Advocacy Journalism Runs Wild at The Clarion Ledger

 The Mississippi Flag issue

Let me get a couple of things out of the way. When the vote to change our state’s flag took place in 2001, I had left Mississippi and was living in Washington, D.C.  If I still lived in Mississippi I probably would have voted, like an overwhelming majority of Mississippians, to keep the existing state flag. I have never considered the state flag or the Confederate battle flag to be racist. It has sickened and disgusted me to see the KKK and other white supremacist groups co-op the flag. At an early age I was fascinated by Civil War history and read as much as I could about the Civil War. Today, my personal library has more than a hundred books dealing with the Civil War. As yes, some of the titles are even about Lincoln, Grant and Sherman. There are very few of the major Civil War battlefield parks in the nation I haven’t visited. An ancestor, John C. Breckinridge, was vice president of the United States but was later a major general in the Confederate States of America army, and later Secretary of War for the CSA. Of course, Breckinridge was wrong when he defended slavery before and during the war. Of course, he was right in 1870 when he denounced the Ku Klux Klan.

Flag hysteria in the press

The nine murders in Charleston were a horrible tragedy. The alleged killer is clearly a twisted, racist redneck. That doesn’t justify the mass hysteria in the media about the Confederate flag. The terrible murder of innocent black church goers in South Carolina is no cause for massive advocacy journalism concerning the state flag in Mississippi. As far as the press in concerned, during more than 20 years as a journalist, I have had no problem with newspapers taking an editorial stance, even when those opinions were contrary to my own.  My problem is when obvious bias creeps into the news pages. Few newspapers are as guilty of advocacy journalism than our state’s largest newspaper, The Jackson Clarion Ledger. On Wednesday, the CL online home page had nine headlines dealing with the flag issue and the “Right Now” section contained three stories. Thursday’s print edition front page had only three stories, all dealing with the flag. Friday’s lead story on the top half of the front page was about the newspaper’s survey of state legislators

about changing the state flag. On Saturday, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on same sex marriage dominated the print edition’s front page. Things returned to normal on Sunday when the editorial pages had an editorial supporting changing the state flag, two guest columns mostly dealing with the same subject and a column by CL executive editor Sam Hall. Every time Hall writes something it should be noted that he is the former executive director of the Mississippi Democratic Party. Hall was clearly miffed many legislators had not responded to the CL’s survey whether or not they would vote for legislation to change the state flag and remove the Confederate battle flag that is in the upper corner of the flag. Actually, it was not a survey. The flag survey was clearly an attempt to bully some legislators and put them on a political hotspot if they oppose changing the flag. While it is part of the newspaper’s campaign to change the state flag, less than half of the legislators have responded. Black members of the House promptly responded with a “yes” as did some white liberals.  Only a handful of Republicans in the House voted “yes” to change the flag and only three GOP state senators voted “yes.” The implication is clear for those voting “no” to the change: In the eyes of the newspaper that either makes you a bigot or you are not progressive enough to support Mississippi moving away from the state’s ugly racial past. However, there is one House member that is listed as a “no response.” Liberal House Democrat Cecil Brown is running for public service commissioner from the central district. I assumed Brown would be a clear “yes” vote to change the flag, but Brown probably knows such a response could hurt him with some voters in the district. I think the “survey” and CL’s emphasis on changing the flag has potentially one negative result. With the newspaper making a big push on the flag, there is a real chance their effort will only increase the racial divide in Mississippi. While the Clarion Ledger last week seemed to be obsessed with all things Confederate, you noticed there were no news reports of the vandalism of more than ten Confederate monuments and memorials that took place from Texas to Maryland since the murders in Charleston.

If the Mississippi Legislature or voters change the state flag, it will be fine with me. If we keep the current state flag that will be ok as well.

Tragedy in South Carolina leads to some ridiculous things

SAME OLD BENNIE – Anyone who has gone to Washington on business or tourism has seen an American flag and the state flag of that particular member of the U.S. House in the hallway outside the member’s office. Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson told Washington publication Roll Call that the Mississippi flag is outside of the offices of his four colleagues from Mississippi. “I don’t go to their offices,” Thompson said when asked about seeing the Mississippi flag outside of the offices of other members of the Mississippi delegation. I worked for a Mississippi member of Congress for a good number of years after Thompson was elected to Congress. Regardless of any state flag, I never saw Thompson set foot in any other office of the Mississippi delegation. Amazon, eBay and some other retailers self-righteously announced they would no longer sell Confederate flags or anything with a Confederate emblem. Of course, check Amazon and eBay and you will find Nazi memorabilia, Communist flags, Muslim Crescents or a Chairman Mao piggy bank. Vicksburg National Military Park said items with the Confederate flag would be removed from their museum gift shops. Have you ever been to a Civil War battlefield museum? They will be getting rid of a lot of items.

Changing the flag won’t solve the problems faced by black Mississippians

If our state does get a new flag, it won’t solve the problems of black Mississippians – better jobs, better education, teen pregnancies, black on black crime and young blacks without fathers in the home.

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