AS I SEE IT - 10/14/2003:
Thoughts on speaking truth to bullies
by: Bob Magee
Thanks to all of you that commented upon last week's AS I SEE IT column on drugs in professional wrestling.
This week, some thoughts on what it takes to write columns like AS I SEE IT and report news online... and I don't mean a lesson on grammar and punctuation; although it WOULD be nice if some promoters or their staff would learn grammar and punctuation, and not force those of us who post their items online to serve as their unpaid editorial staff.
Where I'm going with this is...
If you're a writer, columnist, or reporter and you write about news, or express opinions online on a website you own or write for... then situations are going to come up where conflicts occur. You'll write about news that makes someone look bad, or express an opinion that isn't shared by everyone. It's going to happen. Period.
It's also a given that any good writer needs to be prepared for that conflict, and not back off if they know they're being truthful, or that their opinions are based on things they believe in.
Well... a situation occurred this past week, where an online writer backed off of statements that he made regarding a inter-promotional conflict, and things that he'd discovered regarding it. He made a statement, then backed off after he received numerous phone calls by one of the parties in question, and received pressure from another indy promoter friendly with the first promoter. Suddenly, he claimed that his sources were mistaken on the story in question.
Mind you, he hadn't discovered any new facts to make him change what he wrote. He hadn't found out about information that made him change his mind. All that happened was that he was pressured by telephone calls and by e-mails he received from people who could sound sufficiently threatening to scare him.
I'm not going to provide the names in question, because I'm not going to allow this writer to weasel out of what he reported, or out of the fact that he backed off after being pressured. Those involved are likely reading this column, and know the names that aren't being disclosed to protect the responsible.
I can say this... because I can speak about this sort of thing first hand.
PWBTS and AS I SEE IT started out in the print version of PWBTS back in 1997, then went online. In its early days in print and online, we reported on the various backstage issues with ECW, ranging from backstage politics to drug issues to financial problems.
It wasn't a popular thing to do at the time, with ECW's critical success. We got hate mail, hate e-mail, and threatening telephone calls. We were told that we were lying and were dismissed as having "personal grudges against people in ECW". Fritz Capp, former owner of PWBTS was called a "longhaired m@#$*%f%$#ing f@# sheetwriter" by D-Von Dudley from the house mike of the ECW Arena during a ECW Arena show for what we'd been saying.
But we kept on with what we were writing and reporting because we knew we had the facts.
This continued, on and off, until ECW's first round of financial problems became public just before the promotion went on TNN, when checks to syndicated TV affiliates and to other creditors started bouncing right and left. It also proved out when the drug use became too public to deny anymore, when people like Louie Spicolli died, and when others left the promotion because of their inability to perform due to drug use. Suddenly, some of the very people who'd been calling us liars and worse...saw us as doing what we'd done all along...reporting facts that were inconvenient... but true.
All we'd said was... sadly... proven right, as ECW declared bankruptcy on Match 5, 2001.
I also went through it with what I wrote about the Parents Television Council and their slanderous attack campaign against the WWF.
I was called a liar on Michael Reagan's national radio program by L. Brent Bozell. Those of us involved in the Wrestling Fans Against Censorship campaign had claims made against us that we were sending death threats to the PTC, that we had sent computer viruses to their website, and all other manner of garbage designed to discredit what we were saying... namely, that the PTC was making numerous false accusations against the WWF.
Hell, I even got a subpoena from the PTC's lawyers trying to find some link between WWE and the site, assuming I was being paid to do it.
But we continued on with what we were saying... because we had the facts.
On July 3, 2002, WWE Entertainment, Inc., and the PWBTS-sponsored Wrestling Fans Against Censorship; and others who believed in the right of wrestling fans to view their entertainment without the interference of outside organizations won their 2 1/2 year battle against the Parents Television Council. As part of the settlement, the PTC publicly issued a retraction of the most notable of the charges they made against the WWF/E and made a $3.5 million settlement with WWF/E.
Most recently, PWBTS dealt with the California-based XPW, their violations of Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission regulations, their tactics against Philadelphia independent promotions, and their attempt to take over the ECW Arena.
I reported on XPW's failure to obtain a surety bond and a license prior to selling tickets, as well as their attempt to fake permission to use the bond of Ring of Honor. I reported on spreading rumors of listing talent that had never been booked, as well their attempts to get talent from other local independents to no-show in returns for XPW bookings.
In return, I got an obscene graphic dedicated to me on the XPW website, tons of hate e-mail, telephone calls at 4:00 am, and am still being harassed online by people who had small roles within XPW. I got lawsuit threats for reporting that a show was to be postponed due to low ticket sales...despite claims that this postponement was because of weather concerns (despite the fact that 3PW ran a show the same night in Philadelphia). This report proved to be true, as I knew it would.
I'm hardly the only person who has known to stick to his guns when telling the truth. Far more well-known names like Dave Meltzer and Wade Keller make a living out of doing it. So do a lot of other people whose names you know.
But someone like this writer I'm outlining... simply wouldn't take the heat when confronted by bullying and just collapsed.
There are, of course, the kiddie websites and the cut-and-paste artists who create "stories" that are 100% BS... you know, like "RIC FLAIR TO APPEAR ON TNA WEDNESDAY NIGHT... CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE". I'm not talking about what happens when WWE or another legitimate company threatens to sue them. They deserve it.
I'm talking about someone who gets information that is documentable and legitimate, who is telling the truth... and thus becomes inconvenient for a promotion or promoter, so they get threatened.
The way that someone in that position has to deal with such bullies... is found in the story of Ralphie Parker from the 1983 seasonal movie by Jean Shepard called "A Christmas Story".
In the movie, little Ralphie, played by Peter Billingsley, is harassed by the neighborhood bully on and off throughout the movie. He builds up the bully in his mind's eye to be a monster. One day, Ralphie is simply tired of being scared, and smacks the bully in the nose. Suddenly the bully is nothing more than a 3'5" 85 pound kid with blood and snot running down his face crying for his mommy.
While I'm hardly suggesting that movies are real life...or that people beat up anyone that causes them problems (unless they have no alternative)...or that standing up to them is easy... I AM suggesting that people stand up to those bullies, and tell the truth.
Lord knows there are people within wrestling who are deserving of someone standing up to them. The more that people tell the truth about those so deserving...the fewer of them there will be.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)