Tag Archives: Goddard College

Waving the bloody shirt in Pennsylvania

The scoundrel finds his last refuge.

The scoundrel finds his last refuge.

Tom Corbett is a desperate man.

The Republican Governor of Pennsylvania is way, way down in the polls in his fight for re-election. Somewhere between 15-20 points down to Democrat Tom Wolf. And there’s a really messy scandal coming to light about his time as state Attorney General: eight of his staffers were enthusiastically sharing porn by email. Two men who became top Corbett Administration officials have had to resign. Others are hanging by a thread.

So Tom Corbett could use a nice big fat distraction. And he’s got one, courtesy of Goddard College’s commencement invitation to Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Corbett’s response: a proposed bill that would bar convicted criminals from seeking publicity from their crimes. The bill is now fast-tracking its way through the Legislature; if it gets into law, expect it to be struck down as a violation of the First Amendment.

But no matter. Corbett’s not seriously interested in the bill; all he wants to do is wave the bloody shirt, and turn the spotlight away from the cratering of his political career.

The bill, according to lead sponsor Mike Vereb, “would allow crime victims or prosecutors acting on their behalf to bring a civil action to halt conduct by an offender if it causes the victim or the victim’s family severe mental anguish.” He slammed Goddard for giving Mumia a platform to deliver a “taxpayer-funded rant.”

Let’s take the latter first. Mumia’s remarks, according to those — unlike Vereb — who actually read them, were the usual blandly inspirational stuff of commencement addresses. He did not speak of the crime that put him behind bars for life. He did not mock the family and friends of the late Officer Danny Faulkner. He did not recite the lyrics to “Fuck Tha Police.” 

If the family and friends of Danny Faulkner are suffering any severe mental anguish, it’s not because a small liberal-arts college in a small Vermont town invited Mumia to give a brief recorded address to 20 students. It’s because of all the conservative ragemongering that capitalized on the event.

Mike Vereb said, “The words of the victims should be louder than the criminals.” Well, they would have been if people like Mike Vereb had let the Goddard event pass quietly by.

In fact, they still were louder. A whole lot louder. How many people actually heard Mumia’s words? And how many have heard the words of Faulkner’s family, friends, and supporters?

It’s people like Mike Vereb and Tom Corbett who are indulging in taxpayer-funded rants. They are the ones causing “severe mental anguish” by endlessly reciting the details of the crime and pushing the Faulkner family back into the spotlight. And, figuratively, waving Danny Faulkner’s bloody shirt for a brief moment of political advantage.

Could somebody please draft a bill that would bar public officials from going on taxpayer-funded rants that cause severe mental anguish?

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Vile overreaction at Goddard College

Well, you knew that inviting Mumia Abu Jamal to speak would prompt a backlash. Especially when the professional ragemongers at Fox News got hold of it. (Seriously, Rupert Murdoch should make a donation to Goddard for giving his minions some raw meat to chew on.)

And, as we might have guessed, the reaction is thoroughly despicable. Goddard staff are getting obscenely violent emails and voice mails. My old colleague John Odum has written it up at his new outpost, POVt.net, and I suggest you check it out. I’ll give you just a sample here, and apologies for the language. This is not the worst one, by the way.

“Hey, if I rape one of your students and slit her throat – can I become a Graduation Day Speaker?”

Yes, there’s worse than that. According to John, the college has contacted the Vermont State Police. For those unfamiliar, this is a small college out in the boonies with a very roomy and impossible-to-secure campus. The commencement ceremonies are small affairs, with each program getting its own; the group that invited Mumia has only 23 students. It’d only take one nutjob to turn commencement into a crime scene.

I hope the VSP takes this seriously and provides appropriate security. I hope the troopers set aside their understandable feelings about Mumia and do their jobs like professionals.

And no, in no way does inviting Mumia Abu Jamal mean that Goddard “deserves” this kind of reaction.