It was hard not to sympathize with Mary Norwood, once. She’s been making it easier though.
Saturday morning, Norwood posted a purported list of Atlanta street gangs, which immediately went viral through her well-networked list of Facebook friends.
The list, not to put too fine a point on it, is hilariously wrong.
(EDIT: Mary changed the post about 15 minutes after this story went live on Sunday afternoon, after 933 comments and 163 shares, to say “I appreciate everyone’s comments and concerns. I look forward to working with you all to keep Atlanta safe.” You can see the original list in the edit history, at least until she removes the post entirely.)
Three-6 Mafia makes an appearance. So do Dem Franchize Boyz.
Here’s a check people should use when reposting something that’s probably too good to be true: copy the first couple of lines into Google and see where it’s been.
How old is this list? This particular bit of nonsense began circulating on an Angelfire (!) page in 2005. It’s since been reposted elsewhere by people who couldn’t tell a Crip from a Blood with a color chart.
Never mind the Bowen Homes references (torn down in 2009); I knew it was out of date when I saw the Black Mafia Family on it. BMF was a notorious cocaine-dealing syndicate which famously took out a billboard declaring “The World is BMF’s” before federal indictments took down the group in 2005.
(By the way, Creative Loafing’s series on BMF is some of the best crime reporting ever produced in Atlanta. 50 Cent is producing a show about the crime syndicate for STARZ this year.)
Given this information, one might think the Chairman of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods would have the grace to simply admit the error, delete the post and move on. Instead, she has continually claimed that she received the information from an unnamed law enforcement source, and demands that her challengers provide better information in its place.
Which is stupid. That’s not how that works.
There’s a well-regarded gang intelligence unit operating at every county sheriff’s office in metro Atlanta today. The jails need to know which prisoners to keep in which blocks, in order to avoid violence from gang beef. Their lists are as current as one can get. That’s the gold standard.
The post is now filled with comments from two hundred people talking about how scary the city is, another hundred people who think focusing on street gangs amid two mass shootings is an act of misdirection, and maybe ten beleaguered souls like myself screaming into the void about how the list itself is nonsense.
Truth has stopped being a political value. Appealing to the lizard hind brain of the Internet mob is more important than being right. This is how that works.
You may recall that the former Atlanta city councilperson lost the mayor’s race in 2009 to Kasim Reed in a runoff by just 714 votes, and to Keisha Lance Bottoms eight years later by an absurdly equivalent 759 votes. In a city with half a million residents, the results beggared belief.
Norwood and I have bonded over anti-corruption issues over the years. The buckhead doyenne ran on a platform of cleaning up after the ethical catastrophe of the Reed administration. And nearly half the city agreed with her. Norwood remains very, very popular among the Buckhead business set as an unchained avatar of Buckhead issues and Buckhead values.
She has also been a strong supporter of grassroots social services organizations in Atlanta’s black community. Her friendship with Haroun Shahid Wakil, a radical street activist and continuous public scold who leads the Street Groomers speaks to her broad personal network.
That said, supporting her requires one to tamp down the needling, irritating sense that at times she will run with a story she hears regardless of whether or not it is true. In an age where fake news spins around the block before you can get out of the driveway, this impulse to accuse first and verify later is toxic. And I’m at wits’ end with it today.