Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The corruption was always sophisticated

In his parting interview, Jim Letten takes the opposite view of that once expressed by former New Orleans Inspector General Robert Cerasoli who told us our corruption wasn't as "sophisticated" as what you see in other cities.

Letten's comments suggest otherwise.

Letten admitted that the timing of his departure is awkward. The date was not entirely of his choosing, and it comes at a time when several major cases are deep in the pipeline. One case that is nearing a possible indictment is the not-so-veiled bribery investigation of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

But just as New Orleans’ criminal landscape is always full of surprises, so, too, was the unexpected chain of events that led to Letten’s departure.

We have the weirdest problems, the strangest challenges, the damnedest struggles. So, maybe, just maybe, this event is consistent with that,” Letten mused.

Maybe the truth is we really were always "so far behind we're ahead" at least as far as sophisticated corruption goes.

Update: Posted this before I noticed Moseley's latest column about Letten and his "damn struggles" is up at The Lens.  Go read that now. 

And while we're at it I should also point you to this AZ post where Dambala raises a question that's been on my mind a lot since the whole Perricone affair broke.
Final question...why the hell would anyone, ever again, remotely consider commenting on Nola.com?  Even if you're not a DOJ employee.  This is a serious question, I'm not just asking it to dis Nola.com.  I'm asking this question because I think we now have an enormous deterrent for people who have information on corruption to anonymously comment in online, public forums and I think that hurts our democracy.
Over the past year to three years, we've definitely seen a retreat from the high level of civic engagement we had been seeing from everyday internet users.. particularly in New Orleans but elsewhere as well.

I think there are a number of contributing factors to this chill.  Today's social media tools are more geared toward promotion of commercial rather than user-generated content. Meanwhile amateur opinion has become less fashionable as we've become more and more saturated with it. Plus there's been a fair degree of (I believe unwarranted) push back from professional journalists who have come to see their most engaged readers (i.e. bloggers and commenters) as more and more of an annoyance.
The Perricone story has only served to reinforce that trend.

So while the past decade witnessed a brief flourishing of messy but democratic discourse, we seem now to be heading back to a place where the public sphere is dominated by elites writing for other elites about elitist priorities.   And that, not the downfall of a false hero like Jim Letten, is the real bad news this year.

No comments: