Escape From WeAreSC (a ban on a fan)

Escape From WeAreSC (a ban on a fan)

Free Speech was a big issue when I was a student in the late 60’s at USC, the time of Berkley protests and Angela Davis. I remember when I was sports editor then at USC I came upon the scene where some fraternity jocks were bullying some campus hippies who wanted to burn an American flag in protest. When I asked the head jock if his position justified the threat of violence he said to me that he had not threatened anybody and that if I wrote that “I would be a world of hurt..”

I was not going to be intimidated as to my free-speech. I Used his threat as my lead. Later I saw in the 60’s the LAPD attack peace marchers in Century City. And who can forget Kent State? Constitutional Law and free speech cases were my favorite at U.S.C. law school. We have seen freedom of press save the country from Nixon and Bush Jr. eras. Here, even Presidents are held accountable.

As a lawyer I specialized in suing “destructive cults” which as a rule not only denied free speech but coerced people to think the same way. I have been sued unsuccessfully in effort to control my speech and once suffered a murder attempt (a rattlesnake placed in my mailbox by Synanon) to silence my activities.

As a writer any roadblock to free speech was and is unthinkable; it was not something that ever could be sacrificed for any alleged greater good. As a public defender in l972 the head of my office told me a story I was doing for West magazine of the LA Times that involved the murder of a public defender would have to be edited by him and I responded, “You read it over Sunday breakfast like everyone else.”

Yet today, more than perhaps any other time, and ironically at the height of our abilities to transmit information, free speech may be under more attack than ever before. Everywhere there is a blog, fan club or special interest site. Like newspapers and magazines they invite comments, but unlike their publication counterparts, many, if not most, become subject to the group fanatical support and demands that all participants follow the party line or be excommunicated.

A good example is the college football boards where while the subject is not really earth shattering, it is to many–as former UCLA coach Red Saunders once said an issue more important than life or death. On boards it is common for one school’s fanatics to write derogatory comments on other school boards and then report back happily to their alma mater they were banned by rivals for “dishing” it out.

My route to the WeAreSC board is a little different.

I admit I am a fanatical fan. I wrote on the USC site the Agony and the Ecstasy which tells fifty years of USC football intertwined with my life story. It begins:

“It was somewhere between the age of eight and ten, sometime between the years l954 to l956, I am just not exactly sure, that my father took me to my first college football game. It was USC –UCLA, Powder Blue vs. Cardinal and Gold. The pageantry was overwhelming. Outside the gates The Trojan band marched and played, “Fight on.” It was so exciting. Inside, my eyes diameter doubled at the sight of the Trojans roaring out of the Tunnel. The “V” hand signs in the air. The beauty of the White horse Traveler on who road a man dressed as a Trojan of golden olden days long gone. Together they galloped around the Coliseum along the track that circled the field, rising up before the cheering section, the rider gallantly pointing his Excalibur-like sword to the sky. And the sounds– “Charge, Trojans, charge,” the song “Fight On” and the greatest band football sound ever to be—“Conquest.”

When I finally became accepted at U.S.C. I became a Daily Trojan sports writer, then sports editor and had a regular honor of weekly meetings with John McKay. The LA Times (Sid Ziff) offered me a job but I chose law school and earned money each fall doing stories for the Pigskin Review (sold at the football games). I was asked to write the John McKay book but passed it along to Jim Perry and instead became a freelance writer of true investigative stories.

In 2002 my brother introduced me to WeAreSC. At the time its posters had some humility coming out of lean years and a lot of contributors who knew a lot of football. The owner of WeAreSC, Garry Paskewitz. contacted me about joining staff after I wrote a long piece in 2005 on USC’s all-time players, position by position.

Once on staff, I published the “John McKay Era and how it started,” which has been considered a definitive piece on Saint John. I did a game story for WeAreSC Magazine on 2005 Orange Bowl and in 2005 wrote for WeAreSC Magazine, “True Grit and Tailback U.’ the most complete story ever of USC’s long line of running backs.
I wrote an “honoring series,” stories of great USC past players which can be read by entering my name or the player’s name and “honoring” in google.

But as SC dominated, the arrogance at WeAreSC grew, as it did with the team itself. By 2006 I dropped off staff. With the firing of Chow, the faked Lendale White suicide, the lack of assistant coaches, etc. I became a critic of Pete Carroll. This produced on the site a lot of foul words about my mother and demands I leave.

Despite being “the” fan, in 2008 I introduced the “Negative File” which collected from around the internet criticisms of Pete Carroll/USC not because I was in agreement, but to teach there is free speech and the right to criticize. I denounced WeAreSC’s mantra, “In PC We Trust.”

By 2009, most posters had gotten it, many saw I was right, and the right to free speech had improved. It seemed accepted. Meanwhile I had a following on the Florida board and was invited to write for the Gator’s site, it waiving its fee. I was reasonably accepted and there was interest in my West Coast prospective until the NCAA-USC sanctions hit and I found many Gator’s celebrating that the “cheaters” got caught. I wrote that there was nothing in the report about U.S.C. football cheating; no accusation of U.S.C. paying a football player. I pointed out the discrepancies between the evidence and the report, the troublesome fact that the NCAA was releasing press statements in response to an appeal it would judge and predicted that eventually the media when they realize these facts would become more U.S.C. supportive. When I finally pointed out that Florida had its own history, and arguably it was more severe, I was banned.

Hear no evil.

I wrote of this banning on the U.S.C. website, and reminded that many Trojan posted were of a similar state of mind. But the posters in the end were not the problem.

As the 2010 USC season started, the team played four stinkers against poor competition. When the USC staff, save former player Jerry Hogue, still laid claim this was an exciting football team, I wrote. “yes… on every play you don’t know if a red flag will be tossed.” When a staff member tried to analyze USC by comparing stats with teams in the 30’s I commented “irrelevant.” When a long time professional sports writer joined staff and wrote U.S.C. should give the ball 30 — 40 times to Alan Bradford on sweeps I responded that was a great idea “if this was l966.” Today’s defensive players are too big and fast for one back to take such punishment.

And so just before the fifth game I received an e-mail from Gary Paskewitz, the WeAreSC site owner. He acknowledged I had failing health but said he was concerned over “consistent critiques and jabs at this website and the writers who contribute here. .. the issue is that you do it on our site and that makes it my business. Literally, this is my business. And when someone comes and takes a piss on the front porch of your business every day, eventually you’re going to get real tired of it. I’ve reached that point…”

My response was to stand up for free speech. I posted:

“It has been brought to my attention some staff members do not like my criticism of the weekly game reports interpretations. My response is that I have said nothing not said by Hogue in his report or by Daily News Scott Wolf on video USC report. And what are you going to do…ban Whitney Blaine? She’s too cute.

“So I have no attention of treating anyone off limits.”

Gary wrote me again in response:

“Complete lack of class on your part Paul. I treat you with respect by sending you a private note and you pull this stunt.

“I’ll tell you what. I have no intention of allowing you to post on the site anymore.

And so while an old l967 SC game story of mine goes up on a USC restaurant wall honoring USC history, and USC builds it’s archive on my career, I am banned from WeAreSC. My 50 years of sports writing at an end.

In one sense, Gary is right. It is his site. He can be as tyrannical as he wishes perhaps only constrained by how far USC would let him go with their image in his hands.

But the media has always published their letters to the editors, allowing criticism in recognition that without it the media just becomes the tool of propaganda in totalitarian states. Just read what Wolf puts up with.

What is of concern is that for information we, society, are turning less to the old sources of news, searching instead through blogs and sites, where the talented and untalented merge. There have always been efforts by the old media to overextend its influence by control of communication, but never has anything been long term successful; not even Fox news (I was interviewed in a documentary on the subject of Fox news and free speech). But as internet sites become more polarized and formed by similar thinking individuals, and businessmen set to profit on their fanaticism, free speech may be more in danger at this time that any time before. The business of appeasing sport fanatics may just be a start.

What will be the next subject to be controlled.

I can read my Coach McKay story only because republished it ( My story Honoring “J.K. McKay–the coach’s son” has also appeared on other sites as has the Agony and the Ecstasy. Google has couched my “honoring series.” You can all click and read. Except me. If I click I cannot read many of my own stories. I get instead a message that says:

“You have been banned for the following reason:
No reason was specified.”

It is an unusual ending for USC’s biggest fan and a disturbing warning as to our evolving new methods of information delivery and the right to fair comment.

The bright spot is I can make my own site, write my opinion, and anyone looking may find it with merely a google. This article has remained high on the google search of WeAreSC for some time. In the end, Free Speech, as always, in this country finds the way to prevail.