Monday, August 27, 2007

Another Payne-Fully Offensive Vick Defense

Add "distinguished journalist" and one-time Pulitzer Prize winner Les Payne to the long list of misguided defenders and excuse-makers for dog-killer Michael Vick. I had always had respect for the no-nonsense prose style of Payne, and more often than not agreed with his take on politics. But in this Sunday's New York Newsday Payne crossed the line from apology to mindlessly play the race card, and with it set a new low for journalism in the process. His column, boorishly titled Is Michael Vick at the mercy of the pack?, makes Deion Sanders' by now notoriously obtuse defense of his fellow overpaid, sheltered athlete seem like the cogent, well-executed essays of a Michel de Montaigne. The comments following the piece, to which I proudly added my own disgust, are almost uniformly outraged by Payne's many breaches of logic and common decency, such as the following beauts:
"It's a likely bet that Vick loves his dogs the way trainers love their fighters. He likely puts them down, by whatever brutal means, for the same unfortunate reasons that rodeos kill passive bulls and trainers shoot injured horses."

"Vick has been unnerved into plea-bargaining by a snarling posse of dog lovers, a hanging judge, the zanies of PETA and the sporting press - all hell-bent on dishing out the kind of justice long practiced in the Cradle of the Confederacy."

"One might imagine that instead of fighting dogs and animal carcasses, the feds found an al-Qaida training camp on Vick's property. When Stephon Marbury supported Vick as a "good human being" who "fell into a bad situation," the charitable Knicks star was himself mauled as "one sick puppy."
Most of the tiresome arguments spouted by Payne seem to be his way of keeping it real, saying, see, I write for a suburban newspaper but I can still relate to the "ghetto." Payne seems to believe that every black man who gets arrested is a victim of some sort of racism. No accountability for one's own behavior factors into the equation. Bringing up lynching in this case is disingenuous bordering on insane. And I personally would rather spend time with "zanies" who speak for the defenseless -- animals being tortured in medical experiments by cosmetic companies, for instance -- than with people like Vick who inflict pain and suffering on fellow living beings.

Toward the end of the mercifully short piece, Payne makes mention of William Rhoden, a clueless New York Times columnist who wrote a book ludicrously called "Forty-Million-Dollar-Slaves" in which he puts forth the fraudulent, counterfeit proposition that the modern black athlete, although well compensated financially, is nothing more than modern day chattel, with the modern sports field nothing more than a glorified plantation. I kid you not. On so many levels the argument is embarrassing for its sophistry and total lack of connection to reality. That Payne chooses to highlight this harebrained fantasy leaves no room for doubt that he has crossed over to a mephitic region where reason and common sense hold little sway.

Stephon Marbury was rightly pilloried for his uninformed, crude opinions on the Vick case ("From what I hear, dogfighting is a sport. It's just behind closed doors and I think it's tough that we build Michael Vick up and then we break him down ... I think he fell into a bad situation.") -- or is it racism to point out that a black man said something stupid and just plain morally reprehensible, and in so doing proved his overall lack of intelligence. If so, I have no problem being called a racist. Because Payne is obviously a racist himself.

I'm not sure what to make of NAACP leader RL White's equally spurious defense of Vick's actions: "As a society, we should aid in his rehabilitation and welcome a new Michael Vick back into the community without a permanent loss of his career in football. We further ask the NFL, Falcons, and the sponsors not to permanently ban Mr. Vick from his ability to bring hours of enjoyment to fans all over this country." With this tortured logic, it seems White is suggesting entertainers and sports heroes should be held to a different standard than the rest of us who commit felonious crimes. I don't know about you, but Vick's absence from the NFL this year -- and hopefully many years to come -- will not detract from my enyoyment quotient one iota. To the contrary, I salute Commissioner Roger Goodell's tough stance on the Vick fiasco, as do most longtime fans of the league.

But let's return to more of Payne's convoluted claptrap. The most outrageous part of the Payne piece is that if Vick weren't a famous black ballplayer he wouldn't be even writing a column about the case and all but says so himself. In fact, Payne contends that Vick has somehow suffered enough already, and he doesn't want him spending even a day in jail, despite the fact that no contrition or accountability has been voiced by the ex-QB. To the contrary, Payne counts himself among the few who are perceptive enough to see the unvarnished truth, who are willing to do the "right thing" here, although he realizes it's an unpopular stance, as evidenced by the astute conclusion he draws regarding how justice in this high profile case can best be served:
"So who in the media demands fair play for Vick? So far only a select few, knowing black columnists, uneasy about the judicial treatment of black males, have dared speak out. Justice demands not only that the innocent be left alone but that the guilty be given due process and treated fairly, even if convicted.

Precedence in recent high-profile cases offers an opening for Vick, a first-offender, to be judged to have suffered enough. His livelihood should not be destroyed for this offense that he so deeply regrets and is certain never again to commit. He should not serve a single day in prison."
I say this to Mr. Payne: How dare you speak of justice and mercy? Where was the justice and the mercy toward these poor dogs? You're a sorry excuse for a human being if you cast your lot in with Vick and other animal killers. And did you peer into Vick's soul or even speak with him lately to know with certainty his deep regret, not to mention his eventual rehabilitation? A jury of his peers, if you can find 12 such lowlife scumbags, will decide if he has suffered enough, and they will sit in judgment. Then if you don't like the verdict handed down, you and others of your enabling ilk can scream and moan all you want about how the black man can get no justice in a white man's world and other such rhetoric. What's unfortunate is that when there is a case of blatant injustice involving a racist court decision or the railroading of an innocent man, people will hearken back to sentiments like those proffered here by Payne and automatically dismiss it as the raving of someone who sees prejudice and racism behind every door.

Payne, White, Marbury, Sanders and all the other legal scholars who leap to Vick's defense without even a cursory perusal of the most rudimentary facts of the case not only do more harm than good to already strained race relations in this country, but also bring to mind that famous quote by Abraham Lincoln:

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

Anyway, for what it's worth, here's my official comment to Mr. Payne posted on the Newsday Website, one of 190 currently posted:
"I just lost all respect for Les Payne. Instead of making it a right versus wrong thing, he makes it a black versus white thing. It's OJ Simpson all over again. To say that Vick loves the dogs he put down is more than sick, it's a disgrace that Payne voices such opinions. As I said, I will never look at Payne the same way again. To point out other wrongs, even if worse transgressions, does nothing to diminish Vick's hideous behavior."
Maybe if enough people weigh in and leave comments or write a letter to the editor, Payne will see the error of his dimwitted defense of an unrepentant thug. But I'm not holding my breath. I am usually against censorship, but this column was so disturbing as to at least warrant a suspension of Payne if he refuses to offer an apology of his own. If not, then his termination at least should be considered by the paper's management. Of course, you can bet that then Mr. Payne will again play the race card to the fullest, only in his case the card is a Joker with his own mug on it.
See also:

Who Let the Dopes Out?

Out of their minds

They said it

It's a madhouse

Losing heads

American crazies


jimithegreek said...

Payne should actually READ the plea statement. Vick financed and supervised an ILLEGAL dog fighting gambling program. He knowingly financed a gambling operation!
A football player can be barred for life for even associating with known gamblers. This is on top of the animal cruelty. He is like OJ indefensible.

Wardens World said...

Amazing how people leap to this guy's defense. Of course every celebrity has their fawning admirers, witness the Paris Hilton, Britney, Lohan nitwits who think these three bimbo-sluts should just be left alone.

Payne's not the only one who can't be bothered with the details of the case. Emmitt Smith, Marbury, etc. show their appalling ignorance on this matter. I don't see race as being a factor. The dogs that were put down sure didn't. I think Vick is getting off easy and I don't know why prosecutors let him plea bargain. Seems like they had an airtight case against him. Either way, I don't want him ever playing in the league again. Let him get a real effin' job like the rest of us. As if an apology erases everything!

Serge A. Storms said...

First off, he's not even that good a quarterback. Hell of a running back, but he sucks as a QB. Second, you knew the race card was going to get played in this. The fact that it didn't come up immediately surprises me. There are tons of black men in jail for crimes less harsh than Vick's, some of them innocent. These are the guys who can't afford the high powered lawyers and media air time that the NAACP doesn't give a shit about. They were stuck with the 'court appointed attorney,' which is usually some lackey on the DA payroll that just got out of college. Where's the outrage there?

Wardens World said...

Also, there are plenty of white trash behind bars for the same offenses as Vick is charged with. If I were a black columnist or commentator, I would NOT be throwing my weight behind a guy like Vick. Imus was thrown off the air for saying something that almost every rapper regularly says, but no double standard there! And you're right about there being real miscarriages of justice going on, people on death row who were framed, etc. But people love to line up behind celebrities and kiss their butts. Now, if I were gonna line up behind someone famous and kiss butt, I would pick someone like, oh, Miss Teen South Carolina, as long as I'm in a state where she's of legal age. Man, she's as gorgeous as she is dumb, and that's a winning combo in my book.

Serge A. Storms said...

I hope he gets gang raped in the showers.

Anonymous said...

Please take down the picture of that poor dog.

Wardens World said...

No, you see, I won't take down the picture of the poor dog, because we must remember the victims here. As painful as it is to look at, it represents the pain and suffering of innocent creatures that goes to the heart of what this case against Vick is all about. I'm truly sorry if you're offended, anonymous, but I feel strongly about this case as an animal lover. Thanks for your opinion, though.