Jena 6 case caught up in a whirlwind of distortion, opportunism

Jason Whitlock is a sports writer for the Kansas City Star.  Lately, however, he’s been on a mission that is only tangentially related to football–the Jena 6.  Whitlock flipped the Jena script a couple of weeks ago in a column that unleashed a whole string of revisionist history columns and articles. The Kansas City Star columnist used dubious quotes from LaSalle Parish officials, US Attorney Donald Washington and the regional media to suggest that people like me had the story all wrong.

Now Mr. Whitlock has actually traveled to Jena to listen to white folks talk trash about Mychal Bell and Alan Bean.  The whole Jena story, Whitlock asserts, is my creation.

Like everyone, I like to get credit for what I do.  Jason Whitlock’s stinging indictment isn’t exactly what I had in mind.  He’s right about one thing–the Jena 6 story, as it was initially reported in the media, followed a script I had carefully cobbled together from media reports, court documents and personal interviews.  He’s also right in asserting that my goal was to make the Jena 6 (and Justin Barker) look like the victims of malevolent public officials. 

In tennis, you have to put reverse spin on the ball to make it sail straight.  The original Jena narrative was created by public officials like Craig and Sammy Franklin of the Jena Times, Superintendent Roy Breithaupt and the now-famous Reed Walters.  According to their script, the assault on Justin Barker had no relation to a lunch-hour trash-talking session, the school fire, the shotgun incident a the Gotta Go, or the assault on Robert Bailey at a local dance.  In particular, the events of December 4th were completely separate from the noose controversy.  US Attorney, Donald Washington, has recently re-introduced this narrative . . . And he’s black, so he must be telling the truth!

According to the “isolated incident” scenario, Justin Barker was picked out of the crowd at random by a roaming band of black thugs who wanted to beat the crap out of a white boy–any white boy.  Ergo, all white people are in danger–they might be coming for you next.  Hence the attempted murder and conspiracy charges.

Two months of intense investigation and research exposed this story as a crude and cynical hoax.  The isolated incident story was clearly designed to cover up the egregious behavior of Mssrs. Breithaupt and Walters.  They play the villain role in my narrative because their behavior was, and remains, villainous.  I never accused these men of breaking the law; I accused them of immoral and unethical conduct (I am a Baptist preacher, remember).  By neglecting urgent issues, Reed and Roy created a Lord of the Flies scenario that could only end badly for black and white students alike.  Many white folks in LaSalle Parish are gradually, and grudgingly, shifting to my view.  They don’t appreciate the scrutiny I have brought to their town; but they now understand where things went wrong and why it must never happen again.

I am tempted to issue a point-by-point refutation of everything Jason Whitlock got wrong.  The list of errors is long.  But Whitlock doesn’t really care about me.  Like everyone associated with this story, he is using the Jena saga to advance a personal agenda.  Whitlock knows that Friends of Justice is right about the criminal justice system.  He knows the war on drugs is a scam designed to attract dollars to law enforcement under the false pretext of getting drugs off the street.  So what is Whitlock’s beef?

He doesn’t like Sharpton and Jackson.  He thinks they’re bad for black America.  I applaud the reverends for attracting attention to the Jena 6 and for galvanizing the black churches of LaSalle parish.  Whitlock doesn’t care about any of that; he is convinced (ala Shelby Steele, John McWhorter and Bill Cosby) that black Americans need to stop blaming all their woes on white racism.  The Jena story gives Jason a long-awaited pulpit and he’s making the most of it.  Hey, this is America; let the man have his say. 

A couple of clarifications are in order, however.

First, I am not a “self-proclaimed” Baptist minister.  My wife and I are both ordained by the American Baptist Churches, USA, the racially diverse denomination that provided a seminary education for Martin Luther King Jr.  I spent three years in seminary and five years working on a doctorate in church history and theology, so I know my stuff.  The American Baptist Churches have formally endorsed the work of Friends of Justice in general and our stand on Jena in particular. Enough said.

Secondly, I did not spoon-feed the Jena story to people like Howard Witt and Bill Quigley.  I sent my narrative to Witt and asked him to look into it.  Professor Quigley was introduced to my version of the Jena story through Tory Pegram of the La. ACLU.  Journalists and bloggers didn’t write until they had made a thorough and independent  investigation of the facts.  My narrative influenced their writing only to the extent I got it right.  As I explained to Mr. Whitlock, nobody is going to write a groundbreaking story about Jena, Louisiana simply because some white preacher told them to.  I was the first to visit Jena and put the facts together; but I didn’t make this stuff up.  Who could?

4 thoughts on “Jena 6 case caught up in a whirlwind of distortion, opportunism

  1. Please forgive and overlook Mr. Whitlock. He seems to be on that GOP (“Grand Old” Povertizers) payroll, the likes of Armstrong Williams.
    You see, there’s a market of profitability where whites protect their names, organizations and families by paying Blackmen to denounce their own people. Of course, this way, whites feel no one can say they’re being “racist.”
    The only article I’ve ever read well-written by Mr. WhitLoose was one he entitled: “Grumpy Old Men Hypocritical.” It was so eye-opening to those trying to attack Gene Upshaw as they do very Blackman in charge–for lack of a better acronym, HNIC–it was taken off the Internet.
    Everytime a Blackmale gets persecuted by the law nowadays, the first rule of subjugation and oppression is to look in his background for negativity. That’s why Mr. Whalelock mentioned on one occasion how Mychal bell was “no choir boy.” As if white boys are? As if this gov’t is? As if this nation’s wealth was acquired/stolen through some sacred means?
    Again, overlook Mr. WhitBlock’s pieces. He’s on the take and he can’t help it. Only God will have to chastise and admonish his servile, submissive, idolatrous writings.

  2. I noticed in the first article I read months ago that it started by saying Jena was a mostly segregated town then went on to say a group of black kids wanted to get into an mostly white party.
    Why would black kids want to go to a white party if all the whites were so hateful?
    Now, I notice you have response confirmed every contention that Mr. Whitlock proposed in his article.
    Is this some sort of sick social experiment to you?
    You should have known the real story would surface sooner or later. So are you just trying to make black people look bad or all of America? Maybe you’ve concocted this whole ordeal to root out racism and hatred of another kind?… The one that lives to a certain degree in hearts and minds of all humans.beings ??!!!
    From your writings it doesn’t seem your that clever so your probably just some ego- maniac with a lot of time on his hands. That would explain the problem who have with the other groups at the protest and your need to claim this story for yourself now.

  3. My Spin Control is Better Than Your Spin – Why Just Plain Truth Cannot Stand On Its Own

    There are so many more takes now on what led to Jena, what happened in Jena and what will happen in Jena. Depending on who’s doing the commentary, the noose-hangers, the DA, the Jena 6, Justin Barker – hell the whole town – are either saints, sinners or somewhere in between. It all depends on the spin.

    Until a couple of months before the March on Jena, there was no national media coverage – network, print or radio – was even talking about what was happening in that small Louisiana town. That is, with the exception of Howard Witt, the lone American journalist whose May 2007 article in the Chicago Tribune is the reason I knew anything about the Jena story at all (THANK YOU Howard Witt!). I was so angry no one was talking about it much less doing anything about it. I read the story over the phone to my husband who was overseas at the time and said, “A school fight?? You know how this is going to turn out.”

    Witt’s June article led me to the Friends of Justice website and Alan Bean. As I read the comments from people in ENGLAND about the BBC documentary on the blog, I was absolutely shocked to find out that America’s shame was a bigger story “across the pond” than in her own backyard. Bean’s blog led me to the documentary.

    The Jena 6 had been arrested, charged as adults and five of them had been bailed out. Mychal Bell had gone to trial (on reduced charges) and been convicted by an all-white jury in virtual anonymity and here in the good ole U.S. of A., most of us were asleep at the wheel. Then, Black talk-radio got hold of the story and it blew up, culminating in that beautiful September 20th day when thousands (yes, THOUSANDS, I was there) marched on Jena for equal treatment under the law. There were national news outlets everywhere. And seven days later, Mychal Bell walked out into the sunlight after almost 10 months, most of which was spent in an adult prison facility.

    So you’re asking, “What does this chronology have to do with spin?” Let’s first take a look at the definition as it relates to this case. Spin (noun) – a special point of view, emphasis, or interpretation presented for the purpose of influencing opinion. Based on Jason Whitlock’s September 29th column (critical thinking requires I read him whether I agree with him or not), Alan Bean followed the definition to the letter. And not only is he absolutely right, Bean admits it.

    I’m a “just the facts ma’am” kind of girl – no embellishment, no framing, no spinning. I want to be able to evaluate information for myself and come to my own conclusions. But here’s the thing, were it not for Mr. Bean’s “spin,” there would’ve been no information to evaluate! No one else was writing or talking about these Black kids in that predominately white town which, as one resident pointed out early on “doesn’t have any problems with THEIR BLACKS.” No one else was writing or talking about this D.A., those excessive charges and how what was happening in Jena is happening all over America! Not Mr. Whitlock, not other Black writers like him, not affluent Blacks who hold court on “the problem with Black folks” in the bright media lights – No one!!

    I don’t know about you, but I prefer the opportunity to evaluate the “spin” rather than being assaulted by the internalized racism and self-hatred manifested in the shame-and-blame game played by Mr. Whitlock, et al. who continue to assist the powers that be in the divide and conquer tactics that are so counter-productive to our survival as a people. Engaging in spin control (noun) – the act or practice of attempting to manipulate the way an event is interpreted by others (after-the-fact) seems more Mr. Whitlock’s style.

    Do I think Alan Bean “gets” the BIG picture about racism and how it’s affected Blacks in America all these hundreds of years? No I do not. But he gets some very important parts of it and is trying to do something about it. Do I think he has a personal agenda? Absolutely! So does everyone else who’s been a public part of the Jena story. What that agenda is, remains to be seen and as my grandmother always said, “Whatever you do in the dark, will always come to light.”

    There is, however, one point on which Mr. Whitlock and I agree. Mr. Bean would do well not to underestimate either the gravitas or credibility of the Revs. Jackson and Sharpton. As he said in his blog, “…nobody is going to write a groundbreaking story about Jena, Louisiana simply because some white preacher told them to.” And thousands of Black people will not march nor lend the full weight of their support solely for that reason either.

    Oh! And why can’t just plain truth stand on its own? Because as Jack Nicholson’s character, Col. Jessep, in A Few Good Men so succinctly put it, Mr. Whitlock –“You can’t handle the truth!”

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