Rank Amateur

Week of November 13, 2002

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Rank Amateur
Faulty logic on gun violence: Writer Jim Nesbitt's article on the escalating violence between police and St. Louis youth ["Open Season," October 30] was a study in amateurish dabbling. Mr. Nesbitt's cursory look at a serious problem bungled the facts and therefore reached pointless conclusions. For example, he reports the police version of events when stating that Stanley Parker and friends fired at officers. He fails to mention that all evidence points to police as firing the only shots. While police claimed to have identified themselves, the actions of the youths indicated that they never knew police were involved. Why else would they have later run toward officers claiming someone was shooting at them? The question is not merely whether an officer fired into the dark while returning fire but whether he was in danger at all and is covering up for his unjustified actions. Mr. Nesbitt's analysis of the Jerome Johnson verdict, which he found galling, shows that he knows little more of the case than he read in the Post-Dispatch. A jury found the police version of events to be without credibility. Even the prosecution's own witness disputed police accounts that they were wearing identifying vests. The evidence at trial pointed to the strong possibility that police shot an unarmed man, threw down a gun to incriminate him, beat him and then shot him again as he lay helpless on the ground. They then filed incorrect police reports about seeing Johnson in the red car [from which someone] had shot at them and were forced to change their story when the driver of the car declared that Johnson was not involved. Nevertheless, Mr. Nesbitt reduces the question of police culpability to whether they fired too many shots! Nor does he even mention the pattern of such cases that have caused black youth to fear for their lives when approached by police. Mr. Nesbitt cites other cases which legitimately show some youths' disregard for life, and he laments that it seems to be open season on police. He wonders why police are being treated like just another gang in the neighborhood. Perhaps rogue officers acting like thugs themselves are part of the problem. Black youth [also] feel like it is open season on them. There is now an ongoing cycle of violence in which each side is approaching the other on hair trigger, ready to shoot first and ask questions later. Police must bear some responsibility for creating this situation. Young criminals must be held accountable for their actions, but so, too, must police who violate the law in the name of preserving it. Meanwhile, the Riverfront Times writers should show greater reverence for the lives involved than to dash off a story with so cavalier an approach.
John Chasnoff
University City

Rad Strip
Pimp your local war-lover: The best thing the Riverfront Times is doing for St. Louis right now is running the comic This Modern World. As a comic strip, it is one of the best analyses of what is going on in United States foreign and domestic policy, and it's funny as hell. I'm always tempted to clip them and send them to all my conservative war-loving friends ... if I had any. Keep running This Modern World so I can keep thinking subversive thoughts!
Brian Kirk
Webster Groves

U-Town Clown
Which way is up? Has René Spencer Saller won a dream date with Nelly yet? In her promo blurb for his Savvis show, it's difficult to tell whether she's mocking him even as she celebrates him, or vice versa ["Critic's Pick," October 30]. She casts aspersions on those who would criticize him, then says those criticisms are valid; she finally defends him by pointing out that he's "got facets." So, totally and irrefutably sucking is now a "facet" of a "complicated" artist? She compares him with Eminem, regarding how they are critically perceived. I am not a fan of either, but I can respect that Eminem has real skills as an MC. He's an idiot, but he's a mic-rockin' idiot. On the other hand, it didn't take René's "R&B flava" to prevent Nelly from making "real hip-hop." As a genuine has-been of the St Louis hip-hop scene, I feel like I can speak with some authority: If any one of dozens of emcees I've seen in this town had thought of throwing a double-Dutch rhyme over a jumpy Bone Thugs-N-Harmony throw-away beat first, we might be devoting this space to a much stronger lyricist. But I wouldn't wish Nelly's fame on any of them. It must be difficult not to lose your integrity, pouting for the cameras. Luckily our "beloved clown from U-town" didn't have a lot going in.
Hunter Brumfield
St. Louis

James Gang
Why did Jesse ride? Regarding the Jesse James biography by T.J. Stiles, few today would defend slavery as it existed in America, except as a historical fact of the times, and few defended it then as it became less economical and politically out of favor with the rest of the civilized world [Eddie Silva, "Rebel With a Cause," October 30]. Thirteen other Western Hemisphere nations, territories and colonies managed to abolish slavery without war, and there is little reason to believe that the United States would not have done likewise. As for Jesse James' gang's acts of barbarism, at least they were performed on corpses, which is more than can be said for John Brown and his massacres, which [included] slicing off [the] body parts of still-breathing victims, all in the name of abolition. We waste too much time judging events of the past in terms of today's morals instead of within the context of the times in which they took place.
Robert Arnold
St. Peters

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