September 16, 2015

A Jack Kelly Follow-Up (On Getting Jack's Column Removed)

The reactions to Jack Kelly's slavery column have been swift and powerful.

We've linked to the PBMF and VSB already.  There's even a couple of letters (here and here) at the P-G.

Then there's the petition at
This petition is a response to Jack Kelly’s offensive article, “Remnants of Slavery,” published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (September 13, 2015). In the article, Kelly makes numerous factually inaccurate, unsubstantiated, and inflammatory claims. The piece is of very poor quality as well as being offensive. Aside from the many highly dubious claims he makes throughout, we find the motivation for his writing the piece—essentially that African Americans should stop “blam[ing] all their problems on white racism”—unfit for publication. We expect more from Pittsburgh’s largest daily newspaper. To this end, we have two specific demands...
Which are:
  1. That the article be removed from the Post-Gazette website.
  2. That the editors of the Post-Gazette publish an apology.
I won't be signing this petition and I'll tell you why.

Simply put: The column was so loathsome that it has to stay posted.  It has to stay accessible to everyone and anyone exploring Jack Kelly's columns.  From now until the day the internet crumbles, Jack Kelly's column on slavery has to be easily found by anyone looking for it.  If it's removed then it's almost like it never existed - and that would be nothing more than doing Jack a favor.

And I speak as someone who actually succeeded (and I am pretty sure about this) in getting a Jack Kelly column removed from the P-G website.

Here's the story: It was 2009 and Jack wrote a profoundly incorrect column on a then recently resigned White House aide named Van Jones.  And it is perhaps simply a coincidence, considering the current discussion, that Van Jones looks like this:

Anyway, that Sunday Jack wrote that:
Mr. Jones was arrested during the rioting in Los Angeles in 1992 that followed the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King. Mr. Jones spoke of that experience in a 2005 interview with a newspaper in the San Francisco Bay area:

"I was a rowdy nationalist on April 28, and then the verdicts came down on April 29," he told the East Bay Express. "By August, I was a communist."
And then that Sunday afternoon I wrote that, according to that same East Bay Express piece that Jack quoted, instead of being arrested in LA during the Rodney King riots, Mr Jones was arrested one week later in San Francisco.  He wasn't in LA protesting.  He wasn't in San Francisco protesting.  He was in San Francisco monitoring the protests (as an intern from the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area) when the police scooped everyone up - including Jones.

None of that made it into Jack's column on Van Jones and by that Wednesday, the column was gone.  I'm guessing my blog post had something to do with it.

But ponder this for a second:  Had I not written this blog post (the one you're reading right now) how would you have been able to find out about wrong Jack's Van Jones column was?  Would you have known that it even existed?  Certainly not by searching the P-G website.

As much as I was overjoyed thinking that I may have had a hand in forcing the P-G to delete Jack's earlier offensive column, now I think that some level of accountability was lost when they did it.

Jack wrote what he wrote.  He has to own it.  From now until the end of days he has to own it.  Burying it (offensive as it obviously is) only does Jack a favor he does not deserve.

If the P-G wants to apologize for the column, fine.  Perhaps they should.  Or perhaps at the very least they should publicly explain their decision to expose such a virus to the public.

If after reading this you're still of a mind to sign the petition, you should feel free.  I can respect that decision, too.  Maybe afterwards we can start a petition to force the P-G to properly fact-check Jack Kelly.


Cirze said...

I'll sign yours.

Ol' Froth said...

Or just fire him. He has a right to his opinions, but no right to get paid for having them published in a newspaper. He can always start a blog.

Justin said...

Just fire the crank already.