All in the family

By ADAM REILLY  |  December 8, 2008

The problem with this argument, of course, is that AfricanDNA exists now — and stands to benefit, along with Gates himself, from his New Yorker homage to the power of DNA testing. The best way for Gates to have dealt with this conflict would have been to simply acknowledge it — or purchase ad space.

Master of chaos
If you dig political surrealism, the recent drama surrounding Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner has been a gift that keeps on giving. Turner, as you may have heard, was arrested on November 21 and charged with attempted extortion after allegedly accepting a $1000 bribe, in connection with an FBI corruption investigation that’s also ensnared former state senator Dianne Wilkerson.

But unlike Wilkerson, who kept a relatively low profile following her arrest and indictment, Turner responded to his predicament aggressively and flamboyantly. Some of his stranger tactics: explaining, in consecutive press conferences, why a local news cameraman caught him on tape with his fly unzipped; casting himself as a victim of reactionary media outlets whose “rich” owners refuse to speak truth to power; announcing the formation of a “Boston Critical Thinkers Network” that will challenge said media by meeting in small cells around the city, like the slaves who defied their masters by secretly gathering to study; identifying himself as a partner in change with President-elect Barack Obama; and announcing that his current plight indicates a teaching role chosen for him, by his Creator, as Turner’s life nears its end.

Many of Turner’s claims were so outré that they made you wonder about his soundness of mind. And no surprise, portions of the press responded by treating him as a political buffoon. The November 25 Boston Herald, for example, fronted with a column by Margery Eagan (headline: ZIP IT!) that mocked Turner’s fly fixation. (“JFK said, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you,’ ” wrote Eagan. “Reagan said, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.’ And Chuck? ‘I was rushing so fast to get dressed . . . I didn’t zip up my pants.’ Really.”)

Now that the Turner story is more than a week old, however, it’s worth asking whether his response was as foolish as it seemed — or whether, instead, he deserves credit for transforming himself from a passive object of media coverage to a subject who’s driving his own story.

Take, for example, Turner’s complaint that the media never covered his serious work as a city councilor. A handful of journalists, including my Phoenix colleague Chris Faraone, have noted that this simply isn’t true. But, collectively, the press’s response to this allegation of bad faith has been muted at best — which will likely make some Turner supporters conclude that it actually has merit.

Similarly, Turner’s incendiary claim that the media is out to get him, in particular, ignores the fact that plenty of other politicians receive coverage that’s as tough as, or tougher than, anything Turner has received. (The Boston Globe, for example, has done extensive investigative work on the questionable entanglements of Massachusetts House Speaker Sal DiMasi, and weakened his grip on the speakership in the process.) But here, too, the media has let Turner’s charges go largely unrebutted. And this, in turn, will allow the cult of victimhood that he’s creating around himself to grow — which, if he avoids prison and runs for re-election, will only help him at the ballot box.

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  Topics: Media -- Dont Quote Me , Barack Obama, Salvatore DiMasi, Media,  More more >
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