On Tennessee special session, be wary of news reporting

AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File

Tennessee has kicked off its special session and the usual suspects showed up on both sides of the debate. Since this is pretty much the only legislative action happening in the country beyond the local level, it’s going to get a lot of attention.


That includes media attention, naturally.

But that doesn’t mean people don’t need to question what’s reported.

Let’s start with what looked like an own goal by Tennessee Republicans.

The argument over 8×11 paper signs in the legislature boiled over Tuesday as the entire public was cleared out of a House subcommittee by the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

On Monday, the Tennessee House voted on allowing the pieces of paper along partisan lines. Democrats argued they were harmless, and questioned if guns could be brought into Cordell Hull, why couldn’t the signage.

One of the first three thrown out, Allison Polidor, asked the same question.

And let’s be clear, that’s not an unfair question. The First Amendment rights impacted are just as important as the Second Amendment rights.

However, there may be more to the story than was being reported here.

I say that because of a different story, one also seemingly trying to frame the incident in the worst possible way.

The grieving parents of victims of a Nashville school shooting were among dozens of people thrown out of a special Tennesse legislative hearing room while they waited to testify in favour of gun control measures.

The bereaved family members broke down in tears on Tuesday as troopers from the Tennessee Highway Patrol forced them out of the second day of the legislative session where they’d been called to testify.


Absolutely terrible.

Or was it?

This is the next paragraph:

Republican state representative Lowell Russell oversaw the meeting, where spectators were thrown out for allegedly clapping, yelling and holding signs after being ordered to stop.

In other words, there was a general sense of disruption. It’s also likely that the clapping and yelling played a bigger role in what happened than people silently holding up signs.

But that got glossed over with this:

“I was supposed to speak, I was supposed to testify,” said Sarah Shoop Neumann, sobbing and shaking in front of the silent GOP-controlled House subcommittee room.

Later, it’s acknowledged that Neumann did get a chance to testify, but that’s a fair bit later…after people can get good and outraged at the injustice of it all.

Neumann says she wasn’t being disruptive, as do the two quoted in the other stories, which is interesting because it means no one bothered to interview anyone who was being loud and disruptive.

For the sake of argument, let’s say I believe everyone is telling the truth here, that they were personally nondisruptive during the special session.

It doesn’t really matter.

Tennessee is trying to deal with this special session, one few actually want to be at, and they don’t need people being noisy and screwing up the process. Yes, people have a right to free speech, but the work of governing means there has to be some degree of decorum observed, and removing people from the chamber when they won’t observe it seems pretty rational.


But the media doesn’t want people to see it that way.

What the media wants people to see is those who could best be described as collateral damage, those removed who did nothing wrong, all while ignoring those who were responsible for the problems.

Understand that the news media won’t be on our side and will try to frame everything that happens in the worst possible light.


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