|cc attribution, share alike, Flickr photog fertilegroundportland|
"How can you tell when a [politician/lawyer] is lying?"
"His lips are moving."That joke took sad form in Houston, Texas recently when anti-gay activist Dave Wilson defeated an incumbent, Bruce Austin, in a campaign for the Houston Community College Board of Trustees where Mr. Wilson actively portrayed himself as 'black', when in fact he's a white, blue collar electrician. His opponent, a veteran member of the board, is indeed black.
While his actions were proactively deceptive, he was honest and direct about his tactics when interviewed by the local TV station. He justified inferring he was black by saying
"[e]very time a politician talks, he’s out there deceiving voters."There is a nice article about Wilson's campaign in Think Progress by Ian Millhiser. In it Millhiser describes tactics like populating his campaign website with images of black people and quotes from Ron Wilson, an African American former state representative, except the fine print notes that the Ron Wilson providing the quote was in fact his cousin, a white man in Illinois (several states to the north).
The use of the campaign blog site, associating Wilson with the black community and the use of quotes attribute to well respected black politicians when they were in fact simply family members who coincidently shared the same names is pathetic. It also led to Wilson's (that is the Wilson who is the white, racist and ant-gay activist) winning the election by 24 votes.
As is always the case in such stories the situation is not nearly as black and white (pun intended) as it might appear. The Houston Community College Board has been mired in allegations of Houston CC Board to Trustee members using their influence to steer contracts to relatives, friends, or political allies. Austin's 24 year reign on that board doesn't indict him for these allegations but it does raise questions as to his role in these tainted affairs.
Still, the use of the campaign website, the indiscriminate copying and reuse of images of black people from other websites (there is a copyright violation waiting to be pursued in that) and the overtly deceptive use of handouts, flyers and related messaging that associated Wilson with the largely black community served by the Houston CC Board of Trustees makes it clear that he was banking on PT Barnum's aphorism. He didn't lie overtly & when asked he proclaimed the bald truth - he bet on the naiveté of the voting public, and won.
Where were the investigative journalists when they were most needed - before the election led to this calamitous outcome?