Saturday, December 02, 2006

For Mumia Supporters It Comes Down To Faith

For those hundreds who still hold true to the Mumia is “innocent” orthodoxy, there is little one can do to persuade them that their death row deity is anything less than a man of good acts, tenacity in the face of repression, and the cliched “voice of the voiceless”.

I think it true that the dynamics of the “Free Mumia” phenomena has had a shift in paradigm over the last five years or so from being a largely political/human rights issue to one that is rooted in what now passes for hardline leftist ideology, or to be more precise a kind of theology.

And it is no secret that the groups most affiliated with Mumia, the PDC, IAC, and MOVE all have shades of cultism, the latter being the worst of them all in this regard, so it should also be no surprise that the movement to “Free Mumia” has a kind of mythology built up around it.

Now, I am not arguing that people are claiming Jamal to be a god, although that may be a future possible development. Any perusal of the world of “My Space” would leave one with the distinct impression that Jamal exists on the moral ladder a step or so away from Mother Teresa.

The pro-Jamal writings that are appearing over the internet recently, more than adequately make my point. Take for example the article of long-time Jamal apologist and supporter, Linn Washington. Mr. Washington wrote an article for the far left online journal Counterpunch that is supposed to be an update of sorts on the quarter century fight to “Free Mumia”. This, the same Counterpunch that had to pull it's last article on Jamal as it was so riddled with errors.

Instead, readers are subjected to a long string of fatuous non-sequiturs, unsupported claims, and promises of “new” information that will break the Jamal case wide open. Much of the information of his article seemingly coming from the discredited Hans Bennett, the faux journalist whose old email address was “”.

It is not so much that Washington doesn’t have valid points in his article. Insofar as he points out that there has been misinformation on the part of Jamal’s detractors he is correct, but the reality is that this is generally important and irrelevant at the same time. It is well enough to point out the flaws of Jamal’s detractors in 2006, but this fact does not negate what Jamal did in 1981.

Nor does it acknowledge the point made by Jamal’s current attorney in a recent interview when he opined that “both sides” make mistakes in their advocacy. I would go further to say that if one were to conduct a formal study one would find that the pro-Jamal forces are far less informed with regards to the case than those on the other side and are more prone to making incorrect statements.

There is also the issue of intent. It is one thing to mistakenly repeat bad information out of ignorance and quite another to purposely mislead people. Having looked at the information Washington is referencing, it is clear to see that the former is the case. Jamal’s detractors are not purposely mis-informing the public and that is a point that should be made clear. On the other hand, I have noted numerous occasions, many of them recent, where pro-Jamal advocates are clearly misrepresenting facts in order to pursue their agenda.

Now, it seems that every couple of years the Jamal case gets resolved, game over, finis. Or at least that is what his proponents would like one to believe. Of course this is never the case because people who still have the capacity for critical thought use it and discover the latest Mumia charade is just that and reject it, and it’s morally bereft leaders out of hand.

The latest embarrassment to the pro-Jamal faction was the purported confession of Arnold Beverly. This grainy video of a more-than-likely cracked out Beverly most certainly cost the movement hundreds of followers and dumped what remained of Jamal’s credibility out of his cell window. The man’s story was transparently false when it was presented to the public in 2001, but Jamal’s faithful are only grudgingly coming around to what everyone else knew from the beginning.

Onto the issue of faith, there is the notion of “gaps” and I mean that in somewhat of a scientific sense. In his book “The God Delusion” author Richard Dawkins brings an interesting parallel between science and criminal prosecutions, when he writes that:

“It is utterly illogical to demand complete documentation of every step of any might as well demand, before convicting somebody of murder, a complete cinematic record of the murderer’s very step leading up to the crime, with no missing frames

A fine point, but one that is missed upon the current crop of Jamal supporters who see every “gap” in the case as evidence of some kind official malfeasance. The examples of this kind of thinking are countless and the evidence of it exist through nearly everything written on behalf of Jamal. This “gap” thinking is cheap and it is easy to score points with those of a particular political persuasion, but it is no substitute for logic or factuality. Any and all “gaps” from the perspective of a Jamal supporter within the case, can be traced back to the police, the state, the system, and it’s attempts to silence Mumia.

Never mind that the removal of “gaps” and corresponding replacement of them with conspiracy theories have no basis in fact or have roots in empiricism is not only irresponsible it is easily refutable. The faithful flock of Mumiaites need not bother with proof. All they need to know is that Jamal remains a follower of some sort of anti-American creed and sectarian leftist agenda and all will be well. Never mind that the rest of us are not so easily comforted.

The “Free Mumia” crowd seems to want it both ways. They want a malevolent force that is bent upon killing a “revolutionary journalist” and who will kill those who get in the way of this plan and they also want to deride these same conspirators as incompetent “keystone cops” fouling everything up with their stupidity. Well, I am all for nuance, but this level of pseudo-intellectualism just reaches too far. They readily claim “frame-up”, but what is clear is that if there was such a frame up there would not be the type of “gaps” that occur in the case. Take for instance the issue of the ballistics “smell and wipe” test to see if a gun had been recently fired on Jamal’s weapon. The police did not do them. That is a fact. Now if this was a case of conspiracy it would have been very easy for police to come in and say that they did in fact do the test and it was positive. There would be no “gap” to be filled by Jamal's intrepid attorneys.

I have seen, and you can as well, the defenders of Jamal pick apart the most minuscule detail in the testimony of prosecution witnesses and use these minor discrepancies as fodder for their cause. One of the more telling example of this would be the .38 caliber versus the .44 caliber hoax which some Mumia supporters still cling tenaciously to today. But in any court case, in particular a case with multiple witnesses, some physical evidence, and a mountain of circumstantial evidence it is easy to miss the whole picture. In her book “Denying the Holocaust” Professor Deborah Lipstadt makes the point that:

“witnesses in a court of law differ on the details surrounding an event, but agree on the essential element. It is axiomatic among attorneys, prosecutors, and judges that human memory is notoriously bad on issues of dimensions and precise numbers, but very reliable on the central event.”

The above describes the situation with Mumia. The sum total of the evidence points clearly to Mumia being the shooter. Did the killing go down precisely as the prosecutor articulated it at court? Very likely it did not. But that is not something that is inherent within Mumia’s case. It would also be worth be mentioning that Jamal’s defense has fundamentally altered nearly half a dozen times with the only consistent common denominator being that Jamal did nothing at all wrong the evening of Dec 9, 1981. And it took till 2001 for Jamal to actually deny shooting Faulkner, or more precisely deny remembering if he shot Faulkner.

In the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal the keepers of the faith are finding it harder to hold the line.

With each revision in the Jamal narrative, there must come a corresponding alteration of the past and current party lines in order to keep the whole thing from falling over on top of itself in a pile of stinking contradictions. And yet they keep piling on the muck ever so deeper. Even now there is a book recently published in Germany called “Race Against Death” written by a Jamal devotee. I have seen excerpts of it and can honestly say that I hope it reaches a publisher in the United States.

For if anything can out-do the embarrassment of Arnold Beverly, it would be some of the laughable rubbish in this book. I am not sure whether the author is a “true believer” in the gospel of the innocent Jamal, but I can say this, faith can only get you so far. And if this book is published here, where people have access to the transcripts and facts of the case, unlike in Germany, it will be the nail in the coffin of the Jamal movement here in the U.S.

And so the faith in Jamal has long since started it’s slow decline and we are witnessing the inevitable diminishing returns of a false faith, as offered by a false idols, that is tended to by money hungry and corrupt individuals whose motives are self-preservation and aggrandizement and not the“liberation” of a “political prisoner” as they would have one believe.


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