Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Why Matt Rector is My Friend on Facebook

Although I've spoken about it to some people, I haven't formally weighed in yet on the current Senator Matt Rector scandal (as opposed to all the others the media has attributed to him this year). I'm working on writing up my response to it, but with teaching, parenting and helping take care of my grandfather who was recently released from the hospital, I might not get to it for a few days. Nonetheless I am dying to respond, because the issues at stake in this scandal are not so much about Matt Rector himself, but about the politics and worldview he is pushing for and the reforming of Guam's economy that he is working to bring to Guam, that Guam should take seriously. Finally in reference to the title and the post I've pasted below, this is also an issue about alternative media, something Guam is desperately in need of.

But I did want to say a few things though while I'm at my computer and my blogger account is open. If you scan over the news coverage of Senator Rector since the start of his term, regardless of whether you like him or not, you really have to wonder about how he's been treated. If you search through the various coverage that he's been the focus of, and take out the particular topics of the articles or news stories, you might get the impression that Matt Rector has somehow killed several people, including some small children in broad day-light during a Catholic village fiesta, and then depending on whether you are reading Guam News Factor or not, pissed on an American flag in order to celebrate. The level of outrage, and the level of obsessive news coverage is truly at the level of someone who is a very serious danger to the community and society and therefore must be neutralized.

Its times like this when we should be cautious and wary. Whenever anything appears so certain like this, and when there is so much received opinion or union of minds about something, that is when you really need to ask questions. Because as we learned with George W. Bush, absolute certainty is often the wasteland of knowledge and thought. Since the media on Guam seems to have come to an almost unanimous decision that Rector is a danger to Guam, and in the absence of any real evidence that he is a danger, we should all be suspicious

Even if you hate Senator Rector, you should go back and look at all the coverage. The sheer volume and the tone insists that even if you can't stand him, you should at least recognize that there is something going on here beyond just reporting. From KUAM, to PDN, to GNF and sometimes even PNC, Senator Rector is regularly turned into something damaging, threatening, that has to be contained and forced out. And by virtue of this portrayal, those who oppose him or stand in opposition to him become Guam's quiet heroes. For instance, those who attack Matt Rector are elevated into matatnga truth speakers by the media on Guam. Those who are attacked by Matt Rector are poor, victims who need our help so that they can speak out against the way they have been mutilated. Those who disagree with Matt Rector are suddenly the holders of incredible truth, and that there is no conceivable way that you could think anything other than what those who disagree believe.

There is most definitely more than meets the eye in terms of his media treatment, and I wish that even if people want to participate in the witchhunts on Senator Rector, that they at least understand the ways they are being manipulated. Senator Rector has been working to change Guam since he was elected in office, and you can criticize how he has gone about that, and you can of course disagree with his philosophy. But, if you are in any way interested in reality, truth or even knowing what's around you, then you also have to recognize that his politics in support of workers and working families on Guam, have made him the enemy of alot of people who don't want Guam's economy changed in any fundamental way. So even if you think his ideas are crazy, dangerous and half-baked, you should be cognizant of the fact that there are alot of rich and powerful people on island who believe that his politics are dangerous and crazy as well, and that first: why would they think that? and second: why would you, who is most likely not rich and powerful, share their same position?

While I won't be posting my own complete thoughts here today, I did want to paste something from The Guam Blog. I enjoy reading The Guam Blog because the author (we've exchanged comments, but haven't formally met), regularly discusses Guam's economics from a more progressive perspective. He's been very critical and insightful with regards to the military buildup and so I suggest that people who are interested in these issues bookmark his blog.

His post "Guam's Media Doesn't Get It" is interesting for a number of reasons, one of them being that he discusses Senator Rector in the context of helping to develop alternative media networks on Guam through his Twitter and Facebook accounts. I've included below as well, the comments attached to the post (one of which is my own).

Ortro fino'-ta: The title of the post is rhetorical, I do have a Facebook account, but I'm taking a break from it until next year.


"Guam's Media Doesn't Get It"
the Guam Blog
November 27, 2009

Guam’s media is having a righteous indignation festival over Sen. Matt Rector’s failure to disclose a 25-year-old misdemeanor conviction. Kuam and Guam News Factor are already cranking up their own versions of overheated, high-minded outrage.

Rector raises important questions about Guam’s economy, the impact of the build-up on wages and cost-of-living, and brings an important perspective at a critical time to the political process. He’s passionate, idealistic and recognizes that the military build-up will bring new hardships to many on Guam who will be hit with a higher cost of living and not necessarily better paychecks.

Rector is hard-charging, somewhat confrontational and appears to have doubts about the fairness of mainstream media. No surprise here. Rector is a longtime union leader, and union leaders tend to suspect that news outlets are inclined to favor management.

Rector has alienated local media and that means that his explanation for not citing a 25-year-old misdemeanor burglary case on the election form is unlikely to get anything close to a fair analysis. Some of the reporting is beginning to appear a little heavy handed. Kuam seems to relish pointing out that “the senator continues to refuse to answer calls or do interviews with Kuam News…” There’s a difference between refusing to give an interview to Kuam and not having to give an interview and I’ll explain why in a bit.

Rector's political viewpoints have ticked some people off, but his defense of this long-ago charge deserves dispassionate consideration. He may have had every reason to believe that the case had been sealed. If he was deliberately hiding a past conviction why then apply for a weapons permit, which involves a background check and fingerprinting? Why risk exposure?

The idea that Rector deliberately misled the electorate isn’t supported by his actions. It just isn’t. It would have made zero sense for him to have applied for gun permit if he was consciously trying to hide his past.

Moreover, the Guam Election Commission also required a “police clearance” as one of the necessary documents, along with a financial disclosure statement, from candidates seeking office. If a candidate had believed that a prior record had been sealed or expunged wouldn’t a “police clearance” have given added peace of mind that any police record had been erased?

The Guam Election Commission can’t remove Rector from office so the real test of this will likely rest with the legislature. Hopefully lawmakers will separate any political grievances they may have with Rector and look at this for what it is, a misunderstanding about the status of a long ago record and of no consequence to the job the voters have awarded him.

But the political leadership is already hanging Rector. The Pacific Daily News reports:

Sen. Adolpho Palacios said he believed burglary is considered a crime of moral turpitude, even if it is a misdemeanor. Sen. Frank Blas Jr. said he believed any acts of burglary committed under California law is a felony.

In Washington, my wonderful home, whenever a politician uses the term “moral turpitude” (which is rarely because they know better) the usual response is a snicker. And why did Sen. Blas see the need to up this to a felony? Can you feel the love?While Rector can expect little support from local media, his defense may get fairer consideration on the social networks.

Rector has more than 1,800 friends on Facebook and has one of Guam’s larger Twitter networks, with over 500 followers, the 6th largest on Guam according to Twitterholic. Rector is arguably emerging as the media’s counter insurgency, and I have to suspect that some of this bitter media angst stems from his natural social networking ability and the growth of his networks. He has a knack for it. In or out of office, Rector is certain to remain an influential voice as social networks expand, which is something for everyone to think about.Rector is responding via his social networks and he is clearly in his right to pick and choose his forums. If Rector "refuses" to speak to the local press, what of it? That’s got to bother the heck out of the local media outlets, who ought to be asking themselves whether Rector has more influence and means to connect than they do.

Comment 1

I think the fact that you are not on Guam contributes to you "not getting it." The truth is that if you listen to the people actually living on the island, you will see that Sen. Rector isn't the most appreciated politician. He has only passed one bill (a simple name change from GPSS to DOE), which calls in to question the effectiveness he has a leader for his political niche.It would also benefit you to see just how many of his so-called "freinds" and "followers on both facebook and twitter are true supporters of him, as I am both and couldn't be further from the term supporter.Rector has lied on the session floor, bullied testifiers at public hearings, and black-listed Guam's most reputable news organizations. If anyone doesn't get their role, it would be the freshman Senator.

Comment 2
Michael Lujan Bevacqua

The previous comment in a way shows the whole point of the post.

In Guam today, you find a million reasons to hate Matt Rector. You'll find so many random people who will quote different things about why he's dangerous, why he's worthless, etc. And these things tend to be spoken of as if Senator Rector himself is the only person on island or currently in elected office who has ever done any of these things.

That's the power of Guam's media in terms of directing discussion and thinking. You can find a plethora of instances where any senator lies, bullies someone, makes someone mad, or is just plain useless. The media has developed this narrative over the past year, that Matt Rector has the monopoly on these traits. I for one think its incredibly dangerous and wrong for rich people to be in political office, but the media doesn't seem to think that's an issue, for them the only real danger is if a union leader, with a pro-union agenda is in power. Guam has had more than six decades of pro-business, rich people in office, legislating with almost absolute freedom and pretending to be working for common folk. I don't remember the PDN or KUAM ever going after any of them the way they have gone after Rector and his pro-union and pro-working families philosophy in less than a year.

I think Guamblog has a very good point about how Rector's anti-KUAM and anti-PDN stance is working. Both news agencies have for far too long gone unchallenged, and are both frankly sorry excuses for news companies. They are too used to having access, power and authority and so when Rector comes in and gives voice to what so many progressives or liberals on Guam claim, that the media on Guam is very pro-business, conservative and generally just not very good, it irks them. It is true that both KUAM and PDN have become increasingly frustrated and it is reflected in the way they constantly reword the fact that Rector won't do interviews with them or will only do interviews with certain pre-conditions.

Although things are very difficult for Senator Rector right now, and you can rightfully claim that some of that is because of his approach to politics or being in the legislature. But ultimately, you cannot discount the power and the potential that he has, and its unfortunate the his message has gotten lost, muffled by the media who wants to protect their profits, and also by fellow politicians who pathetically claim to be for everything and generally don't do anything.

Rector already passed a big test last year and will face the ultimate test next year in terms of whether or not he can get re-elected. People have alot of sayings and ideas about politics on Guam and most of them have nothing to do with reality or how things work. One regular constant in Guam's politics is that when the business community organizes against you, you tend not to get re-elected or elected. This was something Democrats learned in 1974 and 2004. We'll see if Rector's media approach is yielding good results for his message next year.

Comment 3

To anon -- Facebook "friend" only means that both parties have agreed to be part of each others social network. It's just an agreement on an alternative communication vehicle.

Michael, one of your excellent points: ..."You can find a plethora of instances where any senator lies, bullies someone, makes someone mad, or is just plain useless. The media has developed this narrative over the past year, that Matt Rector has the monopoly on these traits." It certainly seems the case. It speaks to Rector as a threat to the established ways of doing business by government and media.

Separately, I enjoy, immensely, the always insightful analysis on your blog; your writings are the source, in my view, for alternative examination of the issues facing Guam.

1 comment:

leevin said...

I think that the Guam media has called out lots of politicians on perceived failures to "come clean" with the public (Jesse Lujan, Madeline Bordallo, to name a few).

Rector signed an affidavit stating that he had never been convicted of a misdemeanor involving a crime of moral turpitude in any state or on Guam. Rector clearly remembers the incident and clearly remembers the conviction. Yet rather than seek clarification on whether burglary is a crime of moral turpitude, Rector made a conscious decision not to say anything.

Whether you love or loathe Rector, I think it's hard to deny that he should have disclosed his criminal conviction.

My biggest beef with Rector is that he holds himself out to be a champion of the middle class, and dismisses any criticism against him as being an attempt to silence the masses.

I take it back. That's not my biggest beef, but it is one thing that I find irritating.


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