Saturday, August 13, 2005

Muir, Mosedale, and Johnson

Partisanship Weekend Continues:

With Republicans garnering around 10% of the black vote in elections nationwide, the disconnect between partisanship and ideology is apparent. For example, black Americans may be more supportive of social issues on the Republican platform than whites are. Like the Reagan Democrats in the 1980s, many blacks may find that their party is out of step with their own values.

This leads to the question of who is allowed to speak to issues that involve minorities. Cartoonist Chris Muir ("Day by Day") is frequently asked about his race, given that the main character in his comic strip is black. After reading some articles about him and looking at his picture, the results are (as they say in the NFL) inconclusive. But does it really matter what color Chris Muir is? Would it make his commentary any more or less insightful?

My colleague Scott Johnson has frequently written about crime and race, often with his Powerline partner John Hinderaker. When a Minnesota Supreme Court task force mailed surveys about racial discrimination to 20% of attorneys in the state, the results were selectively reported. In 1995, Scott was the first person outside of the task force to view the raw data, including the narrative responses from lawyers. Needless to say, there were serious problems with the task force's conclusions in relation to the actual data. In 1999, Scott was asked by the Federalist Society to appear on a panel discussing alleged racial bias in the legal system. The panel included an opposing view from a supporter of the task force report. He participated in similar panel discussions in 2001 and 2004. Also in 2004, it was Scott's turn to present the opposing view, this time at a Council on Crime in Justice seminar at St. Thomas School of Law.

Scott is often asked to appear on television and radio programs on the topic of racial justice. Whenever some new task force comes out with allegations that there is systemic racism in the legal system, Scott Johnson is the choice to provide sober and thoughtful commentary on the purported findings. Through his media appearances, Scott has made contact with law enforcement officers ranging from beat cops to precinct commanders -- some of whom choose to remain anonymous.

In 2001, American Experiment Quarterly printed a scholarly piece on alleged racism in the justice system, penned by Johnson and Hinderaker. Powerline has covered the race riot in North Minneapolis, as well as the shootings of Tyesha Edwards and Brandon Hall. The stories of an 11 year-old caught in a gang crossfire while doing homework at her kitchen table (Edwards) and a Gopher football player who survived 18 years living in Detroit, only to be shot in Downtown Minneapolis (Hall), were particularly galling to Johnson. Where was the community outrage? So he got involved.

Ordinarily, there would be praise for a writer who publicizes cases that others have all but ignored. However, there are some who want to discredit Johnson simply on the basis of his race. In 2001, a Minnesota Public Radio reporter said that he thought it was "funny" that white males would question the existence of systemic racial bias in the legal system. The reporter was angry that Johnson had declined his invitation to participate in an MPR forum on the topic (one of the few times Johnson has declined such an opportunity).

Mike Mosedale, who writes for an "alternative" free newspaper in the Twin Cities, has started a blog (which would be doubly alternative). Mosdale dubs Scott's recent article about crime in Minneapolis as "blogging while white." The first accusation is that Scott suddenly discovered the topic of local crime. The second accusation is that Scott ignores the prevalence of guns as the cause of the rising crime rate. This is laughable because the officer who was formerly in charge of the CODEFOR initiative has said that traffic stops are one of the best ways to get illegal guns off the streets. As the police were accused of racial profiling, traffic stops declined, thus hurting efforts to curb gun violence.

Mosedale makes suggestions throughout his blog entry that Scott is a racist. The old joke about a racist being someone who is winning an argument with a liberal seems appropriate here.

Finally, Mosedale declines to rebut the substance of Scott's argument, defering to David Brauer, the editor of another free newspaper in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Mosedale quotes a large excerpt from Brauer's rebuttal, claiming that he couldn't find a source on the Internet where he could link to Brauer's comments. Obviously, Mosedale doesn't read Powerline, since Scott actually posted all of Brauer's comments and responded to them. Scott is a gentleman that way. Mosedale, on the other hand....

UPDATE (8/15): Mosedale claims that the addendum to his July 19 post actually came before Brauer's comments were posted on Powerline (6:15 a.m. July 21). We take him at his word. The link above is to the Powerline response (to Brauer's comments) that was posted on July 23. But that was actually the second time Brauer's comments were posted. We regret any confusion.

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