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At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

The Sin of Seriousness: A Response to Nicholas Stix

A journalist by trade, Nicholas Stix is as prolific as he is courageous a writer.  For years, he has waged a relentless campaign to draw his readers’ attention to a phenomenon that, however ubiquitous, neither the “mainstream” nor the “conservative” media dare to touch: black-on-white violence.  Many writers claim to write on behalf of truth and justice.  All too few of them actually do so.  Stix is one of these few.

Given my obvious admiration for this veteran beacon of truth, one can imagine my surprise and disappointment upon discovering that Stix recently accused me of being among those of his “sons” who have “ripped off [his] work.”

In “While Reading about the Knoxville Horror, Journalist Finds Son He Didn’t Know He Had,” Stix remarks: “I just discovered a new son, and his name is Jack Kerwick!”

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On July 3, I published an article in Front Page Magazine entitled, “Paula Deen and the Fundamental Transformation of America.”  The objective of the piece was to draw out the glaring contrast between, on the one hand, the media’s obsession with Deen’s use of “the N-word” decades ago and, on the other, its indifference toward black-on-white cruelty.  As an illustration of the latter, I selected the grisly ordeal of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, a young white couple from Tennessee who were carjacked, abducted, raped, tortured, and murdered by four black men and one black woman in Knoxville back in 2007.

And to show that this wasn’t just an event that was six years old, but a saga that continues to the present, I segued into a description of the circumstances in which the victims spent their remaining hours by way of mentioning that even while the brouhaha over Deen is all of the rage, one of the victimizers, George Thomas, had just been retried and convicted once more.

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Admirably, gallantly, Stix had been writing about this topic from the time that it first occurred.  Yet because of this, and because I, admittedly, and carelessly, misspelled the name of the Knoxville Sentinel reporter, Jamie Satterfield (I wrote Sutterfield), to whom I alluded in my piece, Stix’s verdict is that I “ripped” him “off.”

“Kerwick and his defenders would surely respond that it was an innocent mistake, but that won’t wash.  He makes the same mistake twice, and never gets her name right.”  Stix confidently declares: “Nobody familiar with Jamie Satterfield’s work would do that.”

Of both the Orwellian concept of theft that Stix employs here, as well as the shoddiness of his reasoning, more will be said shortly.  First, though, it should be noted that Stix is correct about one thing: I am not “familiar with Jamie Satterfield’s work [.]” I thought to even glance at the name attached to the Knoxville-Sentinel’s article from which I quoted only because, well, I was quoting from it.  Stix, however, in a feat that would make a college freshman in a basic logic course blush, reasons from my carelessness to the conclusion that I “ripped” him “off.”

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This is a vintage example of what logicians from the time of Aristotle have called “false dichotomy”: Either Jack is familiar with Satterfield’s work or all that he knows of the Knoxville case he stole from Stix. He is unfamiliar with Satterfield’s work. Therefore, he stole from Stix.

So much for Stix’s reasoning here.

But what exactly can it mean to be “ripped off” in this context?  Notice, Stix never accuses either me or any of his other “sons”—his not so affectionate term for those of us who also seek to bring the national scandal of media silence on black-on-white violence to more people’s attention—of plagiarism.  There is a very good reason for this: Stix has zero grounds upon which to root such a charge.

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Upon googling the names of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, no fewer than 136,000 results are listed.  And the very first result is a link to the Knoxville-Sentinel’s archive on this case.  The second result is a link to a Wikipedia entry on the latter.  To his eternal credit, Michael Savage, the third most listened to nationally syndicated radio talk show host in the country, a man with probably 10 to 12 million listeners, has talked about the fate of Christian and Newsom since 2007.

In other words, this story has been in the public domain since the time that it first broke—and Stix was not the person to have first broken it.  It is preposterous to imply that any discussion of this case that doesn’t give a tip of the hat to Stix is disreputable.

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As for my own piece, there isn’t a single argument, turn of phrase, idea, or detail in it that can in any way be construed as having been lifted from Stix’s work.  It merely recapitulates the bare bones of the “Knoxville Horror,” as Stix quite appropriately refers to it (Now, had I not credited him as having coined this term, then I would indeed be guilty of “ripping” him “off.”).  To lend authority to my summation, I turned to the Knoxville-Sentinel archive and quoted Satterfield, the local reporter who, I discovered, had been all over this story, as well as the medical examiner who she in turn quoted.

Perhaps more than most, writers, including yours truly, take themselves entirely too seriously. Yet as the great Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton said, seriousness “is no virtue.” Being that it is “the easiest things to do,” it is more of a vice, for it is nothing other than “a natural trend or lapse into taking one’s-self gravely [.]”

Stix should keep up his good work. While he is at it, he should brush up on his Chesterton.

 

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