Bad-Mau-Mouthing FreePress

Bad-Mau-Mouthing FreePress

The original post reveals much about why the campaign for a Civilian Oversight Board in St. Louis has been bogged down for years: The tone is strident, the motive is opportunist, the thrust is clueless, the method is reproachful.
This is just how its most vocal proponents have alienated local allies, and keep shooting themselves in the foot.

First of all, impugning FreePress for not waving CAPCR([search])'s flag, and failing some self-serving standard of political correctness -- this is ugly & counterproductive. Those folks worked hard & long to create this national/world forum on *Media Reform*, not local police affairs. It's their soapbox, and they are not obliged to cede this to anyone. The conference brought together amazing people working in diverse ways on these huge issues -- a golden chance to learn something, respectful of its purposes and scope. Still John Nichols gave strong and prominent mention of CAPCR and the COB issue at least twice in the proceedings, generous indeed. Apparently some zealots bent on grousing and guilt-tripping just don't get it.

And to demand that FreePress formally endorse the COB bill is just absurd:
That organization does not embody any local interest or expertise on police review, so it has no credible standing in municipal politics. Of course they didn't even have time to think about it, just coming into town to stage a major event -- enough in itself for polite excuses. In fact had they done so, they might have been forced to reject this demand outright, as simply improper.

Realize also that it takes substantial review & deliberation for any organization to adopt an official public position... there is an internal process that must be respected, not subject to ideological blackmail. This instance is reminiscent of the PR debacle in November '01, when CAPCR called various organizations to join a press event at City Hall, and nobody else came. In truth they had not done the hard, humble outreach work required to present a broad-based united front. As a volunteer at that time, I had to personally provide copies of the Board Bill to several key organizations, but on short notice they could not be cornered into supporting a piece of legislation they had not even SEEN.

No question -- the need for police oversight in St. Louis is critical. As a civil rights advocate in the trenches, I am acutely aware of the chronic violence, bias, corruption, extortion, and lack of accountability entrenched in law enforcement practices. At the same time, there are deep-seeded myths about the police in public and media views... the heroic "thin blue line" syndrome that occludes straight talk about what cops actually DO, and the ingrained fears to speak up.

This campaign has to engage a broader alliance with sense and intelligence.
To date I have bitten my tongue on the tactical bungling, but it's too important to ignore or deny: Clearly all the strident old-school street politics and sloganeering ARE NOT WORKING. All they have accomplished over 4 years is to polarize this issue on racial lines, and set up a political stalemate... same as it ever was in St. Louis.

In fact it should appeal to the broadest public interests in our city, understanding police conduct as a legitimate realm of public policy, and looking to establish civilian oversight as a matter of essential 'good civics', affecting us all.

Hearkening to brother Eldridge, mau-mauing FreePress is not part of the solution... it's definitely part of the problem.


_scottie addison, Coordinator
pcu_/Free Assembly Project
St. Louis, MO

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An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war.
-- Mark Twain
Source: "Glances at History" (suppressed)

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