But, then again, it’s not the first time.
Back on January 8th I wrote a piece titled “This Is Truly Shameful”.
As a result I found my views criticized on a local FaceBook site (which I should emphasize I respect and believe serves a very valuable local need).
However, I found it somewhat interesting that people would choose that forum to address my comments rather than coming to this site and addressing me directly.
That being the case I will be compelled to summarize the debate on this matter by drawing quotes from that discussion.
To set the stage, my original piece was highly critical of the local paper for what I viewed as the glorification of an individual with local ties. The individual moved from Southbridge to Oklahoma City where, by his own admission, he was involved in the underground world of illegal street racing. He testified to the fact that he had been involved in such activities for 12 to 14 years.
As a result of the “street creds” established thereby he landed a spot on a Discovery TV reality program called Street Outlaws. The newspaper article described the show thusly: “’Street Outlaws,’ [is an] an Oklahoma City based show that takes a driver’s seat view into the world of illegal street racing….”
Typical of the response I received to my criticism was the following:
Congratulations on your success!! Think that the comments are a little off the subject. . There is clearly a big difference from what Jose Rivera is doing and these punks racing up and down the back roads in town. Give credit where it is due!! Great to bring something positive to Southbridge and show our kids that no dream is too big!! Kudos!!
The following exchange took place between the FaceBook moderator and me:
FaceBook Moderator: Right or wrong; we aren't the judges, jurors or executioners. No matter how he got to future, it is not up to us to hold it against him. He is "NOW" racing legally whatever he did in his past would have been up to judicial system to hold him accountable for. I personally do not like or agree with any drivers racing on any public ways. But if it is legal, permitted and done on closed roads then so be it.
Ken O'Brien: In other words, "The ends justify the means."
FaceBook Moderator: His past discretion has made his present success, so I guess so.
At this point Mr. Rivera apparently felt compelled to defend himself, a task he had previously left to other commenters. He stated,
Jose Rivera: To everyone in Southbridge I want to take the time and say thank you to everyone who read the article, I respect everyone's comments on here, I have been racing for over 15+ years, I have raced at many tracks, and many events, I was blessed with the opportunity to be on a tv show, street racing has been going on for many many years 50+ yrs, my goal in life is to help others out, I am not promoting illegal street racing to anyone, Maybe the story was presented a lil diff to the town, my goal is to help others out and give back to the community, we are hosting diff events in 2014 to help out like.. Wounded warrior soldiers who gave all for our freedom, children's hospitals go put a smile on a kids face, autism help autistic kids with fun stuff to and help out with program, and many more!! As for Cops and Kids and Southbridge my goal is to give back to my home town by donating money to a program that I was lucky enough as a kid enjoy, thanks to officer Rosa, drag racing is a sport that's getting bigger and bigger every year!!! I hope you all understand what my goals in life are, with all due respect to all of you and the town of Southbridge, please don't say I'm not a role model because I'm on a "tv show" if you all have any questions I will be more then happy to answer them!! Don't knock me cause of a show!! Thank you all and look forward to coming home and give back to my town of Southbridge!! Thank you, "FreakinRican" aka Mr.Rivera [emphasis added]
The FaceBook moderator apparently felt that Mr. Rivera had addressed my problem with the whole matter by stating that he was not promoting illegal street racing. The moderator emailed a link to the response they had posted in reply to Mr. Rivera.
FaceBook Moderator: Mr. Jose Rivera thank you for clarifying that you are not promoting "illegal street racing". I would like to wish you the best of luck and be safe. I am sure when you return home to Southbridge you will be welcomed by many, many, fans and supporters and don't sweat the rest.
I replied as follows:
Ken O'Brien: What does the word "disingenuous" mean to you?
Ken O'Brien: Here’s what the Editors of Dragzine Magazine have to say. “The overlying point to be made regarding this and any other street racing-esque television program is that yes, it does indeed promote something that shouldn’t be promoted.” (Dragzine June 28, 2013)
At this point Mr. Rivera became more involved and far less gracious. In several posts he berated me with comments like, “Your [sic] a joke, keep typing away buddy the more you type the better you make me look!!”
I essentially concluded the exchange with the following post:
Ken O'Brien: The newspaper article says, "“In Okalahoma City, racing has been really big underground,” explained Rivera. “I’ve been into it for 12 to 14 years...." Are you saying that all the races you engaged in over that period were legal, sanctioned races. If not - which is what is implied in the article - do you deny that it was engaging in illegal activity that led to your current good fortune?
As I write this nine hours later I still have not received a reply.
That, dear reader, is what I hope is a fair summary of the discussion on the other site. I apologize to those who feel it was belabored, but I have tried to accurately represent the flavor of the conversation.
My original point, to which I will now return, is that the article in the local paper glorifies an individual, a life style and a TV program that extol illegal behavior. It is not my opinion alone. A magazine that covers the sport of drag racing said specifically about Street Outlaws, “The overlying point to be made regarding this and any other street racing-esque television program is that yes, it does indeed promote something that shouldn’t be promoted.”
As many times as Mr. Rivera says that he and his show do not promote illegal street racing, the reality is otherwise.
In addition, he has failed repeatedly to deny that it was an involvement in illegal street racing that brought him to this stage of his life.
In what I can only characterize as an exercise in hubris, he wrote, “Ps, you want something great to blog about? Wait till I come up for the cops and kids and blog about how the FreakinRican came to Southbridge to give back to his home town!!! I bet you won't cause your blogs are all negative... And I'm doing something positive so you won't blog about that!! Have a blessed and great new year sir, Rican out!!!”
There is a concept called “the slippery slope”.
A slippery slope in logic or legal reasoning is a process or series of events that is hard to stop or control once it has begun and that usually leads to worse or more difficult things.
This is precisely the kind of reasoning that Mr. Rivera and his supporters are engaged in. Prior illegal behavior and the promotion of illegal behavior are justified by the fact that it now allows him to do good things.
To illustrate I will cite a far more extreme case that will be familiar to almost all of you. At the outset I want to make it clear that I am not equating Mr. Rivera’s conduct with that of the individual involved in the example. On the other hand, his justification of his conduct is separated from the example only by a matter of degree.
The example I am citing is that of the notorious mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger. He too achieved financial and social success through illegal means. He used a portion of the proceeds of his ill-gotten gains to endear himself to the local community. As WGBH News reported,
Bulger in the 1970s and 80s had a reputation that was both fearsome and simultaneously altruistic: Indeed he was known in parts of working class South Boston as the “Robin Hood” of the community.
Today, some, such as Daria Kinsella, of South Boston, still recall him that way:
“He was good friends with my grandfather and my grandmother. He always helped us out if anything needed,” she said.
Bulger fought hard and dirty to maintain his reputation as a guy you did not want to mess with, and he also nurtured the belief of Whitey Bulger as a beacon of stability in South Boston’s insular community.
I want to repeat that I am not accusing Mr. Rivera of anything as heinous as Mr. Bulger's crimes. I’m sure that there will be those who use that canard to attempt to discredit my argument. Rather I am saying that once you use the argument that giving back to the community absolves you of any culpability for the means used to be able to do so you are indeed on a slippery slope. The only question that remains afterward is what degree of moral turpitude crosses the line into the unacceptable?
So, to those who take solace in characterizing me as being a “hater” or for being overly “negative”, I pose the following question; “Which laws is it alright to break and how many times can one set a bad example in order to achieve the “good life” and be forgiven because one “gives back” to the community?”
I anxiously await your answers.