Your Face Value
Metroland has once again proved it deserves a reputation
for being misleading, inaccurate, and untrue. I am sure it
takes hard work to make so many mistakes but you are clearly
up to it [“Primary Shake-Up,” Newsfront, Sept. 16].
The news slant in this story reads like a book on an old-fashioned
lynching. You know, first accuse a black man of having violated
the honor of an innocent white woman, then get the cops and
The errors start when Miriam Axel-Lute’s description of a
Sept. 11 family cookout in Arbor Hill gets the location wrong.
The “Last Blast of Summer” has been held at Van Rensselaer
Park for seven of the past eight years—not the Ten Broeck
But that’s not all. She accepted at face value the claim that
a potentially “dangerous” situation developed when I informed
a candidate of the ground rules for our event. Why was that?
Could it be that Peg Walsh recognized several former clients
unhappy with how poorly she represented them as a public defender?
Or could it be that Walsh’s lily-white campaign team was uncomfortable
in our largely African-American and Latino community?
Declining to explore these questions, your reporter took at
face value what she was fed by Walsh’s campaign. Metroland
should know better than to buy their attempt to turn an
African-American elected official into O.J. Simpson, Willie
Horton, and Kobe Bryant all rolled into one. Instead, you
turned a blind eye to the racism involved.
Your reporter swallowed another lie as well—that I called
the police to the park. This is absolutely untrue. Indeed,
within hours of Metroland printing that falsehood,
a local radio show named the Walsh campaign operative who
actually called the police. Turns out, he’s the brother of
an Albany cop. So Walsh’s campaign used a family connection
to bring an aggressive police presence to Arbor Hill’s largest
annual family cookout as part of a political power play. If
only we had that number, maybe the cops would respond better
when there’s a real emergency.
Truthfully, the cops were called at Walsh’s personal direction.
Sounds like the old-style boss politics reformers are supposed
to be against. Indeed, Walsh’s use of cops as political tools
is a big step backwards for Albany. But you won’t read about
it in Metroland because they’re itching for a lynching.
The truth is secondary.
Third Ward Councilman
Miriam Axel-Lute replies:
I acknowledge the error in the reported location—the party
in fact took place in Van Rensselaer Park, which is around
the corner from the Ten Broeck Mansion. However, Michael Brown
seems to have trouble distinguishing between a factual error
and the quoting of versions of events other than his own,
even when his version was also represented. What I reported
was that Brown claimed the campaigns called the police, and
the campaigns claimed that he called the police. Police records
show one call to that area that afternoon, but no complaint
was made and the caller was not recorded. The question remains
unclear, and I reported it as such. As for Brown’s analogy
to a lynching, perhaps he can explain how that fits with the
fact that the same interactions were reported between him
and an African-American male candidate shortly after the incident
in the U.S.A.
appreciated Miriam Axel-Lute’s and Rick Marshall’s accounts
of their experiences at the Republican National Convention
[“Peaceful, Plentiful, Powerful” and “Down and Out at the
RNC,” Sept. 2]. I’d like to take this opportunity to clear
up some misconceptions about a political philosophy, that
of anarchism. Both writers correctly point out that the police
and the mainstream media often mischaracterize any progressive
protest as being organized by “anarchist groups,” or even
worse, “anarchist leaders.” However, there is also widespread
confusion, even within progressive circles, about what an
“anarchist” is, and this I would like to clarify.
Anarchism is the philosophical belief that we would be better
off as a society without a centralized authoritarian government,
that human beings have enough conscience, intelligence and
goodwill to make decisions in an egalitarian manner. Many
small groups exist that function according to these principles,
though not all of them call themselves “anarchist.” Food cooperatives,
collective houses, many small clubs and service organizations—any
group without a “boss” qualifies. A well-known group that
fits this description is the Society of Friends (Quakers),
who are an excellent example because they have rules but no
rulers, structure but no centralized command, people who take
leadership roles but do not dominate or oppress others. Again,
the Quakers do not identify as an anarchist group; this is
simply an example of what anarchist principles truly are.
The misconceptions that have spread through the world are
that anarchists are by definition (1) violent, (2) members
of a single militant organization, (3) followers of some charismatic
leader. In fact, the philosophy of anarchism says nothing
about what tactics should be used to achieve its goal, just
as republicanism does not specify what tactics should be used
to maintain the control of a republic. Many anarchists are
pacifists, though this is not part of the definition of anarchism.
There are certainly Republican pacifists, as well; there may
even be pacifists (or anarchists) who support George W. Bush.
Most national governments, like the Bush administration, have
seen fit to use violence to maintain control. Does this mean
that our current system of government is inherently violent?
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