Thursday, May 31, 2007

Mumia Culpa

(My published letter to the "Philadelphia City Paper")

Dave Lindorff's editorial advancing the notion of a lack of "fairness" in Mumia's case is emblematic of the kind of infinite regression that grips the movement to free the convicted and unrepentant cop-killer [News, "Verdict Nullification?" May 24, 2007].

Some years ago, when I was myself an avid proponent of Jamal, there was no doubt in the minds of supporters that Mumia was innocent. After all, HBO had produced a documentary that shot Mumia into the mainstream and a well-funded and media-savvy legal team had spun a web of deception that had convinced thousands around the world that Jamal was a totally innocent victim of a racist, borderline police state, dedicated to snuffing out the so-called "voice of the voiceless."
But as years went by, and the whole ugly facade began to fall apart as the true facts of the case became more clear, the movement started to suffer the inevitable diminishing returns of a faux cause. And as the movement went into a state of retreat, so to did the arguments employed by it, now to the point where Jamal apologists such as Lindorff have to resort to questionable statistics and the race card in place of any kind of rational explanation as to how Officer Faulkner ended up dead on the street with a bullet from Jamal's gun in his skull.
By diverting the focus of attention upon allegations of procedural missteps and the almost meaningless concept of a "fair trial," people like Lindorff can keep from having to answer the pertinent question, the one that haunts this case and leaves most people with knowledge of the case to conclude that justice was done when Jamal was convicted back in 1982. The question, of course, is: If Jamal did not shoot Officer Faulkner, how did he end up feet away from Faulkner, his gun laying beside him with all rounds fired, a bullet from Faulkner's gun lodged in him, with numerous eyewitnesses fingering him as shooter?

Tony Allen


At 10:50 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Response to Dave Lindorff Regarding Mumia Abu-Jamal

by Tony Allen

(The following was written as a response to Dave Lindorff's rebuttal of my review of his book Killing Time: An Investigation Into The Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Lindorff posted his response onto the website of The Philadelphia Independant Media Center I was initially hesitant to respond as he clearly is an attention seeker and ultimately a diversion from the important work of freeing Mumia. However due to the vile and damning nature of his assault on truth I feel it neccesary to effectively repudiate the misinformation that he is espousing. Please feel free to use this article in your endeavors) -T. Allen

A Response to Dave Lindorff Regarding Mumia Abu-Jamal by Tony Allen

I suppose that it is a distinction of some kind to be castigated at length by Dave Lindorff, for my review of his flawed tract Killing Time: An Investigation Into The Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. It is certainly interesting to see the apparent nervousness that permeates the attempt to broach the issues that I had raised in my review. It is also somewhat remarkable to me that my review, which only appeared on a couple of websites and independently produced periodicals, would elicit such a meticulous and clearly pointed response. Apparently, Lindorff is deeply concerned that even one perspective buyer of his book lost to a poor review is one too many.

I did have a realization after reading his patronizing and demeaning diatribe that I had, in fact, been remiss in my initial response to his efforts. I had, in the interest of concision, limited my critique of his book to a few paltry paragraphs that highlighted the most egregious of his errors and the few aspects of the book that were worthy of praise. Certainly, I would be further remiss if I missed this opportunity to further point out what would seem to be of a more pressing issue than even the many imperfections of the book and that would be the motivations of its author.

I am confident enough in my initial review of Lindorff's book not to feel the need to revisit every issue raised by his response, nor do I feel that excavating all of the aforementioned "facts" would contribute to the clarity of the debate. Lindorff does a fine enough job hanging himself with his propagandistic verbiage that may have well been gleamed from the Fraternal Order of Police website. What is more important is exposing the treachery of his deception and transparent contempt towards those that even Lindorff must admit are Jamal's most caring backers.

Lindorff, in his clumsily constructed rebuttal, echos his book with his expressions of disdain for the abilities of Jamal's current legal team and, in doing so, is displaying an extreme naivete of Jamal's legal strategy and the deeply flawed American system of justice.

"...they are way over their heads in terms of handling a complicated and dangerous appeal. I have always assumed that both Grossman and Kamish are well-meaning activist attorneys trying to do their best for their client. I just don't think they have the skills or the temperament to do it."

In this paragraph it is Lindorff who is doing the misleading. It should be known by such a resolute and dedicated investigative reporter such as Lindorff that Kamish's field of expertise is, in fact, that of appeals. Also, it should be pointed out that the defense team is, in actuality, comprised of, in addition to Grossman and Kamish, five other attorneys. If, as if Lindorff contends that Grossman and Kamish are in fact "over their heads," they have sought to surround themselves with other attorneys who are more than qualified to assist where ever necessary. I challenge Lindorff to name a current death row inhabitant that has a more sentient and diligent legal team at their disposal. Dave Lindorff has to know that there is much more to Jamal's legal team than Grossman and Kamish and for him to act otherwise is to betray the animus that I had made mention of in my initial review.

Lindorff wants to further invoke the myth that he has broken what, in his words, is "considerable ground" in his book and wishes to take me to task for not highlighting his esteemed breakthroughs. It has been noted that there are a couple of chairs rearranged on the proverbial Titanic that is the prosecutions thoroughly exposed case; however, to say that he has broken "considerable new ground" is to engage in silly hyperbole.

That the prosecutor, Joe McGill sought to exclude jurors on the basis of race has been enshrined in repeated examinations of the judicial proceedings and that he may have compelled a police officer to be available and then "lied" about it is not exactly new territory for a prosecutor who was later caught in another trial attempting to introduce evidence that he knew to be false. This is not exactly groundbreaking material for anyone who has followed the case.

Lindorff's extreme arrogance may have actually even damaged Jamal's case with regard to one of his other revelations regarding the "fry the nigger" comment that a court stenographer is alleged to have heard Judge Sabo say. Lindorff sought out a judge who was another purported witness to this profanely prophetic utterance. In his own convoluted mind, Lindorff believes that his interview with this judge garnered some new insights that would be beneficial to Jamal's case. In fact, this would have been helpful if it was handled by Jamal's attorneys and not a bull in a china shop style journalist. Jamal's attorneys know full well about Judge Klein and what he likely heard, but, for obvious reasons, were not disclosing the aforementioned information publicly for plainly obvious reasons. Judge Klein, being a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Judge, is now fair game for the belligerent forces that seek Jamal's demise and we have Lindorff to thank. With friends like this...!

Dave Lindorff in his disjointed critique of Jamal supporters resorts to the same collectivist critique that the mainstream media and the police have typically employed in their efforts to marginalize and suppress the movement to free Mumia. It appears that his contention is that I and other "ardent" supporters are members of a hideous monolithic entity that seeks to ostracize and otherwise silence anyone who does not conform to the all or nothing concept that Mumia is factually innocent and should therefore be immediately released. To further buttress his point, he cites criticism of notable members of the sectarian left, Noam Chomsky and Ossie Davis who were allegedly scorned by Mumia supporters for advocating a new trial as opposed to immediate release. What is somewhat comical about this assertion is that I did not in my book review criticize Chomsky or Davis for their alleged position on Mumia's case. Clearly, this example of invoking two of the most recognizable names of radical politics is an obvious attempt to cause discontentment where there is none by fabricating some kind of pointless conflict. Lindorff offers no factual or even anecdotal evidence that either Chomsky or Davis were ever publicly repudiated for their position on Mumia's case and I, on this occasion, challenge him to do so or cease propagating this inflammatory misinformation. Based upon my many years of involvement with the free Mumia movement, I can attest to the fact that there is a huge breadth of opinion and healthy debate about Mumia's case

Furthermore, Lindorff now wants to make the contention that the movement to free Mumia is in disarray and is beset by monetary issues and a steady decline in interest. This, despite the unarguable fact that Jamal has garnered more support than any inhabitant on America's death row in recent history. The movement to free him has been a catalyst for radical change and has played a role within the anti-war mobilizations, as well as the ever growing anti-globalization efforts. Lindorff is quick to point out the weaknesses of the movement and in concentrating solely on these problems he is being disingenuous to the multitudes of activists who have courageously taken a principled stand for justice in the face of difficult odds.

Another flaw within Lindorff's analysis is his complete omission of any mention of the campaign that has been waged on the part of government, as well as reactionary elements, to silence and discredit not only Mumia, but those who choose to advocate on his behalf. For example, he cites monetary problems, but neglects to mention the attacks on pro-Jamal fund-raising efforts by former Philadelphia mayor and now Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. Nor is there a place in either his book or rebuttal of my review to mention the COINTELPRO style break in at the office of International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal or police threats and harassment of activists who work at that office.

Not to let common sense or rational thought intrude on his thought pattern, Lindorff then cites fewer numbers at Jamal marches as a clear indicator of the failure of the movement. What he fails to mention is that a bit over a year ago a peaceful march by Jamal supporters ended with a number of demonstrators being beaten viciously by vengeful Philadelphia police. One young woman, who weighs less than a hundred pounds, was beaten and was briefly hospitalized. Another demonstrator, who happened to be a Buddhist monk, was nearly brutalized into having a heart attack and has ongoing medical issues due to his beating by police. Another young woman was dragged down the street by her sweatshirt with her bare skin being scraped by the concrete. This willingness on the part of police to, without consequence, attack peaceful marchers, coupled with a post 911 realpolitik that has radical activists turning to less confrontational tactics to make their point, is a more realistic explanation for lower turnouts than the assertion that people aren't really interested or are turned off by the legal strategy that Mumia is currently pursuing.

In conclusion, I have to admit that I came at Lindorff's book with as open a mind as possible and was initially encouraged to see that someone had taken the time and effort to attempt to encapsulate this complicated case into a literary body that was fair and unburdened by bigotry or was unduly burdened by affiliation with either side of the debate. However, as I read further, I saw that underneath the cloak of altruism their lied an author who was regurgitating the words of Dan Williams, adding a few insights that, in reality, are of little consequence and finally, and most importantly, unfairly criticizing Jamal, his legal team, and the very people that have kept him alive throughout the state of Pennsylvania's repeated attempts to silence and ultimately kill him. Criticism and constant evaluation are essential to the health of any political or social movement; however, when that critique is offered by someone that is so willing to contort the truth, is reliant on FOP style tactics, and is on a bit of a disconnect from reality, that person should be questioned. Lindorff may be able to pander and patronize those on the peripheral of Jamal's case into believing that he is anything but a self serving exploiter of a tragic situation, but I and others are not so uninformed to buy into his charade.

If one is not sure on what side of the aisle Lindorff sits upon, you need only look to his words. Lindorff wants those who are concerned about Jamal to cast aside the findings and work of Jamal's current legal team and follow his flawed notions and legal strategy, even though he is not a lawyer and is not privy to the information that Jamal's lawyers possess. He wants Jamal supporters to look for justice from a "three judge panel," despite the fact that the judiciary has in the past failed to bring justice, despite the overwhelming amount of evidence that should have brought Jamal to a fair proceeding with a jury of his peers empaneled by a judge not beholden to the FOP. This is the bare minimum of what the law demands for Jamal and people should settle for nothing less. People should not sit back in quiet frustration as Mumia continues to whither away in a tiny prison cell, while profiteering bastards such as the likes of Dave Lindorff continues a course of monetary and personal gain played out at the expense of an innocent man on death row. Those who are wooed by Lindorff because of his liberal aesthetic and politically correct prose do so at their own folly. Lindorff's reliance on boilerplate propaganda and pitifully disposable falsehoods may ultimately be of more detriment to Jamal and his cause than any beer swilling, racist, cop could ever hope to be.

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