Remember this guy?
In June 2011 the blogosphere went wild with "reports" that a SWAT team commanded by the Department of Education surrounded Kenneth Wright's house in Stockton and took him prisoner at gun-point--all because he was behind on his student loan payments.
Here's Michelle Malkin's take at the time:
If the government calls in a SWAT team because of a few dollars owed for student loans, what do you think they’ll do if you do not obey the Obamacare law to the letter?
The Huffington Post said this:
SWAT Team Breaks Down Kenneth Wright's Door Because Of Unpaid Student Loans
And here's the Examiner:
If you have a student loan, you may want to make sure you have it taken care of - otherwise, the federal government may send a S.W.A.T. team after you.
That's what happened to Kenneth Wright of Stockton, CA early Tuesday morning.
HuffPo, Malkin and the Examiner are just 3 of the many, many bloggers and online news sites that saw a single TV report of a shocking story, gathered absolutely NO supporting sources and immediately ran with a sexy, sexy headline.
Because checking sources and backing up facts is sooooooooooo Lamestream Media.
News10 originally bragged that this report was "an exclusive." I suspect if it was, it was because other news outlets found Wright's original story as sketchy as I did and were actually looking for more complete information.
The blogosphere went wild for a story so unsupported that there weren't even any photos of the "SWAT team" at the scene. They just took Wright's word for it and posted unrelated photos of uninvolved SWAT teams as though they had been photographed at the scene.
There's a word for that: misleading. Here's another word: dishonest.
Here was my take at the time:
The perception that an innocent man was arrested by a violent SWAT team was helped along by a number of irresponsible bloggers, including Huffington Post, which topped their post on the story with stock photo of a generic SWAT team that was not even present at Wright's house.
No SWAT team was used. And for all the furor about the raid, no photos of it have been released, to my knowledge. We have only the word of Mr. Wright and some unidentified neighbors as to how many officers were there and whether or not they looked like a SWAT team.
The ABC affiliate posted 3 videos of Mr. Wright describing the raid on his home. The reporters seemed committed to Mr. Wright's version of events to the exclusion of any other source; in the videos nothing he says is questioned and no reporter steps in with any follow-up inquiries. As a result, Mr. Wright gives a bravura performance.
I was also intrigued that Mr. Wright's first response to the raid was not "I'm innocent!" but "I don't have a criminal record!"
Not under the name of Kenneth Wright, anyway.
But that is just speculation on my part. Mr. Wright might well be as blameless as he claims. Unfortunately, given the way the Internet works, by the time guilt and blame have been clearly established in a court of law, few bloggers will be paying any attention anymore.
I happened across a Yahoo story on student loan fraud this morning and it contained this link:A Stockton man who inisisted he was being harassed by federal agents for an unpaid student loan has been indicted with five others on charges they stole more than a quarter-million dollars from the Department of Education.
Kenneth Wright received national attention in June 2011 when federal agents broke down his front door and detained him while they searched his home.
The Sept. 6 indictment unsealed on Wednesday names Kenneth Wright, his estranged wife Michelle Wright, Janeigh Mendoza, Jaymar Brown, Jennifer Brown and Brandy Miner.
The charges include student loan fraud, mail fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Just a few minutes of searching turned up this summation of the indictment from the USDoJ:
U.S. v. Michelle Wright et al. (2:12-cr-316-WBS)
Michelle Wright, 31; Kenneth Wright, 34; Jaymar Brown, 33; Jennifer Brown, 54; Brandy Miner, 36, all of Stockton, and Janeigh Mendoza, 31, of Tracy.
According to the indictment, from July 2007 to June 2011, the defendants conspired with each other and with others to obtain federal student assistance funds by fraud. Michelle Wright and Mendoza used stolen personal identity information to apply for additional FSA funds. Some of these individuals were severely handicapped and unable to read or write, let alone attend college. The defendants recruited straw students and used their own names to apply for FSA funds. Michelle Wright and Mendoza completed the paperwork necessary to obtain the funds. As a result of their scheme, the Department of Education lost more than $285,000.
I would like to point out that Wright is still entitled to the presumption of innocence. An indictment is not a conviction.
But he is NOT entitled to the presumption that a SWAT team broke down his door because he fell behind on his student loan payments.
HuffPo eventually walked back its hysterical report. I don't know if Malkin or the Examiner- or many of the other blogs who screamed about this- did the same. I hope they did, but I suspect more than a few just quietly let the matter drop.
Moral of the story? Take it away, Talking Heads:
Facts are simple and facts are straight
Facts are lazy and facts are late
Facts all come with points of view
Facts don't do what I want them to...
You'll probably never "hear it here first" on Deafening Silence. But you will hear it as fully and correctly as I can tell it.
Sexy gets you readership. Ethics gets you a good night's sleep.