Listen To What You Are Saying

So I'm sitting here, taking in a lot of the nonsense circulating on the internet today, thinking that the buzz is the same as always, just insert a different name this week.  However, and this really does fold into our ongoing discussion as well, there are a number of individuals who have learned the art of inflammatory language and like to insert it as desired, whether or not it is apropos to the discussion.  In some cases, the statements are one-liners thrown in simply for impact; some, though, are more like a hand grenade into a crowded room.

I happen to know a little about conflict. There is such a thing as escalation of conflict in which the rhetoric continues to ramp up on either side until it becomes an intractable situation.  Nobody will give ground on either side because doing so would, in their eyes, admit defeat.  Let's take the situation that seems to be the issue du' jour, going on this week in Miami-Dade and courtesy of my buddy Dave Statter.

In no way do I condone the officer's actions in the video.  In fact, the first few times I watched it, I could see the event unfolding WAY before Smart got to the videographer.  It was easy enough to see that he was ready to make his point and that he did, to the point of embarrassment.  You know what though?  I have been in his shoes before and I know how frustrating it is when you have some gawker taking video or rubbernecking at something, especially an emergency you are emotionally vested in, like a serious accident or when a kid is involved.  But the way he handled it, as we have learned from Dave and from Curt Varone, is not just ill-advised, but a violation of the photographer's First Amendment rights.

But while the rest of the nation was hanging Capt. Smart out to dry and even having some punny remarks on his name, one or two individual comments were drowned in the flood.  And while any attempt at perspective these days is considered siding with that party, the reality is that those comments indicated a little observation that there very well might have been prior history.  And when one poster indicated that the videographer's YouTube page included just such evidence, that's where I went.

I suspected that the YouTube page referenced was going to pull up a plethora of Miami-Dade hate, and so it did.  However, I don't see any name attached to the page that matches the name of the videographer in the LZ episode.  The YouTube channel pointed out belonged to "305whistleblower", and I refuse to link to it because frankly, the many videos racked up on there are obviously those intended to inflame and agitate the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue folks.  I don't know what the guy's problem is, but it is apparent he has a beef with the department.

So let's now put the shoe on the other foot.  You are an officer in a department where some troll is following your trucks around making it clear that you are "wasting taxpayer money" and "resuscitating donuts" (his words).  You happen to be working a scene where you have to fly out your patient, and given the nastiness of the gloves, I'm assuming it was a trauma patient.  Of course, one of the flight crew looks over, sees somebody filming everything, makes a comment like, "Man, we're on video." And given the amount of adrenaline already flowing (and I'm not talking about into the patient), everyone goes on high alert.  There is no "flight" response; we are Type "A" take-charge individuals, which I'm sure a line officer in one of the nation's finest fire departments has to be. It is all "fight" and he makes it clear by the way he strides across the field.

In the meanwhile, the videographer (and I'm giving him the benefit of doubt as NOT being 305trollboy, but an innocent member of the public, because I have no evidence otherwise) sees this and stiffens his own resolve.  After all, here I am, taking a video of a helicopter landing in a field, which is pretty cool stuff.  I am on the other side of the street and cars are passing in between me and them.  If it is safe enough for all these people to be standing around out here without a care in the world, I should be fine.  But the first firefighter comes up and makes it clear the issue isn't safety, but the videotaping.  Well, guess what? The videographer has the right to videotape it, just like the people do all the time when they see something of interest, so long as they are safely out of the way.

And then along comes Capt. Smart, who is obviously emotionally off the edge by the time he gets there.  And I don't need to narrate it; the result is an intractable situation in which neither party is going to win.

I'm going to ask you to do something interesting.  Just go to Facebook or Twitter and take note of the comments that bound on language inciting overthrow or accuse the President of the United States of conducting some anti-American agenda.  While I think it is interesting that there are those bent on protecting the United States from armed invaders, immigrants, and other riff-raff are also those who are saying the things most against our own democratically elected government and advocating, in some cases, violent change.  Does anyone expect that productive discussion is going to come out of this kind of language?

Go to any website where any point of controversy is discussed.  If anyone is actually reading it, within moments sides are taken and any effort at reasonable and considered discussion becomes uncivil and names start getting called.  Like the discussion I have been throwing out there recently about the wisdom of an interior attack in a building where tenability is in question and to be honest, the application of an exterior stream for fire control makes more sense.  This makes my simple observation a target of response; despite over thirty years of aggressive (and admittedly, in a lot of cases, stupid) decisions, I am now a "pussy". 

We are never going to come together as a society at this rate. Lines are drawn over any little slight and the knives come out.  Anyone that says something against our views is automatically "the enemy".  Whatever happened to being able to say, "I don't agree, but I am willing to listen?"  And then, in the spirit of being a better person, listening to see what you can gain from the discussion.  If anything, you can find better arguments for your own position by understanding what it is that troubles the other party.  Or even if you were able to listen for a moment, you were able to convince the other person that YOU are right?  Drawing lines doesn't establish anything other than telling the other party there is no chance that anyone will achieve an agreement.

I will reiterate what I said: Capt. Smart let his emotions dictate the situation and he lost the battle.  I don't agree with what happened.  But before the internet pundits flock to his public beating, remember that before Dave and Curt's educating us on these issues, all of us were not only willing to take Capt. Smart's position, we believed it to be our duty to do so.  And not long ago, the screaming would have been different, but we learned this was not the case, so we changed.  And we need to also realize that there are other factors at play here, factors we have no idea about.

Before you all jump to execution for someone who does something wrong, perhaps we should take a breath, consider the different perspectives, and then decide.  There is nothing wrong in learning about what to do and what not to do, but the rhetoric has got to quiet itself.  The hysteria is really out of control and I see this coming to an end that won't be pretty.

  • DStatter

    Interesting view, as always, Mick. I could be wrong, but I am pretty certain that the videographer confronted by the captain and 305whistleblower are two different people.

    I am not really a believer that we should immediately hang the captain, but I am also a believer that the minority who are blindly defending his quite outrageous actions (not you) because he is a firefighter and the public or press with cameras are scum are not doing firefighters any good. It just encourages poor behavior that will often turn out badly for the firefighter and the department.

    Stepping back a bit I would also point out that the instant infamy that comes from these events now, including the comments you mentioned, is another reason why you want to be able to justify your actions. Actions that are based on good policy, procedures and the law rather than emotion and personal bias.

    While I would commend MDFR for not throwing the captain under the bus in their immediate statement. But by only mentioning the right to control the scene and not the other obvious issues on the video, I believe they also send the wrong message. There are some things on there that an organization should immediately address and not let linger. At the very least they should have stated what their policy is regarding picture taking and acknowledge the public’s rights just as they did the department’s own right to control the scene. Not doing so was a mistake.

    Thanks, as always, for providing suck good commentary and perspective.

    Statter

    • http://firehousezen.com/ Mick Mayers

      Yeah, I wasn’t sure and that whistleblower account didn’t have any name attached to it. Like I said, I think Capt. Smart needs to get some time to cool off and I personally think the episode was more about filming than safety, despite the claims. But like looking at the “Bingo Firefighter” post on your page a little bit ago, it’s fair game with some of these commenters when it comes to being able to hide behind a pseudonym. God forbid any of them ever screws something up. I think the video was tragic and it certainly illustrates the need for more education on the rights of those to take images of scenes. The rhetoric is completely out of touch with reality for some of these people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/noflatlanders Tim Robinson

    I completely understand your point of view and for the most part agree. I also agree with your position on fire attack and do not think you a “pussy”. While the situation was escalated, what has happened is a knee-jerk reaction to case of instant celebratey. We do not know the back story of the call, period. As I mentioned in my first response to the video, maybe this was a pediatric patient, maybe an elderly lady, who knows. What is important to me as a former fire officer, is that those involved and those who may follow are educated by the events that happened that day. How many of those who responded with harsh and pointed commentary to the vdio actually know Capt. Smart? Probably very few. Lets just hope that those who would walk in Capt. Smart’s perverbial shoes learn from the video and will take it into account if and when they encounter something similer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nstanaway Nathan Stanaway

    I disagree that everyone in the public safety sector has
    always been against the guy with the camera until reading a blog.
    I have NEVER understood the need to attack or otherwise harass those
    with cameras. I really just cannot grasp the concept. Why does it matter?? Donít you just assume youíre always on camera? I donít think blaming adrenaline and emotion is a good excuse. Emotion has no place in critical thinking. Allowing emotion to control you is dangerous, as a leader, it can be catastrophic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jim.panknin Jim Panknin

    Mick, I wholeheartedly agree with almost everything you say. The main points I disagree with you, and everyone else condemning the Capt. is this. The Capt. NEVER tries to restrict the videographer from taping the scene. The Capt. clearly states that the person needs to move back for safety reasons. So there is no controversy regarding the 1st Amendment. In fact, at around the 4:00 mark the Capt. clearly indicates the person was advised earlier to stay back due to the landing of the helicopter. The videographer even acknowledges hearing the directive. The problem arises from the FF comments to the videographer and the fact that the videographer then reacts to those comments rather than the Capt., the person of authority at the incident. The videographer then proceeds to, by ignorance or spite, to question the FD authority and refuses the lawful directive to move. I am not going to question the safety zone the Capt. was trying to establish as I am not at all familiar with what his SOP/SOG states. It could be that he was acting on input of the flight personnel on scene that the videographer was too close. As for comments about the cars passing by, they are passing through the zone and are not in any danger of flying debris since they are both passing through the scene and the occupants are protected by the car itself.
    The only action I can find legitimate concern with the Capt.’s actions is when he tries to use physical force to move the person. The most this action probably deserves is a counseling session with the Capt., and even that is probably not necessary. I am betting that the Capt. recognized the issues before he even left the scene. Also, the other action that needs to be addressed is the FF who approached the videographer and made the incorrect statements. This FF definitely needs some training regarding legal issues of public space picture and video taping as well as to shut his mouth when an officer arrives to such an incident.

  • Larry Girard

    We had a chief in the area who simply hated the press, print, video, radio, it didn’t matter. While he wouldn’t confront them, he certainly wouldn’t do anything to facilitate their newsgathering. He’s no longer on this mortal coil, but if he was, I’m sure he’d have a real problem with social media.
    That said, methinks that two ‘rules’ will suffice when it comes to social media: First, don’t do anything you don’t want to become viral on the Internet. Second, unless such a person is actually in an area where they are in danger, just ignore them.
    Yellow tape is a wonderful thing. Put it where you want the public to be, and early in the game, and the safety piece of this is non-existent.
    Of course, there are those (like the old chief I mentioned) who would prefer that the tape was put up at least a quarter mile from the scene…

  • Pingback: Best of the Rest – Never Ask The Dead, Accomack Arson Spree, Paramedic David Lee Roth, Eagle Scout Project, and much more! | The Fire Critic

  • ChiefReason

    Zen Master:

    It seems like everything goes full circle and topics that were being discussed 3 – 4 years ago are coming around again.
    Civil debate/discussion has always been a juggernaut. Just the discussion about civil discussion can get heated. Because we can’t provide the perfect answer-one that EVERYONE agrees with-there will always be room for civil disobedience when discussing topics; many that come from emotional/stressful situations.

    It’s very simple to me; if you post anything in the public domain, then you know and accept that you will get responses; pro and con, good and bad, thoughtful and thoughtless.

    If you want an example; do a blog on go/no go for an interior attack and just MENTION the word “safety”. You’ll know what I mean.

    Now; the topic at hand-the MDFR video fiasco.

    Capt. Smart over-reacted, BUT I think that his action was pre-disposed to the many conversations that have been had about LIABILITIES. I don’t think that it was a “god complex” or “drunk with power” situation. Unless fire departments have taken to dash cams or filming their own incidents for “training” purposes, then I think it is that with all of the lawyers talking about making mistakes and having it on film as a detriment, stronger efforts to control the scene have been made. And with someone in the crowd taping, it is not completely unheard of that fire departments have haters out there. Capt. Smart should have stuck to his business and sent a cop over to move the freelancer. No one in there right mind will argue a guy wearing a badge AND a gun.
    Simply put; the situation was handled poorly.
    I agree with Nathan that we should always conduct ourselves like we are on tape, but we should also remember there are dirtbags looking for fame and fortune off the backs of someone else’s tragedies.
    Good stuff, Mick.

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Michael "Mick" Mayers

Deputy Fire Chief - Operations Division for Hilton Head Island (SC) Fire Rescue and an Emergency Response Coordinator with the United States Department of Health and Human Services  National Disaster Medical System Incident Response Coordination Team.
Recent Posts
Comments
Colin Fanning
The Roto-Ray: Beauty or Beast?
One of the most important facts we reviewed when deciding on the roto ray purchase was this; With the speeds of traffic on SC 278, by the time people heard the sirens on our fire trucks our light bars (on top of the roof) were out of sight. The roto ray, with its mounted location…
2014-07-25 15:07:00
Mick Mayers
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Thanks, Bryan! I genuinely believe I do and they tend to reward me with professionalism, innovation, and compassion to our citizens daily. That's something I am happy to facilitate.
2014-07-15 04:10:00
Bryan G. Riebe
Questioning Heroism
Chief, appreciated in your response to Geoff that you work for the FFs. Believe if more Chiefs lived that philosophy our fire services would be bastions of honor, ethics, and human potential.
2014-07-15 00:05:00
Christopher Roy
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Geoff, EMS, as its own service, does not have a strong voice and in turn, does not get the respect in the media/public that it does deserve. I do hope that changes. EMS doesn't have a home either, and that doesn't help. There are so many different delivery methods in this country that its probably…
2014-07-14 23:49:00
Mick Mayers
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I'm sorry you feel that way, Geoff. The department I work with has been doing EMS (advanced care AND transport) with cross-trained personnel for over twenty years and doing a pretty good job. Our community expects a certain level of service that we have been able to provide through that model and while not every…
2014-07-14 22:01:00

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Although I am affiliated or employed by certain entities, I in no way speak in this forum or others on behalf of those entities unless I have specifically stated such. Any implication otherwise is doing so contrary to my agreements with those entities. The result is that the observations and opinions by myself or on behalf of Firehouse Zen are not sanctioned by any other entity other than Graffiti Train Sherpa Publications and are protected by the copyright laws of the United States of America.

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