The Harris Column
Unwelcome messenger, unwelcome message
By Samuel J. Harris
Putnam Pit columnist

COOKEVILLE, Tenn -- On Thursday, February 17, 2000, Geoff Davidian addressed the City Council meeting about an e-mail purportedly from Bob Terry, e-mail address:, to among others Bill "Hoot" Gibson. The e-mail included an attachment picture of a cigar placed only where Bill Clinton would place one. It was arguably sexually perverse and demeaning to decent people, male or female. As a proponent of the First Amendment, I would certainly argue that Bob Terry was well within his constitutional rights to forward pornography (I don't think this picture involved an underage individual).

Davidian has obtained numerous e-mails from City Hall because these correspondences should rightfully be deemed public records. The City states that the Internet is for business purposes. Davidian also has been contacted by Cookevillians who are concerned about the viewing of pornography by high-ranking officials such as the Chief of Police. Therefore, Davidian acted as a messenger to the City Council.

The reaction was predictable. SHOOT THE MESSENGER. Here, Davidian was giving the "heads up" to City Hall to clean up their act so that the City would not be open to a lawsuit suggesting a hostile sexual environment. Did the City Council address what is arguably a serious, legal and, in some eyes, immoral problem with the Chief of Police acting so juvenile?


Harold Jackson was the best. Without saying anything substantive, he called Davidian a liar. Several times, I believe. Search the Pit archives, but Davidian has never written that Harold Jackson bribed his way out of any problems. Interesting, Mr. Jackson, that you construed his articles in this way. Do you have some additional information or knowledge that would lead a person to conclude bribery was involved. Thanks for the video, though. It won't be hard to show the contemptible attitude of the City Council toward the Putnam Pit in court. Still, Mr. Jackson, I think Mr. Davidian wanted you to address the issue at hand. He politely offered to inform the City Council about pornography on the City's computers, but you could only react in a negative way.

Steve Copeland, I believe, responded with real heartfelt concern. Mr. Copeland asked whether Davidian had found a redeeming quality about the City of Cookeville. Mr. Copeland, I think there have been positives written about Cookeville in the Putnam Pit. Call me, if you ever want to talk about them. Still you made the issue the viewpoint of the Pit rather than directly discuss what Davidian had put before you.

Mr. Grogan, I don't object to you placing your religious values above other principles. I would ask you to replay Davidian's address to City Council and ask in your heart how Davidian was being negative. It was City Council that brought up previous stories. You took his comments about you being a Bible thumper as being positive and something you were proud of. So I guess you've addressed Mr. Copeland's concerns as well as Mr. Jackson's. Davidian said something positive and truthful about you. Review the videotape before you attack Mr. Davidian and ask yourself if he did not approach the Council in a reasonable and polite manner.

Gentlemen, when you gain the courage to address the real problems, and not attack those whose viewpoints you disagree with, then you will know the secret to getting Davidian out of your political hair. I have argued with Davidian on almost every occasion I have ever met with him. In California, we almost started punching each other. Nonetheless, I tolerate his views, right or wrong, because I know that tolerance of viewpoints only sharpens my own. I always hope I can live with the truth; fear of the truth must lead to a desperate and meaningless life. I try not to give mere lip service to this principle; I try to live like I mean what I say.

I know Davidian will allow any member of the City Council to address issues in the Putnam Pit. Sure he will rebut, debate, ridicule, and lampoon every word sent. Can the truth of the words of the City Council stand up to the challenge? Do any of you have the courage to say what you mean and mean what you say? You would not allow me, a citizen of Cookeville to speak after Mr. Davidian spoke, I forgive you. I also extend the courtesy of allowing you to respond to any matter of interest or concern in these pages.

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