Professor Henry Louis Taylor of UB

13 Jan

As I alluded to yesterday, some local blogger accused me of being racist for, as she described it, using a “cartooned” photo of Darius Pridgen as part of a blog post about, among other things, Darius Pridgen. Henry Louis Taylor, a professor at UB, at least had the good nature (after being shamed into doing so on Facebook where I couldn’t respond) to email me directly.

Here’s how he summed it up for his Facebook audience:

He completely mischaracterized and glossed over what I wrote to him on that Facebook thread. It is almost as if he didn’t bother to read what I wrote. My “only response” was not that “it was funny”, and he is patently wrong that there is “no correlation between anything said in that blog and the photo”. It is a picture of the man discussed in “that blog”. Hence, a correlation. I’d also quibble with “demean”. I didn’t post it to be nice to Pridgen, whom I consider to be as much a snake oil salesman as I consider him to be a benefit to the community, but not to “demean” him.

Because he offered up the entire email exchange to whomever wanted it, I figured I can do that, too. As of this writing, my original accuser has not seen fit to do so directly. Everything is [sic].

Hi Alan:

I would like to know your rationale for using that picture rather than some other image of DP.

Sincerely

Henry Taylor
Professor, Department of Urban and Regional Planning
Director, Center for Urban Studies


Thank you for asking.

1. Anyone who reads my blog with any regularity knows that I use photos to advance an underlying point in a humorous way. That is what I did with Rev. Pridgen’s billboard, which I have seen multiple times and to which my reaction was astonished laughter. So, the first reason is I think it’s funny, especially given the context of what was being discussed, and my caption.

2. That photo is 180 degrees away from the decorum one would expect from a political figure, and I would ridicule any politician of any ethnicity for it. To me, Pridgen argues in that billboard that the Word of God needs to be dumbed down so even a cartoon caveman could understand it. I think that’s insulting to his prospective parishioners and constituents.

I’m typing this on a phone, so if you’d like more detail or discussion, feel free to call me at 903-XXXX.

Best,

Alan

Alan:

“what is the underlying point in this blog that you are trying to make in a humorous way?” I just don’t get it? It would be helpful if you could explain that point, then I would understand it. I understand the illustration for Miller-Williams—don’t agree with it, but understand it. But Pridgen, I just do get that one, so would you explain it to me.

On the other hand, your response suggests that you have little knowledge or understanding of African American culture. You not only misinterpret the billboard, but also your idea of humor –in this context—is naïve and really insulting. The tone of the article was serious, but the photo was satirical and inappropriate considering both the intensity and growing polarization of races in this city. You ought to understand that.

Second, your interpretation of the billboard shows a clear failure to understand African American culture and what Pridgen is attempting to do. I’m a scholar and do not believe in god, nor do I believe in organized religion. However, as a scholar, I understand the importance of religion to people, especially in the black community. The bible is written in metaphoric language and no one really understand those metaphors—probably including you my friend—I know that I don’t, which is one reason I stay away from religious institutions—and many ministers talk about religion and bible in the most abstract terms. The result is many blacks do not go to church and see no relationship between that institution and their daily lives. Pridgen is attempting to reach out to these people and give them a framework to guide their lives and solve the problems they face. He is willing to try anything to reach folks, to get them to understand that his brand of religion is different. In the world that Darius operates in that is really important. So, your interpretation is really troubling.

I am not going into the other inaccuracies and exaggerations found in your article, but when you say that you believe the billboard is “insulting to his prospective parishioners and constituents” it makes me question why you chose to use it in this particular blog to “advance an underlying point in a humorous way.” There was nothing funny about it. The point that I am making is that I see no relationship between that photo and the theme of the blog—it is meant to portray “physical intimidation?” Does is suggest a democratic party in political disarray?

HLT

Well, when I see a grown man on a billboard dressed as Barney Rubble’s infant son, is that meant not to be funny? Seems like it to me. Is humor not the intent of that billboard? It certainly seems like it to me. Therefore, it is humorous

My blog post was not meant as a commentary on African-American culture, but on politics. Rev. Pridgen is now a political figure, and I am unaware of other political figures dressing up as Bam-Bam Rubble on any advertisements.

Part of what I do is be provocative, which often results in insult (real or perceived) to people and groups. I provoked a response from Sharon, who (1) said Torke or I “cartooned” the image; and (2) that I was racist. I have yet to discover how the use of a photo that Darius Pridgen has posted of himself around town is racist.

No, there was no other meaning intended other than it’s a ridiculous picture of a person vying to be a government official, whose political supporters were by many accounts quite rude to others at a recent meeting. Any additional meaning you ascribe to it is your own subjective interpretation, far removed from my intent.

I concede that your understanding of African American culture far surpasses mine, and that your perspective might differ. But I don’t think selling church services as being dumbed down for people is all that positive. I understand your point, but that’s really getting beyond the scope of why a blogger picked a picture of a political figure to criticize him and the process being used so he can work in government.

Alan:

Your response to my email is puzzling. In defense of using the cave man billboard of Pridgen, you said, “I use photos to advance an underlying point in a humorous way.” The problem is there is absolutely no relationship to “anything” in your blog and the photo of Pridgen. So, in my response to you, I asked, “what is the underlying point in this blog that you are trying to make in a humorous way?” I just don’t get it?” Your response to this question was,

“Well, when I see a grown man on a billboard dressed as Barney Rubble’s infant son, is that meant not to be funny?” Maybe it is just me, but I do not understand the logic. Either you use that photograph for mean spirited reasons, or you used is to “advance an underlying point in a humorous way.” Again, I have read your blog at ten times, and I cannot find “any” correlation between the “points” made in the essay and the photograph.

The photo of the Pridgen billboard is “unrelated” to anything in your blog. Thus, I can only conclude that you deliberately used that photograph for mean spirited and harmful reasons. If that is not the case, what is? Perhaps, as you imply, “I thought it was funny, so I used it to illustrate the blog.”

If that is the case, then it makes you amateurish and someone not to be taken serious. If that’s who you are, it ok. Just a guy who writes a nonsensical blog that no one should really take serious. However, if, on the other hand, you want to be considered a real “pendent” and serious blogger, you have to operate at a much higher standard.

Lastly, you raised the question of racism. I want get into that issue at the present time. The reason is that you are guilty of very bad journalism, and I don’t want to cloud the issue. Racism or no, you blog is an example of very bad journalism, and it give blogging a bad name. lol

I’ll take your points one by one:

1. In that blog post, I write about the Rev. Darius Pridgen. That image depicts the same Rev. Darius Pridgen. Hence, the “relationship” or “correlation” to “anything” in that blog post.

2. Did I use the photo for “mean-spirited” reasons? Perhaps it’s open to that interpretation because I have very serious misgivings about his candidacy, (if you can even call it that given the fundamentally undemocratic nature of this selection process), and his points of view on certain issues. Darius Pridgen’s political allies made little children cry at a late December candidates’ “forum”. He and his supporters circled the building seven times in cars in order to evoke the Biblical story of the children of Israel circling the walls of Jericho. (When the walls came tumbling down, they murdered the citizens, pillaged the city and plundered its riches). That, to me, is far more offensive and mean-spirited than the use of a picture that Pridgen used as an advertisement for his church and business.

3. Am I “amateurish” and someone not to be taken “serious”? That is, I suppose, subjective as well. I am patently an “amateur” since I do not get paid to write the blog. Whether it is “amateurish” and whether one should take me “serious” is completely up to the reader. I frankly don’t care. I’ll note that your only major problem seems to be with the use of that photograph, not the text or substance of the post.

4. Whether I’m guilty of “bad journalism” is interesting, because I’m not really interested in engaging in a socratic back and forth on that topic. For the most part, I’m a commentator, not a journalist, per se. I’m a blogger. Blogs are different from traditional journalism. They’re more controversial, more direct, more immediate, more provocative, and designed to begin a discussion rather than to simply tell a story from A to Z.

But this isn’t about my quality – or lack thereof – as a journalist. Ultimately, Ms. Bailey had a problem with my blog post and accused me very specifically of two things, and I quote:

Am I living in Buffalo 2010 or Birmingham AL 1965? Are you fucking kidding me David Torke, Buffalo Pundit/Alan Bendenko (sic) & WNYMedia.net with the cartooned photo of Rev. Pridgen?

Firstly, she accuses me of Jim Crow-era-style racism. Unless you can come up with a better rationale behind the invocation of mid-60s Alabama, that’s undeniable. Secondly, she did it in a way and in a place where I had no opportunity to see it or respond to it. That’s downright unfair. Thirdly, it is crystal clear from the original status that she thought that David Torke and I doctored that photo or, as she refers to it, “cartooned” it. Torke did nothing more than take the photo. I saw it on Flickr and used it without him even knowing it. She just wildly flung around accusations without first getting a few basic facts right.

That’s what I call amateurish.

Now, if your only problem with my use of the photo is that it was in bad taste, or represents amateurism or “bad journalism”, then I’ll leave you to that. Lots of what I do is childish, provocative, juvenile, silly, and in bad taste. I have a comments section where people are welcome to tell me exactly that.

If, on the other hand, like Ms. Bailey you think I’m a 60s-era southern racist because I used that photograph to depict the person depicted therein, you’re welcome to that opinion, but I reject it.

Best,

Alan

——————————————————–
So, yes, Professor. The assumptions in that Facebook thread, of which I have a copy, were wild, because of the specific wrong with which I was charged, and the fact that both you and the original accuser abandoned it completely.

7 Responses to “Professor Henry Louis Taylor of UB”

  1. Eric Saldanha January 13, 2010 at 10:53 am #

    Shame on you, Pundit, for reminding the voters that the clownish Reverend attempting to be taken seriously as a candidate for elected office is a clown.

    …his brand of religion is different…“? Does Rev. Pridgen subscribe to the brand of Clown College Christianity?

    Professor, please

  2. Stan from OP January 13, 2010 at 12:34 pm #

    Sounds like someone is trying to throw around his scholarly title and sound more learned than he really is.

  3. kris January 13, 2010 at 1:13 pm #

    I am so baffled as to why this is an issue. You posted a picture of a local political figure – that was incredibly public. I thought it was photoshopped at first because seriously why would anyone think that billboard was a good idea in the first place. You post it and you’re called a racist?? Weird, man.

  4. Mike Walsh January 13, 2010 at 1:21 pm #

    Congratualtions, Alan. Now that you’ve been attacked by the PC crowd, we can call you a real “pendent” now.

  5. michele j January 13, 2010 at 2:17 pm #

    That billboard is on E ferry and Fillmore..I have seen it many times and it is not photshopped..

  6. The Denim-Crats January 13, 2010 at 8:41 pm #

    Wow – again, half-truths and bumblescum from the PC crowd. You would think a man of the cloth would have better taste when it comes to recruiting his flock. Isn’t he (Pridgen) the one that is showing racism by even utilizing this type of promotion?

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