Let me assure doubters that mud at the bottom of a pond is as dark and deep as any to be found in a lake. By mud, I’m talking about power games as they are played from rural Alabama or New York. Near the end of my final term as a county commissioner in a midsize city, I became privy to damaging information about a prominent figure. I didn’t doubt my source, but I had no proof that would enable me to pursue the matter. Nonetheless, I became the target of intimidation. One day, it became serious enough for me to find myself in a car chase that ended only when I lead my pursuer into a cordon of police.
Questioned, the man had an easy defense. He’d pursued me, he said, because I’d rear-ended his car and had fled the scene of the accident. No collision marks appeared on his truck or my ford, so the police told the man to drive away. He did, but I knew nothing was settled. As the 3 squad cars prepared to leave, one officer paused long enough to advise me to be careful and to lock my office doors. Then they left. Shaken, I found myself alone, standing in an empty parking lot.
Intimidation is an easy, cheap method to obtain silence. But others exist. Paying for it is common. Stormy Daniels has shown the world how that works… or doesn’t Hiring detectives is another strategy. Collecting damaging information on a possible informant might be enough to silence that person. If it doesn’t, then media experts take the stage. Their job is to “rehabilitate” a tarnished image. Bill Cosby will need one if he exits prison. Of course, with enough money, an individual with a damaged reputation can buy a news outlet to control the flow of information. The founder of TD Ameritrade took that route and managed to censor or counter damaging reports. (“The Sound of Silence,” by Ben Widdicombe, Town&Country, February, pg. 108.) Today, who remembers his name?
All these ploys require money, of course. Even the man who followed me probably was paid. But before these bills become due, the first line of defense is a good lawyer, someone who can parse words and skirt the law. (Ibid, pg. 94.) Even so, there are no guarantees. Money doesn’t buy loyalty, as our President well knows.