The [Wednesday] Papers
The story of Jon Burge is as much a story of media failure as anything else. As noted in the Sun-Times's editorial this morning, "As early as 1982, public officials got wind of rumors of Burge's torture tricks in the basement of a South Side police station." And as Mark Brown writes in his column this morning, "From the time the accusations were raised in 1983 by attorneys for cop killer Andrew Wilson until fairly recently, the collective attitude in this city was of disbelief, of not wanting to believe such a thing possible and perhaps worse - not caring enough to demand the truth."
What could possibly account for the "collective attitude" of the city? Where in the world do people get their views? Were citizens carrying on conversations about Burge apart from what appeared in the media - somehow receiving information to shape their views from other sources like, say, transcendental meditation?
If the media had been as aggressive about the Burge torture allegations as they have been about, say, the Hired Truck scandal or, even more to the point, how great the 2016 Olympics will be or the status of Kerry Wood's arm, perhaps this would have been resolved - and with more satisfaction - long ago.
Even the lone reporter whose heroic reporting was long ignored by the mainstream media despite its obvious and amazing thoroughness had to swim upstream in his own shop. "His editor suggested he move on to the next subject," Brown writes of John Conroy, a journalist more deserving than anyone in this city of a Pulitzer Price and a MacArthur genius grant and whatever else could be bestowed upon him.
Instead, he was laid off last year so the Reader could take his surprisingly paltry salary off the books.
Conroy tells Brown that the people of Chicago would have been more willing to believe the Burge saga if we lived in rural Mississippi, not a (supposedly) sophisticated metropolis in the 1980s.
Here is where I think Conroy, for once, is wrong.
On the same day that Burge was finally arrested, Thomas J. Maloney died. Maloney was the Cook County judge convicted in 1993 for fixing three murder trials. Chicago is exactly the kind of place where this sort of thing happens.
And what of our mayor?
"Richard Brzeczek, who was police superintendent, informed Richard M. Daley, who was Cook County state's attorney, in writing that there was credible evidence Burge and his men had tortured a suspect," the Sun-Times editorial notes.
"But Daley looked away."
The paper hasn't had any problem endorsing him for mayor every four years, though.
"Mayor Richard Daley, who was state's attorney at the time, and current State's Atty. Richard Devine, who was then Daley's top assistant, also turned a deaf ear," the Tribune says in its editorial today.
The paper hasn't had any problem either endorsing him for mayor every four years.
Just what would it take to disqualify Daley from office - photos of him personally attaching alligator clips to a black suspect's testicles?
I saw some video of a squirming and smirking Daley taking questions about Burge on Chicago Tonight last night. It was disquieting to say the least; there was our fair leader trying to slough off queries about systematic torture with bad jokes about not holding newspaper reporters accountable for the headlines that appear over their stories.
I'd like to see Daley meet with the torture victims and their families and josh around with them.
The mayor then denied any responsibility - literally saying "You can't hold me responsible."
The Sun-Times found this remarkable given that Daley said in 2006 that "I'll take responsibility for it."
But that was baloney, and we all knew it. He went on to say then, "I'll apologize to anyone . . . Everybody should be held accountable."
You can feel the meaningless insincerity dripping off the page.
Apparently the Sun-Times believed it.
On Tuesday, Daley tried again to deflect blame by asserting that "You don't look back."
Only if something is gaining on you.
"He was asked again about the Brzeczek letter, and just as he was about to explain it and get himself in deeper, he decided otherwise," John Kass writes.
"'Well, I'm not going to go over it, so how's that?' he said."
Even as Daley was insisting to the Chicago press corps that nothing could be done then or in the future about whatever a rogue individual decides to take upon himself - denying the proven scope (122 cases by one count) and institutionalization of the torture that took place here - he was singing a different tune to the New York Times, presumably through the far more articulate voicebox of chief propagandist Jackie Heard.
"Obviously, the Burge case recalls a terrible chapter in our city's history," Mr. Daley said. "Some of the police behavior at that time was detestable, which is why steps have been put into place to ensure that the kinds of acts associated with Jon Burge never happen again."
But don't hold me accountable.
"It took too long - 26 years," Carol Marin writes. "And it took the intervention of the feds.
"That's because neither the Chicago Police Department nor the Cook County state's attorney's office nor Mayor Daley, who once served as state's attorney, nor a court-appointed special prosecutor had the courage or the political will to stand up against the shame that Burge brought upon this city."
Richard M. Daley is in his 19th year as mayor.
Posted on October 22, 2008
© 2006 - 2017, The Beachwood Media Company