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Steve Brandt/Star Tribune censor news report on yesterday's free-speech forum
a discussion thread on the Minneapolis e-democracy forum
Five years after the 2009 city elections, little had changed with respect to discussion of racial issues. In both cases we had: (1) silence, followed by (2) a consistently negative reaction to approaching the question of race in this way.
In 2009, the New Dignity Party had dozens of lawn signs around the city disclosing its message. More than a thousand leaflets were distributed at homes. There was a debate on between a black and white speaker on public access cable television. The result was that Bill McGaughey. the mayoral candidate, received 230 first-choice votes in the election, or 1% of the total. As a candidate for Congress in 2008, he had received 22,000 votes or 7% of the total. There was no comment on the issues he raised in the commercial media. It was silence followed by a total lack of support at the polls.
In 2014, Bill McGaughey helped to persuade Ed Felien, a former Minneapolis City Council member who publishes Southside Pride, to sponsor a free speech forum at Powderhorn Park in south Minneapolis on July 4th. Bill announced that he was planning to make a political statement on behalf of white people. Although Felien held different political views, he followed through with an honest-to-goodness “free speech forum” at which all points of view were tolerated.
There was some (though minor) discussion of Bill’s position at the forum itself. However, the more significant reaction was the Star Tribune newspaper’s coverage of the event which neglected to mention Bill’s participation. Bill made an issue of this in a posting on the Minneapolis e-democracy forum. The comments received on the forum do constitute a kind of debate on racial questions. There was silence on the part of Star Tribune reporter, Steve Brandt, followed by a variety of comments in the discussion thread. Most of them were negative in tone or content although the discussion was civil.
Why the silence? Maybe some people feel the Civil Rights moral consensus is so strong that there should be no dissenting views. Maybe people are embarrassed by racial questions. Maybe they are not quite in full agreement with the consensus but dare not speak lest they be accused of racism. People might fear where the discussion will go.
In any event, the discussion on the e-democracy forum follows. The original Star Tribune article appears at the end.
Bill McGaughey July 5, 2014 5:04 p.m.
Yesterday, July 4th, an open forum was held in Powderhorn Park in which people were invited to give speeches or statements on issues of importance to them. The event was organized and hosted by Ed Felien, long-time political activist and publisher of Southside Pride. A report on the event appeared in the Star Tribune this morning.
I was one of the speakers. My talk was titled “Stop hating the white people”. Steve Brandt’s lengthy article on the free-speech forum in the Metro section (page B3) did not mention my presentation or appearance.
I would contend that that the presentation should have been mentioned. It offered a clear departure from the conventional position on perhaps the most important political issue of our day. It sparked discussion from some of the other speakers. I was asked to come back to the podium for a rebuttal of opposing views. The forum was conducted in an atmosphere of civility and mutual respect. It was entirely fitting as part of a July 4th celebration.
Perhaps Brandt and his editors may have felt that even raising the subject of race in an unconventional way crossed a line of acceptable speech. (The first person to comment on Felien’s original announcement of the event criticized him for not vetting the speakers in advance. Would he provide a platform for “ haters and racists”, this person asked?)
Still this was the 4th of July when independent political expression is or ought to be encouraged. And, howevermuch Ed Felien’s political views differ from mine, he did provide an open and honest forum for discussion, risking contentiousness that never occurred.
Was mine a “racist” speech? I began by pointing out that the moral imperative of the original Civil Rights movement was to urge that white people not judge black people as a group. To form an opinion of individual blacks on the basis of group stereotypes was termed “prejudice”; and this needed to be overcome. Yet today, sixty years later, white people are being ferociously judged as a group. Whites who are not thoroughly repenting of the sins of “white society” are termed “racist”, with all the moral baggage that word carries.
This is a prejudice even more pervasive than the anti-black prejudice of yesterday and today, a prejudice enshrined in law and militantly spread by the society’s opinion-setting institutions: non-profit foundations, the news media, popular entertainment, religious institutions, and higher education. We now have “institutional racism” - the label of racism even when no specific instances of racist behavior can be found. And it is whites more than blacks who promote this point of view. The anti-racist agenda is firmly implanted in corporate America.
White persons openly identified as racists can be fired from their jobs. The media seems to delight in exposing hapless whites such as Donald Sterling or Paula Dean and making them stew in their own juices to the delight of jeering crowds. The news in liberal-left media features a parade of “ bigots of the month”. It makes for good entertainment and enriches the advertisers.
I also argued that people ought to be judged morally on the basis of what they do rather than what they think. We each have a right to think freely; and neither the government nor organized society has a right to interfere even when the thought is deemed “racist”. The right to think freely extends to the right of free speech, which is enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Not only does public thought control violate the U.S. Constitution, it is ineffective. It only drives “racist” views underground.
I also argued that a person’s identity ought to be based upon his or her own behavior rather than someone else’s. To say I am for white people does not mean or imply that I am against black people. The moral dualism implicit in racial politics is unhelpful.
That was the basis of my criticism of the Minneapolis police in the case of Terrance Franklin. It was not that Franklin was a victim of police bigotry but of violent behavior. The proper response would have been to institute changes in policies and procedures relating to situations such as Franklin’s. Instead, the police chief chose to launch an anti-racist cleansing of the department which was applauded by the city’s political elite.
At the forum, I argued for a politics based not on how people are born but on favoring or opposing policies which they or their representatives in government can control. (I cannot control my racial identity.) Right now, we are facing severe economic and environmental challenges. Racial politics, more than anything else, defines the political divide. If liberals, leftists, or progressives want their policies to be adopted, they will have to mend fences with respect to this divide. They would be well advised to drop the poisonous politics of race. There are many white people out there who, protesting they are not racists, nevertheless deeply resent the insult directed against
themselves as a birth-determined group.
This was the pitch I made at the free-speech forum. I had no reason to believe that Steve Brandt and his news organization would sympathize with what I said but I did reasonably expect that my views would at least be acknowledged because they did play a significant role in the discussion that we had on July 4th.
Now, of course, anyone who complains of not being given adequate coverage in the newspaper is arguing from a weak position because he or she is a biased observer and does not own the newspaper (and therefore does not have a right to make decisions on its behalf).
That said, I do have a history of antagonism with Steve Brandt and the Star Tribune. In Brandt’s case, this may go back to my days of landlord activism with the Minneapolis Property Rights Action Committee which Brandt, in contrast with his predecessors, dismissed as “a rump group”. His predecessor, Kevin Diaz, had called us the only effective political opposition to one-party rule in Minneapolis.
When I ran for Congress in 2008 as candidate of the Independence Party, Brandt summed up my candidacy in a single phrase - “perennial candidate” or the equivalent - in the Star Tribune’s only article on the 5th District congressional contest. (When I made an issue of this in an MPR debate, Keith Ellison later graciously acknowledged that I had been “screwed” by the paper.) I wound up getting 22,000 votes in that election as a third-party candidate.
An even more striking example was in 2002 when I challenged the Independence Party’s endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate in the primary. I picked my issues to differentiate myself from the two major parties. Therefore, with respect to the corporatist Republican party, I said that I favored a shorter workweek by 2010. With respect to the Democrats, I said that I favored “dignity for white males”, adding “and for everyone else, too.) The shorter-workweek proposal was evidently innocuous but “dignity for white males” so offended the Star Tribune advertising department that it refused to accept any campaign ads from me unless I removed that phrase.
I figured that something was seriously wrong with our politics and with the mainstream media if my favoring “dignity for white males” would be censored from the newspaper as a matter of policy. (The paper even claimed to have reached that decision after consulting its legal department.) Now, much the same thing has happened in 2014 with Steve Brandt’s article. (I say “Steve Brandt/ Star Tribune” in the heading because I do not know whether the omission was Brandt’s in his original article or the later decision of a copy or news editor.)
I would contend that an honest, open and balanced discussion of race is not only appropriate but long overdue. Reporter Steve Brandt is an active member of this forum and I hope he will respond to this posting. However, it is also his right to ignore this if he wishes.
In any event, I hope that the issue of race can be approached in a new way without rancor or hate by free-thinking, courageous individuals so that our deep-seated political divisions may some day be healed. The current racial paradigm is not working.
Alan Muller July 5, 2014 5:29 p.m.
A long time ago I had the experience of being arrested on the 4th at a "Liberty Day" celebration for handing our flyers. (Flyers saying the principles of the Declaration of Independence ought to be recognized as applying in Nicaragua--where a terrorist campaign against Nicaraguan independence was then being carried out by the USA.) The organizers said it was a "family fun" event at which political speech was not allowed. The whole episode was systematically blacked out by the statewide corporate media--in which I include, of course, so-called "public" radio and TV. A very admirable lady responded by arranging for a "free speech zone" to be part of the event in subsequent years, and for a few years it was. But the concept of "free speech in a cage" just does not resonate.
Brant's piece "Powderhorn Park oratory draws Minneapolis left" (recognizing that titles are commonly not written by the author of the story) does seem patronizing and, apparently, not entirely accurate, since Mr. McGaughey is obviously not "left." (http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/265855511.html)
Jack Ferman July 5, 2014 5:39 p.m.
Oh, poor thiiing - so mistreated in the press. Get a life.
Jordan Kushner July 5, 2014 6:13 p.m.
It wasn't just the headline, but Steve Brandt said in the text of his article, "This being Minneapolis, and more specifically the Powderhorn neighborhood, the politics ran from left to lefter." I thought this was a very condescending, dismissive and simplistic characterization even if
it had been accurate. Based on Bill McGaughey's speech, the characterization was also obviously inaccurate to the point of misinforming readers about the event.
I am not sure if it was because Steve and/or the Strib did not want to address an uncomfortable topic (as Bill suggests), or the common tendency in the press to have stories fit neatly into a box and ignoring aspects of a story that do not fit. Particularly where the box is probably based on a strong preconceived bias about the politics of the people and community involved.
I do think that Bill is fundamentally wrong on many levels, and unfortunately don't have the hours that would be needed to dissect all of his commentary. However, he does make important points about the value of having a free and open and civil forum for debate, and that Ed Felien should be complimented on this endeavor. the question is how to get many more people engaged?
Jim Bernstein July 5, 2014 8:20 p.m.
I think Steve Brandt's only mistake was covering this event at all. There are dozens of worthy events each week in the Twin Cities that get no coverage at all; this one had 22 people or so show up and still gets multiple paragraphs! Instead of ripping him, he should be thanked forcovering the event and writing about it.
And, surely he recognized that given some of the "orators" hyper-sensitivity and fondness for self-promotion, nothing he could have written would have passed muster with them.
Fred Markus July 5, 2014 8:43 p.m.
I have no doubt that other reportage will emerge from Ed's event. The Star Tribune has no claim to objectivity - vide the triumphalist coverage of the stadium episode, still ongoing. I admire Steve Brandt's writing, particularly given the shallow pool of experienced reporters still working under the aegis of the Star Tribune, but the bias inherent in the phrase "left and lefter" is unmistakeable and adds to tedious efforts to silence contrarian opinions in our lively and sometimes disputatious part of Minneapolis.
Doug Mann July 5, 2014 9:50 p.m.
It must have been a slow news day. The Strib article about the
" speechifying spectacular" was dismissive of the event, its host, and its
participants. The article was slanted and not entirely accurate.
I gave a stump speech, taking the school board to task for running a
segregated and inequitable school system. The district has gone out of its way
to segregate students by race and income, and allocates resources in an
extremely inequitable fashion. For example, the district maintains a large pool
of probationary and temporary teachers who are concentrated in high poverty
I noted the board's success in carrying out McKinsey and Co's
recommendation to beef up the district's administrative budget. A decade ago,
McKinsey and Co. urged the board to boost administrative expenditures to 15% of
the total operating budget, which is in line with a business model for running
public schools. However, as recently as the early 1980s, the average school
district spent only 3% on administration.
The district administration has become more secretive, less "transparent"
about its finances. Just a few years ago the board accepted the
administration's recommendation to dissolve the citizens' budget advisory
committee. The district is overdue for a full and thorough audit of its
financial books, not just a cash flow review. A full audit includes an
examination of budgetary controls, e.g., whether expenditures are properly
authorized, and and so forth. There are serious problems with the district's
Request for Proposal process and bidding procedures that allow the award of
sweetheart contracts. When financing for the new District Headquarters was on
the agenda, I publicly criticized the Board for accepting the administration's
recommendation, which was not the least expensive option for the district,
though it made bond merchants and buyers happy.
Bill McGaughey July 5, 2014 10:05 p.m.
The Powderhorn Park discussion was a worthy event for news coverage. There are all too few opportunities for ordinary citizens to speak their mind on political and other topics. Only what we see on television seems to have sufficient impact to sway public opinion and influence elections. This was a noble experiment and, to a large extent, it succeeded. I hope it will be attempted again in future years.
Therefore, I would take issue with the narrow-minded naysayers who disparage the fact that only 22 persons participated. How many people do they think they could attract to a novel event of their design and execution?
One poster refers to "orators" who show "hypersensitivity and fondness for self-promotion" and would not be pleased with anything that Brandt wrote. It would be nice if this critic could be more specific so the appropriate person could defend himself. This is an unspecific stink bomb lobbed into our forum.
Jack Ferman July 5, 2014 10:43 p.m.
Besides this forum, I cruise several Facebook pages/groups and did not notice
an event notice. Of course, my cruising is not extensive. However, might the
sparse attendance be a result of no widespread notice. Pulling in audiences is
no easy matter and it is made worse by having limited platforms. My only
experience at that is helping to get the word out on events at the Pioneers and
Soldiers Cemetery. At one of those I did advertise on this forum my audience
survey revealed that no even one person had gotten the word on this forum. Some
might note that I have ceased posting event notices here. The data showed forum
members didn't care, so why should I crowd members mailboxes.
Ed Felien July 5, 2014 11:13 p.m.
Thank you Steve Brandt for taking note of a small celebration of freedom of speech. The crowd was small, but earnest, and it was wonderful fun. Without your coverage it would have been obscure and unworthy of a footnote. You have made it seem strange and fun enough that we ought to think about doing it next year. But, as you know, no good deed goes unpunished, so it would be natural for those who feel slighted to complain. I feel personally offended that you didn't include Floyd B. Olson' s speech to the 1934 Farmer Labor Convention in which he said, "I am who I want to be, I am a radical. I'm not a liberal."
But, I've forgiven you the oversight.
Dave Garland July 5, 2014 11:17 p.m.
On 7/5/2014 5:06 PM, Bill McGaughey wrote: “The Powderhorn Park discussion was a worthy event for news coverage. There are all too few opportunities for ordinary citizens to speak their mind on political and other topics. Only what we see on television seems to have sufficient impact to sway public opinion and influence elections. This was a noble experiment and, to a large extent, it succeeded. I hope it will be attempted again in future years.”
It was indeed a noble experiment (thanks for promoting it, Ed!) and I
too hope it returns in future years. Hopefully other neighborhoods
will either join us, or try similar events of their own.
“ Therefore, I would take issue with the narrow-minded naysayers who disparage the fact that only 22 persons participated.”
It's a shame there weren't more. And I was a bit disappointed that there wasn't more variety in the speakers. That's not the fault of the fine folks who were mounting the soapbox, you were all doing your thing, speaking to the issues that you find important, we just needed to draw more of you from a bigger pool. I was hoping for more variety, more drama, more clashes of world views, more fireworks (since they took our evening fireworks away). A gold bug or a Bitcoin advocate, an anarchist, a charter school proponent, somebody advocating sending the Whites back to wherever they came from, a yogi, someone who thinks Bigfoot lives on the island in the lake, a Vikings fan, somebody who wants to invade Iraq because of the weapons of mass destruction, whatever. The more the merrier, variety is the spice of life. And of news.
The thing about a good news story is, it really needs to be both new, and make a good story. The essence of stories is drama. This is, I think, why TV news tends toward fires and violence, it's dramatic (as well as fast, cheap, easy to understand, and doesn't make viewers angry with the station). Abstract economics or abstruse international issues put people to sleep, and the news presenters don't understand
Steve Brandt wasn't the only one covering the event. Bob "Again" Carney was wearing his "PRESS" hat, my producer and I were filming for the cable show Our World Today (it'll likely be a few months before we have anything finished, this is our busy season and production is backed up), and half the presenters either had their own cams or had somebody filming. Nothing seems to be up on YouTube yet, but I'd be surprised if something didn't go up in the coming week. I'd guess Southside Pride will probably have a story.
So thanks to all who participated, see you all there next year.
Michael Atherton July 6, 2014 2:17 a.m.
" Oh, poor thiiing - so mistreated in the press. Get a life."
I have to admit that I haven't been reading or posting here much, but it seems
that the rules of decorum have changed radically from days of David Brauer.
I've seen so much censorship in comments and articles in the Tribune that I've
come to believe it must be one of the Hearst papers.
Jonna Connelly July 6, 2014 2:46 a.m.
Just to pick out one piece from McGaughey's original post: "This is a prejudice
**even more pervasive than the anti-black prejudice of yesterday** and today, a
prejudice enshrined in law and militantly spread by the society’s
opinion-setting institutions:" (** for emphasis mine.)
I wonder if Mr. McGaughey would be so kind as to define for me the functional
equivalent for white people of redlining, Jim Crow laws and slavery. Just to
pick one arguable point. Because I don't see it. Maybe I'm just dense.
There's so much more but I just don't have the time tonight.
Janet Nye July 6, 2014 5:07 a.m.
" Speaker Janet Nye sought signatures for a petition calling for a city charter referendum on requiring police to buy their own liability insurance." This is a quote from the Star Tribune article by Steve Brandt. It involves an apparent misunderstanding by Mr Brandt. I stated that the amendment would call for Minneapolis police to carry personal liability insurance, so that they are individually responsible for their actions on the job. I then stated that the baseline insurance cost would be covered by the city. I gave Mr Brandt a flyer which explained the particulars of this project of the Committee for Professional Policing.
The proposal is a win-win for police officers and the public. The City of Mpls
would pay the baseline insurance. Officers who act outside of their Code of
Conduct would be subject to a pay a premium, similar to the way car insurance
works. After a number of offenses, an officer could be let go. The up side of
this is that good officers who truly want to serve the public will have a
clean record and not pay anything to be insured. Brutal, law-breaking officers
will be weeded out by this system.
Over the years, statistics about discipline in the MPD show the need for a real
way to hold