CNN's "Compound" Interest

Posted: Jun 08, 2001 12:00 AM
How many families do you know that live in a "compound"? My dictionary defines a compound as "an enclosed area used for confining prisoners of war." But in the liberal media handbook, "compound" means any dwelling where God and guns are present. It's a loaded word used to conjure up images of white separatists and religious sects. In New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., city-slicker journalists live in estates and condos. In flyover country, the unwashed masses live on farms and "compounds." "Compound" has a way of conveniently dehumanizing the people who live in the place being described. CNN anchors and reporters endlessly invoked "compound" to describe the home of the 76 Branch Davidians who were killed during the Clinton-Reno government siege at Waco, Texas, in 1993. And now the word has been resurrected again. Over the past week, I heard "compound" used repeatedly by CNN correspondents who left their posh East Coast digs to cover a five-day "standoff" in rural America between armed government agents and a frightened family. The McGuckins of Garfield Bay, Idaho, had fallen on hard times since the head of the household, 61-year-old Michael, took ill. The family's 40-acre property was auctioned off to pay back taxes. Then Michael died last month. Wife JoAnn, widowed with six children living at home, was in an understandably fragile state. The family turned inward and relied on each other and their faith to survive. They rejected welfare. But on May 29, Mrs. McGuckin reached out. Local deputies told her she could obtain Social Security benefits if she left the house to make a phone call. It was a cruel ruse. The deputies picked her up, and instead of helping her, they arrested her on a suspiciously flimsy charge of felonious child abuse. Down swooped the CNN camera crews to cover the aftermath. The children, afraid of being split up, reportedly took up the family guns and sent some of their dogs out to defend against law enforcement officials who had surrounded their home. Eileen O'Connor, a bewildered CNN national correspondent who looked like she had just been dropped off in Kuala Lumpur, stood outside the "compound" during the "standoff" and regurgitated whatever local authorities told her: -- O'Connor described a pack of "vicious, wild dogs" at the "compound." But according to local Humane Society president Rick Lopes, 10 of the McGuckin's 22 dogs were newborn puppies. Another was expecting a new litter. Most weighed about 20 pounds, and as Lopes told the Idaho Statesman, the dogs "love kids." -- O'Connor alluded several times to the McGuckin children being "without food and electricity." But when examined at the hospital, doctors said the kids were in fine condition and not malnourished as prosecutor Phil Robinson had alleged. Officials were also forced to retract claims that the kids had survived on "lake water and lily-pad soup" and that the "compound" had no power. -- O'Connor also parroted local officials' claim that Michael McGuckin had died of "dehydration and malnutrition." But the county coroner refuted the allegation. McGuckin died from complications related to multiple sclerosis. Robinson, the zealous prosecutor, continues to claim that Mrs. McGuckin has a "mental illness" and implies that she is an alcoholic. He has railed against the home's "filth" -- without acknowledging that much of it was probably caused by law-enforcement officials themselves. During the almost week-long siege of their home, the kids were forced to keep their pets inside to keep them from being shot. "The state needs to learn its place -- and that is not in family business," Mrs. McGuckin said in a powerfully lucid statement from jail where she remains today. "I do not accept the charges to begin with. It will be up to them to explain their behavior to everyone because it affects us all. May the public demand some answers as well." Don't expect any from CNN. Their "compound" interest is in ratings and sensationalism, not in accuracy or justice.