes the most extreme sort of persecution complex by the media.”
I don't think that, given this, we can believe a single word coming out of the mouths of these organizers. It's telling when the residents of the town hate the guy:
“Simcox has really turned off the whole town,” says one of the Doc Holliday impersonators with a thick Brooklyn accent. “People move here to get away from shit like his.”
Later that afternoon, I ran into Ray Borane, the much-loved and -respected mayor of Douglas, the border town that sits in the epicenter of the immigrant wave. He was just plain disgusted and couldn’t stop shaking his head. “I just wish they’d go somewhere else,” he said of the Minutemen. “As usual with this stuff, there’s more reporters than anyone else. The media has created this monster by letting Simcox create a hysteria. The fruits of this will be nothing except more aggravation. Nothing whatsoever will change here. In a few days, the media will go home and this will fizzle out.”
The mayor, as usual when it comes to all things related to the border, got it right. Unless, of course, in the next few days someone gets shot.
Someone may well HAVE been shot, Marc.
I'm going to keep my eye on this, but I'm stopping daily reports. Maybe a nice juicy weekly one would suffice.