Talk:C. Vernon Mason

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Dispute regarding Lead[edit]

I have requested page protection, until we can discuss and resolve issues relating to the lead. Bear in mind that, as the subject is a living person, Biographies of Living Persons applies to anything added to the article. If there are sources, however, and if the information is discussed in the article, it's possible that a mention in the lead is justified. So, let's discuss the matter. UltraExactZZ Claims ~ Evidence 15:42, 23 January 2008 (UTC)

Thank you. As you know, WP:BLP only applies to poorly sourced material, and the material which "Bloomfield" (the anon who posts from a variety of Bloomfield College IP addresses) keeps removing is sourced to the New York Times, so it seems unlikely that WP:BLP would actually end up all that relevant to our discussion. I'd like to address what I think are the relevant points:
Point one: C. Vernon Mason is primarily notable because of his participation in the Tawana Brawley case. This is pretty easy to verify. Search on Google for '"C. Vernon Mason"' and you'll get about 3,000 hits. Search '"C. Vernon Mason -Brawley"' (i.e., only return results that contain "C. Vernon Mason" but do not contain "Brawley") and 2,000 of those hits disappear. You can try the same thing with "Vernon Mason" instead of "C. Vernon Mason", and you'll get roughly 8,000 vs. 4,000. There is not much denying that the Brawley case is primarily why C. Vernon Mason is notable, and the introduction to an article should describe why a subject is notable enough to merit a Wikipedia article.
However, in Bloomfield's preferred version, the introduction does not mention anything about the Brawley case. Bloomfield thinks that the introduction should describe Mason as "current executive with a non-profit organization" but should avoid mention of Mason's participation in a case that grabbed national headlines and continues to echo over twenty years later. To give you an idea how significant this "non-profit organization" is, by comparison: the organization is called "Uth Turn". Out of the following Google searches:
  • '"C. Vernon Mason" Uth Turn'
  • '"C. Vernon Mason" Uth-Turn'
  • '"Vernon Mason" Uth Turn'
  • '"Vernon Mason" Uth-Turn'
-- none of them reaches even 100 hits. Is it representative of any kind of fair judgment to think that Mason's status as a "current executive with a non-profit organization" merits coverage in the introduction but his participation in one of the biggest legal cases of the 1980s should be suppressed from the introduction?
Point two: Mason is not just a "former" lawyer; he is a disbarred former lawyer. This is an important and significant distinction. Whenever you have had to discontinue your line of work because the professional bodies who accredit that line of work decide that you can no longer be trusted in that line of work, that is a very important piece of information. I think there is room for discussion about how much of the circumstances of Mason's disbarment should go into the introduction, and how much should be left for the appropriate place in the main body of the article. But I cannot picture any reasonable argument that could be made for describing him in the introduction as a "former lawyer" but deliberately omitting the fact that Mason is a "former lawyer" because he was disbarred.
Point three: Whether or not the circumstances of Mason's disbarment should go into the introduction, there is no question that they should go into the article. Again, Mason did not make a voluntary decision to leave the practice of law -- he was forced to discontinue the practice of law. The reader of the article can make up their own mind about whether the Bar did the right thing by removing Mason's law license -- but not if someone keeps taking away the relevant information.
Mason's fate is often confused with that of his associate in the Brawley case, Alton Maddox. Maddox's own legal difficulties with the Bar stemmed from the Brawley case,* and from Maddox's refusal to cooperate with an investigation into his activities in that case. Now, given that the original grand jury concluded Tawana Brawley's allegations to be a hoax, and that, during the defamation lawsuit where they were defendants, "[e]very opportunity was afforded Mason and Maddox to prove that Brawley’s allegations were true ... the jury found them false by clear and convincing evidence, a high burden of proof"[1], it would be difficult for a reasonable observer to believe that Maddox obstructed the Bar's investigation because he was a champion of the underprivileged against the rich and powerful, a champion of the oppressed African-American against the white hegemony, or anything similar. However, since it is still possible, we can give the reader the relevant information and let them decide.
And this is exactly what Bloomfield seems to want to prevent when it comes to Mason. If someone wants to believe that Mason is a champion of the underprivileged against the rich and powerful, they're going to have to deal with the information that the 20 clients Mason was found to have taken advantage of were virtually all low-income or moderate-income. If someone wants to believe that Mason is a champion of the oppressed African-American against the white hegemony, they're going to have to deal with the information that most of those 20 clients were African-American. But Bloomfield's edits have consistently sought to remove that information. Why? What good reason can there be for it? It's clearly relevant.
* Apparently disbarment proceedings against Mason were mooted earlier during the Brawley case ([2]), on grounds much different from those on which he was later disbarred, but nothing came of them. -- (talk) 05:35, 24 January 2008 (UTC)
And five days later, only one party has come to the talk page. -- (talk) 02:24, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
Two weeks! Two weeks and counting! -- (talk) 04:17, 8 February 2008 (UTC)

Well, so much for discussion! I'm looking at the version you had wanted to add to the lead, and might suggest a compromise version. Since the Tawana Brawley incident is prominently featured in the article, it should be mentioned - but we can leave the details to the article itself. So, I would add the following language, if you agree:

  • Mason was notable for his involvement as an advisor to Tawana Brawley following her accusation (later proved false) that she was raped abd assaulted by six white men.

It highlights his main reason for notability, which is reflected in the article. The fact that he is a former attorney is noted in the previous sentence, and the source you cited to document the reason should be indicated there. Thoughts? UltraExactZZ Claims ~ Evidence 13:47, 8 February 2008 (UTC)

It's a fair enough compromise, although it is worth mentioning here at least that his involvement in the very publicized Howard Beach incident made him notable even before Tawana Brawley. I would ask that you change the phrase 'later proven false' to 'later determined to be false by the Grand Jury investigating her claims.' to keep readers from concluding that her statements led to a perjury conviction. (talk) 18:29, 8 February 2008 (UTC)
OK, how about:
  • Mason was notable for his role as attorney for the family of Michael Griffith, a victim in the Howard Beach incident, and as an advisor to Tawana Brawley following her accusation (later determined to be false by a Grand Jury) that she was raped and assaulted by six white men.
It adds Griffith (though that section of the article needs work, as well) while expanding the Brawley reference. UltraExactZZ Claims ~ Evidence 19:17, 8 February 2008 (UTC)
That is acceptable to me. Also, I concur that the Griffith section needs work, something I've been working on but haven't finished yet. (talk) 19:56, 8 February 2008 (UTC)
I've added it to the article. Now to expand the rest, which I'll help with if I can find sources and time. Thanks, UltraExactZZ Claims ~ Evidence 20:04, 8 February 2008 (UTC)

As a compromise on the matter of how deeply the Tawana Brawley matter should be covered in the introduction, this version is passable (albeit slightly incorrect, since it neglects the fact that Brawley's claims were determined to be false by two juries, not just one.) However, it fails to adequately address the other points. I am not sure how you meant the sentence "The fact that he is a former attorney is noted in the previous sentence, and the source you cited to document the reason should be indicated there" to be read; if you mean "we don't have to mention in the introduction that he is a disbarred attorney; it is sufficient to describe him as a 'former' attorney and link to a source which clarifies that he is 'former' because he is disbarred," then I am afraid I must disagree. The difference between leaving your line of work because you're seeking something more fulfilling, because you're ambitious to make your mark elsewhere, because your life circumstances are changing, etc., and leaving your line of work because the professional bodies which accredit that line of work will not allow you to continue in that line of work, is so significant that to duck the truth by simply saying "former lawyer" is to lie by omission. Linking to a source which will make that clarification is not an adequate solution, either; we cannot claim we have done our job just because someone might get an accurate idea of what we left out from dangling clues. -- (talk) 03:39, 9 February 2008 (UTC)

The source is cited solely to document what the article says - and the article is clear on the point that he was disbarred, to the point of having an entire section entitled "Disbarment". The items in the lead are simply an overview of the subject - He is this, he is that, he is notable for X and Y. The reasons as to why He is this and He is that are explained in the article. If we did not discuss the disbarment in the article, then I would agree that - since it is properly sourced - it should be included. In this case, however, it is included, and in more detail than the arguably more notable Howard Beach incident. Going into detail about the disbarrment twice (lead and section) would be giving the disbarment undue weight, which would not support a neutral point of view. Plus, with some added detail in the disbarment section, I think the truth about the subject is quite clear, even though it is presented in neutral fashion. UltraExactZZ Claims ~ Evidence 04:00, 9 February 2008 (UTC)
Yes, the introduction should serve as a concise overview of the whole subject. It is a key part of the whole subject of "C. Vernon Mason" that he was disbarred; it is one of the most significant things that can possibly happen to a lawyer. You cannot say that we have given the reader a concise overview of the whole subject if we deliberately avoid the subject of his disbarment by calling him only a "former" lawyer.
The argument that it gives the disbarment "undue weight" if we acknowledge it both in the lead and in the article is, quite frankly, bizarre; how can an aspect of Mason's career be significant enough to merit its own section in the article (and what can be more significant to a career than its forced end?) and not merit introduction in the overview? That's like saying "This skyscraper is such a significant element in the foreground of this photo, we have to deliberately omit it from the thumbnail." Should we go through every article, and remove from every introduction every mention of any aspect of the article subject significant enough to merit major coverage in the article? Of course not, that would be absurd. So, too, is the suggestion that we should deliberately omit the very significant way Mason's career as a lawyer ended from the introduction here. -- (talk) 19:08, 9 February 2008 (UTC)
Happy Black History Month, anonymous! (talk) 17:00, 13 February 2008 (UTC)
And happy Black History Month to you as well. Who are the people that you keep especially in mind during the month? For me, it's an eclectic list: George Washington Carver; Martin Luther King Jr.; the Tuskegee Airmen; Harriet Tubman; John Coltrane. With the exception of Coltrane, they all remind me of the kind of lives we should all aspire to lead -- resisting the temptation of the "easy" way, continually striving for both goodness and greatness. Coltrane's life was a troubled one, and I'd hardly suggest that any of us would be well-advised to try to emulate it -- but for those of us whose lives already have their share of trouble, it can be comforting, and aweing, to contemplate Coltrane's troubled life and how out of it he nevertheless brought us some of the most beautiful music the world holds. Here's hoping that you, too, find inspiration in this month who tried to make this world a better place. -- (talk) 02:51, 14 February 2008 (UTC)