Saturday, December 22, 2007

Anti-Intellectualism And Mumia

("Educators For Mumia", Mark Taylor is third from the left)

"Why is she there at all?"
founder of Educators for Mumia,
Mark Taylor referring to Maureen Faulkner’s interview on 20/20 about Mumia's case

Being that I joined the cause of publicizing "Murdered By Mumia" and helped to participate in it’s production, it would be wholly wrong to "review" the book in any conventional sort of way.

However, what I do not fear to do is to take on the reviews of others, especially when such reviews are of such an unjustifiably arrogant tone married to a political agenda.

This is why I feel compelled to offer a response to Mark Taylor, the founder of "Educators For Mumia", as his "review" of the book is essentially a version of MOVE’s conspiracy theories and verifiable war against Maureen Faulkner. Taylor offers an ostensibly academic take on the book. In actuality it is as crude and disingenuous as the more obviously cruel and factually deficient platitudes as offered by MOVE. That he is an established intellectual makes it that much more deserving of a response.
Mark Taylor has a strike against him as he leaves the gate as he references Amnesty International’s call for a new trial as evidence that the human rights community is a source of growing support for Mumia. Never mind that the Amnesty International report has been exhaustively debunked and is indeed several years old. An excellent rebuttal to the Amnesty International report is at and to this day I believe Jamal supporters nor AI have an answer for it.

If this is the best evidence of a broadening of support for Jamal, than Taylor’s premise rests on an a shaky foundation.

The next clue that Taylor is in over his head is that his primary argument against it lay in it’s "rhetorical strategy of persuasion", which is a very dramatic way of saying that he finds the book manipulative and deceptive and that it’s readers are there to be persuaded.

It is an argument rooted in semantics and the presumption that people are there to be readily duped, something that as a long-time member of the Mumia cause, he knows that such people do exist. After all, they fill the ranks of the movement that he is a part of. But it is a presumption that is too arrogant to be reasonably considered.

Another strike against Taylor is that he argues that there are "omissions" from the book with regards to the case, a typical "straw man" argument being that the book was not written to debunk and debate every single Mumia conspiracy theory ever contrived, but instead takes on the larger ideas of how the case has been politicized and how such conspiracies are rooted not in a quest for justice, but rather to serve a specific political agenda. The book, at least as I know it was written not to debunk every pro-Jamal conspiracy theory that has come down the pike, but rather to point out the nefarious origins from which they spring forth.

From his chastisement for "omissions" he goes onto accuse the authors of inaccuracies. A charge that coming from a supporter of Mumia brings hubris up to a new and disturbing level.
And I must say, before I go further down this road that the book does contain "inaccuracies", as any book of recollections and is at least partially a story of thousands of pages of court documents will have. But to me, and I think to readers is the issue of intent and whether or not these inaccuracies constitute the core of the book. His evidence of a pattern of errors consists of one persons name being incorrect.

This, while Taylor is a part of a movement that is largely predicated on and exists almost solely on the proliferation and manufacturing of "inaccuracies" and deception, which is after all, part of the reason Faulkner’s book needed to be written in the first place.

And than, instead of pushing forward his contention that the book is riddled with "inaccuracies", he retreats from the issue back to safer ground, namely pandering to the political proclivities of those who are likely to be reading his work.

Taylor audaciously heaps scorn upon Maureen Faulkner’s dedication to the law enforcement community and they to her. In doing so, he is following his theme of writing a political polemic as opposed to an honest book review. He further distances readers from the murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner by concentrating upon politics and what I am sure he assumes his readers will have, and that is visceral and negative reaction to Faulkner’s deep involvement with the law enforcement community.

He fails to mention how this relationship was in actuality born somewhat of a necessity. It was Jamal supporters who had mobilized and harassed and tortured Maureen Faulkner in 1982 during the trial and it is Jamal supporters today who would, if they had their way offer her the same treatment. But what they cannot do in person, they do in print as she is repeatedly demonized as an opportunist, a liar, a racist, and from MOVE an allegation that she had a covert sexual desire for Mumia.

She was one person standing up against an army of angry, mis-informed, and in MOVE’s case, a known violent entity. That people would rise up to protect and assist her neither supports or detracts from the facts of the case as Taylor would have you think. It is yet another "straw man" argument and another logical fallacy from a man who ought to know better.

Taylor resurrects the fact that the Police, the DA’s Office and the cities Judiciary have been subjected to a tremendous amount of scrutiny and condemnation, something that anyone who knows anything about Philadelphia already knows. But he does this in the context of a criticism of the book’s authors for not pointing this out. On a deeper level, if you follow his logic to it’s conclusion the same arguments that Taylor is making on behalf of Jamal, could be equally applied to anyone of African-American descent who is currently imprisoned in Pennsylvania.
Here again we have Taylor committing a logical fallacy while also wanting to have things both ways. He wants to make use of the criticisms of the courts by Philadelphia newspapers and other official proceeding for his own purposes while ignoring the fact that these are the very same entities that have concluded Jamal is guilty and that he deserves to stay in prison. Taylor, seems to be either un-capable or un-willing to engage in critical thinking with regards to his hero and will not accept the reality that the justice system is imperfect and that Jamal is guilty. His inability to identify nuance and penchant of viewing the world in terms of black and white explain how he can still muster support for such an obviously guilty man.

Not surprisingly, Taylor wants readers minds outside of the courtroom in which Jamal was found guilty as he again plays games of semantics that bring to mind satirist, Stephen Colbert’s use of the word "truthiness".

One sentence of Taylor’s review is worthy of reprinting here where he actually expects people to believe that "Abu-Jamal supporters have been just as committed to reading the transcripts as Faulkner and Smerconish claim to be. But this book’s definition of truth as simply what is in the court transcripts is too narrow."

The above claim is just that, a claim. One that is simply not supported by "the truth", neither his nor anyone elses. If Jamal supporters are interested in the trial transcripts than why are they not posted on any of the dozens of pro-Mumia sites? Furthermore, why are there no links to the transcripts on any of the pro-Jamal sites. Even the one run by Taylor himself has only select transcripts. The answer is obvious as is the propaganda as offered by Mark Taylor. The transcripts do not serve Jamal’s interest. What serves Jamal’s interests are one-sided stories, manufactured "evidence" that is interpreted through the eyes of Jamal supporters and the testimony of whacked out witnesses who have been discarded by the courts and even by Jamal’s own defense team.

Perhaps the most disingenuous aspect of Taylor’s article is his defense of those who defend Mumia. While he offers the caveat that Jamal supporters have dished out "distortions and exaggerations", he quickly disengages the reality switch in his mind and assures readers that the "caricatures" of pro-Mumia supporters are but silly stereotypes. This complete detachment from reality on the part of Taylor makes me wonder if he even read the book, as it is filled with example after example of the cruelty directed towards her and others by Jamal supporters.

As a former Mumia supporter, I wish I could agree. But I saw first hand just how vicious and ugly this movement is. Whether it is embracing bigots and anti-Semites, like the members of the Nation Of Islam or the New Black Panther Party, or just the profane viciousness that is the norm for the MOVE Organization, the Mumia movement is what it is and Taylor’s dismissal of the true nature of this (thankfully decreasing) faux movement is absurd. It is a movement that heaps abuse not only on those who stand steadfast in their support of Maureen Faulkner, but even leftists who stray from the path and take heretical views on Jamal’s case.

There are too many examples for Taylor to ignore and his doing so convinces me that he cares not at all for the truth.

In an article from 1999 Taylor himself illustrated his own lack of intellectual curiosity that pervades the Mumia movement when he admitted that "he hadn’t ever asked Weinglass whether Abu-Jamal shot Faulkner, but went on to ask whether the question is relevant. "When you say something as specific as ‘I did not shoot Officer Faulkner,’ you are accepting the terms of the charge," Taylor told the reporter. So, while Taylor lives in a world of benevolent Jamal supporters, prone only to exaggeration he himself cannot even bring himself to ask what should obviously be one of the most pertinent questions in this entire case, all the while seeming to not understand the frustration and pain that he and his band of Jamal supporters are the cause of.
After whining about the treatment of Jamal’s supporters, Taylor’s next step is to lament the "demonization" of Mumia himself by the book’s authors. This is something that I find quite remarkable considering that one of the authors is the widow of the man whom Mumia murdered, in cold blood. In another example of sheer audacity he accuses the authors of
"Murdered By Mumia" of hyperbole. And while I fully accept the idea that for Taylor, Jamal is a hero, he fails to understand that the gravity of Jamal’s crime, how that crime reverberated through a community and left two families devastated. If anyone should get a pass for calling Mumia an "evil man", it is Maureen Faulkner. After all, it is not like Jamal has ever acknowledged his role in the crime, unless you count his boasting at the hospital. Nor has he, to my knowledge even mentioned the loss of Faulkner’s life in any of his hundreds of articles or audio commentaries.

The reality is that Maureen Faulkner does not need to demonize Mumia. He did that to himself when he shot and wounded another man and than finished him off as he lay wounded with a shot to the head. He furthered this crime by remaining mute about his role in the crime and than sat complicit as his supporters defamed, threatened, and otherwise attacked those who challenged the idea of his innocence.
After his Mumia pity party, Taylor again takes up the task of chastising the authors for not presenting both sides of the death penalty debate. Maureen Faulkner makes clear her reasons for supporting the verdict and sentence as handed down by Jamal’s jury. As a death-penalty opponent, I am not so insecure in my position that I need it to be constantly debated in order for it to be validated. I further find it sadly ironic that Taylor mentions Jamal’s own anti-death penalty writings. This because I am not really sure at which point Jamal decided that he was going to be against capital punishment. Was it before or after he pulled the trigger on another human being? My guess is that his conversion with regards to the implementation of the death penalty changed sometime around the day of his sentencing hearing.
The reality is that Mumia is not going to be executed. While it exists on paper and helps to get District Attorneys elected, the death penalty is essentially a non-issue in the state of Pennsylvania. Of the three people executed in PA since the reinstatement of the death penalty in the 1970 all of them had given up on their appeals. The continued use of fear of the death penalty for Mumia is shallow propaganda that always seems to creep into any discussion about the issue, never mind the fact that it is barely even relevant at this point.
Another "failure" of the book according to Taylor is it’s lack of discussion of racial issues. Again, another "straw man" argument is constructed just for the purpose of Taylor knocking it down.

With regards to the case itself, some of the most important prosecution witnesses were African-Americans, as were two of the jurors who convicted Jamal and gave him the sentence of death. And while it is true that on both sides of the public debate their exists racial opportunists. The difference being that Maureen Faulkner will have none of it, while the Mumia movement courts hate groups and gives them a forum from which to spew their anti-white and anti-Semitic rants at pro-Jamal events.

While Maureen will return checks back to racist groups who attempt to donate to her charity, the Mumia devotees will take money from any group, no matter how vicious and hateful
The end of Mark Taylors review of "Murdered By Mumia"notes the "ups and downs" that all murder victims go through, but he also feels compelled to add that few victims of murder have the "official support" that Marueen Faulkner has, which is true. But he fails again to mention the reason for this support. He fails to mention the "Free Mumia" support network that spans the globe and haunts Maureen’s life. Most murderers are not best selling authors, radio commentators, they don’t have their pictures emblazoned on merchandise, and literally dozens of websites built in their name. He almost seems to want to lead readers into thinking that Maureen Faulkner's "ups" are more pronounced than her "downs". As if a visit to the Mayor's office somehow mitigates the pain of the loss of her husband and the deification of the man who killed him. It is a stunning display of solopism and speaks to the arrogance and lack of empathy, sympathy, or even the pretense of compassion on the part of even the most sophisticated and educated of Mumia supporters.
That is what Maureen Faulkner must deal with and that is why people from all walks of life feel compelled to aid her . She is what Jamal wishes he was. By speaking out on behalf of her murdered husband, she is a true "voice of the voiceless". While Mumia writes commentaries about his heroes Hugo Chavez and other despots who are steadily stealing the voice of their people. He is the voice of tyrants and the most celebrated supporter of the child raping MOVE cult.
Finally, after all of his thinly veiled attacks on Maureen Faulkner, an obvious complete lack of empathy, the employment of logical fallacies as a means of diversions from the vital issues, an apparently self-deluded "Educator For Mumia" wants to argue that the book in question fails to offer a "convincing discourse" about the case, something it never even aspired to. Furthermore, this kind of criticism from a man so disinterested in the true facts of the case, a man who couldn’t be bothered to ask whether or nor Jamal shot Officer Faulkner, rings hollow with mock indignation.
But don’t take my word or Mark Taylor’s. Read the book yourself and discover the truth and find out why it is now on the New York Times Best Seller’s list and has met with critical success and see why Jamal supporters don’t want you to read it.


At 9:58 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I gotta get this book.


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