I am working on a book about the intersection of the Ottoman Empire and the Balkan principalities in the 15th century. (Wait! Don’t fall asleep yet.) It’s the story of the Muslim invasion and the seemingly hopeless scramble of Europe’s Christians to halt the invasion. The working title is Framed! How the Media Destroyed a Prince of Christendom. I could add, “and why it is important to America’s Concealed Carry Community.”
While the 15th century was one of innovation in the printed word, it was also a time of desperate fighting between Christians and Muslims on both ends of the Mediterranean. German goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg developed a movable type press in 1439. By 1500, 20 million volumes had been printed (on a continent with a low literacy rate).
Books existed before Gutenberg — thousands, in fact — but they were copied laboriously by hand and thus were expensive, prone to mistakes and incredibly time-consuming. Thousands of wandering storytellers and minstrels worked during the era also. Thus, the printing press moved the news of the day from ears to eyes, from an oral tradition to a written tradition.
Remember the game Telephone? The leader whispers a phrase to one individual, who whispers it to the next. As it goes full circle, the message changes. That, in essence, was how news was disseminated before movable type, and that method still has not changed. Having worked in the media for years, I can testify that the source of tomorrow’s headlines is often a hotel bar.
In the 15th century, the man who was slandered was named Vlad. His father, a minor princeling on the edge of the Balkans, gave him to the Ottoman Empire Muslims as a child hostage. Between periods of captivity by the Ottomans and the competing Christian warlords vying to control the region, Vlad led the resistance to Muslim takeover.
The wandering media of the day picked up Vlad’s story and enhanced it. From a minor prince of Wallachia (now a province of Romania) and hero of the resistance, the media made him into a monster, eventually inventing the name “Vlad the Impaler.” It was a luscious story, although the practice of impaling enemies or criminals was ancient and widespread and was mentioned twice in the Bible.
In the vicious, backstabbing politics of the day, facing immensely powerful enemies, Vlad got a bad rap. And when Irish writer Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in 1897, linking the Vlad the Impaler fiction to the vampire fiction, the fun really started, and Vlad’s name will forever be associated with the impossible and disgusting.
This was no isolated incident. The media twists facts, ruins reputations and responds to their paycheck. Here are recent examples:
A recent Johns Hopkins University study claims that 250,000 Americans die from medical mistakes every year. Still, there is no nationwide effort or media hysteria to get rid of doctors. Most firearms fatalities in the U.S. are due to suicide. Perhaps we should outlaw suicide.
- Donald Trump: America’s 45th president has a flamboyant, challenging style of populist leadership. The media and traditional power brokers scorn him for it. They abuse his leadership team and even his family.
- Camilla Parker Bowles: Once vilified as the woman who practically crucified Diana, Camilla has married Prince Charles. She is now accepted, appreciated and even praised in formerly Great Britain.
- Bill Clinton: A known liar and sexual predator, the 42nd president still made millions selling his name and his agenda. The media ridiculed his victims. The Me Too crowd protects him. Recently, the New York City magazine Town & Country invited him to a philanthropy summit with Michael Bloomberg. A major agenda item is gun control.
- The NRA: The media wants to crush this organization containing 4 million members. They blame the NRA for gun violence, and they are crusading against the Second Amendment. Meanwhile, a recent Johns Hopkins University study says 250,000 Americans die every year from medical mistakes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says 40,000 people are killed in traffic accidents. Still, there is no nationwide effort to get rid of automobiles or doctors.
The ‘70s dictum was, “Follow the money.” Vlad, a Christian crusader for the Eastern Orthodox Church, was framed in the most horrendous manner by money from Rome and Constantinople, money paid to the media of the day. It is no different now as anyone who has dipped a toe into the national argument about gun control, the Second Amendment and concealed or open carry will testify.
If you ever have a microphone shoved in your face following a self-defense incident, remember the story of Vlad, Trump, Kennedy and Clinton, and know that money-men pull the media strings behind the scenes. If this has happened to you — if you have been forced into the media spotlight — let’s hear how you survived.