Friday, August 30, 2002

CityBeat: Burning Questions "Do You Want to Know if a Politician Uses Racial Slurs?"
The answer to that question is yes. I want to know. I want to know everything a politician does that relates to his job or a current issue in the consciousness of public discourse. The case that Greg Flannery brings up is not as clear-cut as he alludes with his comparison to Dick Nixon and the Nixon tapes. One is a first hand source: the Nixon tapes. The other is a second hand source: the deposition.

For the record, I think Simon Leis Jr. is a fascist, and should not be in office. I also think Simon Leis has many other prior actions that have bordered on or been in full violation of either the law or of department policy or both. Facts of these actions have been reported in the past and are only relevant here as a measure of Leis's credibility.

Credibility is the crux of this case, and where the media’s trust lies. This issue has at its core an issue of credibility on the part of Mr. Leis and William Engleman. I do not know who is telling the truth here. It is legally a moot question in regards to the discrimination lawsuit, which caused the issue to come to the surface. That lawsuit was settled. Media outlets have to judge whether or not these allegations have any merit to them, and if those allegations are “news.” If they pass those tests, then they should print the story.

These allegations were not just the rantings of some nutcase off the street. Instead a former member of the Sheriff’s department, while under oath made them. Even though there are other allegations made about this source, from a sworn statement from Mr. Leis, it is a credible enough source to be reported. The allegations as indicated would be news in any situation, but they take on greater meaning in light of the police-community relations issues that have been the forefront of nearly all political discourse in this city for the last 2 years.

The Post and Enquirer, as well as the rest of the local media (except for City Beat), were derelict and should have reported this story. I am surprised that the TV outlets have not reported the story with a hot button issue (the "n" word) that can draw big ratings. However, I do not see a disingenuously hidden agenda on the part of the local in not reporting this story. The only hidden agenda that might exist is the same agenda that keeps stories like Peter Bronson’s BRONSON: Tainted vote in a opinion based Column, instead of a straight news story. That agenda is an attempt to avoid inflaming a tense city. In this case I think the story would spin the Lt. Col. Twitty case into an even more racial charged battle than it is, if that is possible. I wish the other media outlets would not worry so much about reporting the truth, instead of keeping an image, whether the image is of a peaceful city or a righteous civil rights crusader.

I am glad Greg wrote this article, but there is one major problem with it. He is concerned with whether or not Leis said a racial slur. This is the holy grail of racial politics. In this case the real issue is whether or not Simon Leis fired an employee because of her race. Greg did not ask that question in his article, and as far I know, no one else has either. That is the material story. If the only evidence to that story is the racial slur, then I see no proof of discrimination. If there were valid reason to fire this person, then no matter what level Leis’s alleged bigotry rose to, saying what he is alleged to have said would not have risen to the level of discrimination. The problem is that the world at large would not see it that way. The “n” word is like yelling fire in a crowed theater in this country, and no matter how deplorable Leis is as a person, words alone do not make discrimination.

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