It has been clear from the beginning that the whole point of the arranged affray at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco last May 17 was to vilify the Bandidos Motorcycle Club.
You have to be simpleminded not to understand why the pole camera went up that morning at seven. What do you think the police wanted to immortalize? A bunch of guys with gray facial hair saying the Pledge of Allegiance?
Obviously things did not work out as planned. Mistakes were made. The buckets of blood, the platoons of the arrested, the goose honking of Patrick Swanton and the amateurishness of local attorneys and officials got in the way of collecting video proof that the Bandits are, indeed, a mafia on motorcycles – which is to say that when push comes to shove many members may be found to have Colonial-Era attitudes about violence.
Fortunately for the Department of Justice, the increasingly cynical American public now has the attention span of a gerbil on acid. So, after a brief pause of three seasons, the public relations campaign against the Bandidos has been refloated. And the most interesting things about this campaign are what it says, in an election year, about propaganda and truth and gullibility and bullshit and the gelding of the Fourth Estate.
A Sense Of Justice
A lifetime ago in Havana, Ernest Hemingway – who once worked as a reporter for the Toronto Star and the Kansas City Star – remarked to George Plimpton, “A writer without a sense of justice and of injustice would be better off editing the yearbook…. The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector. This is the writer’s radar and all great writers have had it.” Looking back and around, there seems to be very little remaining reason to expect that journalism can be great or that occasionally great journalism might ensure the survival of the United States. Now it is all just one long weekend to nowhere with Steely Dan – only, probably, not as much fun.
After a federal indictment was announced last week against the three top officers of the Bandidos in America, The Guardian titled its account of the arrests of Jeff Pike, John Portillo and Justin Forster, “Bandidos biker gang leaders accused of waging ‘war’ on rival Cossacks.” The Guardian told headline readers, “Biker gang leaders indicted over May incident in Waco, Texas, in which nine people were killed and nearly 200 arrested in outbreak of gang violence.” Really. The paper said gang twice in the same sentence. And it showed absolutely no skepticism when it reported, “The indictment, announced on Wednesday by the US attorney’s office in San Antonio, accuses national Bandidos leaders of running an organization that used ‘murder, attempted murder, assault, intimidation, extortion and drug trafficking” to protect the organization’s power.’”
The headline in the Daily Mail was: “Leaders of Bandidos biker gang – who were on one side of deadly Waco shootout – are arrested and face prison for racketeering after deadly turf ‘war’ with rival Cossacks.”
Dane Schiller of the Houston Chronicle reported as fact: “After 10 Bandidos and their supporters stabbed and severely beat four rival Cossacks, the president of the Bandidos’ Abilene chapter allegedly gave the injured a warning: ‘This is our town. If you come back, I will kill you.’
“The November 2013 incident is how federal prosecutors contend the Bandidos take care of business. An indictment unsealed this week paints a picture of a Mafia-like gang whose members roam the state on Harley-Davidsons and shed the blood of those who cross them.”
Schiller did not report how he knows that this actually happened except that, you know, some government lawyers say it did.
Schiller is a well seasoned journalist who was the Chronicle’s “reporter of the year for 2012.” He is a “senior reporter on the Houston Chronicle’s investigative, projects and enterprise team.”
Today, Joe Pappalardo published an article in the alternative Dallas Observer titled “The Weapons of the Bandidos Biker Gang.” Pappalardo alerts interested citizens that Bandidos are partial to Glock 27s, Canick TP9s, Hi Point C9s, Jimenez Arms .22s, pump action shotguns and .38 caliber wheel guns. Pappalardo, a product of the prestigious University of Missouri School of Journalism, has previously worked as a private investigator in New York; as a reporter for the Mexico City Times, The Associated Press and the Corpus-Christi Caller-Times; and as an editor at National Defense magazine, Smithsonian Air & Space magazine, and Popular Mechanics. He has also written a book about sunflowers.
Thor Benson, whose work has been published in The Atlantic, Wired, Rolling Stone, Slate, Vice, The New Republic and The Daily Beast, reports on “How Biker Gangs Have Changed Over the Decades” for the online publication “ATTN:.” “ATTN:” describes itself as “a social impact company with a mission to inform and empower the next generation.”
“An outlaw motorcycle gang,” Benson reports, “is defined as: ‘A group of motorcycle owners who band together and who agree to disobey society’s laws.’” He doesn’t say which laws. Although there is a truism, popularized by an attorney named Harvey A. Silverglate, that the average American breaks three laws a day
Benson does cite “James Quinn, a former University of North Texas professor who has studied motorcycle gangs.” Benson does not warn readers that Quinn was indicted on nine counts of possession of child pornography on July 24.
ABC, CBS, the New York Daily News, The Brisbane Times and various television stations describe the Bandidos as a “gang.” CNN describes the Bandidos as a “club.”
Pike had a bond hearing in Houston this morning.