On Sunday, April 15, 2012, the Coeur d’Alene Press published an unsigned editorial titled “All eyes on recall.” The gist of the editorial was summarized by these two sentences midway through it: “Our purpose today is not to pick sides in this fight but to define some Opinion page rules as the recall effort proceeds. And No. 1 is, facts rule – yes, even when it comes to opinions.”
OpenCdA was pleasantly surprised to see what we believed at the time was an honest commitment by the Press editorial board, a commitment to not pick sides in the recall effort and to ensure that even in opinion writings such as letters to the editor, “facts rule.”
We at OpenCdA were wrong, and we sadly admit today that we, like others in the community, bought into the deception game the Coeur d’Alene Press is playing with its readers.
We call your attention to a letter to the editor by Kenneth Burchell in the Friday, April 20, 2012, Coeur d’Alene Press. In particular, we ask you to examine two factual inaccuracies which the Press published in Burchell’s letter:
“… malcontents who want to circumvent the electoral process …” While Burchell’s characterization of recall supporters as “malcontents” may be his opinion, stating that the supporters “want to circumvent the electoral process” is not factual. Indeed, the recall process culminates in a recall election, a very real part of the electoral process as authorized in the Idaho Constitution, Article VI, Section 6, and fulfilled by Idaho Code, Title 34, Chapter 17 – Recall Elections.
“Recall is a process reserved for malfeasance, legal chicanery and/or gross ethical breaches. ” Burchell and the Press would have readers believe that is factual. It is not. Nowhere in Idaho Code, Title 34, Chapter 17 – Recall Elections does that language appear. The statement uttered by Burchell and reproduced by the Press implies that before Idaho’s citizens can initiate a recall process, some intermediate authority such as a judge, a prosecutor, or the legislature must make some finding of fact and law and then issue a ruling permitting the people to initiate the recall process. That is true in other states such as Washington, however it is not true in Idaho.
In fact, a careful reading of the Idaho Constitution would lead readers to a conclusion the anti-recall faction (which now clearly and unquestionably includes the Coeur d’Alene Press) would prefer readers not understand: The Idaho Constitution’s writers made it quite clear that they put complete trust and confidence in the people’s collective judgment to initiate a recall process without first getting permission from those who might themselves be subject to recall by the people. (See Idaho Constitution, Article I, Section 2 and Article VI, Section 6). Apparently the authors of Idaho’s Constitution and its statutes embraced the concept of trusting the electors — a concept shunned and rejected by Mayor Bloem, Council President Mike Kennedy, Councilman Woody McEvers, and Councilman Deanna Goodlander.
In the opening to this post, I used the term “the deception game.” In fact, “The Deception Game” was the title of a 1972 book by Ladislav Bittman (cover shown left), an officer in the Czechoslovak Intelligence Service until he fled Czechoslovakia to the United States after the Soviet invasion in 1968. Bittman had been appointed Deputy Chief of the Czech intel service’s newly-formed disinformation department. Disinformation operations run by the intelligence services of the former Soviet Union and its satellite supporters were intended to deceive and misdirect by including the small sliver of critical deception among a larger body of more-or-less accurate information.
Understanding the deception game will help readers also better assess the accuracy, truthfulness, completeness, and motivation of the Coeur d’Alene Press‘s news coverage and opinion pages in its “coverage” of local issues. “Facts rule?” No, not so much.