Politics & Policy

Mumia’s The Word


When Ken Starr was out there fighting the good fight, his motivations were deemed far, far more relevant than the facts. Was he a “dirty tobacco lawyer” as James Carville often suggested, just out to thwart the president’s heroic efforts to save the children? Was he a perv of some kind? Like maybe he had a jealous sexual fixation on Monica Lewinsky, as Maureen Dowd wondered aloud in her about-face for a Pulitzer. Starr had been offered a teaching job at a school that had gotten some money from a guy named Scaife. Maybe he was doing Scaife’s bidding as Geraldo thundered night after night, never caring that Scaife and Starr had never spoken, met, or corresponded, let alone shared intern porn while smoking up a storm of Camel unfiltereds. Then there were the “payback” theories: for McCarthy, Bork, Thomas, and I dunno, the Lusitania.

To some of us this “motive” stuff was fairly silly or at least secondary to the question of whether or not the facts were, you know, the facts. Still, the very smart people said otherwise, so fine. Motives matter.

So why in the world should Mumia Abu Jamal be considered the most authentic and honest voice on the issue of capital punishment? One need not troll the Internet in search of bizarre or even plausible explanations of his motives. Hell, you don’t even need Geraldo to connect dots that couldn’t be connected with a soldering iron. Mumia is, well, a murderer and the state of Pennsylvania in its infinite wisdom would prefer to kill him for it. Seems a pretty good reason for him to become a spokesperson against the death penalty. Doesn’t it?

[If you don’t know about Mumia the Martyr, just type his name into any search engine and stand back. Or go to Freemumia.org, for instance]

Whatever. I think the guy is guilty as sin. So, apparently, does Congressman Tom Delay because he is sponsoring a moment of silence on the floor of the House to protest the decision of Evergreen College in Washington to invite Mumia to give a commencement address by satellite from death row. The Washington Post’s Lloyd Grove asks, “Isn’t all this just a distraction from important stuff?”

The truth is this is really, really, really important. Mumia is simply the most visible symbol (not a person mind you, because the person shot a cop, but a symbol) of the Left’s ever-increasing disdain for facts that intrude on important “narratives.” In 1987, during the Tawana Brawley hoax, the Reverend Al Sharpton dismissed objections that he was a craven liar and con man by saying “we are trying to build a movement here.”

At Duke University a little over a year ago, a black doll bearing a sign that read “Duke Hasn’t Changed” was “lynched.” For about a week, this ugly “hate crime” was pinned on white racists. It turned out black students did it to hilight racism on campus. Similar “crimes” are increasingly frequent on college campuses. Gay groups fake gay-bashing incidents. Black groups write racist graffiti. (See NR 6/14/98, Jon Sanders piece).

Remember, we’re “building a movement” and calling “attention to serious problems in our society.” The mere fact that the evidence of the problem they are calling peoples’ attention to is very often a staged fraud is irrelevant. The Nazis knew that Communists were bad (and they were) so by this reasoning the torching of the Reichstag was justifiable because it called attention to the serious problem of Bolshevik infiltration in Germany.

I first noticed this in a book I reviewed a long time ago written by a national campus agitator named Paul Rogat Loeb. In his awful and silly book, Generations at the Crossroads, he dismisses the fact that a horrible racial assault at Emory was staged, because “other racial harassment has unquestionably occurred again and again on college campuses,” though he never lists any. He even goes further to say that people who suspected it was fraudulent were actually “abettors” of racism.

People with more impressive academic credentials are no better. Ivy league law schools and sociology departments have become so enamored with “personal narratives” they actually think facts can be racist. That’s what Anita Hill thought about people who questioned her story. Former Harvard Law professor Derrick Bell rejected facts — and even law — to tell a more authentic truth by writing fables about racism in Faces at the Bottom of the Well. In it, all whites hate blacks, and some (conservative) blacks hate blacks. And the beauty is that since he’s writing a parable, he doesn’t have to prove it. Proof, after all, is racist.

In director John Singleton’s dreadful 1994 film, Higher Learning, Singleton wanted to “reveal” the problems of America’s college campuses. So he depicted a California school divided between (misunderstood) black nationalists and neo-Nazis. Now, there are still a few colleges left in America that don’t have something akin to a chapter of black nationalists — if not a tenured professor of black nationalism. But not many. Can someone name for me a major university that has an open chapter of neo-Nazis? I know, I know, they like to call non-liberal newspaper editors and professors fascists and Nazis, but I’m talking about guys with shaved heads and swastikas going to class and hanging around the quad. There’s probably an example or two, but is this the real the divide on campuses today? Or is it really the wishful thinking of people who desperately want to rebel against something evil.

There are, of course, some truly horrible racist crimes that occur in real space and time rather than in the wishes and dreams of intellectuals and activists with too much time on their hands. But the fact is there are fewer of them today, not more. The fact is that most people think these crimes are awful. The fact is that saying they are awful doesn’t make you any kind of a rebel anymore. And, oh yeah, the fact is that Mumia is guilty.

But just like with Mumia and the thousands of Hollywood activists, campus Lenins, and credit-card Che Gueveras out there, facts spoil the fun. Wouldn’t it be so much more exciting and morally uplifting if Mumia were innocent? Yeah, let’s pretend! Before you know it Alec Baldwin, Molly Ivins, Oliver Stone, Salman Rushdie, E. L. Doctorow, and over a hundred others are signing a full-page ad in the New York Times calling for Mumia’s release (Yes, they did).

How else to explain the logic of O.J.? There is racism. Racism is unfair to black people. O.J. is black. O.J. killed his wife and her friend. He thinks it’s unfair to blame him. Therefore he is the victim of racism. Racism absolves you of killing.

At last week’s anti-war, anti-NATO, anti-American, anti-anything-that-let’s-you-feel-you-don’t-deserve-to-wear-a-goatee rally, Mumia’s name kept coming up. Why? Because just as some people need Horatio Alger stories (which probably have a healthy amount of myth in them) to feel good about America, some people need anti-heroes to justify their own hatreds, peeves, theories, and rants about America, or as they might call it, “Amerika.” Probably not one in a hundred people could string together three coherent Mumia-is-innocent sentences at that rally or at Evergreen College.


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