Lynne d Johnson



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07.28.08 01:29 PM

A Moment of Clairty, Sanity, and Transparency

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the center of some controversy due to an interview I conducted with NPR News & Notes, "Video Blogger Dropped Over Racially Charged Posts."

There seems to have been loads of confusion and misunderstanding about why I was even involved in that interview, especially by people not familiar with my background with NPR or even with the video blogger I discussed with them. There was also some backlash around my recollecting facts about the video in question inappropriately, I published an apology regarding this on FriendFeed the same night that I realized my error. Still I was misunderstood.

Here are some e-mail responses I wrote to some people who questioned me about the incident:

"There was context and history to my being on NPR to discuss Feldman. I wasn't chosen to speak bc I work for FC but because I was one of the first ppl (black bloggers) to speak out when the vid first appeared last year and as well had a panel at SXSW called where are the black tech bloggers? that feldman attended. Previously, I've moderated panels called blogging while black there as well, that were similar in nature. I've spoken on NPR News & Notes before, for the record, just as Lynne d Johnson. I wasn't on there representing FC but myself and my experience with this situation.

I printed an apology on FriendFeed for whatever I said incorrectly in the interview yesterday. I took it there bc that's where he took it, to social media, calling me out on FF and Twitter. I have no issue with being corrected when I'm wrong and then taking responsibility for it. NPR is going to do their part, I'm sure, to either bring him on the show for his side, or possibly print my apology on their own site."

And here is another response I wrote to someone:

"I was just wondering if you know any of the history -- that I was one of the first (black bloggers) to comment last year when the video first appeared? The series didn't appear all at once, just the one video. The TechNigga piece.

Also, I created a panel at SXSW called Where Are the Black Tech Bloggers? Loren attended. I met him. I opened the floor for him to address the panel. There is a podcast of it here.

I realize that I misrepresented his act, and I have posted an apology on FriendFeed. I said he wore a wig, he didn't. I apologized. Blackface, in modern times simply means portraying a stereotypical characterization of a race (and not necessarily another race). A black person can do blackface. It doesn't have to be a white person. It's exactly what I said when I first wrote my response last year.

I have not called him racist. I called this one video a racist portrayal or parody. On other blogs, recently, I defended his right to free speech and artistic freedom. I do not wish Loren Feldman any ill will.

NPR contacted me for this story, most likely, because of the Verizon thing and then my personal history with the discussion, as well as my status in the black blogosphere. I have spoken on that show before, as Lynne d Johnson, a blogger. And though FastCompany was mentioned as the company I work for, I was actually there speaking as Lynne d Johnson."

As for the Verizon dealings, I was not even fully aware of them until I started reading news about it the same week I was contacted for the interview, which was the exact same week that the show aired. That week, I did have contact with Najee Ali, executive director of Project Islamic H.O.P.E, who lead a protest against Verizon to have Loren Feldman removed from their video offerings. At that time, I learned that Ali was only recently made aware of the TechNigga video, and though it was not going to be a part of the content offerings on the VCast service, he felt that Verizon had a responsibility to its customers. From my understanding of things, the content being dropped from Verizon happened well before my interview with NPR, as the title of the segment illustrates.

For the record, I spoke with NPR the day after the interview and mentioned to them that I got one of my descriptions of the video incorrect and that I posted a correction out there on a social media site -- FriendFeed already. I sent NPR another version of that correction for their usage. I was told that it was possible they might use it in their letters section. I don't know if they ever did. I was told that they would contact Loren Feldman to invite him on the show to speak on this issue. I don't know if he ever did.

Here is the correction I sent them:

"In response to Loren Feldman's claim that I lied about him in an interview on NPR, I offer the following statement: My recollection of his wearing a wig in his 'Technigga' sketch was incorrect, and for that I apologize. As for the question of inaccuracy around my use of the term blackface, from an historical perspective the term literally means to perform made up in blackface, whereas my usage of the term reflected a modern-day understanding in which non-black performers enact stereotypes of blackness. I accept that my use of the term may have created confusion and mischaraceterization in my description of Loren Feldman's performance."

On reflection, I realize I could have disclosed during that interview that there was some issue in social media and the blogosphere between the video blogger and at least one person related to the company I work for. In my mind, the reason I was there for the interview had nothing to do with this prior issue (or the company I work for) -- an issue that does not directly affect me, though it does indirectly affect me as it is related to the company I am employed by.

Because everything I've ever had to say about 1) the video, and 2) this interview already exists out there on the Web (either here, on other blogs, on FriendFeed, on Twitter, and in video intereviews), I have nothing more to say on the matter, and I'm going back on blogging vacation.

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