Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Fueling "the controversy" on McGee, Jr.

Eugene Kane's latest column reveals more of what can only be regarded as wilful ignorance (or calculated obfuscation) regarding the McGee case. He begins by noting the confusion of some - presumably "savvy" - people about why McGee, Jr. is still in jail when other other alderman who were charged with corruption were released after a few hours.

Kane refers to, although he does not endorse, the answer when he refers to the state charges against McGee - something which did not exist with those "other" alders.

But those charges, Kane implies, are somehow subject to more than the reservations we should bring to all criminal charges because there is supposedly some controversy over what some of the statements cited in support of those charges could mean. He notes that supposedly "clueless" listeners have misunderstood McGee before, citing a time when Charlie Sykes misheard one of McGee's slurred observations on WNOV and another time when McGee said something vile which Kane apparently now wants to dismiss as harmless hyperbole. (No, I don't think McGee was actually going to hang Leon Todd; that was never the point.)

The phrase at issue here ("peeling back" a "wig"), Kane says, "came from a rap song," implying that it could be fantastical.

But Gene knows that this phrase or its equivalents is not just in "a" rap song and is well established street language meaning "to kill someone" or "to shoot them in the head." I guess that if the feds ever overhear some organized crimes types discussing a plan to "ice" or "whack" a guy, Kane would imply the existence of some legitimate controversy over what that means. McGee might be able to argue that he did not mean what he said. He cannot argue that what he said does not mean what the DA says it does. (He is not, in any event, charged with conspiracy to commit murder.)

Kane goes on to argue that it would be best if the details underlying these charges were released. While he doesn't explicitly blame prosecutors for the fact that the charges are sealed, he connects a statement that the prosecutors "say" they have evidence (who knows?) with an observation that the information remains sealed. The implication is that they ought to put up or shut up.

He fails to note, however, that the reason they remain so is the objection of McGee's lawyers. If they wanted those transcripts to be made public, it could happen today. I am not criticizing them for that. I'd do the same thing. But, in a column addressing the community's "confusion" over why a black alderman is being treated in the way he is, that is a critical bit of information.

This is a classic op-ed tactic. You refer to what "some people believe" and to the existence of a controversy. You don't endorse those beliefs but you don't fully engage the reasons they are without substance either. In doing so, you fuel a bogus "controversy."

As regular readers of this blog know, I do not share the prevailing conservative antipathy toward Kane. But this was bad work and it fuels a misunderstanding and resentment that responsible commentators ought to try and clear up.


jp said...

After reading Kane’s column, I felt confused as if I had been fogged.
Thanks for making it somewhat clearer.

Anonymous said...

It didn't appear to me that Kane cared who is keeping the info secret, he simply wants to know what the facts are.

It also didn't appear that you are being fair by saying that he is an example of all that is wrong in op-ed pieces. You've had your share of comments that have been very slanted.

Anonymous said...

JP - thanks for the laugh.

Anonymous said...

not as bad as the latest kane column, where he implies grothman can't speak about affirmative action or "race" because he is white.

Anonymous said...

one angle nobody will ever cover is the fact that McGee Jr. has FIVE kids. Like the commander, there are multiple "wives." People familiar with the "family" refer to the Commander's "African wife," "Mother McGee," etc. It's like the lineage in a Faulkner novel. Most people are ignorant of this because those who know consider it normal or impolite, or irrelevant, to point out. It's actually extremely relevant for a number of reasons.