Friday, September 30, 2011

National press interpreting Jones letter as claim of physical threats

    In Chancellor Dan Jones' recent "civility" letter to alumni he claims to have been "threatened." As usual with proclamations appearing over Jones' name, we would do well to analyze this statement.
The Ole Miss family may not be aware, however, that as a part of this orchestrated campaign, I have received threats, promising that if I do not remove Pete Boone, "It is going to get real ugly," and threatening to expand the attacks to other athletics employees.
    Note carefully the chancellor's words. He says that he has received threats, the threat being that if he doesn't do the right thing and remove Pete Boone, "It is going to get real ugly." These people also are "threatening" to expand the attacks to other athletics employees.
     I don't believe a reasonable person engaged in a heated political debate would consider the phrase "It is going to get real ugly," to be a threat of physical violence. Yet Jones' letter, if not read carefully, leaves the impression that he or Boone have been physically threatened.
    That's certainly how the some of the national media have taken it. Take, for example, this blurb from the website:
Something to chew on ... and spit out: Houston Nutt is merely on the hot seat at Mississippi. Mississippi chancellor Dan Jones released this letter Thursday saying he has been threatened and it could "get real ugly" if he doesn't fire AD Pete Boone.
    See how this media outlet didn't manage to parse Jones' letter exactly right? The "threat" Jones alleges is that if he doesn't fire Boone it could "get real ugly." CBS interpreted it to mean that he had been told things could "get real ugly" AND he had been threatened. A perfectly understandable error given the way Jones' letter was written.
    USAToday reports the following:
Some Mississippi fans are not happy with Pete Boone and they are showing it by making threats against the school's athletic director and other officials.
     An ESPN blog reported on the "threats" but then managed to report that the threat was that if Boone wasn't fired things would "get real ugly."
    There are, sadly, a number of other media outlets that have interpreted Jones' letter as suggesting that "threats" have been made. When used without the explanation that the "threat" is that things will get "real ugly" the assumption is that those threats are threats of physical harm.
    I had not written one word about any of the athletic department mess prior to receiving the chancellor's "civility" letter yesterday. When I read it I was outraged.
    When people argue over policy, it is not uncommon for someone to warn that things might "get real ugly." For Jones to come out bleating that he has been threatened has resulted in harm to the entire Ole Miss community. It was an act of incivility.
    A friend of mine posted the following on his Facebook wall yesterday. I realize Ole Miss is controlled by a few big donors these days, but little people matter, too:
I've languished over this decision. I've been in the UMAA Foundation since I graduated law school, and did the 110% club for several years when the economy allowed me to do it. I love Ole Miss, but I can no longer support our leaders. Boone's radio interview and Jones' letter have convinced me beyond any doubt that the status quo will continue, and they only want my money with no accountability. I can no longer do it in good faith.
     From my observation of Jones, he is obsessed with "being the winner" in any confrontation. Jones could have sent out a letter stating, "I'm sorry I wasn't listening well enough. Let's see if we can get everybody at the table and work this out." (Bogus, but it might have defused things). Instead, he insulted and denigrated those who disagreed with him and made a bunch of bogus claims.
    Jones has managed to convince a large portion of the national media that we're all down here threatening physical violence against each other. To the best of my knowledge it's not true, and by doing this our chancellor has done great harm to Ole Miss.

No comments: