Human Behavior

There is definitely no logic to human behavior.

The camera never blinks

George Orwell coined the phrase “Big Brother is watching you” in his novel “1984” and became forever famous as a result.

Orwell knew what he was talking about. Thanks to the NSA wiretapping of the Bush and Obama administrations, some version of Big Brother is indeed monitoring Americans just about any time they talk on the phone or send an email.

If you are a candidate running for political office, you are probably being watched by more than Big Brother.

With the proliferation of camcorders and smart phones, the chances are good that a political tracker or independent journalist is out there in the audience videotaping every public remark you make.

Trackers are people who are hired to follow candidates and shoot video at their public appearances, in case they say something stupid or embarrassing. They have become a standard part of nearly every political event, Republican or Democratic.

The last few election cycles have been marked by internet postings of remarks made by candidates who didn’t realize they were being taped.

The most famous of these was the video that surfaced during the 2012 presidential campaign of Mitt Romney talking about the “47 percent” of Americans that he contended would never vote for him.

In one of Georgia’s congressional races this year, a video clip surfaced of Bob Johnson telling an audience: “I’d rather see another terrorist attack — truly, I would — than to give up my liberty as an American citizen.” He was complaining about having to undergo airport security searches.

That clumsy remark likely played a role in Johnson’s loss to Buddy Carter in the 1st Congressional District’ GOP primary.

In the U.S. Senate race, David Perdue was caught off guard when video became public of him making a disparaging remark about Karen Handel’s lack of a college degree: “I mean, there’s a high school graduate in this race, OK? I’m sorry, but these issues are so much broader, so complex.”

Unlike Johnson, Perdue survived that video moment to win the Republican runoff for the Senate. But for any candidate, you never can be sure what is going to show up unexpectedly online.

Trackers and journalists usually are allowed to shoot their videos without being harassed at public events, but that isn’t always the case.

Nydia Tisdale, an independent journalist, often shows up a political gatherings to shoot video that she later posts on YouTube.

At a city council meeting in Cumming two years ago, Mayor Ford Gravitt ordered Tisdale to be removed from the meeting room by police because she would not stop her videotaping. A judge later ordered the city to pay $12,000 in penalties for violating the state’s open meetings law.

A few weeks ago, at a Republican rally in Dawsonville, Tisdale was shooting video of speeches by statewide candidates. She taped Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens making this comment about his reaction to Democratic senate candidate Michelle Nunn: “I thought I was gonna absolutely puke, listening to her.”

A few minutes after Tisdale recorded that “puke” remark, she was suddenly told to stop taping by a Dawson County sheriff’s deputy. When she continued to shoot video, the deputy grabbed her, dragged her away from the meeting area, and had her arrested on charges of obstructing an officer.

It is important to note that Tisdale was attending a public event to which the public had been invited. She was doing the same thing she had done at a Cumming City Council meeting – a videotaping whose legality was upheld by a Superior Court judge.

A local journalist at the same event as Tisdale was taking photos and making an audio recording of the speeches – but he was not ordered to stop taping and was not forcibly ejected from the meeting by a sheriff’s deputy.

The media coverage of the Tisdale incident has put Georgia in an embarrassing light, and it didn’t have to happen.

Videotape is a reality of modern-day politics. As a practical matter, any candidate is going to have their public remarks videotaped by somebody. If you don’t want to be caught on camera, then you probably should not run for elective office.

Attorney General Sam Olens, who was at the event where Tisdale was arrested, had the honesty to protest what the sheriff’s deputy did.

“Let me be possibly politically incorrect here a second,” Olens said. “If we stand for anything as a party what are we afraid of with the lady having a camera filming us? What are we saying here that shouldn’t be on film? What message are we sending? That because it’s private property, they shouldn’t be filming it? What is the harm?

“The harm that occurs post-this is far greater than her filming us. What are we hiding? If we are telling you why we’re running and what we stand for — what are we hiding? There is no reason for that. That is not right. It is private property. The property owner has the right to not have the person there. Who’s the winner in the long run? Not a good move.”

© 2014 by The Georgia Report

Tags: Burt's Pumpkin Farm , Dawson County sheriff's office , journalist assaulted , Nydia Tisdale , Sam Olens , trackers , videotaping candidates

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