Doxing…it crosses the line

When I first read the word doxing, I had to look it up and find out what it meant. The term and the act of doxing or “dropping documents” have been around since the ’90s. But recently it has taken a front-row seat as a weapon in our political discourse. In its most basic form, doxing is the publishing (online) of one’s personal information. It includes information such as the person’s home address and place of employment. But it also could include other personal information. While not illegal to do so if the information is publicly available, it has evolved into a very serious situation.

The dissemination of personal information has resulted in individuals showing up at the homes of doxing victims.

While some individuals may be legitimate protestors with a message, some have been aggressive resulting in vandalism, theft and destruction of property.

Regardless of whether you have good intentions, the very act of showing up at a person’s home creates an environment of fear and intimidation.

Recently, we have seen mobs show up at the home of the Mayors of Olympia and Seattle Washington. In the case of the Mayor of Olympia, it resulted in vandalism. Fox News analyst Tucker Carlson was eventually forced to move from his home when he was doxed. Protestors and vandals showed up at his house while he was at work forcing his wife to call 911 from inside her closet. The situation turned ugly in St. Louis when protestors allegedly broke down a gate on private property on their way to the Mayor’s home resulting in a confrontation with armed home owners. Even more recently people have shown up at the home of Chicago’s mayor.

Doxing has been used against police officers, federal agents, politicians, celebrities and business owners. No one appears exempt from it. And the practice of showing up at someone’s home because you don’t agree with their politics or for whatever reason affects more than the intended target. It affects their families and sometimes entire neighborhoods. Having a mob outside your door shouting obscenities and threats is frightening. To date, I see no legitimate reason for publishing someone’s personal information.

The reason may not be legitimate but it is clear. It’s to create an environment of intimidation and fear so that a person will do what you want them to do. And doxing is not limited to one political spectrum. Both the left and right have been victims of doxing. Although doxing with malicious intent can be a crime, it is often difficult to prove.

It’s now time for local, state, and federal leaders on both sides to speak out against this practice. And our legislators need to reexamine our existing laws. There has to be a point where our political discourse crosses the line and enough is enough.

Showing up at a person’s home crosses that line for me.

Stephen Phillip Monteiro is a law enforcement, security and intelligence consultant. He’s held senior leadership positions with consulting firms in Washington, DC and is a retired Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service and a veteran of the U.S. Navy. Visit his website: https://www.thegoodamerica.com to leave your comments. You can follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/stevemonteiro10

Erasing History…Who Decides

We’ve all seen the images of statues and monuments being defaced and torn down across the country. It plays out on the daily news and the images are powerful. We’ve witnessed them crashing down with some set on fire as people cheered celebrating their accomplishment. These images invoke strong emotions. As difficult as it is to watch, I understand why some people find some of these memorials offensive. To some, they bring back images and stories of the time of slavery and all its evils. To others, it’s simply part of our history and nothing more. After the civil war, there was an attempt to heal the wounds and unify the country. It was important that the South not feel vanquished. As part of those efforts, the South was allowed to honor those that fought and died for the Confederacy. The North did the same.

Fast forward and we look at these monuments through today’s lens and we find fault. History is the story of man as we evolved and is full of imperfections. We must be careful in examining actions that occurred in some cases hundreds of years ago in today’s light. It’s a slippery slope lest we have no history because perfection will always allude us. British anti-racism protestors have recently called for the destruction of Egypt’s Giza Pyramids even as more evidence comes to light that they were not built with slave labor. I imagine the Coliseum in Rome and the Great Wall of China will be next. So, does that mean we should accept all things as they are? No. Recently, the conservative commentator Ben Shapiro was asked if he would want a high school named after Hitler. His answer was a resounding no. So yes, I get it but if these statues are offensive there is a process to remove them. Its called petition and redress. And, I would venture to say that if this process was used those that want to remove these offensive statues would find receptive elected officials willing to listen.

The mob mentality that we see in action is not the way to go.

As predicted, the destruction has gone past Confederate generals and racism and now includes World War II memorials, religious artifacts, gravestones, and even an abolitionist and an emancipator. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the destruction and nothing is sacred. It appears to be a wholesale attempt to destroy all images of the country and its history. Without doubt there is something going on outside of the issue of racism. The bar has been set by the mob at perfection as an excuse. If someone finds fault, great or small, that seems to be enough to satisfy the mob.

Plain and simple this is vandalism and the destruction of public property.

Those responsible must be arrested and prosecuted. I would like to see more leaders have the guts to condemn this lawlessness and encourage the use of the system in place to address the issue of who the country memorializes. The mob has completely taken our elected leaders and the citizens they represent out of the process.

Symbols of our past are being destroyed but right now the mob gets to decide what stays and what goes…. we have no say.

Stephen Phillip Monteiro is a law enforcement, security and intelligence consultant. He’s held senior leadership positions with consulting firms in Washington, DC and is a retired Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service and a veteran of the U.S. Navy. Visit his website: https://www.thegoodamerica.com to leave your comments. You can follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/stevemonteiro10

Reforming yes, disbanding or defunding the police, no, no, no, no!

Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender, a vocal proponent of disbanding the Minneapolis Police Department was asked by CNN’s Alisyn Camerota what would happen if a person needed help because someone had broken into their home. Ms. Bender’s non-answer answer was that calling the police and expecting their help comes from a place of privilege. What?  I can assure you as a former police officer that people don’t call the police out of any sense of privilege.

They call the police because they need them.

This latest overreaction to the terrible tragedy of George Floyd is now typical for many of our politicians. Pandering, overreaction, harmful rhetoric, and who can come up with the most radical idea first, has now taken the place of common sense and thinking through a problem. There is no question that what happened to Mr. Floyd was plain and simple murder and those responsible should be held accountable. That is how justice is supposed to work in this country. But this latest call to disband or defund the police which seems to be gaining more traction would overwhelmingly hurt the ones that they claim to want to protect the most. Minority and inner-city communities call the police and use police services more than any other segment of society as a percentage. Why?

Because that’s where the crime is and that’s where they are needed most.

Disbanding and defunding the police would lead to utter chaos and breakdown of the very foundation of any country…law and order. Without law and order, we have anarchy. 

On any given day, a police officer could be called upon to respond to stabbings, shootings, domestic arguments, burglaries, robberies, kidnappings, thefts, arsons, child abuse, suicides, homelessness, drug overdoses, motor vehicle accidents, lost children, neighborhood disputes and every other possible act of depravity, public disorder, and senselessness that one can imagine.

I ask you Lisa Bender what is your plan to replace this first responder? Who will come in the middle of the night to handle your problem?

Think about this, out of all the agencies in our government the police are the ones that show up to deal with all of society’s problems and they are the ones that catch all of society’s wraths. Lack of a good education, poverty, crime, a breakdown of the family and failed local policies and politicians are usually at the top of the lists of the reasons why some of our communities suffer. But these are not the fault of the police. They just have to deal with the results. Fine, we will take the heat but at least tell the truth. Out of the 275 million contacts last year between the police and the public, well over 99% were favorable. I would like to see any other profession match these numbers. Yes, we need better police training and oversight and above all, we need to get rid of bad cops. What happened to George Floyd should never happen to any other citizen. But this harmful rhetoric from elected officials is irresponsible and dangerous. It was stated recently in a press conference by the NY Police Benevolent Association that mothers were quoted as saying they prayed their children would make it home safely from school every day and not be killed by the police! Where is this coming from? The police are not going around killing school children! Sadly, many are buying into this false and dangerous narrative. I didn’t think I would live to see this day. Like my brothers and sisters in blue, I have on many occasions put my life and safety in danger to keep safe the life of a perfect stranger. That is what I took a sworn oath to do but that part of the story seems to always be left out. How many lives have been saved as a result of police actions? The police are taking guns and violent criminals off the streets, disrupting dangerous gangs as well as the flow of dangerous drugs that are killing our children and, in the course, losing their own lives.  I would like to see those statistics. Let’s punish those responsible for George Floyd. But let us not punish everyone else. I call upon every sensible state, local and federal leader, democrat or republican, left or right, to stop this harmful conversation in its tracks. It only takes up valuable resources and time away from the real changes that need to be made. Yes, we have work to do so let’s start.

Stephen Phillip Monteiro is a law enforcement, security and intelligence consultant. He’s held senior leadership positions with consulting firms in Washington, DC and is a retired Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service and a veteran of the U.S. Navy. Visit his website: https://www.thegoodamerica.com to leave your comments. You can follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/stevemonteiro10

Pull the Plug…Clear the Cache

The COVID 19 virus is dominating the news cycle. This will continue for the foreseeable future and understandably so. We need to understand how the virus is affecting us, what we need to do, and what the future holds. But the constant bombardment of virus-related stories is overwhelming. And its effects are telling. And they are not good.

People are depressed and getting more so every day.

But the COVID-19 story doesn’t stand alone. It’s one of the many negative stories that we are exposed to on a 24/7 basis.

Over the last decade, our reliance and ties to the electronic world have increased. Television, radio, podcasts, Facebook, blogs, Instagram and Twitter have become a huge part of our daily lives. We are attached to our cell phones like nothing else. I remember as a kid my Dad yelling at me to “turn off that television.” I could only imagine what he would think now. But back then, I couldn’t take the television with me when I went outside to play or go to school or whatever. Now, these devices never leave our sides.

Sometimes it’s frightening.

Before the pandemic, I went to see some friends in Arizona. I remember being in the waiting area at the airport packed with people. I noticed that almost everyone had their head down buried in their phone. I could have walked past them naked and nobody would have noticed.

We see it every day. Phones on and heads down.

While having information at our fingertips has made things much easier. It comes with a heavy price. The amount of negative news that we are exposed to is overwhelming. And it’s detrimental to both our mental and physical well-being.

Negative news stories have always led the way. It’s been that way in the news business since the printing of the first newspapers. But its different today. It’s much more invasive. We are being overexposed.

Besides traditional news outlets, social media sites are also problematic. The amount of political rhetoric that is almost always negative is off the charts. Daily, each side blasts the other with salacious stories, blogs, posts, and tweets. This only adds to our unhealthy exposure.

It matters not what side you’re on or whether you believe the information is true. Writing, reading, and forwarding negative stories has a detrimental effect on both the sender and receiver. The truth is these stories do very little to change anyone’s opinion. I am not suggesting that we sugarcoat but as they say…. too much of anything is no good.

And now that we are “quarantined” it’s even more important that we give ourselves a mental health break.

Like our computers, our minds, psyche, attitude, and mood can hang up. We have all experienced, the annoying computer hang-up where the screen freezes.  And, the little circle keeps spinning and spinning as our computer struggles to fix itself. One of the first things the “techies” tell us to do is to unplug it to allow it to clear and reset. Usually, that does the trick.

We need to do the same with our brains.

We need to unplug our electronic lifeline for a bit and gives ourselves a break. Turn off the television and turn off the phone. Otherwise like our computers, we will crash. And don’t worry…. if something important happens you will find about it−no doubt.

So, for the sake of your well-being…. pull the plug and clear the cache. Give yourself a break from the negativity. It’s more important now than ever.

I’d like to hear your thoughts…

Stephen Phillip Monteiro is a law enforcement, security and intelligence consultant. He’s held senior leadership positions with consulting firms in Washington, DC and is a retired Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service and a veteran of the U.S. Navy. Visit his website: https://www.thegoodamerica.com to leave your comments. You can follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/stevemonteiro10

“Pork”….It’s in their DNA..

President Trump on Friday signed into law a $2 trillion relief bill aimed at saving the economy from the crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak. To paraphrase Speaker Pelosi commenting on Obamacare, “now that we passed it, we can see what’s in it.”

Let me be clear, we needed this bill.  The coronavirus pandemic is serious. When people die it can get no more serious than that.

But as we all know, the bill was held up for several days in the House by Speaker Pelosi to add funding for non-coronavirus programs. Some items included funding for refugee resettlement, Public Broadcasting Stations, National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities, The Kennedy Center, The Institute of Museum and Library Services, Aid for International Development and many other initiatives.  

In addition to the Congressional members themselves, we can’t forget the lobbyists. They were out in full force trying to feed from the trough.

I understand having worked in Congress as a staff member for both House and Senate members and as a staff member on the Treasury and Postal subcommittee, how “pork” works. Whenever there is a “must-pass” bill it is not uncommon to attach riders for programs which by themselves would have no chance of being funded. It is a tactic that will ensure that they get funded.

Both sides of the aisle have been doing this since Congress became an entity.

But it does beg the question: Was this the right time to do it? 

Billions of dollars were added to the bill. Don’t you think that money could be used for the coronavirus response instead of non-critical programs?  Would there ever be a time when politics and the use of “pork” would be put aside?

Are not the deaths of our citizens that time?

It’s amazing to me that members of Congress, on one hand, discuss the importance of taking care of Americans affected by the coronavirus pandemic with utmost haste. And on the other, hold up the bill to add funding for programs that have nothing to do with the current crisis.

How bad do things have to get before politics takes a back seat?

On this one, I come down not on the side of any party or President, but the side of the American people. In the history of our country, there has never been a stimulus bill as large as this one. We currently have a national debt of over $23 trillion so every dollar counts. I understand the reason and rationale for “pork.” I get that sometimes it’s a tactic that is necessary to bring “gifts” back to your home district.

This is not one of those times.

I pray that we will get past this crisis quickly but if we again need to come to the aid of our fellow citizens because of the coronavirus…please Congress… no more “pork.”

I doubt that will happen because as I said…. it’s in their DNA.

I’d like to hear your thoughts…


Stephen Phillip Monteiro is a law enforcement, security and intelligence consultant. He’s held senior leadership positions with consulting firms in Washington, DC and is a retired Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service and a veteran of the U.S. Navy.

Visit his website: https://www.thegoodamerica.com to leave your comments. You can follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/stevemonteiro10

Lessons from the “Greatest Generation” ….

On March 13, 2020, the President of the United States and Congress did a good thing. A long-overdue thing. They awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to members of the United States Merchant Marines that proudly served, fought and died in World War II. While the war to many is a distant memory and now relegated to our history books, the lessons learned are still important today.

The Merchant Marines who were the unsung heroes of the war suffered the highest casualty rates of all the branches of service during the war. One out of every twenty-six mariners were killed. They sailed the ships that brought the needed men and supplies to carry on the war and they were mercilessly hunted by German and Japanese subs. At the beginning of the war, many of our merchant vessels had no way to protect themselves and were at the complete mercy of our enemies. During the war, a total of 1,554 merchant ships were sunk and thousands of lives lost. The tales of the Merchant Marines and what they endured has a personal side to it for me.  

My dad, Joseph Monteiro was one of them.

On March 29, 1944, his ship the SS Richard Hovey was sunk by a Japanese sub designated as I-26 in the Arabian Sea. Known for its viciousness, the I-26 slammed torpedoes into the bow of the Hovey killing everyone in the forward engine room. The sub surfaced and Japanese sailors were observed using an 8mm camera to film the horror while they laughed. Not yet finished, they used their deck gun and machine-gunned the lifeboats and the men in the water. Still not through, they rammed at least one lifeboat before submerging and disappearing.

The survivors of the Hovey manned what lifeboats were still usable and found themselves over 800 miles from land. Under relentless heat and with little food and water they began to paddle and row for their lives. After 16 days at sea with many near death, my dad and his shipmates were finally rescued.  

Why is this story so important today?

Because it represents the sacrifices of the men and women of the “Greatest Generation.” Many grew up during the difficult times of the Great Depression of the 1930’s and then fought and died in the 1940’s knowing only hardship and sacrifice.

On the “home front”, Americans gladly sacrificed all that they could to support our men and women on the front lines. Just about every commodity was rationed and Americans learned to do without. 

They canvased their yards and basements and gladly turned over materials that could be helpful to the war effort. They pulled together what little funds many of them had to buy war bonds to support the efforts. Women stepped up and worked tirelessly in factories making airplanes, tanks, and other war supplies. They learned to live with just the necessities. And they did it willingly and without complaint. They did it for the greater good. They did it to bring the war to a close. And they did it to bring peace back to their lives.

The sacrifices in blood, sweat, tears, and toil of our parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles during World War II led them to be named the “Greatest Generation.”

And I agree.

Hopefully, as we find ourselves amid our own war in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, we can learn something from the greatest generation. We can reach out to our neighbors in need and buy only what we need. We can be mindful and helpful to the elderly and infirmed. We can do all we can to keep the disease from spreading, particularly to those most vulnerable. We can make the sacrifices that need to be made without complaint. We can look to the greater good and not ourselves.

And we can learn to live without.

My wish is that I could be half as good a person as the men and women of the greatest generation.  But I know I have a long way to go….

So, thank you, Mr. President, and thank you Congress for this wonderful act of recognition for the men and women of the United States Merchant Marines who fought and died so that we can be free. And thank you to the men and women of the “Greatest Generation” that taught us what sacrifice is all about.

I hope we will not forget.

Stephen Phillip Monteiro is a law enforcement, security and intelligence consultant. He’s held senior leadership positions with consulting firms in Washington, DC and is a retired Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service. Visit his website thegoodamerica.com to leave your comments. You can follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/stevemonteiro10

A Heartfelt Thanks….

When I was a young police officer I was called to the scene of a fire at a residential home. While directing traffic around the fire trucks a young boy approached me. He was breathing heavily and difficult to understand. After calming him down he managed to tell me that another house was on fire around the corner from the first fire. I asked him to show me and we both ran to the house. By the time I arrived the entire back of the home was engulfed. My sergeant soon arrived and we learned that an elderly woman lived in the house alone. It was late at night and she was certain to be home. We banged on the front door and the back door and had neighbors call her all to no avail. We realized if anyone was home, they would not last much longer due to the intensity of the fire. With time running out we kicked in the front door. We were immediately met by heavy toxic smoke that drove us back. Getting our composure back we pushed through the smoke and found her in the kitchen. We dragged her out of the house to a waiting ambulance. I was later told she survived. Our detectives did a great job and arrested the pyromaniac responsible for the fires. He got his thrills by burning down homes in the middle of the night with people inside.

A few days after the fires, I was told to report to my Lieutenant’s office. He wanted to talk to me about what later became known as the Rollins Street arson case. With my chest puffed out and generally happy with what we had done, I reported to his office and told him what happened that night.

“Ok Steve, I just wanted to get your side of the story since the woman you saved sent us a bill for the door you kicked in. I wanted to make sure she wasn’t trying to hose us.  That’s it, you can go.”

I stood there for a moment dumfounded and dejected. My puffed out chest soon deflated.

“A bill, we saved this woman’s life and we get a bill,” I thought to myself. Young and naïve, I walked away in somewhat disbelief. Halfway down the hall, my Lieutenant called out.

“Officer Monteiro”

“Yes, Sir” I replied.

“Welcome to police work!  Never expect thanks for what you do. That’s not why we do it.”

I learned a lesson that night.

We never got a thank you from that lovely elderly woman or her family…just a bill. But that’s ok because we don’t do it for the thanks or the medals or any of that. We do it because we want to…we do it because it’s our job. Many of us raised our right hands and took an oath to do our duty no matter what−even at the cost of our own lives. Unfortunately, we see far too many lives lost these days. My little story pales in comparison to those who have given their last full measure.  The real heroes. They are all in my prayers. 

It’s been many years since the Rollins Street fires and I’ve long retired. But I still hold affection and admiration for all my brothers and sisters who chose a life of service.

So that being said, with all the craziness surrounding us with the Coronavirus, I dedicate this blog to all the doctors, nurses, paramedics, firefighters, police officers, nursing home and health care workers, dispatchers and everyone else on the front lines, caring for and protecting us every day and say thank you. Thank you for working double shifts. Thank you for putting yourselves and your families at risk to take care of ours. Thank you for working 24/7. Thank you for doing this for not much money. Thank you for caring for the sick and the infirmed. And thank you for risking your lives to save the lives of perfect strangers.

I find it amazing the adulation given to sports stars and movie stars and the like. I am amused at the endless award shows where they slap themselves on the back for a job well done. And I sometimes marvel at the amount of money they make. But that’s ok. Because no amount of money can ever take the place of the look on someone’s face that you helped through one of the most difficult times of their lives. So even though they don’t expect anything from us… it is ok to say thanks. So, the next time you see a health care worker, paramedic, policeman, fireman, nurse or doctor or anyone else on the front lines…say thanks. And if you are unable to, can’t or won’t, that’s ok too; they will still be there to help you… because that’s what they do.

Stephen Phillip Monteiro is a law enforcement, security and intelligence consultant. He’s held senior leadership positions with consulting firms in Washington, DC and is a retired Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service. Visit his website: http://www.thegoodamerica.com to leave your comments.

Common Ground…The Most Valuable Real Estate in the Country

World War I was credited with the introduction of mechanization. With the use of deadly machine guns and tanks, it was aptly named the war to end all wars. It also introduced another component−trench warfare. Vast armies dug deep trenches hundreds of miles long facing each other. For months on end, they stayed in these trenches occasionally peeking out and lobbing cannon at each other. But mainly they stayed put. The land between the trenches was referred to as no man’s land. It was called that because no man dared venture out onto it. It was too dangerous.

At the beginning of the war not much happened and more soldiers died from disease than actual fighting. But eventually, the armies knew that to gain ground, to gain victory and to bring the war to a close, they had to move into no man’s land. They had to take the risk or nothing would happen. Eventually, their thoughts became actions. They moved into no man’s land and the war ended.

I find many parallels to the strategy of trench warfare to today’s political climate. Our representatives like the soldiers of World War I, have become more and more entrenched in their thinking and their actions. Republicans, Democrats, and other political factions have their heads down in the trenches and are avoiding no man’s land or as it’s referred to politically−common ground. Common ground is the place where things get done. And, unfortunately, it’s being avoided like the plaque. Our elected representatives have moved away from representing “we the people” to represent “we the party.”

James Madison, credited with being the main architect of our Constitution realized in 1787 that to get the Articles of Confederation approved compromise among the various States was necessary. Madison realized that compromise was the essential ingredient in the recipe to get things done. Our founding fathers presumed Congress would be fraught with disagreement but expected different points of view to blend into compromising legislation.

The current approval rating for Congress is floating around 20%. Hardly encouraging. It’s not low because they lack the requisite intellect to come up with good ideas it’s because they can’t turn those ideas into actions and get things done. Today compromise is like a dirty word. It’s almost seen as blasphemous and traitorous to work with or give credit to the other side. I am not suggesting that we don’t have any bipartisanship at all, but the efforts are often under-reported. The media as a whole cares little about bipartisanship because it doesn’t fit their narratives. Today, salacious attacks lead the way. And the more salacious the better. Who wants to lead with a boring story about two sides coming together? How does that help your side and your ratings? And besides who can claim the credit? Which side of the trench wins that?  But alas there is some hope. 

Recently Congress passed the bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Act. Have you heard much about it? Probably not. Nonetheless, it was a bipartisan victory. We need more of these victories because there is still much to be done. And it can only be done through compromise. Bipartisanship has a strong record of success. Let’s tell Congress we are tired of the trenches.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Contact your representatives and insist they adopt a platform of bipartisanship and not give it lip service.  
  • Insist that they return to representing the people and not just their party.  
  • Remind them of why they were elected.
  • Remind them of their approval rating
  • Ask them what they have accomplished since being elected. Tweets don’t count.
  • Ask your representative to join the Problem Solvers Caucus
  • Tell them to give credit where credit is due regardless if it’s the other side.

The bottom line……we are tired of gridlock and inefficient government. Congress needs to move out of the trenches and into the most valuable real estate in the country−common ground. If not, the war will last a long time and nothing will get done for the American people.

That’s my take. What’s yours?

Stephen Phillip Monteiro is a law enforcement, security and intelligence consultant. He’s held senior leadership positions with consulting firms in Washington, DC and is a retired Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service. Visit his website: http://www.thegoodamerica.com to leave your comments.

We’ve Been Through Worse…

With the acquittal of President Trump and his feud with Speaker Pelosi, I think we can agree it’s been a tough few days. Listening to friends, colleagues, family members and news reports about how bad our political divide is, reminded me of a book I read a few months ago. The book titled The Field of Blood (Violence in Congress and the Road to the Civil War) by Joanne B. Freeman is an account of Congress in the 1800’s. 

In this well researched and informative book, Ms. Freeman with shocking detail, rendered a portrait of American politics in its rowdiest years. She tells us with convincing facts, that today’s hyper-polarized political environment cannot compare to the turbulent environment in Congress in the decades leading up to the Civil War.

Legislative sessions were punctuated by mortal threats, canings, flipped desks and all-out slugfests. Congressmen drew pistols and waved Bowie knives at rivals. One representative even killed another in a duel. Bullying, intimidation, and threats were the norm. Massive fistfights were not uncommon and spittoons were often thrown at each other. Representatives spit on the floor and put their mud crusted dirty boots on their desks.

Decorum did not exist. 

By 1860 many Congressmen armed themselves, some carrying pistols. They were sent by their constituents fully expecting bloody combat in the halls and on the floor of Congress itself! After revisiting Ms. Freeman’s book, I thought about some other interesting facts in our nation’s history that might help to put today’s environment in context. Since the founding of our country here is a partial list of some of the turbulent events that occurred:

  • The U.S. fought 12 official wars resulting in the deaths of over 1.2 million people. This does not include other country’s losses. The Civil War alone claimed 620,000 lives.
  • There have been 47 serious economic crises and recessions resulting in billions in economic losses. The stock market crash of 1929 alone resulted in a loss of $396 billion in today’s dollars.
  • Over 100 natural disasters occurred resulting in billions of dollars in economic losses and thousands of deaths. Hurricane Katrina alone accounted for 300,000 destroyed homes, over 1000 deaths and $250 billion in losses.
  • Four US Presidents were assassinated. Several others were victims of attempted assassinations. Political and civil rights leaders were also assassinated.
  • We have had scores of diseases and plagues resulting in thousands of deaths.
  • We fought against slavery and fought the war for civil rights.
  • We survived the great depression of the 1930s and the dust bowl.
  • We’ve endured terrorist attacks resulting in the deaths of thousands and economic losses in the billions of dollars. The 911 attack resulted in 2996 initial deaths and $40 billion in insurance losses. Unfortunately, the death toll from 911 is climbing. Many First Responders continue to die from toxic air exposure.

And the list goes on….

What I outlined is only a snapshot of some turbulent historical events in our nation’s past. But despite our trials and tribulations, the United States of America is home to some of the greatest achievements known to mankind. We are still here and still strong. The fact that we receive more requests for immigration than all other countries of the world combined, tells me that we are still looked at as a place of opportunity and justice.

The strides we made from the 1800s to now are quite amazing when you put things in context. At our core we are a good country, albeit not a perfect one. While perfection is a lofty goal, it is seldom achieved. We will always have challenges. We need to keep getting better. While we may not look to any of our political leaders for this inspiration, we can start with ourselves. Let’s work on mending the fences. Let’s learn to respect each other again.

Let’s treat each other as human beings.

So, if you’re feeling like it’s all over and we won’t make it, roll back the clock and take a look at where we’ve been and what we’ve endured. Our people are strong and our country is strong. We will be ok. So, let’s keep our heads on straight and remember−we’ve been through worse.

Stephen Phillip Monteiro is a law enforcement, security and intelligence consultant. He’s held senior leadership positions with consulting firms in Washington, DC and is a retired Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service. Visit his website/blog: http://www.thegoodamerica.com to leave your comments.

Fake News…. Are We Unwilling Accomplices?

We’ve all heard President Trump decry the fake news industry time and time again. It’s been discussed on the left and the right and used so frequently by the President that we take it for granted and in some cases treat it like the boy who cries wolf. However, regardless of the President’s views there is no doubt that we have an issue with the truthfulness of what we read and hear online.

There are many polls floating around that discuss the public’s skepticism on the reliability of information we receive on a daily basis from social media and other online sources.

I’ve looked at many of them. While their methodologies may be different and the statistics they arrive at mixed−they all trend in the same direction.

We get a lot of fake news thrown at us!

One Pew Poll stated that Americans believe that fake news is a bigger problem than racism, terrorism or climate change.

(Pew Research)

Couple that with the extraordinary amount of time we spend online and, well, it’s a bit messy.

So, you ask yourself, I know it’s fake, what’s the big deal?

It’s a very big deal and here’s why:

  • Fake news is not limited to the political domain. Businesses have suffered financial damage and damage to their reputations from fake stories planted online.
  • Fake news has ruined people’s reputations.
  • Fake news has negatively infected our political discourse whether its fake news from the right or left.
  • Fake news has caused stressful political divides among family and friends.
  • Fake news has incited people to protest and even riot.
  • Fake news and online bullying have led to a number of suicides.
  • Fake news undermines the truth, burying the important information that we need to know. Even stories that are well researched, sourced and thoroughly fact checked are now suspect.

And the list goes on…

I am not going to take up your valuable time providing specific examples with citations. You’ve seen it yourself. What I just told you isn’t new news−or at least it shouldn’t be. But I wanted to provide this preamble to get to the point of this article.

Don’t become an unwilling accomplice to the fake news industry!

The fake news industry is alive and well, on both sides particularly in the political realm. It’s highly effective and we have all fallen victim and even unwilling accomplices in promoting it. The fake newsies, as I refer to them, engage in a campaign of purposely sending out inflammatory content guaranteed to get you fired up!

They want you to reply, forward, comment, share and like (even an innocent “like” helps to validate the message) all of which helps to keep the fake story alive. This is what they want.

Don’t give it to them.

Many of the fake newsies have become very good at pretending to be a legitimate source. Their messages are formatted like real news stories and they may even have graphics, videos and even citations. It’s becoming more difficult to discern the authenticity of these stories.

I’ve fallen victim to forwarding information that turned out to be wrong and four years old, still circulating on the internet. (talk about getting mileage out of a fake story) I have fallen victim to commenting, forwarding, sharing and hitting the like button for stories I had no idea were actually true.

But the important takeaway is this:

I didn’t have to respond at all. And neither do you.

The fake news industry counts on you to be one of their soldiers.

But if you decide to get involved take a moment to defuse. We are all guilty of firing off a response when we’re red hot−only to regret it.

Here are some questions that you might want to ask yourself to avoid promoting fake news:

Do I need to get in the middle of this?

Do I need to fire off a reply, hit the like button, give it a thumbs up, forward the message, share the message, send it to other social sites−because if I don’t, it will affect me personally? If you’re truthful in your answer−it will likely be a resounding no! Almost nothing in your daily life requires that you respond to any of these stories. More than likely there are no big decisions in your life that depend upon you jumping in. It’s a choice, so choose wisely.

How many times has the message been forwarded?

If it’s been forwarded so many times you can’t determine where it came from or when, or who the author is−it may be something that’s been out there for a long time with outdated or bad information.

Who is The Author?

Does he or she have a platform? Do you know anything about them? Do they have an agenda? Are they known and respected or are they just sitting in their underwear in their parent’s basement firing off fake stories? (don’t laugh it happens)

Have I checked my bias at the door?

This is a tough one. It’s very easy to spread a story whose content you agree with. We tend not to scrutinize these very well. Try and be careful.

What’s the URL address?

Does it have a .com or .org at the end, or is it some funky URL that you’ve never seen before.

Have I looked at the graphics and videos carefully?

Only the very skilled can fake these perfectly. Amateurish videos can be easily spotted.

Are there any misspellings?

This is a possible giveaway. (ugh, I hope I don’t have any in this article)

Am I using my common sense?

If it looks outrageous and inflammatory− it’s probably fake news.

I’ve outlined a few things you can do; I am sure there are others. But from a practical standpoint, do we have the time to employ all of these investigative measures every time we look at a message? No, we don’t. But if you use only one or two of them it can be very helpful. And, if all else fails, resort to my first suggestion:

Do I need to respond at all?

The fake newsies think they are helping their cause by putting out fake stories. They are not. In fact, they are hurting their credibility making anything they say suspect. Fake news stories further entrench people in their camps, making them unwilling to believe or listen to anything the other side has to say.

It’s ironic, that we now have more information available at our fingertips than at any other time in our history. Yet, finding the truth is now more difficult than at any other time in our history.

Remember, just because something is viral doesn’t make it true. If we use common sense and employ some practical measures, we can save ourselves and the next guy down the road a lot of grief −and help to shut down the fake news industry. So, take a moment before you comment, hit the like button, reply, forward or share. You don’t get any prizes for speed.

That’s my take. What’s yours?

 


Stephen Phillip Monteiro is a law enforcement, security and intelligence consultant. He’s held senior leadership positions with consulting firms in Washington, DC and is a retired Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service. Visit his website: www.thegoodamerica.com to leave your comments.