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by Andrew Kreig
Dr. Justin Frank, a psychoanalyst who comments on political leaders, and rock concert promoter Leonard Rowe are making a habit of drawing from their core specialties for very hard-hitting social commentaries.
Their comments are entirely distinct. But each is getting strong push-back, partly on religious grounds. The controversies raise intriguing media issues, and your opinion is invited on what’s best to do.
Frank was the guest July 12 on my noon (EDT) weekly radio show MTL Washington Update. Click here to listen to the live show, now on archive. The Harvard Medical School graduate has published two recent best-sellers, Obama on the Couch (2011) and Bush on the Couch (2004). He extrapolates from the presidents' public record about what he regards as their deeper motivations.
But Time Magazine cancelled his column two weeks ago when he used a similar approach to suggest that Mitt Romney’s Mormon religion played an unseemly factor in Romney’s political attacks. Frank blogged that Time’s management decided that such commentary was inappropriate.
Rowe, a self-made, African-American concert promoter spoke July 11 at the National Press Club about his new book, What Really Happened to Michael Jackson, and his ongoing litigation against his much more powerful business rivals.
The book’s subtitle -- The Evil Side of the Entertainment Industry -- reflects Rowe’s claims that Jackson was murdered and that business arrangements in the music industry reflect systemic racial and religious bias against African-American promoters and artists. Further, Rowe claimed in his lecture that unfairness and indeed corruption in the court system are clear from evidence in his litigation against industry giants, including the William Morris Agency. Rowe is now a pro se litigant who accuses his former lawyers of double-crossing him.
All of us in the media must decide on a frequent basis whether to self-censor such claims from alternative voices, delay to check them out in-depth -- or skip it all and stick to conventional fare.
Pervasive self-censorship is unhealthy. Thus, the column and the show, which was with co-host and Producer Scott Draughon, the founder of the My Technology Lawyer network that syndicates the show nationally.
This is all part of our country’s tradition of freedom and debate. I began my career in Connecticut at the Hartford Courant, whose publishers were once sentenced to prison by federal authorities for insinuating in 1806 bad motives to President Thomas Jefferson for the Louisiana Purchase from France. That purchase turned out to be a good deal. Separately, the Supreme Court vacated in 1813 by a one-vote margin the seditious libel convictions against the newspaper publishers in Hudson and Goodwin v. United States. This became, in effect, the new nation’s first press freedom case decided by the Supreme Court, as I described in Spiked, a 1987 book on such topics.
Former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) provided an eloquent introduction to Rowe’s lecture, as did John Edward Hurley, a longtime Washington insider. For a quarter of century, Hurley has chaired the McClendon Group, which organizes on a volunteer basis such informal dinner talks for passionate speakers who are avoided by an increasingly timid mainstream media.
Hurley introduced the July 11 session with a mini-history of the McClendon Group, which is named in honor of the late White House correspondent Sarah McClendon. Hurley formerly worked for her, and recalled that she was a hard-hitting columnist (for mostly small newspapers in Texas) who for many years would shout out questions at presidential news conferences.
Hurley called the White House press conference format these days ”organized stenography,” whereby the White House generally controls who gets to ask a question and others usually wait their turn in hopes of gaining recognition. The process leads to self-censorship, with reporters fearing loss of access by their organizations to important officials at press conferences or for private interviews. To help provide a venue for alternative voices, Hurley invites McClendon Group speakers for private weekly meetings, independent from the Press Club’s formal internal committee process. Among invitees have been retired Admiral James Clapper (before his current appointment as President Obama’s National Security adviser), U.S. Ron Paul (R-TX), self-published author and author Joseph Wilson, a former United States ambassador.
On July 11, Rowe described his career start as a Georgia-based airlines worker with a passion for music. On a hunch and using his moxie three decades ago, he persuaded a hot group, The Spinners, to hire him to arrange a concert. Now, he alleges that the upper ranks of the entertainment industry’s marketing divisions are stacked against African-American promoters, whom he organized into an advocacy group in the 1990s.
Preceding Rowe in similar comments was Marcus Washington, who has claimed discrimination by his former employer, the William Morris Agency. The agency is the nation’s largest and is led by Ari Emanuel, brother of Chicago Mayor and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Rowe and Washington each said the legal system is unfairly stacked against complaints against such well-funded defendants, who have denied their claims, as expected, and aired harsh criticisms of him, as might be expected.
Sorting through all the facts is a monumental task but it should not foreclose interim reports such as this.Some blog sites claim, for example, that Michael Jackson dismissed Rowe in 2009 after learning of a $3.4 million judgment against him by R Kelly. For now, I’ll mention the claims here, and amplify below with excerpts from sample pro and con columns.
Join us on the noon (EDT) weekly public affairs show. Again, click here to listen to the interviews live nationwide and later by archive. Listener questions are always welcome on the weekly show: Call (866) 685-7469 or email email@example.com. Mac users need “Parallels.”
Like Rowe in some ways but with different themes, Frank is an entrepreneur. His credentials are from eminent institutions, such as the clinical professorship he holds in the department of psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical Center. He always emphasizes that his views are solely his own.
Once upon a time, those in his field attracted criticism for any attempt to use their analytic expertise on public figures who were not their patients. And their patients deserve privacy, of course. Frank bravely and aptly saw that at least some in the public wanted more, and that he was at least as qualified as any other pundits to speculate about politicians’ motives. the Boston Globe has written of his book:
Obama on the Couch is a fascinating read. Frank approaches this virtual analysis meticulously, closely reading both of Obama’s memoirs, combing through speeches and journalistic accounts of Cabinet meetings. The president’s puzzling insistence on seeking compromise even with political opponents who have sworn resistance, Frank writes in a tongue-in-cheek diagnosis, is evidence of “obsessive bipartisan disorder.” And his chapter on how Obama’s critics see him – the psychology, or even pathology, behind some of their complaints – is masterful.
But Frank saw from Time’s reaction because of his Romney column one can never fully predict public reaction. In this, his style of commentary is like a lot else in business and life. Another example is for Rowe to predict the popularity of rock concert, good relationships with stars, their gatekeepers and his own attorneys.
Another, for all of us, is predicting the qualities that might be a good president. In this spirit of open discussion, this covers lots of ground. Join us with own insights.
Andrew Kreig is a Washington-based non-profit executive, attorney and investigative reporter who directs the non-partisan Justice Integrity Project, a legal reform group.