Sunday, July 22, 2007

DeBerry Hits a New Low

Jarvis DeBerry only writes three columns per week, some weeks only two. With that in mind, I thought it entirely appropriate to question either his work ethic or his integrity when he wrote a column last year that implied that Douglas Brinkley condemned Nagin for crying. That column is no longer available on the Picayune's website, but I've reprinted it here (below the Stephanie Grace column). I challenge anybody to read it and call it an honest piece of writing. Had DeBerry taken the time to read the book, he'd know that Brinkley criticized Nagin for much, much more than crying. After the election, DeBerry wrote a column in which he pointed to GNOR attacks ads as an example of how cleverly the under financed Br'er Nagin used his limited resources against Landrieu. That column is also unavailable online; I'll reprint at the end of this post. The role of the GNOR in the election had already been all over the local blogosphere when DeBerry wrote the column; once again, he was either lazy or dishonest.

Until today, I thought that DeBerry's apparent dishonesty only came into play where Nagin was involved. Now it seems that he's incapable of writing an honest column about anything related to New Orleans racial politics. He's certainly correct to criticize Shelley Midura for mentioning Mike Nifong when she called for Eddie Jordan's resignation, but he should be ashamed of the rest of the column:
It's clear, isn't it, why Shelley Midura didn't last that long at the State Department.

The New Orleans councilwoman, whose only memorable act this term has been her call for the district attorney's resignation, reportedly arrived at the City Council chambers Wednesday with something like a consensus intact.

He begins with a gratuitous insult based on a questionable judgement -- Midura's biography indicates that she spent ten years at the State Department -- and proceeds to a dishonest insult that shows an utter disregard for the facts. Maybe it's not dishonest, maybe DeBerry just has a bad memory or doesn't feel the need to follow the news that he's paid to comment on. I guess facts are for beat reporters, not op-ed columnists.

But DeBerry isn't through with the insults:
You see, Midura, a white woman, cares more about black folks than black folks. She knows that Jordan's chief problem is that he doesn't love black people as much as she does and, actually, is afflicted with that disease that makes him love white people too much.

Well, isn't he clever? If DeBerry were honest enough to think back to the inspector general controversy, he might remember that Midura was brought to tears by charges of racism when she proposed the creation of the office. Isn't it just possible that Midura was being defensive rather than condescending or paternalistic? I would certainly expect DeBerry, of all people, to consider the possibility:
But if it's true in physics that "for every action there's an equal and opposite reaction," the corresponding law of politics might read "for every action there's bound to be an opposite overreaction." Imagine Nagin not having been constantly hectored to show his racial bonafides. Imagine a certain clergyman with 20,000 parishioners not calling Nagin "a white man in black skin." Imagine the mayor not overreacting to that comment and countless others with the George Clinton "chocolate city" allusion

In the same column in which DeBerry argued that "Chocolate City" was an understanable reaction on Nagin's part (to charges of being an "oreo'), he also wrote:
The novelist Toni Morrison argues in a 1997 essay that, as a rule, Americans don't require black people to make sense.

Well, I don't know about most Americans, but I'd expect anybody, of any color, in DeBerry's position to make sense. I also expect any opinion columnist to show some bias, but anybody who only writes two or three columns a week has the time to do enough fact checking to at least give the impression of integrity and consistency.

I suppose it would be just plain silly to point out that there's a stereotype of white, female bumblingness that was depicted most memorably by Lucille Ball.. But does DeBerry really believe that nobody in the audience would have shouted "racism" if Midura hadn't been crass enough to bring up Mike Nifong? The title of his column implies that.

What follows is the "Br'er Nagin" column in its entirety. Remember, Schroeder and other bloggers, who all have other jobs, had already traced the atacks ads that DeBerry praises to the Greater New Orleans Republicans:
May 26, 2006 Friday

LENGTH: 611 words

HEADLINE: Br'er Nagin's enemies outfox themselves

BYLINE: Jarvis DeBerry


"But I don't understand," the young boy said. "Seems like Br'er Nagin had gotten himself in a real sticky predicament. Why couldn't Br'er Landrieu finish him off?"

"He amassed too big an army."

"Too big? But don't the bigger armies always win?"

"Not necessarily, son. Especially not when some soldiers put passion ahead of discipline."

"You're confusing me," he said.

Of course, I was confusing him. By the time I was telling my young neighbor the story of Ray Nagin's re-election, decades had passed. Parts of the story were surprising to those who'd seen it happen. How much more difficult to comprehend it must be for a boy whose parents weren't even born at the time.

"You have to understand, son, that there can come a point when so many people are lined up on your side that folks on the outside can't tell what your side is about."

"Is that what happened to Br'er Landrieu?"

"That's part of it."

"What's the other part?"

"Some folks gave him some help he didn't really need."

"Like that B.B. King song?"

I smiled. I'd taught the boy well. "Boy, you too little to know about B.B. the King. But yes. How did B.B. put it? 'I believe to my soul that you're giving me some outside help that I don't think I really need.' "

"Was somebody cheating on Br'er Landrieu?"

I laughed. "No, son. Not to my knowledge. I don't mean it in the sarcastic sense like B.B. did. I mean it in the literal sense: He had some eager beavers in his camp, and in their zeal to bring down Br'er Nagin, they helped him wiggle free.

"Hmm, maybe foxes is the better word." I winked.

The boy shouted out. "Like Br'er Fox?!" I tell you, this boy's teacher needed a gold star.

"Yes," I said. "What did we agree was the biggest mistake Br'er Fox made in his attempt to vanquish that wily Br'er Rabbit?"

"That he let his desire to humiliate the rabbit overtake his desire to eat him." I nodded.

"But you said Br'er Landrieu was a nice guy," the boy said. "Did he want to humiliate Br'er Nagin?"

"No, I don't think he did. But remember that big army I said he amassed? Some of them did. There was Br'er Doug Brinkley, who thought he'd throw Br'er Nagin into a briar patch by ridiculing the tears he says the mayor shed after Hurricane Katrina. If that man wasn't eaten up with rage! But as you've probably already figured out, Br'er Brinkley's attempt to bring about Br'er Nagin's bloody demise won the mayor that little bit of extra sympathy he needed to win the election.

"Then, too, some white folks must have bolted when Br'er Paul Morton lined up behind the challenger and once again questioned the incumbent's black cred."

"But that's the same thing he was saying in some of the first stories you told me. So what did Br'er Nagin do?"

"Flipped it on him. Embraced the criticism. Had his army send out fliers praising their man as Ray Reagan."

"But you told me that Reagan was an eppretech."

"Epithet, son, epithet. And, what I told you was that Reagan was pretty much abhorred by black folks. There were some white folks who loved him like the Lord loves the truth."

"So how come black folks didn't bolt when Nagin embraced Reagan?"

"They didn't necessarily see those fliers. Br'er Nagin's army, small to the point of seeming nonexistent at times, had but a few bullets and they fired each one with precision. No scattershot attacks from them. In fact, when it was all over, Br'er Nagin compared himself to David, who brought down Goliath with a sling.

"But it wasn't so much Br'er Nagin's military genius that accounted for his victory as it was the haplessness of the folks who took out after him."

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This may have been the worst column DeBerry has ever written. I am still trying to understand what is his beef is with Midura. Is he accusing her of having too much compassion for African-Americans? However clumsy her handling of this, nothing she did or said justifies the unwarranted personal attack in this column. DeBerry should be ashamed of himself.
I was *outraged* by the DeBerry column as well. What a bloody pissant, and a million other "eppretechs" I shall not speak here. It's probably a post I'll yet write, but I was so fuming that a wrote a letter to the editor.

I'd say the T-P should fire DeBerry for showing such a callous disregard for his own race, but then, the T-P would be called racist for caring about black people.

So you're a racist if you say you care about black teenagers being slaughtered, and you're a racist if you don't do anything. A racist if you do, a racist if you don't.

Maybe what Shelley meant when she suggested that the white community would probably respond to reforming the criminal justice system faster if it was white kids getting murdered, was that the black community cares less about murder than the white community.

Given DeBerry's lack of a reaction to the injustice of Jordan's actions in the last week and a half, I can't come to any other conclusion that this black man cares less than a white woman about blacks. And *that* may be the root of the problem in the black community.

I know that's an uncharitable thing to say, but I find it completely disgraceful that at this critical moment, when whites are doing more than blacks to address the injustices being committed to their own people, they're being called racists. It's completely sickening, which is why it's so true what has been said elsewhere, that you get the criminal justice system you deserve.

BTW, as I've said elsewhere, in a broad-brush sense, what Shelley was suggesting is that D.A.'s like Nifong -- who allow personal prejudices and political ambitions interfere with the administration of justice -- should resign. Jordan calling the witness in the Anderson case untruthful was about the most egregious act that a prosecutor could commit -- compromising the integrity of a witnesses testimony. As that snake defense attorney Robert Jenkins said, he'd would absolutely use Jordan's comments in court to disparage the witness' character.
What a mook. Anyway, I found the print version of that Br'er Nagin nonsense.
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