When the “Official” Media Fails, Citizen Activism Steps In

Most American’s do not realize that the Founding Fathers considered a free, unbiased press so vital to democracy that it was actually mentioned in the Constitution–and long considered the unofficial “fourth branch” of government. Most Americans have now realized that the mainstream corporate media has essentially been dead for twenty years. Today, instead of focusing on the issues, one finds endless stories of celebrity sex scandals and professional athletes with drug issues. That’s when citizen activists like James A. Farbotnik get busy. Farbotnik, a small business owner who lives in the upstate New York town of Massena, has done what the local media failed to do for a long time–he let the community know that the local school district has been engaged in a cover-up regarding the presence of asbestos in its buildings. Farbotnik, whose children attend a local elementary school where he says asbestos is present, says: “I’m going to be heard, I’m not going to be silenced.” He is now hanging banners on the side of the building in downtown Massena where he runs his computer shop, letting the public know about his suspicions regarding the Massena Central School District and the asbestos cover-up. For the past year, Farbotnik has been a fixture at school board meetings, bringing up his allegations regarding asbestos in the school buildings. Early in April, the president of the school board threatened to have him removed if he insisted on bringing up the issue again.

Sometime during the last week of April, he plans to put up even larger banners containing information on the subject. Not everyone is happy about Farbotnik’s activities, but there is nothing that can legally be done to prevent him from engaging in this type of guerilla journalism. A local code enforcement officer acknowledges that “…it’s a freedom of speech issue… according to his lawyer, we have to [allow him to] leave it up for a reasonable period of time, but I don’t know how long that is.” Perhaps if the mainstream corporate media once again met their responsibility to report the news and hold government and corporate malfeasors accountable in the court of public opinion, citizen activists like James Farbotnik wouldn’t need to go to such lengths.