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In Your Face Value

To the Editor:

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 a rope.

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 Mansion.

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.

Michael L. Brown

Third Ward Councilman

Albany

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 with Walsh.

Anarchy in the U.S.A.

To the Editor:

I 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? You decide.

Rachel Freifelder

Albany

Metroland welcomes typed, double-spaced letters (computer printouts OK), addressed to the editor. Or you may e-mail them to: metroland@metroland.net. Metroland reserves the right to edit letters for length; 300 words is the preferred maximum. You must include your name, address and day and evening telephone numbers. We will not publish letters that cannot be verified, nor those that are illegible, irresponsible or factually inaccurate.

Send to:
Letters, Metroland, 4 Central Ave.,
4th Floor, Albany, NY 12210
or e-mail us at metroland@metroland.net.


 
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