Documentary filmmaker John Ziegler, who's hard at work fighting Sarah Palin's last battles for her, appeared On The Record with Greta Van Susteren, whose husband is hard at work fighting Sarah Palin's future battles, for the glory of Scientology.
Ziegler was on the show to discuss recent events at the University of Southern California, where he was detained by whatever authorities patrol that institute of higher learning.
See, last year, Sarah Palin was interviewed by Katie Couric and Ziegler never forgave Couric for asking such terrible gotcha questions as "What newspapers do you read?" So when he heard that Couric was getting some sort of award for conducting those interviews, he apparently became worked up enough to trundle off to Los Angeles to stand outside the awards show and ask everybody in attendance if they were suffering from space madness, or something! Now, I agree with Ziegler up to a point: that Couric could get an award for her Palin interviews indicates that it's never been easier to win an award for journalism. Let's face it, exposing the fact that Palin wasn't shape to be the vice-president isn't exactly cracking the Da Vinci Code.
Anyway, Ziegler went and stood outside this award ceremony, asking people why they would come to a ceremony honoring Couric - which is journalism, I guess - and attempting to hand people copies of his own Sarah Palin interview, which is self-promotion. And so a pair of Paul Blarts detained him, carted him away from the premises, and ultimately let him go.
Ziegler captured the moment thusly:
ZIEGLER: And, of course, we have the ultimate irony, where Katie Couric is getting an award for her Sarah Palin interview at the very same moment where I am trying to give people copies of my Sarah Palin interview who are entering the event so they'll know what a lie the Couric interview really was, and I can't do it, literally because my arms are behind my back, handcuffed.
I was shocked and amused at this at first, Greta. But now, I am angered and saddened. And this really doesn't have that much to do with me. I think this is about what's going on in this country and how things that were once unthinkable are now happening in almost ordinary ways and becoming acceptable.
I sort of think that the ultimate irony is that Ziegler is complaining about getting precisely the sort of footage that will go over well with fans of his documentaries. I mean, he went on private property, was asked to leave, and was ultimately removed. This happens all the time, to documentary filmmakers (Michael Moore and the video for Rage Against The Machine's "Sleep Now In The Fire" immediately comes to mind), and this sort of controversy typically garners more attention than the actual journalism conducted. So that's another irony, more ultimate. Anyway, what happened is hardly unthinkable! And Ziegler will sell more DVDs now, so everyone's a winner.
Unless of course, people actually watch the video of Ziegler being detained, helpfully provided by Fox, which doesn't so much depict a stoic documentarian heroically facing authority figures as it does a man who seems eager to restage the "Don't tase me, bro!" video, by laughing maniacally, flopping around, and acting as if he is in the throes of a particularly thunderous bowel movement.
This afternoon, the Huffington Post spoke to James Grant, the Executive Director of Media Relations for USC. Their version of events goes a little counter to Ziegler's narrative.
According to Grant, in the days before his eventual appearance on campus, Ziegler publicly announced his intention to demonstrate at the Couric event. USC was happy to accomodate Ziegler, and provided him with a designated area, where he could register his protest, be seen by event attendees and the student body, and pass out whatever materials he wished. These arrangements were ready upon Ziegler's arrival.
However, according to Grant, Ziegler showed up for the event making unexpected demands. He was no longer a demonstrator. Now, he was a journalist, with cameramen in tow, insistent that he had a right to enter the event. Told that the event was invitation only, Ziegler contended that he had the right to range up and down the entryway and stick microphones into the faces of attendees.
Said Grant, "The University both respects and facilitates the right to free speech, but we reserve the right to set reasonable ground rules that respect the rights of everyone, and provide for the safety and security of the University community." Ziegler, opting against the ground rules that had been mutually agreed to, was given the choice of leaving campus or being arrested, and eventually chose to leave campus.