Undisclosed Information about New Antiwar Folk Hero's 'Character Witness'

Yet Another Poser (Mostly) Gets Through the Media 'Filter'

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Yesterday, in his story about Rosemarie Jackowski, the "new folk hero" of the antiwar movement, John Curran of the Associated Press quoted a gentlemen who was arrested with Jackowski in a 2003 protest incident in Vermont:

She's not a loony toon by any means," said Andrew Schoerke, 73, a retired U.S. Navy captain who was arrested with her. "She's a very down to earth, sensible, caring person with some very strong convictions."

Dan Riehl has partially fisked the "sensible" Ms. Jackowski (he could have gone on, and on, and on ....).

But what about her "character witness," Mr. Schoerke?

I did a Google Main search on his name in quotes last night. At the time, the very first item (it has moved down since) was A May 19 column by Mr. Schoerke, "Stop Bush's Next War", which he believes to be Iran, and where he is described as follows -- "Andrew Schoerke, United States Naval Reserve Captain (ret.), lives in Shaftsbury, VT and is a member of vermontpeacetrain." At the very least, he's not just another "unlikely peace activist," as Jackowski is described in the headline.

Vermont Peace Train of Bennington is "a 'grassroots' organization formed by residents of Southwest Vermont in order to promote and practicethe non-violent resolution of conflicts." That's career peace activist-speak.

So that made me wonder if Schoerke has been arrested on other occasions. Googling "ex-Navy officer arrested" (not entered in quotes) -- Surprise, surprise (not), at the very first item, this guy's in the "big leagues":

Ex-Navy officer arrested at march
Vt. protester joins Sheehan in custody
October 1, 2005

SHAFTSBURY — Getting arrested at the entrance to the White House hasn't been one ex-Navy captain's only 15 minutes of fame.

Andrew Schoerke, 72, a retired U.S. Navy officer, was arrested in March 2003 during a demonstration on Main Street in Bennington as the war was just starting. He followed that up with another citation for demonstrating without a permit Sept. 26 in front of the White House during a massive antiwar demonstration, he said.

What made it a little different this time was being taken into custody next to Cindy Sheehan .....

Was Schoerke really "just starting" in March 2003? Maybe with getting arrested -- but definitely not with protesting (the below is from October 2002; "private" info, though available at link, has been concealed):

Schoerke1026protest

Mr. Schoerke's participation in the October 2002 protest shows that he is either a dupe or a fellow traveler, because "non-violent," which the organization he belongs to claims to be, is NOT a proper descriptor for International ANSWER, which has "a long record of support for world terror and its leaders including the Ayatollah Khomeini, Kim Jong Il, Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein."

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Apparently the AP's John Curran didn't spend the less than ten minutes of Googling it took me to find the above information on Andrew Schoerke, or the surely limited amount of time it would have taken to find what Dan Riehl found on Rosemarie Jackowski. Because he didn't, I believe that he allowed himself to be played by a couple of career protesters pretending to be ordinary people.

FOLLOW-UP:

I spoke with John Curran just before posting this entry. I should emphasize, especially in contrast to the some of the comments by certain executive-level AP officials in previous months relating to fauxtography and Jamil Hussein, that Curran was very pleasant and civil (as I hope I was). Curran appeared not to have been aware of the additional items I learned about Mr. Schoerke when I brought them up. Curran felt that disclosing that Schoerke also had been arrested with Ms. Jackowski sufficiently alerted the reader to Schoerke's less-than-objective status. He said (paraphrasing) that he didn't begin following the Jackowski story until very recently (this is important, because if he had been following the story, Curran might have been expected to have already known more of what Riehl found on Jackowski).

John also pointed out that the headline I was reading, "Vt. Woman Is an Unlikely Peace Activist," was not his, and that he has no control over published headlines (I believe that in most cases, the subscribing papers do, perhaps with initial AP suggestions; I did not think to ask if Curran had created an original headline for the story himself).

John Curran's bottom line: "I did my best to portray both sides."

I respectfully, and fundamentally, disagree. I believe reporters should be doing more research and attempting to let readers know about the backgrounds of the subjects of their stories. It used to be nearly impossible; now it's too easy not to at least try. Given that so many pretenders have gotten through the "filters," I believe that such follow-up should be considered ordinary due diligence. Of course what is found has to be evaluated, but most of what has been linked in this post is "in their own words" or comes from published media reports.

And so another poser mostly skates.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.