Opinion

The camera may not blink, but it can distort

This is the first major election campaign since digital video cameras fell within the reach of the average human being. Wherever you go there are people taping something, whether it be their own family or a person running for office.

In this way, the camera could become the ultimate weapon of truth, keeping people informed and public servants honest.

It won’t happen, because the cameras are operated by people, and people have agendas.

They use video to slant the story in their direction, isolating certain sections that will make their preferred candidate look impressive and his or her rival ridiculous.

This film is then posted online for the world to see, and the candidate doesn’t know where to begin in order to control the damage.

Gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi knows this best, and has the most to lose in his tight race with incumbent Gov. Christine Gregoire.

While in Port Orchard, Rossi’s staff went through what has become a familiar process, ejecting a visitor with a movie camera from a campaign function. The would-be cameraman was a known Democratic operative whose stated purpose was to gather footage that cast Rossi in a negative light.

Rossi’s staff then requested that two reporters cease their taping, as well.

As it happens, I was one of the reporters.

We argued that we represented legitimate local news outlets and weren’t intending to present material out of context or supply it to the opposition.

The Rossi officials relented and allowed the taping to proceed.

The interaction between the GOP challenger’s staff and the reporters was barely noticed by the attendees and was settled amicably.

Not so with a continuing controversy involving candidates who have denied one Bainbridge Island resident the permission to tape them at a recurring forum.

The individual has cried foul, insisting that the denial stifles his free speech and interferes with the public’s right to know (he identifies himself as a representative of local public-access channels).

The difference is this individual, like the amateur filmmaker/provocateur shown the door during the Rossi appearance, is a known advocate for a political point of view.

Even if he says he will only show the complete tape in one outlet, the candidate doesn’t want to take any chances.

In this case, the candidates who denied permission were Democrats, while the Republicans seem to allow it.

The fact that the individual is a vocal Republican who posts messages of passionate support for John McCain and Dino Rossi anywhere he can may have encourages all Democratic candidates to stay clear of his lens.

The individual then made a movie about being mistreated by the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce. It wasn’t just a movie, but a complicated horror spoof.

It told the story filtered through his own biases and experiences from a slanted point of view, using an eerie double narration track and tape of local officials screaming one annoying thing repeatedly as the strobe light flashed.

This ham-handed protest film made a powerful point, although not the intended one. It showed how easy it is to get digital technology to lie, and how you can exaggerate someone’s actions to become annoying and unpleasant.

And it demonstrated that even if someone says they are filming for one purpose, when they get it home they can do anything they want.

In a perfect world, new technology would enrich and inform a large number of people. Unfortunately, it has only added a new depth and dimension to the old saying, “don’t believe everything that you read.”

And no matter who you are, it’s necessary to protect and control yourself, your image and how it is used.

Charlie Bermant can be reached at

(360) 876-4414, or by e-mail at

cbermant@portorchardindependent.com.

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