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Quite possibly the worst column that will ever be written about Chuck Turner

If there were a Bulwer-Lytton competition for columns, Joe Fitzgerald might have a winner with his column today on Turner, which approvingly quotes Louis Farrakhan and ends:

Even if he beats the rap, Turner has blown the chance to be what's so urgently needed today, a leader to emulate, worthy of a kid's admiration.

So even if Turner is found innocent, he's still guilty? And Louis Farrakhan is now a public figure to emulate?



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So even if Turner is found innocent, he's still guilty?

I'd frame it like this: Even if he was entrapped, he still took the bribe.

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The writing didn't seem that bad to me, though the meaning of the conclusion is ambiguous.

He might have been presuming that the readers believed Turner to be guilty. Or he might have been implying that no kid aspires to be accused of a crime regardless of whether they are innocent or guilty.

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Well, and the beginning. And, um, the middle. :-).

no kid aspires to be accused of a crime regardless of whether they are innocent or guilty

That's the part that bothers me. Turner may well turn out to have had his hand in the cookie jar. But let's assume he didn't, and that he got snared by an overly ambitious US Attorney out to make a name for himself with some high-profile public corruption cases (those are always good for when you run for office yourself). In other words, let's assume that Turner is guilty of, at worst, a campaign-donation violation and sloppy bookkeeping.

What Fitzgerald is then saying is that an entire lifetime of work goes down the drain (let's make another assumption: That you agree that Turner has a lifetime of work to be proud of) because of somebody else's mistake/grab for power. If anything, that should make some people even more willing to grow up to be Turner, especially given that the civil-rights movement, which Turner claims to be carrying on, is filled with case after case of people being unjustly accused. It just doesn't make sense to me.

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I agree that a piece in a reputable paper should not presume guilt, and that (in general, admittedly not being familiar with Turner in particular) a lifetime of positive work should not be written off by one mistake.

I was going to suggest an alternate message for a piece on the topic, but the message will be a lot easier to formulate once we know how this case turns out. There are constructive messages that could be made in a column, either way, but I for one am having difficulty working out a non-clumsy one without violating the principle behind presumption of innocence.

To take a step back and second-guess widespread convention for a moment... Perhaps we really didn't need to know or talk about this case until the judicial process has done its thing. Now the public is always going to associate Turner with scandal, even if he were found innocent. Even my liberal justice-purist self, should this case be dropped or Turner found not-guilty, I'm still probably always going to think, "Yeah, he's probably at least sketchy, or he probably wouldn't have gotten caught up in scandal to begin with." Even if I forget what the scandal was about, in which case my impression might simplify to a vague "he's sketchy." It's not a pretty thought, but that's how media and perceptions work. It's a downright sickening thought, if anyone you care about unjustly winds up on the business end of that dynamic. I'm sure the media have an awareness of this, and the better outlets seem to exercise discretion, though they have to balance concerns other than just our judicial standards.

With that brief (layperson's) academic step back, I'm not beating up this columnist for registering an opinion. We might critique and debate the content of the piece, but the piece is within current convention.

(P.S., I should clarify that I originally meant that the *writing* was *stylistically* not that bad, for a column. I guess "Bulwer-Lytton" made me think "style.")

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Joe Fitzgerald and the Nation of Islam - an interesting pairing. I can see where Joe would find an ally in Farrakhan. The NOI was actually a very conservative group. The members were told to refuse to go on welfare, to dress well, and to pull themselves up by the bootstraps without help from the government. Elijah Muhammed and Malcolm X both spent years ridiculing the civil rights movement and rejecting integration. Also, I doubt Joe was bothered by Minister Farrakhan ordering the hit on Malcolm. Perhaps Joe doesn't know that Minister Farrakhan visits Elijah Muhammed in a space ship that orbits the Earth. A columnist can only keep up with so much.

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