“The Klavaliers Rise to a Fall”, taken from The Klan Unmasked by Stetson Kennedy, begins from the perspective of the author. He has befriended a group of Klu Klux Klan members who are planning an attack on a black cab driver, masquerading as a fellow member named Perkins.
The piece is written in the first person narrative form and offers readers an inside perspective of group dynamics in the KKK as well as the dangers of infiltrating that group. While writing from this perspective helps validate and verify the sources of direct quotes and events, it also crosses the line of objectivity in journalism that Kovach and Rosenstiel support in their text. They state that “personal and cultural biases [should] not undermine the accuracy of…work” and yet in “The Klavaliers Rise to a Fall” there is an obvious bias from the author against the KKK (Kovach & Rosenstiel 82). Kennedy continually uses phrases that support his bias against the group, stating that he was “completely frustrated” and “felt like vomiting” from “[his] disgust” during the attack (Shapiro 258, 259). The last sentence of the piece also holds obvious bias as the author states that he swore to himself that “James Martin… was not going to be buried” with only a one-inch obituary (Shapiro 260).
While I fully respect the opinion of the author against the KKK and the values that they preach, as a reader I felt that Kennedy was completely biased and showed no objectivity towards the events he reported as a journalist. The article gave no room for reader interpretation or perceptions of their own opinion for or against the KKK.
Creed of the Klanswoman
In Stetson Kennedy’s article we see him start the article not with a clever one-liner, but instead with a quote that leaves the reader with no other option than to keep on going. How does Kennedy keep the reader engaged with his sweet quotation? Good question….with the quotation Kennedy has chosen he puts the reader in the middle of a situation without explaining how we got there. Much like a maze we have to read our way out. Kennedy keeps the reader too engaged to read their way out and then stop- this is partially because of the nature of the story and partially because Kennedy is doing his job well. One of my favorite lines was when Kennedy is describing the woman given the job of climbing into the cab. His engaging brilliance is put on display with the line, “She’s a Klanswoman, all right, I said to myself, and I’ll bet she knows how to use the pistol in her purse” (Shapiro, 255) I think the line is meant to show people are rarely what they look like on the outside. Alluding to the fact that anyone around you can be in the Klan. Because I am from south Georgia, this resonates with me. My entire family on my mom’s side has lived in Macon Georgia for over a hundred years, so Kennedy’s depiction of the Klan fascinated me. The descriptions of Atlanta were interesting too as my dad grew up there and I have visited it a lot. The Klan is still present in the area around where I live but most of the photos I have seen of them show them doing community service etc. The people shown in this investigative piece are the people I see every day in my community. One part that interested me was Kennedy’s deep engagement in Klan activity. I found it interesting that he participated in their schemes and activities. I didn’t have a moral problem with it, I just found it interesting to see how that participation interacted with his depictions of the Klan in his writing. The integration of oneself as a journalist is something I think very interesting and would like to do myself. The idea of remaining objective is almost obliterated because the journalist is in so deep. This is also seen with Julian Sher who lived deep within the motorcycle gang Hell’s Angels. I am planning on reading Kennedy’s entire book because I know my dad owns it. (This is his area of study) Kennedy creates an engaging and moving piece of reading by his integration of quotations, imagery, and experience. Good move Kennedy, good move.
Klan Wedding 2000's- from Modern Day Klan Photojournal