Mercury Confidential: The head of Glenn's investigative documentary crew opens up to GlennBeck.com about the search for the truth

by Meg Storm

Don't miss the latest documentary, For The Record, debuting this Wednesday at 8pm ET only on TheBlaze TV!

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at Mercury Radio Arts? Just how do all of Glenn’s crazy ideas get done? Does anyone ever get a chance to sleep? Well, over the next few months we are going to take you inside MRA, giving you the inside scoop on everything from publishing to special events, 1791 to Markdown to TheBlaze. We will be interviewing members of our New York, Columbus, and Dallas staff, bringing you all the info, so you can know what it’s really like to work for Glenn. Part 1 (Kevin Balfe – Publishing)Part 2 (Liz Julis – GBTV/Special Events)Part 3 (Joel Cheatwood: CCO & President of TheBlaze)Part 4 (Eric Pearce: VP, TV Operation of TheBlaze)Part 5 (Michelle Vanderhoff Network Operations Manager at TheBlaze)

Joe Weasel, Senior Producer, TheBlaze Documentary Films

If you have ever watched one of the original mini-series or documentary films produced by TheBlaze, you know that no topic, no ideology, no individual is off limits. From revealing the Muslim Brotherhood’s ties to the United States government in The Project to the Rumors of War trilogy, these programs prove that investigative and groundbreaking reporting is not entirely lost in America today. TheBlaze is continuing to work towards the restoration of journalism with its new news magazines style series, For The Record, premiering this Wednesday at 8PM ET, only on TheBlaze TV.

As you can probably imagine, creating such programming is no easy task, and Joe Weasel, Senior Producer, TheBlaze Documentary Films, is at the helm of the operation, working with a small but mighty team of seven editors and producers in TheBlaze’s Columbus, Ohio office to make it all happen.

“I do love my job. I just don’t like the hours sometimes,” Joe said with a laugh. “We don’t work 24 hours a day all the time, but when you are on deadline, you are here all night.”

A tried and true journalist, Joe was a syndicated columnist for Scripps Howard News Service, in addition to working as a local sports and features reporter in the Columbus area. All the while, he hosted a morning radio program and dabbled as a journalism professor at Ohio State University. In fact, it was during his time at Ohio State that he met one of his future colleagues.

“I was a journalism professor at Ohio State. I did that part time when I was a reporter. It was journalism 101 – writing and stuff,” he said. “And Tom Orr, who is now my researcher, was in the very first class I taught. He is a former student of mine.”

Joe joined Mercury Radio Arts three years ago, before TheBlaze even existed. He was brought on to create “mini documentaries,” or 12 minute segments that would air on Glenn’s Insider Extreme online streaming service. “We were testing the mini docs to see how they would work online,” Joe said. “We spent a year doing that, and then Restoring Honor was our first full documentary film.”

While a lot has changed at Mercury/TheBlaze since Joe and his team first started, some things have stayed the same. “I collaborate on ideas with Joel Cheatwood [President/Chief Content Officer, TheBlaze]. My job is to find areas that need a lot more attention – investigative, historical, educational, or whatever it is,” Joe explained. “And the key is to try to put that in a format that your average viewer can watch, consume, be entertained. It does stick to what Glenn has tried to do, which is enlighten, inform, and entertain. That hasn’t changed. That has been that way since I started here.”

While the concept may sound simple – create quality programming that entertains and enlightens –in actuality, the mission is easier said than done. “It can be a challenge sometimes because you are balancing editorially,” Joe said. “And you are really looking to make sure you have sourced everything, sometimes that stuff is really boring but you can’t deviate from that. We don’t take chances. Some of our subject matter certainly hits people or people aren’t happy with it.”

When dealing with topics that are as complex as investigating the Muslim Brotherhood infiltration or debunking the progressive agenda, establishing credibility and finding reliable sources is paramount. “It is a challenge with a small team,” Joe admitted. “We use a lot of sources we know. We talk to a lot of people quickly. That is the one thing TheBlaze has done – the resources have expanded with knowledgeable people that are willing to work with us. That has changed dramatically over the years as we have become more of a legitimate news source.”

“It also entails calling up a lot of people you know will never want to talk to you, or people that aren’t necessarily fans,” he continued. “But we are verifying and asking a lot of questions. That’s old fashioned journalism.”

While his team has gotten used to creating the “big, broader approach” documentaries, For The Record provided a new challenge for Joe and his crew. “I heard about For The Record for the first time in November or December,” Joe said laughing. “Nothing is ever enough time around here.”

Coming up with topics to cover on the series is a collaborative process, in which, when it comes to ideas, the sky is the limit. “Joel and I talk about them,” Joe said. “I have a list of potential topics that go from human trafficking, to why cupcake businesses are so big, to Christian persecution, to the true effects on a primary care physician under Obamacare. We are trying to do things that actually really apply to individuals.”

The first installment of For The Record, Surveillance State, takes the form of a “docu-drama” though it still holds true to the news magazine theme. The episode investigates how the NSA turned America into a surveillance state in the aftermath of September 11, 2011. Just a few minutes into the show, it becomes abundantly clear that through every phone call, every email… the government is watching.

Just how many hours does it take, from start to finish, to put an episode of For The Record together? “The first episode was 1,000 hours, which I thought was a lot,” Joe said. “But once you looked at it, everything made sense because it was all new – new graphics, new approach, new everything.”

Even though spending 1,000 hours working on a one hour-long show ma y seem inconceivable, there is a very formulaic production process that is needed to ensure no stone is left unturned. From pre-production to post production to everything in between, Joe explained how his team takes an abstract concept, like ‘the government is spying on its people,’ and turns it into can’t miss television.

“There is a pre-production meeting. Pre-production is basically the collection of the idea – where you going to go for the research, who the potential cast will be,” he said. From that meeting, an outline is created that is broken down into four blocks (or sections). Each block is then broken down into the topics it will deal with. “We have a rule of four and three here,” Joe said. “If you can’t make three points within a block, you probably aren’t doing it right.”

Once the ideas are in place, it is time for everyone to get to work. First and foremost, a producer is assigned to head-up each individual episode, which helps to make sure everything stays on track. “There is a producer assigned to the show,” Joe said, “who basically oversees the editing schedule and the shooting schedule.”

In the pre-production world, two people are particularly important: the researcher and the coordinating producer. “We have an elements person who researches elements and data. He will verify things as we go. For instance, if a person says something or makes a comment, his job is to go and make sure it wasn’t taken out of context, that we are using the whole sound bite,” Joe said. “Then there is the coordinating producer, who does exactly that. As I build this show, I will need stuff – she coordinates the timing, the shoots, the travel, all of that.”

“But all the directing and writing still comes back to me,” he added. “I still write all the scripts and direct it. I hand it over to the guys who act as editors, directors, photographers, and coordinators. And then if we need graphics along the way, we go to our graphic artist, who designs and creates the look and the feel as we go.”

“That’s how it works,” he said with a laugh.

The filming process is always difficult because finding the right sources with the right motives takes time and patience. “Nobody wants to do something for nothing – and I don’t just mean money. They either want their story out, or they have a friend who needs help. Nobody just usually grants an interview. So you have to find out what their motive is,” he explained. “Once you get past that, you have to have a comfort level that it is actually legitimate and make sure you are both on the same page in terms of information gathering.”

It may seem as though the hard work is over once all of the planning and filming is out of the way, but, in reality, the real work has only just begun. “And then you are here all night. And Joel makes 30,000 changes,” he said wryly, “but he is usually right, by the way.”

When approaching these projects, Joe has come to think of the world in thirds. One third of the audience is fans of Glenn and TheBlaze and are eager to watch the program. On the other extreme, one third will probably not have any interest in tuning in. But that final, middle third is still up for grabs. “There is a middle third that you can still get to. And I think that is who we are playing to in this,” he said.

For The Record is unique in that it will fill a very large void in the media. Shows like 60 Minutes, that were once the vanguard of investigative journalism, have (to put it mildly) lost their way. “Well, I hope people get stories that interest them,” Joe said of the series. “These are stories that need more time to be delivered, things that deserve more in-depth follow up, and hopefully it applies to their lives.”

At the end of the day, however, the goal is simple: deliver the truth. “We want people to understand that this is not a right or left issue,” he concluded. “And I thank God I have the freedom to do it.”

From the moment the 33-year-old Thomas Jefferson arrived at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1776, he was on the radical side. That caused John Adams to like him immediately. Then the Congress stuck Jefferson and Adams together on the five-man committee to write a formal statement justifying a break with Great Britain, and their mutual admiration society began.

Jefferson thought Adams should write the Declaration. But Adams protested, saying, “It can't come from me because I'm obnoxious and disliked." Adams reasoned that Jefferson was not obnoxious or disliked, therefore he should write it. Plus, he flattered Jefferson, by telling him he was a great writer. It was a master class in passing the buck.

So, over the next 17 days, Jefferson holed up in his room, applying his lawyer skills to the ideas of the Enlightenment. He borrowed freely from existing documents like the Virginia Declaration of Rights. He later wrote that “he was not striving for originality of principle or sentiment." Instead, he hoped his words served as “an expression of the American mind."

It's safe to say he achieved his goal.

The five-man committee changed about 25 percent of Jefferson's first draft of the Declaration before submitting it to Congress. Then, Congress altered about one-fifth of that draft. But most of the final Declaration's words are Jefferson's, including the most famous passage — the Preamble — which Congress left intact. The result is nothing less than America's mission statement, the words that ultimately bind the nation together. And words that we desperately need to rediscover because of our boiling partisan rage.

The Declaration is brilliant in structure and purpose. It was designed for multiple audiences: the King of Great Britain, the colonists, and the world. And it was designed for multiple purposes: rallying the troops, gaining foreign allies, and announcing the creation of a new country.

The Declaration is structured in five sections: the Introduction, Preamble, the Body composed of two parts, and the Conclusion. It's basically the most genius breakup letter ever written.

In the Introduction, step 1 is the notificationI think we need to break up. And to be fair, I feel I owe you an explanation...

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…

The Continental Congress felt they were entitled by “the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" to “dissolve the political bands," but they needed to prove the legitimacy of their cause. They were defying the world's most powerful nation and needed to motivate foreign allies to join the effort. So, they set their struggle within the entire “Course of human events." They're saying, this is no petty political spat — this is a major event in world history.

Step 2 is declaring what you believe in, your standardsHere's what I'm looking for in a healthy relationship...

This is the most famous part of the Declaration; the part school children recite — the Preamble:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That's as much as many Americans know of the Declaration. But the Preamble is the DNA of our nation, and it really needs to be taken as a whole:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The Preamble takes us through a logical progression: All men are created equal; God gives all humans certain inherent rights that cannot be denied; these include the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; to protect those rights, we have governments set up; but when a government fails to protect our inherent rights, people have the right to change or replace it.

Government is only there to protect the rights of mankind. They don't have any power unless we give it to them. That was an extraordinarily radical concept then and we're drifting away from it now.

The Preamble is the justification for revolution. But note how they don't mention Great Britain yet. And again, note how they frame it within a universal context. These are fundamental principles, not just squabbling between neighbors. These are the principles that make the Declaration just as relevant today. It's not just a dusty parchment that applied in 1776.

Step 3 is laying out your caseHere's why things didn't work out between us. It's not me, it's you...

This is Part 1 of the Body of the Declaration. It's the section where Jefferson gets to flex his lawyer muscles by listing 27 grievances against the British crown. This is the specific proof of their right to rebellion:

He has obstructed the administration of justice...

For imposing taxes on us without our consent...

For suspending our own legislatures...

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us...

Again, Congress presented these “causes which impel them to separation" in universal terms to appeal to an international audience. It's like they were saying, by joining our fight you'll be joining mankind's overall fight against tyranny.

Step 4 is demonstrating the actions you took I really tried to make this relationship work, and here's how...

This is Part 2 of the Body. It explains how the colonists attempted to plead their case directly to the British people, only to have the door slammed in their face:

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury...

They too have been deaf to the voice of justice... We must, therefore... hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

This basically wrapped up America's argument for independence — we haven't been treated justly, we tried to talk to you about it, but since you refuse to listen and things are only getting worse, we're done here.

Step 5 is stating your intent — So, I think it's best if we go our separate ways. And my decision is final...

This is the powerful Conclusion. If people know any part of the Declaration besides the Preamble, this is it:

...that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved...

They left no room for doubt. The relationship was over, and America was going to reboot, on its own, with all the rights of an independent nation.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The message was clear — this was no pitchfork mob. These were serious men who had carefully thought through the issues before taking action. They were putting everything on the line for this cause.

The Declaration of Independence is a landmark in the history of democracy because it was the first formal statement of a people announcing their right to choose their own government. That seems so obvious to us now, but in 1776 it was radical and unprecedented.

In 1825, Jefferson wrote that the purpose of the Declaration was “not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of… but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm… to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take."

You're not going to do better than the Declaration of Independence. Sure, it worked as a means of breaking away from Great Britain, but its genius is that its principles of equality, inherent rights, and self-government work for all time — as long as we actually know and pursue those principles.

On June 7, 1776, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania State House, better known today as Independence Hall. Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies' independence. The “Lee Resolution" was short and sweet:

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

Intense debate followed, and the Congress voted 7 to 5 (with New York abstaining) to postpone a vote on Lee's Resolution. They called a recess for three weeks. In the meantime, the delegates felt they needed to explain what they were doing in writing. So, before the recess, they appointed a five-man committee to come up with a formal statement justifying a break with Great Britain. They appointed two men from New England — Roger Sherman and John Adams; two from the middle colonies — Robert Livingston and Benjamin Franklin; and one Southerner — Thomas Jefferson. The responsibility for writing what would become the Declaration of Independence fell to Jefferson.

In the rotunda of the National Archives building in Washington, D.C., there are three original documents on permanent display: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence. These are the three pillars of the United States, yet America barely seems to know them anymore. We need to get reacquainted — quickly.

In a letter to his friend John Adams in 1816, Jefferson wrote: “I like the dreams of the future, better than the history of the past."

America used to be a forward-looking nation of dreamers. We still are in spots, but the national attitude that we hear broadcast loudest across media is not looking toward the future with optimism and hope. In late 2017, a national poll found 59% of Americans think we are currently at the “lowest point in our nation's history that they can remember."

America spends far too much time looking to the past for blame and excuse. And let's be honest, even the Right is often more concerned with “owning the left" than helping point anyone toward the practical principles of the Declaration of Independence. America has clearly lost touch with who we are as a nation. We have a national identity crisis.

The Declaration of Independence is America's thesis statement, and without it America doesn't exist.

It is urgent that we get reacquainted with the Declaration of Independence because postmodernism would have us believe that we've evolved beyond the America of our founding documents, and thus they're irrelevant to the present and the future. But the Declaration of Independence is America's thesis statement, and without it America doesn't exist.

Today, much of the nation is so addicted to partisan indignation that "day-to-day" indignation isn't enough to feed the addiction. So, we're reaching into America's past to help us get our fix. In 2016, Democrats in the Louisiana state legislature tabled a bill that would have required fourth through sixth graders to recite the opening lines of the Declaration. They didn't table it because they thought it would be too difficult or too patriotic. They tabled it because the requirement would include the phrase “all men are created equal" and the progressives in the Louisiana legislature didn't want the children to have to recite a lie. Representative Barbara Norton said, “One thing that I do know is, all men are not created equal. When I think back in 1776, July the fourth, African Americans were slaves. And for you to bring a bill to request that our children will recite the Declaration, I think it's a little bit unfair to us. To ask our children to recite something that's not the truth. And for you to ask those children to repeat the Declaration stating that all men's are free. I think that's unfair."

Remarkable — an elected representative saying it wouldn't be fair for students to have to recite the Declaration because “all men are not created equal." Another Louisiana Democrat explained that the government born out of the Declaration “was used against races of people." I guess they missed that part in school where they might have learned that the same government later made slavery illegal and amended the Constitution to guarantee all men equal protection under the law. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were an admission of guilt by the nation regarding slavery, and an effort to right the wrongs.

Yet, the progressive logic goes something like this: many of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, including Thomas Jefferson who wrote it, owned slaves; slavery is evil; therefore, the Declaration of Independence is not valid because it was created by evil slave owners.

It's a sad reality that the left has a very hard time appreciating the universal merits of the Declaration of Independence because they're so hung up on the long-dead issue of slavery. And just to be clear — because people love to take things out of context — of course slavery was horrible. Yes, it is a total stain on our history. But defending the Declaration of Independence is not an effort to excuse any aspect of slavery.

Okay then, people might say, how could the Founders approve the phrase “All men are created equal," when many of them owned slaves? How did they miss that?

They didn't miss it. In fact, Thomas Jefferson included an anti-slavery passage in his first draft of the Declaration. The paragraph blasted King George for condoning slavery and preventing the American Colonies from passing legislation to ban slavery:

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights to life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere... Determined to keep open a market where men should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce.

We don't say “execrable" that much anymore. It means, utterly detestable, abominable, abhorrent — basically very bad.

Jefferson was upset when Georgia and North Carolina threw up the biggest resistance to that paragraph. Ultimately, those two states twisted Congress' arm to delete the paragraph.

Still, how could a man calling the slave trade “execrable" be a slaveowner himself? No doubt about it, Jefferson was a flawed human being. He even had slaves from his estate in Virginia attending him while he was in Philadelphia, in the very apartment where he was writing the Declaration.

Many of the Southern Founders deeply believed in the principles of the Declaration yet couldn't bring themselves to upend the basis of their livelihood. By 1806, Virginia law made it more difficult for slave owners to free their slaves, especially if the owner had significant debts as Jefferson did.

At the same time, the Founders were not idiots. They understood the ramifications of signing on to the principles described so eloquently in the Declaration. They understood that logically, slavery would eventually have to be abolished in America because it was unjust, and the words they were committing to paper said as much. Remember, John Adams was on the committee of five that worked on the Declaration and he later said that the Revolution would never be complete until the slaves were free.

Also, the same generation that signed the Declaration started the process of abolition by banning the importation of slaves in 1807. Jefferson was President at the time and he urged Congress to pass the law.

America has an obvious road map that, as a nation, we're not consulting often enough.

The Declaration took a major step toward crippling the institution of slavery. It made the argument for the first time about the fundamental rights of all humans which completely undermined slavery. Planting the seeds to end slavery is not nearly commendable enough for leftist critics, but you can't discount the fact that the seeds were planted. It's like they started an expiration clock for slavery by approving the Declaration. Everything that happened almost a century later to end slavery, and then a century after that with the Civil Rights movement, flowed from the principles voiced in the Declaration.

Ironically for a movement that calls itself progressive, it is obsessed with retrying and judging the past over and over. Progressives consider this a better use of time than actually putting past abuses in the rearview and striving not to be defined by ancestral failures.

It can be very constructive to look to the past, but not when it's used to flog each other in the present. Examining history is useful in providing a road map for the future. And America has an obvious road map that, as a nation, we're not consulting often enough. But it's right there, the original, under glass. The ink is fading, but the words won't die — as long as we continue to discuss them.

'Good Morning Texas' gives exclusive preview of Mercury One museum

Screen shot from Good Morning Texas

Mercury One is holding a special exhibition over the 4th of July weekend, using hundreds of artifacts, documents and augmented reality experiences to showcase the history of slavery — including slavery today — and a path forward. Good Morning Texas reporter Paige McCoy Smith went through the exhibit for an exclusive preview with Mercury One's chief operating officer Michael Little on Tuesday.

Watch the video below to see the full preview.

Click here to purchase tickets to the museum (running from July 4 - 7).

Over the weekend, journalist Andy Ngo and several other apparent right-leaning people were brutally beaten by masked-gangs of Antifa protesters in Portland, Oregon. Short for "antifascist," Antifa claims to be fighting for social justice and tolerance — by forcibly and violently silencing anyone with opposing opinions. Ngo, who was kicked, punched, and sprayed with an unknown substance, is currently still in the hospital with a "brain bleed" as a result of the savage attack. Watch the video to get the details from Glenn.