Mort Report is a labor of love by old-style correspondents with lifetimes on the road and young ones with fresh eyes. Our philosophy is simple: we report at first hand with analysis based on non-alternative fact, not opinion. If we get something wrong, we fix it.
ATAGONIA, Arizona - A 12-year-old reporter famously outdrew the marshal in this Old West town last February, and she showed that a pencil in the right hands is still mightier than a lawman's sidearm. These days, however, it is best not to count on that. Or much else.
Patagonia, once a railway whistle stop for miners and ranchers on a shady creek near the Mexican border, is now timeout territory for dropouts, diehards and deep thinkers who listen to different drums. It says much about what's going wrong – and what isn't - in America.
That marshal ordered young Hilde Lysiak to stop tailing him on her bike. She said she was on a story. He replied that she was just a kid and in any case was obliged to obey a police order. She stood her ground.
In her print and online monthly Orange Street News, Hilde quoted the marshal as saying, “I don't want to hear about any of that freedom of the press stuff…I'm going to have you arrested and thrown in juvey.” He let her go with a warning not to circulate her video of the encounter.
She immediately published the video. The Town Council apologized profusely for what it called a First Amendment violation. “We are sorry, Hilde,” the mayor said in a long statement about citizens' rights. “We encourage and respect your continued aspirations…”
Score one for the good guys. But a free regional monthly and Hilde's paper, which is heavy on stabbings and shoplifting, are it for news. Some of Patagonia's 1,000 residents read voraciously online. Others own no TV and pay little attention to the world beyond their happy valley.
Townsfolk, a little more blue than red, can be evasive when asked where they stand. Arguing politics tends to foul the air in a small community. But as in all small towns, there are notable fixtures like Charlie Montoy, happy to speak his mind with all comers.
Montoy’s garage is emblazoned with neatly painted letters, PIGS, for politically incorrect gas station. “Yes, I’m for Trump,” he said. “He’s a businessman. I spent thirty years here, working every day. These liberal fuckers want something for nothing.”
TUCSON, Arizona — The scary part of America's descent down a rabbit hole is less the mad ruler who bellows, “Off with their heads!”, than so many salt-of-the-earth guys like Tony, my friendly plumber, who accepts his denial of damning evidence that he himself produced.
That Ukraine phone call ought to impact like planes leveling the World Trade Center. Far more destructive than a terrorist attack, it shows an American president undermining democracy at a time when emboldened dictators plunder a world faced with mass extinctions.
Yet Tony tunes out impeachment fervor as just more noise from a corrupt liberal media monolith. “Hillary and Obama did the same thing,” he tells me. I don't argue. He's a good guy at heart with an immutable viewpoint: journalists, like plumbers, make a living by stirring up shit.
Donald Trump is gambling that enough people like Tony believe him over their own eyes and ears. History warns us to worry. In the 1500s, a British writer coined a phase that sums up human reality dating back to the Bible: There are none so blind as those who will not see.