I used to live in Keene, New Hampshire and I've attended the annual Pumpkin Fest several times. It's always been a tame event, so I was surprised to hear that this year's festival was marked by drunken rioting, which apparently started when off-campus parties being attended by college students and out-of-towners grew out of control (don't blame the college or entire student body though). If you've been watching the news over the past few days, you're probably familiar with the scenes of people throwing glass bottles, ripping up streets signs, and even flipping over cars. Jared Goodell, a reporter who was covering Pumpkin Fest for Cheshire TV, the local public access channel, decided to speak about the rioting which was happening a few blocks away from the main street where the festival was happening. This apparently angered Pumpkin Fest organizer Ruth Sterling, who can be seen in the video below trying to stop Goodell's coverage.
As you can see in the video, Sterling tried to block the camera used in the broadcast, tried to grab Goodell's microphone, and threatened to “pull the plug,” which would presumably mean tampering with cameras and other equipment that don't belong to her. Sterling told Goodell that he was a “guest” at a “private event,” neglecting to mention that Pumpkin Fest takes place on public streets, sidewalks, and parks in downtown Keene. She also accused Goodell of being a “Free Stater,” referring to the Free State Project, which aims to get libertarian activists to move to New Hampshire. Throughout the entire incident, Goodell showed an amazing amount of patience – far more than Sterling deserved.
The incident was a bizarre sight, not just because of Sterling's childish behavior, but because she apparently actually believed that a public access channel with a tiny audience was somehow going to give her event a bad name.
If that doesn't show how detached from reality she is, read the defense of her actions she provided to Boston.com:
"I needed to keep 80,000 people safe. And one self-promoting punk could help me do that or TRY to impede me from doing that. I never regret when I try. Last night I was trying. I was not surrendering to fear, intimidation, threats," Sterling wrote.
This is a classic case of projection. Sterling accused Goodell of “self-promoting” (for talking about something that had nothing to do with him, mind you) when she was the one who interrupted his broadcast because she was upset with the coverage of her event. She complained about “intimidation” and “threats” when she was assaulting Goodell and threatening to “pull the plug” on his broadcast.
Thankfully, this incident has a happy ending of sorts, which is that Sterling's tantrum has become a viral video. The blog Free Keene uploaded the clip to their YouTube channel and it has already received nearly 100,000 views. I've seen the video played on several local news channels in Massachusetts and even national channels like Fox News. There was never a chance of a public access channel giving Pumpkin Fest a bad name, but Sterling has managed to that all by herself.
Sterling and other would-be censors may want to brush up on the “Streisand effect” before pulling any more stunts like this in the future.
Update (10/24/14): Free Keene has some additional information about this story. As it turns out, Sterling's attempts to censor Goodell went even further than what was shown on Cheshire TV:
According to CTV’s Executive Director Lee Perkins, after Sterling left the camera’s view she went around to each CTV crew member, including Perkins and demanded they take Jared off-the-air. They refused and she proceeded to search for the power adapter to literally “pull the plug”. She was unable to locate it and ultimately left.
Free Keene also posted the clip of Goodell reporting on the rioting just before Sterling accosted him, which further shows just how ridiculous and unreasonable she was being.