Yesterday, veteran Voice scribe Steven Thrasher apparently spent a good chunk of his day kvetching about me in the form of a lengthy blog post, in which he called me a racist. He then challenged me (without ever actually speaking to me — or replying to multiple emails — of course) to some sort of pissing match under the guise of the Voice’s grand tradition of in-house bickering.
While I can think of a million things I’d rather be doing than responding to Mr. Thrasher’s uber-public request for a fight, I’m not one to turn down a good pissing match.
Before we get started, however, I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced…
My name’s James King — I’m the new guy here at the Voice and I’ll be covering politics, crime, and any other nugget of local news I find interesting enough to share with our adoring audience. However, if you’re looking for a news blog full of kitten videos, I’m not your guy.
I was born and raised in New York (despite Mr. Thrasher’s insistence on showing me “how we roll in New York,” I’ve actually been here before), but have spent the last six years living in Phoenix, Arizona, the last three of which I spent pissing off Hells Angels, laughing at Governor Jan Brewer, and making the life of America’s most racist sheriff, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, as miserable as fucking possible — all while working for the Voice’s sister paper, the Phoenix New Times.
While some of my new colleagues here in the Big Apple have taken me out for drinks to offer advice, give me the lay of the land, and help me settle in, Mr. Thrasher decided to treat me like the new kid who farted in a seventh grade English class — he rolled out the welcome mat with nothing but insults, again, without ever having met me, or having the cojones to bash me to my face.
Now, as I’ll mention again, I’ve never actually met this guy — I know he’s got a cubicle near mine, and he may have been at a staff meeting that I attended last week. However, I’ve never spoken a word to him. Yet, he wants to “duke it out” with me.
The only correspondence I’ve ever had with Mr. Thrasher was an email exchange we had last week (which you can see — in its entirety — below) — he wanted to let me know how offended he was over a photo I used in a blog post about a district attorney who’s charging a guy with a hate crime because he allegedly ripped off an old man in a mortgage fraud scheme.
The photo I used was of a man getting lynched. The caption I used said “Attention, Charles Hynes: This is a hate crime.”
You can see the post here.
The beauty of the world of alternative media is that we do our best to call politicians on their bullshit.
Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes is a politician — and for him to charge a guy who ripped off an old man with a hate crime, just because legally he can, is bullshit. I don’t condone ripping off old people, but I also don’t condone bullshit — and DAs throwing the book at someone just because they can is bullshit; the image was used to illustrate what an actual hate crime looks like — warts and all.
Because I used the image to make my point, Mr. Thrasher decided I’m a racist — again, despite having never met me.
I found the photo on Wikipedia, which also used the image to illustrate the horrors of actual hate crimes. We’ll go out on a limb here and assume that Mr. Thrasher doesn’t consider Jimmy Wales to be a racist because an image of a man getting lynched appears on the website he founded.
Had Mr. Thrasher actually read my article — which he claims he has — he would know that the following paragraph is included:
Hate-crime laws were adopted to dissuade people from doing things like dragging someone behind a truck just because they’re black — like the racist Texas hillbillies who murdered James Byrd in 1998 — or tying someone to a fence and torturing them just because they’re gay, like the monsters who killed Matthew Shepard, also in 1998.
He conveniently left that part out of his critique of my racial sensitivities.
As for the rest of the allegations laid out in Mr. Thrasher’s article, I had no idea that, as a white man, I wasn’t allowed to think Dave Chappelle is funny. My apologies.
Mr. Thrasher cites an article I penned with the headline “Baby In Diaper Found Wandering Streets Of Brooklyn at 2 A.M. No, She Wasn’t Selling Weed.”
Mr. Thrasher commented that I must think selling weed is “what poor black children do, right?”
Well, no — it’s actually just the punchline of one of the more-famous of Chappelle’s routines
For starters, at no point in the article did I mention the baby’s race — frankly, I don’t know if the kid was white, brown, black, red, purple, or green. But it wouldn’t make a difference — there was a fucking baby, wearing nothing but a diaper, wandering around Brooklyn at 2 a.m.!
Mr. Thrasher also takes issue with my comment that the baby was found in the ghetto — noting that “ghetto” is the “favorite word of new to town hipsters,” and that in the clip of Chappelle’s routine embedded in my post, the comedian doesn’t even mention the word “ghetto.”
Given Mr. Thrasher’s apparent expertise on “black” comedy (which I’m apparently not allowed to enjoy because I couldn’t possibly understand “ghetto humor”) he should probably know that in the two minutes leading up to the part about the baby selling weed — again, in one of Chappelle’s more-famous routines — that he describes, in detail, all the “familiar symptoms” of a ghetto. See a more complete clip below.
Mr. Thrasher goes on, and on (and on) about some of my other commentary that has offended him in one way or another — including my use of the term “baby mama,” and an image, which he also considers racist, used in a story applauding New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s decision to not ask the immigration status of people who are the alleged victims of abuse at the hands of their employer because of their less-than-legal immigration status. The image is a T-shirt that says “Does My Ass Look Illegal In These Pants” with an arrow pointing, obviously, to an ass.
The news can be tragically funny sometimes — Mr. Thrasher, it appears, might want to lighten up (quite) a bit.
I take no issue with his being offended by things that I write — he’s entitled to his opinion. My problem, however, is how he handled it.
As much as I’d prefer to not dwell on it, I’ve literally never met this guy. The professional way to handle something like this would be to come to me and say “hey, you’re new here, let’s have a chat.” Mr. Thrasher didn’t do that — he wrote me an email, I wrote a very respectful reply — asking if he’d like to discuss the matter — and didn’t hear about it again until he spouted off in the blog post he wrote yesterday,
Below is the chain of email exchanges between Mr. Thrasher and me — as you can see, I’m still open to dialogue. I even said I would have been open to a public, SNL-esque “Point/Counterpoint” type thing — had I known he wanted to take the Voice’s dirty laundry to the public. He refuses to respond — even after so publicly dissing me…again, after never having said a single word to my face.
Mr. Thrasher to me:
I’ve thought about this for a couple of days and decided I needed to say something, especially after hearing similar sentiments from friends. Though I am in no position of authority over what you write in any way, I need to tell you I found the picture you used on your “hate crime” blog post crude, offensive, and very disappointing. You had a point, but you lost the high road in using such an offensive picture for click bait.
Lynching is not something to be taken lightly. There is nuance to the issues you brought up. I am deeply embarrassed to see such a lynching image reduced to being a thumbnail on the Village Voice website, and to see the issues raised treated in such a trite, crude, ham-fisted
manner. You are showing someone being murdered — being MURDERED, the actual moment of his death — to make, in essence, a cynical joke, and to make a valid point you could have made far more effectively in another manner.
My response to Mr. Thrasher (please ignore my casual disregard for capitalization):
steven, i apologize if you’re offended by the photo. i don’t take
lynching lightly, as you suggest, and, if you read the post, you’d see i
use the image to illustrate the seriousness of an actual hate
crime — sorry, targeting an old person for a mortgage scam is not a
hate crime. what seems more offensive to me than the image is that the
DA is putting ripping off an old guy on a level with real hate crimes —
like a lynching.
i wrote a cover story in phoenix about the mormon church covering up sex
crimes. the cover of the paper that week was the book of mormon as a
condom wrapper. mormons went nuts. granted, i had nothing to do with the
cover art, but the mormons were pissed off at me. got a lot of nasty
emails. i responded by saying “well, did you read the story? it’s about
the church covering up child sex abuse — and the cover’s what offends
you?” the typical response was “well…i didn’t read it, but i hate the
again, offending you — or anyone else — was not my intention. i didn’t
make light of lynching, joke about it, or suggest that it was
acceptable in any way. i’m a little grittier than most writers, and i
realize my style’s not for everyone. but please don’t think i condone
lynching, or racism, in any way. i don’t.
if you’d like to grab a drink some time and discuss it, i’m always available.
Mr. Thrasher’s response to me:
My response after reading Mr. Thrasher’s blog post:
however, next time you want to pick a fight — and call someone you’ve
never met a racist — how about a little professional courtesy in
letting me know you’re doing it so i have a chance to defend myself. you
couldn’t even respond to the very respectful email i sent you. bitch
move. i’m happy to spar with you publicly — your infamous assumption
that like every single white person in america, i have some sort of
mental disorder brought on by the color of my skin shouldn’t make things
too tough — but you could have just asked and we could have done some
sort of snl-esque point/counterpoint. not sure if steven’s sensitive
little ears could handle hearing “steven, you ignorant slut,” though.
again, i have no problem with criticism, and would have participated, had you asked. but you didn’t. bitch move, man.
Mr. Thrasher’s response:
My response to Mr. Thrasher’s crickets:
nothing? you can’t even respond to an email after blindsiding me like
that? let’s go get a drink — and chat. i’m in brooklyn — meet me
Looking forward to working with you, Mr. Thrasher; again, that’s me in the photo above — ya know, just so you know what I look like in case we bump into each other at the office and you feel like stepping out from behind your keyboard.
UPDATE: since the post was originally written, Mr. Thrasher has finally responded to my multiple emails. See his responses below:
I wrote what I felt like I needed to write yesterday, and obviously, I can understand what you’re saying and respect your reaction. I won’t, of course, say anything else publicly.
It’s not my place to weigh in on what you write, and I won’t interfere with your work again. As for yesterday, I will have to deal with the consequences of my actions.
If you’re still willing, I’m happy to meet you and am in Brooklyn (downtown/Ft. Greene) as well. I have a big feature deadline due at the end of the day which I’m cranking away on, but I’m free in the evening, and tomorrow evening as well, if either work for you.
Thanks for being willing to talk with me.
I’m sure you have a valid response, which I will accept. You don’t
have to worry about anything else from me.