Thursday, April 06, 2006

Rambix Responds

Mike Mosedale of City Pages has decided that he is the arbiter of all the news that's fit to print, and, just to prove it, savages conservative bloggers Rambix, the Anti-Strib collective, and even the silver-tongued barbarian of Fraters Libertas, JB Doubtless, in response to our commentary and reporting of the Uptown slaughter of Michael Zebuhr.

If the reporting on television was irresponsible, what followed on the internet was beyond the pale. Some of the most egregious commentary appeared on a blog called Rambix and the Red Star, which is devoted to the twin purposes of covering crime and excoriating the Star Tribune. On March 21, just three days after Zebuhr's murder, Rambix, the site's proprietor, posted that KSTP had "confirmed" that the perpetrators were "likely of East African or Somali origin." That report--coupled with the fact the Strib did not follow KSTP's lead--became the springboard for a round of aggressive media bashing. Wrote Rambix: "Do the Red Star editors not think the widely reported description of 'East African' or 'Somali' males was not important or relevant? Here's a clue, Red Star: There's not a lot of those folks in Minnesota, so it narrows the suspect potential considerably."
Here's the link to the relevent post, since it was not sourced by Mr. Mosedale.

First, Mike, I'd like to thank you for reading Rambix, Anti-Strib, and Fraters. I've read your publication as well, and had even commented on it on July 6, 2005.

Now I'll address your comments.

In the post you quoted, I had simply sourced KSTP News, which reported "Two men of East African or Somali ethnicity held up the pair at gun point". You'll note that my commentary even softened that information, as I only said "are likely". You'll find that nowhere in my blog did I state the suspects were Somali or East African.

When investigating a major crime such as the Uptown murder, all suspect information is important. It would be of obvious investigative value to know the criminals were Somali or East African, if in fact they were. It would also be important from a public safety perspective to know that information. The national origin of the suspects was not a definitive clue, but potentially an essential element of a subject profile.

To not report the information would be irresponsible.

The question here is the origin of the suspect ethnic descriptions. Has KSTP or any of the news organizations who initially reported as such revealed their sources? Have they said where the information originated?

Furthermore, there is precedent for Somali or East African robberies in the Uptown area. I reported on that extensively in the late spring of 2005. Some were in fact identified and arrested . Did you read about that, Mr. Mosedale? And not long after the Uptown murder, the University of Minnesota Police issued an alert about a gang of Somalis that were committing robberies near campus. In other words, there was some foundation to support the reported descriptions.

I commented further on the suspect descriptions here. Have you taken the time to read that? Again, nowhere did I say that the suspects were Somali or East African. My thesis was that it would be obvious to the surviving victims if the criminals had accents, but nowhere did I draw definitive conclusions:

There are three survivors of the robbery. I assume the robbers spoke at some point. A Somali dialect would probably be obvious and memorable, even in the dire circumstances. In other words, the involvement or non-involvement of Somalis should be fairly obvious, for at least one of the three survivors.

So are the people in custody the "right" people? Obviously, there's missing information, and the police are understandably tight-lipped. I certainly hope those in custody are connected to the crime, but something doesn't add up, particularly with the history of Somali or East Africans robbing people in the Uptown area.

Am I missing something?
So in the time proximity of the murder, the preponderance of evidence would lead a rational person (including mainstream news organizations) to believe that it "was likely" the suspects were of Somali or East African origin. Even the Somali Justice Advocacy Center offered a $2000 reward in the case, as David Brauer pointed out on your blog. Is it possible they did that because they too thought "it was likely" the suspects were of Somali origin?

So my "egregous commentary" didn't manufacture suspect identifiers, it merely reflected the reasonable information being offered by various sources in a very hot murder case.

Your diatribe was not warranted.

And what's the point of detailing hand-picked blog comments? The comments on my blog are not moderated or censored (Like R.T. Rybak's blog, for example). It's an open forum; people are free to write what they chose. Rambix and the Red Star honors the first amendment. That doesn't mean I necessarily condone the content; I just don't censor it.

Although not moderated, I have politely asked certain posters to refrain from vulgarity or racist comments. That includes one of the frequent commenters you quoted. Yet I don't delete even those comments - they are what they are. My blog posts themselves do not contain vulgarity (unless you count the crimes I describe), nor are they racist, but they are definitely not politically correct. And that's why people keep coming back.

I disagree with you that the Red Star and WCCO were vindicated, as you indicate. Ignoring pertinent suspect information can leave the general public at risk. The political correctness of some big media organizations errs on the side of the criminal. Is that really what you want?

I see that some of your other targets have already responded, so I'll leave it at that.

Please come back anytime.