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Apr 02, 2007


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How have you come to see this letter?

Ed Cone

The cover letter urges recipients to use it in any way they feel appropriate; a recipient felt that making it public was an appropriate use.


Ah, well that clears that up.

Elizabeth Wheaton

I too received a copy of this letter. It was mailed from the Beloved Community Center on March 28, the same day it was sent to Jerry c/o the Rhino. As the cover memo states, it was also sent to 60-some others on that date. That Nelson would make this public before Jerry had a chance to respond is a dismal display of arrogance and disrespect.

But hey, folks, there's more to come! Nelson will be sending out "similar letters to key people in GSO to explore what I see as a pattern of promoting falsehods and half-truths that draw conclusions that tend to further confuse and divide our city."

So much for the spirit of reconciliation--let the blame game begin.

But Ed, you missed a rather major point. While Nelson prattled on for 4 pages about Jerry's so-called falsehood (which most reasonable people would call a mistake) he totally ignores the point of Jerry's article, which is:

Did Lorraine Ahearn's personal ties to Nelson and other key players in the T&R Project compromise her reporting on that group as well as on other issues promoted by the former CWP?


My point in asking was in wondering why Rev. Johnson is choosing such a circuitous route for releasing information he wants the public to view. He and I had had conversations about him starting a blog last summer. Although met with what seemed to be initial interest, he is apparently not getting my phone messages or not returning my calls. From that context, the manner of distributing this letter seems odd. Why send a message to sixty people and ask them to spread it around when Johnson could be engaging the entire public directly?

sean coon

a divisive 29 part series -- soon to be book -- broad strokes nelson's life while attempting to contextualize the chief wray issue and nelson is the one who's "arrogant and disrespectful" for writing an open letter to challenge a handful of "provable" assertions?

just so we're on the same page here:

jerry can write whatever he damn well pleases in a public forum and eventually turn a profit on his words, but nelson johnson can't respond publicly to elements that are factually incorrect and provide his own perspective on the situation.


so when does your next paperweight hit the press, elizabeth?

sean coon

hey roch, why don't you ask jerry why he isn't blogging his story?


Interesting thread.

I would also be interested to hear how Elizabeth Wheaton's personal ties to the former CWP members compromise her own reporting on that group and issues they have promoted.

If I understand Wheaton's point correctly, it is that a public figure does not have a right to publicly respond to a voluminous newspaper series in which he's been mentioned several times, and that his views will be dismissed as "prattle" if he chooses to do so.

Not likely I will be taking advice about reconciliation from that quarter.


Sean, Jerry and I have had conversations about him blogging. Unlike, Johnson, I don't recall him ever expressing any enthusiasm for it. Bledsoe has a public venue for his series. If ever someone needed a public venue for his story, it's Johnson. Do you agree or would you prefer to deflect by talking about Bledsoe?

John D. Young

If the mistaken word "founders" had been left out of the sentence right below would not the correct word "leaders" still be able to indicate the same conclusion.

Bledsoe's sentence -- "She also had become close with leaders of the Pulpit Forum, a highly politicized group of black ministers, of which Nelson Johnson and Mazie Ferguson, a lawyer as well as a minister, were founders and leaders."

Johnson's comments about "demonization" have long been one of his concerns and at many times his concern has been well justified. Johnson continues to point out several other mistakes but we are strangely left with no comments about the central issues in this Bledsoe article like the following:

1. "Ahearn's narrative mirrored the CWP members' view of themselves and their version of events." (This is why Bledsoe claims N&R Sides With CWP.)

2. "But she found no fault with the CWP using that neighborhood to rally their march after challenging the Klan to a confrontation and publicly warning the police to stay away, or of endangering neighborhood children by luring them to the site with music and encouraging them to beat an effigy of a Klansman with sticks, shouting, "Death to the Klan."

3. "Evidence available to Ahearn in the newspaper's files and in Elizabeth Wheaton's book, which she cited, would show a somewhat different picture. Before Klansmen involved in the killings went for their guns, demonstrators hit the sixth car in the caravan, a white LTD, with a stick and kicked it in the side, causing the driver to gun the engine and slam into the back of car number five, Virgil Griffin's white Buick. Demonstrators swarmed the two cars.

Occupants of the cars claimed that demonstrators banged and jumped on the cars, attempted to smash windows and to pull people out. Several women were in car number five, one of them the wife of a Klansman Terry Hartsoe, who was riding in a yellow van near the rear of the caravan. Klansmen swarmed out of a van to go to the assistance of those in the car. A fight with sticks and fists erupted.

CWP leader Jim Waller went for a loaded 12-gauge shotgun in a rear-window rack of a pickup truck owned by CWP member Tom Clark. Before he could fire, he found himself in a life-and-death struggle for the gun with Klansman Roy Toney. CWP member Bill Sampson pulled a .38 caliber revolver and aimed it at Klansman Harold Flowers but did not pull the trigger. Later he would fire two shots before falling mortally wounded and tossing the gun to fellow CWP member Rand Manzella.

A cry went up among Klansmen and Nazis: "They've got guns!"

Only then did those who committed the killings go for their own guns in the trunk of the Fairlane and begin shooting.

Judge James M. Long, who presided over the murder trial of Klansmen and Nazis, wrote a letter to the editor of the News & Record pointing out that evidence at the trial showed that 34 shots were fired that morning, 19 from positions occupied by Klansmen and Nazis, 15 from positions occupied by "Death to the Klan" demonstrators, information that would be disputed in later trials.

Ahearn's omissions made it appear that she was trying to absolve CWP members of any responsibility for what took place."

Are we to assume that since Jerry Bledsoe was wrong about "founder" or that the actual number given for the march was 400-500 on the permit that his other points are wrong.

I think that Bledsoe's description above about Nov. 3rd was an attempt to concentrate attention to the role that day of the CWP. That role in the views of many was not properly covered in the Report by the GTRC. A full description of Nov. 3rd should include the Report's explanation of the failures of the GPD, the excessive violence of the Klan/Nazis, etc. but it should also include a full description of the role of the CWP.

To consider the role of the CWP as "secondary" on Nov. 3rd is a major mistake worthy of much more discussion. Perhaps some community reconciliation can emerge once all parties accept their full responsibility for that day but that acceptance appears to be a long way off. We are still locked in hopeless disagreement on the facts and maybe some other group, perhaps the Mayor's earlier idea of an "academic symposium", could review all the rich information gathered by the GTRC and help clarify what is still in dispute.

I am in favor of continuing to move forward, just as Nelson Johnson suggests and does, with more communitywide discussions (including more letters and hopefully Roch's suggestion about a blog) to help identify incorrect perceptions and help clarify the facts. Nov. 3rd did "demonize" and dehumanize everyone involved that day -- the Klan/Nazis, the GPD, and the CWP. The effort to restore the humanity of everyone involved and to create healing and forgiveness is still possible and is worthy of more efforts.

sean coon

being that the post wasn't about blogging or a meta-conversation about mechanisms for personal publishing, i don't think that i'm "deflecting" anything, roch. sure, it'd be great if nelson blogged. agreed. being that he isn't -- like the vast majority of the world -- what's your take on his words and jerry's words?

Elizabeth Wheaton

I have absolutely no problem with Nelson responding publicly to errors made in articles about him. What I do have a problem with is his addressing it as a personal letter with no indication to the recipient that it is in fact being sent to 60 others, in effect making it an "open letter."

I don't know what Nelson's intentions were in using this manner of communication, but it is certainly not very a straighforward way of inviting someone to join a one-on-one conversation. It seems likely, in fact, to push the other person into a corner.

The two items Nelson cites could very well be due to "sloppy reporting." It happens. But to accuse Jerry of promoting "falsehoods" designed to "demonize" Nelson is jumping to unfounded conclusions. Or perhaps I should say "sloppy" conclusions.

sean coon

nelson didn't send out jerry's personal letter to him; he sent out his own letter to jerry -- essentially making it an open letter. no other correspondences were shared. why that offends you so, elizabeth, i have no idea.

bledsoe's reporting on whatever situation he's focused on now is full of personal conversations with party (a) to elicit a string of events (and quotes) that include party (b) with the caveat that "party (b) wasn't available to comment."

so either jerry is a crap reporter, has an agenda or is more concerned with the narrative aspect of the story.

my money is on the latter being the case -- you know, what sells will sell is all the agenda bledsoe probably has.

but unless you or i have walked in nelson's shoes, how can we say for certain that his perspective isn't valid?

Ginger Bush

Blog swarm alert!

Jill Williams

Liz, I think Nelson was clear with Jerry that he was sending the letter to others when he said: "An additional reason for writing this letter is to reach others who might be misled by your article and who need to hear another point of view." I'm not sure how any of this gets elevated to a "dismal display of arrogance and disrespect."

It is interesting to me that so many of us are focusing on the style rather than the content of Nelson's letter. I recommend folks actually read the letter, if you haven't already, and respond to its contents.


Perhaps unfortunately, I have long ago made up my mind about Nelson Johnson and The Pulpit Forum.

Neither Mr Bledsoe's inaccuracies nor Mr Johnson's letter have change my mind in any way. Nor did the TRC process.

To me they have "jumped the shark". Their support of and involvement with numerous controversial characters of late is enough for me. But also they appear completely incapable of being unbias when race issues are involved.

I see that as a problem.

Jill Williams

Thanks for your honesty, Mick.

I'm curious what you mean when you say "their support of and involvement with numerous controversial characters of late."

I'm also genuinely curious what it would look like for one to be unbiased when "race issues" are involved. Since all of us are situated as being a part of one race of another, I'm not sure who would be the arbiter of such bias, but perhaps I'm not understanding your point.


Project Homestead, Michael King, TDBS, others, probably more to come and soon.

Their sole purpose at this point, to me anyway, appears to be black = right and white = wrong without exception. That perception is where I have my issues.

I guess what I am trying to say is that PF appears to advocate and/or side with blacks regardless of the info available. But I think that probably sounds worse than I intend. Its almost as if they act as lawyers with all balcks entitled to a defense regardless of the situation. That should not be their role in my mind. But it's their gig and they can do what they want. Just dont expect my support or agreement on much.

I have quit listening long ago. There are issues aplenty out there... viable, believable, real issues w/o supporting TDBS in her recent behavioral bull*&^%. Or going to the mat for any and all black v white (real or imagined) issues.

Shark = jump. Boy who cried wolf, etc.


"Its almost as if they act as lawyers with all balcks entitled to a defense regardless of the situation."

Yeah, but not really. It is too easy to think of examples of black people who have found themselves in trouble lately and to whose defense the Pulpit Forum has not come. It may be fair to say that one is bothered by them coming to the defense of actions one finds indefensible, or even that they only defend the actions of black people, but to say that they defend "all" blacks "regardless of the situation" just ignores reality. There are plenty of black people they are not defending.

Jill Williams

Mick, you say that it is almost as if the Pulpit Forum is jumping to the defense of all black people who find themselves in trouble "regardless of the info available," but what available information are you talking about? That which you read in the newspapers or on blogs? I wasn't around for Michael King/Project Homestead, but I think that TDBS is in pretty close contact with the Pulpit Forum, so the info available to them may be different from your info.

An argument could as easily (or even more easily, I think) be made that you and others are jumping to the conclusion that all black people are guilty "regardless of the info available." That may sound worse than I intend, but my underlying question is - what available information are we using to draw our conclusions? That is, I think, where our lines of communication break down on these issues. Some of us are using information from private sources either not consulted or who don't trust the mainstream media. Some of us are using a particular understanding of history to inform our perspectives. And others are just trusting the newspapers and worldview that is very much shaped by their (our) own experiences and biases.


Agreed, butt I believe you understood my point.

Geeze louise! (oops I shoulda capped that. oops shoulda aint a word oops i shoulda put some punctuation n this sentence oops)

Elizabeth Wheaton

Well, it looks like I really suck at this reconciliation business. I go along trying to put a benevolent spin on things but then up pops someone who pushes a button and off I go getting as defensive and argumentative as those I accuse of not really wanting reconciliation.

Maybe we all just need to be tied, gagged, sat in a corner and made to listen to those we disagree with, going around the room (hmmm--it'll need lots of corners) until it's our time to speak. And be heard.

Jill, it seems that with your background in conflict resolution, you've got a headstart in understanding how to get this process beyond the finger-pointing. Where do we start? How do we start? And who is "we"?

Looking forward.... ;>)


Nelson's letter wont do anything. The two things he claims to want will not be obtainable via long letter to many.

if nelson wanted to meet w jerry...he should have sent word to Ben Holder...that is how most things get done.



Project Homestead was a very complicated situation. I dont think we will ever know what went on ... legal, illegal, ethical or unethical. Many believe we know everything already. This one isnt exactly drawn along racial lines.

TDBS: her copy = her responsability, corner office BS, speeding ticket BS - what inside info could there be? I think PF's assertions that this is a plot to demean and discredit a black leader are ridiculous. Prime example of the shark jumping I was referring to.

I cannot make judgements or decisions based on info I dont have. Whose fault is that? This isnt exactly a right leaning information source. I do try to get as much info, opinion as I can.

So many names involved in the Hinson/Wray debacle(s), Project Homestead, latest check kiting schemes, etc are same or similar. Too, too much familiarity in all these circles. I feel uneasy about the connections. Dont you?
Does anybody else?

I hope I am completely wrong and it wouldnt surprise me if I were. I would be glad to be wrong! The real problem is it wouldnt surprise me if I were right. We shall see I guess.

Margaret Banks

Liz, your last post makes an incredibly profound point: Any conversation about Nov. 3, 1979, or the TRC process, has become for Greensboro what the debate on abortion is for the rest of the nation. Relatively sane people become "defensive and argumentative." Discussions generally devolve into personal attacks. People (on all sides) project their negative views about the world onto the people they are arguing against.

"Oh, you think the TRC didn't cast enough blame on the CWP? Are saying the victims deserved to be murdered?"

OR, conversely ...

"Wait a minute? You don't think the CWP was asking for this when they challenged the Klan in China Grove? What are you, a Communist?"

It seems the issue is more complex than all that.

My point: Is it possible to have a rational, productive discussion about Nov. 3 in Greensboro? Maybe. Is it likely to happen? Nope.

Ed Cone

I think that rational, productive conversation is happening, MB. It's happening in this thread, and beyond, between and among all the other stuff. Your comment is part of it.

The danger is that people who want to have that conversation will get frustrated and leave the field to the folks who are yelling at each other.

John D. Young

Can we have any significant community reconciliation when many facts and interpretations of the facts are still in dispute? How can a Commission with no subpoena power actually declare that the FBI sound analysis testimony showing that the CWP fired a significant number of shots be discarded? How can a Commission with no subpoena power and without access to all the trial transcripts really discount the first two trials and some of trial three?

Can we create a real community conversation that honors the voices of both Jerry Bledsoe and Nelson Johnson?

But more importantly do we need clarity of the facts before we can move forward with any significant community reconciliation? Could we ever agree to disagree and move from where we are now stuck? I think good examples exist where reconciliation occurred without "being absolutely right or in agreement on all the facts." I think Mr. Sun said that being right may not prove to be all that important.

But I sense a need for greater clarity on the facts from those few still engaged in the T&R process. Perhaps in the format of Mayor Holliday's suggestion at the City Council Meeting on 4/19/05 of an "academic symposium" (maybe done by the area universities and colleges). However, does any significant energy exist for moving forward?


Call me jaded but I strongly doubt we could get past appointing the panel for the "academic symposium".


No I dont believe there is enough energy available from nonbiased individuals or the community in general.

Jill Williams

You are correct when you say that you can't make decisions based on information you do not have. Have you seen Jordan Green's article in Yes! Weekly yet about TDBS? Perhaps that is a start? Also, even though we don't have all of the information about what folks with less access/trust with the media have to say, for me, it is important to remember that there is much we don't know that does not get reported for whatever reasons. Just reading with that kind of a critical perspective helps to contextualize newspaper reports (or other media) for me.

Finally, I think the democratic selection process for the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commissioners, which included a selection panel appointed by representatives from 14 different groups/individuals, shows that this can happen in this community. The groups included in the selection panel were college and university presidents, college/university student body presidents, republican party, democratic party, white Christian leaders, black Christian leaders, Muslim community, Jewish community, the Mayor, the Neighborhood Congress, the GTCRP (the organization that initiated the process), Triad Central Labor Council, the NAACP and the National Conference for Community and Justice. (Three other groups were invited to appoint someone to the panel, but declined: the Chamber of Commerce, the Greensboro Police Officers Association and the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Daughters of the Confederacy.) It can happen and has; and not just in a relatively insulated academic process.

Ed Cone

Jill writes, ...it is important to remember that there is much we don't know that does not get reported for whatever reasons. Just reading with that kind of a critical perspective helps to contextualize newspaper reports (or other media)...

...I think the democratic selection process for the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commissioners, which included a selection panel appointed by representatives from 14 different groups/individuals, shows that this can happen in this community..

The first paragraph suggests that the second paragraphy might be read to include, between the lines, something like this: "But unfortunately the independence of these commissioners was undercut in the view of many -- even some sympathetic to the project -- by the continuing presence of a similarly-named group led by CWP survivors, and by questions about the close relationship between the two groups; it is unfortunate that the project is now driven by the survivors' group, which may be indistinguishable from the commission to some observers."

Jill Williams

Thanks for your comments and for our discussion yesterday. As I said then, I went to a talk by Mohammed Abu Nimer, an international conflict resolution scholar and practitioner, at Guilford College on Monday night. One part of his talk included a description of how different groups (those with more traditional power and those with less) generally view the pathway to reconciliation differently. Those with more traditional power tend to see it as a process of mending relationships while those with less traditional power tend to see an important prerequisite to reconciliation as institutional reform. As we noted in the GTRC report, this is to some degree what I think the breakdown in communication in Greensboro is about. (I also think, on a related note, that it is about the different frames of history, as I was mentioning earlier in this thread to Mick.)

Put simply, and way too generally, white folks think reconciliation hasn't occurred around the 1979 events because most of the players involved (and even those of us who argue about it now) still get angry when they talk about the events. But black folks - again this is a gross generalization - think reconciliation hasn't occurred (or shouldn't occur) because the underlying structures/systems that allowed Nov. 3 to happen have not been rectified.

After talking with people at a conference this weekend on apology and forgiveness, I am starting to wonder if one step towards "reconciliation" or "acknowledgement of the truth" might not be for the City Council to endorse a statement saying that they accept responsibility (starting now and moving into the future) for rectifying the systems/structures that allowed Nov. 3rd to happen so that it couldn't happen again. By naming what those structures/systems/biases are, this would acknowledge the role that the city played in allowing the events to happen without having to ask the current city council members to take any kind of personal responsibility for what happened before their times of leadership. There is, of course, no one catch-all answer, but this could be a good first step.

Jill Williams

Sorry I wasn't being clear. That is actually not what I was saying at all, but when I reread my comments I can see how you read it that way. What you read into my comments was actually much more complex than anything I was trying to say.

I was actually trying to move on to respond to another of Mick's comments, namely, that this community could not get past the appointing of a panel for an academic symposium. I was trying to show that not only could this community do so, but that it has, and in a much broader community than the relatively insulated academic one.

Ed Cone

Jill, I didn't mean that is what you meant to say, just pointing out what a reader who takes your sage advice from paragraph one might bring to what you said and what you didn't say in paragraph two about the independent commission.

Jill Williams

Thanks for the clarification, Ed. I agree that there are people in Greensboro who were/are skeptical about the role the former CWP members played in initiating this process. But it was precisely that awareness - that they did not have all of the information on which to base a community-wide understanding of "truth" - that led them to create a commission selection process that involved people from widely different perspectives on the events. It should further be noted that people in South Africa were also skeptical about the role Nelson Mandela - having spent so many years in prison, surely being a victim of apartheid - played in initiating the South African TRC.

Jill Williams

Sorry for all of the comments, but something else has been bugging me about this thread and I've been trying to do some research to back up my memory. I've reviewed Lorraine Ahearn's article from the 20th anniversary many times (can't find it in its complete form on the N&R site right now) and don't think that the allegation that she omitted information in the attempt to absolve CWP members of any responsibility is based on the facts. I think Jerry accurately quoted the text of her 1999 article, but if I'm remembering correctly, there was also a timeline of events included on that page that talks about China Grove and even about the rhetoric used by the CWP. I think there was also a map that included a blow by blow account of the confrontation at the intersection of Everett and Carver. That map (with numbers outlining the sequence of events) was based on information from Liz Wheaton's book and the trials, if I am remembering correctly. That is information that takes a lot of time to detail in the text of an article (or a 529-page report) but can be more readily consumable in a map like the one presented in that package.


who brought you the rma report? who shut down the asian massage parlors?

Ed Cone

"I agree that there are people in Greensboro who were/are skeptical about the role the former CWP members played in initiating this process."

But initiating the process is not the thing I pointed out, Jill -- the skepticism lies also with the continuing closeness of the similarly-named survivors group -- the one that came before the City Council -- to the process during the writing of the report, and their seeming stewardship of the process after the report's release.

Agree that Ahearn's reporting was more comprehensive than described.

Jill Williams

The only point at which it would have been inappropriate for the "survivors group" to have been unduly involved in the process would have been during the commission's research, deliberation and report writing phases. They were not unduly involved at those points. Having been very close to that process, I can vouch for that.

Perhaps the GTCRP's approaching city council was a mistake. I frankly don't know. But it did not sacrifice the independence of the commission. It may have caused more confusion about the distinction - a confusion that was not aided by the similar names between the groups - but that confusion was purely in terms of perceptions and not reality.

As to the aftermath of the report's release, what other group would make sense to be stewards of the process? I really don't think there is anything keeping any groups - including the City Council or any of the 60+ report receiver groups - from initiating their own efforts. And I'm fairly certain that, should any group organize such an effort and invite them, the individuals involved in the "survivors group" would participate.

I also think it is important to point out that the so called "survivors group" was not limited to former CWP members. It includes many more people who were not involved in 1979, including the former mayor of Greensboro.

Ed Cone

Jill, the ownership and perception of ownership of this process are of critical importance to the way the public views it.

The special treatment given the survivor's group at the TRC release ceremony was troubling. The burying deep of Peters' report was troubling. To this sympathetic observer, at least, the promised separation between the highly interested group headed by Nelson Johnson -- the group that calls itself by almost the same name as the TRC itself -- was never adequate, and that lack of separation compromised the public reception of the report.

And the disbanding of the TRC as soon as the report was released was a tragedy. There is no longer an impartial group guilding the process, and that is a serious problem.

Margaret Banks

I've always believed the distinction between the "Project" and the "Commission" could have been more clear had the commission's deliberations been open (I mean the dozens of private meetings beyond the public forums). The News & Record would have been able to report that no one directly connected to Nov. 3, 1979 (i.e. survivors), was in the room during deliberations, if that was indeed the case.

The commission also made a decision not to communicate much with us during the process. Communication could have reinforced to the public that commissioners were not beholding unto survivors or the "Project" members.

The phrase repeated in many of my articles - "Commissioners #1, #2 and #4 declined to comment; commissioners #3 and #5 did not return telephone calls" - gave little assurance to the public that the process was transparent.

Keep in mind as a reporter, I think everything should be more open. Outer space should be more open, from my point of view!

Elizabeth Wheaton

Jill and I had a serious--and very warm--discussion yesterday focusing mainly on how a move toward community reconciliation might get started. While we were able to resolve some misunderstandings and open some dialogue on a few other issues, we did not have time to delve into one of the most basic problems, which underlies this entire thread:


While I know there are many areas of mistrust from the survivors' perspective, I will only address a few of those of that stick in my gullet:

1) The similarities of names is indeed an issue, whether it was intentional or not. What more significant identifier is there than a name?

2) Along those same lines, why was the term "reconciliation" kept in the name when it is clear now that that aspect of the effort was never part of the TRC planning, implementation or followup?

3) The fact that, despite the "democratic process" that brought their election, all of the commissioners are to the left side of the political spectrum, and indeed 3 of the 7 have been directly involved in anti-Klan activity.

Like Margaret, I'm a bit skeptical that any community-wide dialogue is possible. But there are a lot of us who want very much to be part of an effort, no matter how small, to try reach some kind of reconciliation. Yes, some uncomfortable questions will have to be asked on all sides. And no, it doesn't seem that any of us know exactly how to proceed. I think maybe it starts one-on-one. I hope...

Ed Cone

Adam Zucker had access to meetings and deliberations; his film, Greensboro: Closer to the Truth, will show in GSO this month.

Too bad that access wasn't available to others during the process; the little used weblog maintained by the exec director is another example of an opportunity missed.

Jill Williams

One thing that is frustrating to me about blog discussions is how easily the conversation can shift from the primary topic to something that feels like attacks on commenters. For example, in this thread, the discussion moved fairly rapidly from the substance of a letter from Nelson Johnson to Jerry Bledsoe into an attack on decisions made by the Commission, and by me personally. It doesn't really set up an incentive to participate in these discussions in any meaningful way. That said, I'll take a shot at responding to what I consider to be some of your valid concerns, albeit not relevant to the thread topic.

Of course public perception is important. And I've already admitted here (and many others have similarly admitted) that there was some degree of public confusion about the distinction between the similarly named GTRC and GTCRP. Some of that was due to the similar names and some of that was due to a lack of time and effort devoted to distinguishing the two groups. (Though I think our communications director would argue that she spent an extraordinary amount of time explaining, repeatedly, to media organizations and the public about the distinction.) What I can assure you, again, is that there was, in reality, no actual confusion within these groups about the independence of the GTRC and that the GTCRP did not unduly influence the findings of the GTRC. To respond to Margaret's concern, no "survivors" were present during Commission deliberations.

Could I have blogged more and better? Yes. Though my other responsibilities (such as coordinating public hearings and other events, fundraising, organizing Commissioner meetings, dealing with the media, supervising staff, and helping with other aspects of the community engagement, research and report writing, to name a few) probably were more integral to the functioning of the Commission and to engaging a broader cross section of the community than those who read blogs.

Could the GTRC have been more open to media in its private deliberations? Sure, but I'm not sure that opening up the Commission's private deliberations was either necessary or conducive to honest, productive discussions amongst Commissioners. Liz's good point about trust comes in here, too. Perhaps if the N&R had given the Commission more of a sense through its reporting that it was dealing fairly with the GTRC process, the Commissioners would have been more open to devoting time to talking with its reporters. As it was, the majority of Commissioners, rightly or wrongly, felt that there was no chance that certain N&R reporters were going to do anything but attempt to undermine the process through their reporting, consciously or not, so the obvious answer to them was to focus on our work and let the report speak for itself. (And the fact that Margaret, who was assigned to cover the process for the N&R, has publicly admitted here that she has no hope that rational, productive coversation - indeed the primary goal of the GTRC - is even possible, supports these Commissioners' hunches.)

On other points, I do not believe that Bob Peters' "concurring opinion" was in any way buried in the report. It went in precisely the place he thought it most fit into the document.

And yes, perhaps the disbanding of the Commission as soon as the report was released was a bad idea. As the former executive director who is still volunteering copious amounts of my own time to wrap up loose ends related to the GTRC's work, I certainly would have appreciated having a paycheck to support those (at times like these, thankless) efforts beyond the release of the report. But that is not how the mandate was written and it is not a need that was anticipated at the outset of this process which was the first of its kind anywhere.

To use this (or any of the other issues raised here) to dismiss hope in the entire process is off the mark as far as I am concerned. I personally think Liz's question about how we, as a community of presumably concerned citizens, move forward based on, to use Ed's oft-repeated phrase, "a flawed but useful report" is the important one.

I personally think a deeper discussion about why some of us think reconciliation starts with mending personal relationships and others think it must begin with institutional reform (informed by the facts surrounding the events of Nov. 3, in this case) is a good next step, at least in this venue.

Elizabeth Wheaton

We certainly have gotten away from the original post here, but I think that's simply inherent in such a multi-faceted and often confusing issue. There are many good points here that deserve fuller discussion, and I'm not sure that Ed's blog is the place to do it.

Is there any interest out there in starting a reconciliation brainstorming blog? I'm probably among the least computer-savvy people in this techno-world, but I'd like to discuss the possibilities and pitfalls.

Ed Cone

Jill, I don't mean my contributions here to be personal attacks in any way, and I don't think we've veered at all from the larger topic at hand. This thread seems valuable to me; perhaps it seems less so to others.

I know you worked hard on the project, and you know I value your work and your willingness to discuss it here and elsewhere.

But it seems painfully clear to me that the media and public relations aspects of the process (and perhaps the reality those things represented) were not very successful, and that this lack of success had and continues to have a serious negative impact on the success of the overall project.

The flawed but useful report is still understood by too many people as Nelson Johnson's property, and the process as an exercise by the CWP survivors. The failure of the TRC to separate itself adequately and establish itself as a truly independent group was not just minor PR glitch, it was a serious strategic error, one that continues to dog the project to this day.

sean coon

"The flawed but useful report" - man, have you trademarked that yet?

the people that view the report as nelson johnson's property would view it that way no matter how open the process or dynamic the blog. let's be real.

Ed Cone

Being real doesn't mean giving up when confronted with challenges, even challenges of the scale faced by the TRC.

You can read this thread for some specifics that might have been handled differently in terms of public relations and openess, and you can look back over the course of the project for examples of the deleterious intertwining of the TRC and the TRP.

Some of the specific problems were easy to predict. Others were basic community-building that didn't pan out. What happened, happened. Moving on in a productive way is the goal now; to my mind, that involves understanding how we got here in the first place.


I just want each of you to know that I think you all are very special people....But not as special as me

sean coon

how exactly do you equate challenging the notion of rehashing and bemoaning past processes and decisions with "giving up?"

and what the hell does this mean: "Moving on in a productive way is the goal now; to my mind, that involves understanding how we got here in the first place."

what don't you understand, ed? really. i'm confused. we all understand what happened on 11/3, the years leading up to the GTRC being formed and the politics surrounding the GTRC process (including the formation of the similarly named group by nelson).

why don't you move us forward with your take on nelson johnson's letter. i do appreciate you posting it, but i'd consider a conversation about his perspective to be much more progressive than a rehash of your prescience.

Ed Cone

"we all understand what happened on 11/3."

really? it seems to me that ongoing differences in perceptions of what happened on 11/3 are part of the problem here, and the failure so far of the TRC process to provide a definitive narrative is one of the reasons we're having this conversation. a lot of people, for example, are still stuck on the two-extremist-groups meme, ignoring the importance of the third group, the police.

i think that salvaging value from the TRC process means acknowledging the flaws and biases of the document and the group that produced it.

my perspective on nelson's letter? he may overstate his case, based on the errors he cites, but certainly he remains a lightning rod and a convenient distraction from the actual TRC process and report. which is exactly the point i'm making, and have been making for four years: the group that made explicit claims to independence hurt itself by not clearly establishing that independence.

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