How did you control rumors?


Manuel Salinas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
You mentioned rumor control. What exactly is involved in rumor control?

Answer:
Rumor control, the way we set it up, and we had a gentleman who did that for us in CRS, is to come up with a telephone number. Then you have people who feed information into a person or persons at that number, as accurate information as possible. So that if people heard of something, the community could call that number and say, "Hey we heard that fifty cars are coming down the highway," and we would verify that and say "yes' or "no". So rumor control involved getting as accurate information as possible, so that if anybody would call we could convey the correct information. Because rumors begin when you have something like that and they are way off the wall, but the person doesn't know that until you try to find out if it's true or not. The press might call, too. So that's what rumor control was about.

Question:
Who was it who called in the accurate information?

Answer:
CRS people, or the police department, people with authority, not just anybody. Because if anybody called in, it was difficult for us to justify or check out that information, if any person just called in. So we would have to depend on ourselves and the police department, the sheriff's department, things like that. Or city officials, city officials might call in on something.






Bob Ensley


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

This was a case involving a whole series of events and many people were affected, including the family of the young girl who was viciously murdered. Kazell Moore is still on death row and he's been there about 20 years or more now. Roosevelt Green had his mother come out there dressed as if she was going to a cocktail party. A sheriff was hurt by the people making the accusation that he had allowed vigilantes to come in and lynch Roosevelt Green.

Question:
How did that rumor get started?

Answer:
I don't know. All I know is that I got a call from a black councilwoman up there. She called me and told me that I'd better get up there. I only live 22 miles away and they were holding a mass meeting at this church, talking about how the sheriff allowed these vigilantes to go in there, how he knew where the body was and how they had poured lime into the well. This is the kind of thing you have to be very careful with, and the media didn't give it that much attention. We were able to nip it before the media got a hold of it and sensationalized it. Nobody would benefit from it being plausible because it would have caused a lot of damage. It would've damaged the credibility of the sheriff. After the fugitive was found in New York, it would've created a lot of doubt in the credibility of a lot of the black leaders up there who were involved. In a crisis situation, one of the first things you do is take into account what rumors will do to you. In large cities we always set up a rumor control center. That's the first thing we do because of the people. The most notorious people for spreading the rumors are the wives of white law enforcement officials. They're the world's worst. The officers go home and talk about it, and then their wives get on the phone. The first thing, you know, we have all these wild rumors going. So that's why it's extremely important to set up a rumor control center and check it out and verify it and get back to the person who's calling.

Question:
So in a small community, how do you separate the issues from the rumors?

Answer:
First of all, you have to get credible people. You call so-and-so, they'll tell you there are certain people in every community that both black and white feel comfortable talking to. That's the only way to do it because you cannot do it yourself; you don't live there. You're not familiar with anyone there. You have to get people that are respected, who are honest. You let that rest with the community, don't try to take on that burden yourself, because you can't win.







Manuel Salinas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Later on, of course, to talk about conciliation, they would have demonstrations say in Sioux Falls and they would call us say, "Hey we're going to have a demonstration in Sioux Falls, we would like for you to be there so you could help us establish the relationship between the police department, the sheriff's department and the highway department because we're going to march from such a place to such a place, and then we're going to end up at the courthouse, or the prison in Sioux Falls because they're holding one of our Native Americans there." So we would like you to make those arrangements with law enforcement so that we have protection. After Wounded Knee, we were also involved in their pow-wows in other towns.

Question:
And this is the Native Americans who asked you to do this?

Answer:
Yes. They called us and said these are the things that we're going to need because this is what we're going to have. They were having a pow-wow and there were a lot of rumors going around. It goes to show you how small communities react. They were fearful the Indians would get out of hand. I guess they go back to history and they think of that. That doesn't happen, but that's the way the system thinks. We said "ok, let's set up a rumor control system at the Catholic Church". Well, being a small community, the Catholic Church wanted to do that. But the priest was told, "you set up a rumor control center in this church basement, and we will no longer fund or contribute toward the church." So we had to set it up at another location.







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