When a Phantom Becomes a Critic: The Case of
By: Theodore T. Hodge
Within the last few days, I wrote an article commenting on the sex scandal rocking Liberia; a sex scandal based on a lewd photo of the presidential minister with two sexual partners. It is apparent that most Liberians who have chosen to comment on the issue find the actions of the minister so terribly horrifying that they would prefer to see him vacate the national stage in his capacity. I must admit there is validity and reasonableness in this line of thought. To jump to the conclusion, after viewing the photo, that the minister has abused his office and should immediately resign or be fired by the president, is fair and reasonable from one perspective. But shouldn’t our new society be fair enough to allow for differences in thought and opinion? Should a fellow citizen be indicted and subjected to uncivil and licentious attacks just for expressing and supporting a contrary view? This seems to be the case, even among those who claim to love their country and their fellow citizens --- those calling for a new democratic Liberia.
A fellow Liberian, writing under the assumed name of Worwlee Zuo, launched a scathing and baseless attack on me simply because she happens to disagree with me. Her article was published under the heading: “Demolishing the Pro-Knuckles Mercenary Writing: A Rally to the Defense of the Dignity of Liberian Womanhood”, carried by Front Page Africa on February 21, 2007. It would be fair and acceptable for this fellow citizen to have disagreed with my ideas as vigorously as she wished, and it is a matter of record that many have already done so. But is it necessary to resort to character assassination and baseless charges in such a debate? Is it not at the height of intellectual dishonesty to stoop to such a level?
To begin with, Mrs. Worwlee Zuo should have been honest enough to tell her audience that for the sake of anonymity, she was using an assumed name. It took a bit of investigative work to come to the conclusion that the woman calling herself Worwlee Zuo did not go to school in Ganta, as she claims. As a matter of fact, she has probably never set foot in Ganta. She comes from a prominent Liberian family of high elitist Monrovia stock, bearing a prominent name. She went to elite schools in Liberia such as B.W. Harris, CWA and Ricks Institute. Why is there a need to lie about growing up in Ganta? She also creates a fictitious family, claiming to have two daughters aged 9 and twelve. This is a bold-faced and blatant lie! Are we supposed to believe someone who lies about her own identity just to demolish the character of another?
Here is the challenge, Mrs. Zuo wannabe: My name is Theodore Hodge, I hail from Maryland County and went to Bishop Ferguson High School in Harper. It is a matter of public record how long I’ve been in America and where I live now. I have written a number of articles, some of them with critical acclaim and others not so well received. One thing that has remained constant is that I do sign all my work with my legal signature, Theodore T. Hodge and I’m ready to prove my identity. Can you make the same claim? If so, how would you like to meet me for a public debate? Mrs. Zuo, I resent your tactics of attempted character assassination as well as intellectual blasphemy. If you must make such wild claims, why aren’t you woman enough to use your real name instead of hiding behind an assumed name?
I would not have taken the time to issue this public challenge to Mrs. Zuo had she not gone over the required limits or parameters of a civil discourse, but she did. She began by referring to me in the heading of her piece as a “Pro-Knuckles Mercenary Writer”. In her opening paragraph, she refers to me as an “intellectual mercenary and a pseudo-journalist who stupidly defends an indefensible and licentious act.” In a latter paragraph, she refers to my mind as being “warped” and “my judgment impaired”. Maybe such serious assertions should simply de dismissed because the lady herself admits that she is “emotional”. Yes, that she is an emotional wreck is indisputable, what is left to be determined is the extent of her emotional crisis; I shall leave that to a certified psychoanalyst to determine. Let’s examine her arguments here:
Mrs. Zuo strongly rebukes Mr. Knuckles for “victimizing Liberian women and using them as sex slaves for pittance.” Rightfully, she abhors such a practice and she gallantly comes to the rescue of Liberian women by denouncing the act. Well, who would publicly argue against such a stance? Certainly not I. Mrs. Zuo should be applauded for taking such a noble stand. But she betrays her mental state by writing in the same paragraph: “If that photograph had shown Mr. Knuckles having sex with a single girl, I would have had nothing much to say, because I know many Liberian men who maintain healthy extramarital affairs with young women and some of these women grow up to become responsible citizens”.
Imagine the shock! This woman accuses me of having a warped mind but goes on to defend “healthy extramarital affairs with young women because some of the women grow up to become responsible citizens”. Would this self-described women’s rights defender recommend her daughter to partake in such “healthy marital affairs” or is this to be relegated to the poor women of the ghettos and slums of Liberia? It is easy to see how a warped mind (to use her term) can develop such idiotic and illogical arguments.
The woman then goes off on a tangent discussing the issue of sodomy in great detail. But the prudent mind wonders: Does the still photo under discussion depict an act of sodomy, per the definition? Obviously, judging from what the naked eye can see, the evidence is sketchy and inconclusive, but that doesn’t stop our resident analyst from jumping to conclusions. I would think that it is unnecessary to discuss the details of the actions of those portrayed in the photo or even judge their motives. That such a photo surfaced at all is a disgrace to many involved but the details must be left to the proper authorities to analyze; jumping to any unbaked conclusions now could be jeopardizing or trivializing the issue at hand.
Finally, I find it quite unfortunate that precious time has been diverted to deal with the messenger instead of the issue. The issue under discussion is the sex scandal, not my reputation. I have a reasonably good education and I have never referred to myself as an intellectual or a journalist. As a matter of fact, I have issued the disclaimer time and time again; to resort to impugning my reputation only to make a point is intellectual dishonesty, especially since Mrs. Worwlee Zuo knows the truth. I am most certainly not a mercenary writer. I am not on the payroll of the government of Liberia, the president or Presidential Minister Willis Knuckles. I must repeat here: To make such baseless claims without bothering to present proof is a serious defamation of character. It is unfair for an anonymous person to hide in a closet and make such charges against me. I have worked very hard to establish my reputation and I hereby challenge the writer using the pen name Worwlee Zuo to identify herself and come forth to substantiate these baseless charges.
Let the record show that I did not defend Mr. Knuckles’ actions. I only expressed the view that I don’t think it should cost him his job. I also expressed the opinion that we must wonder about the issue of privacy. Was Mr. Knuckles’ privacy invaded? Mr. Knuckles accused Representative Snowe and his wife of masterminding a plot to extort political favors from him through blackmail. I’m of the opinion that the issue raised by the minister should not be swept under the rug just because he was caught with his pants down. I stand behind that viewpoint.
I also expressed the belief that Mr. Knuckles owes his wife and family an apology for the disrepute he has brought to them, but I disagree with the moral police who think that such personal indiscretions should automatically lead to drastic actions against an accused, even for the first time. Many will not agree with my view, but I hold the view and I should be respected and allowed to express an independent opinion; I am nobody’s clone and should not be expected to adopt anybody’s line of thought. Respecting and allowing such individual freedom is the only way forth for the new Liberia we all seem to want to build. We fought against a dictator and dethroned him, we must not submit to a new form of tyranny. We must say no to intellectual dishonesty and the attempt to suppress the freedom of speech.
Final warning: If Mrs. Worwlee Zuo ignores my challenge to come clean with her identity, she should automatically lose all credibility, assuming she had any in the first place. In lieu of coming clean with her identity, I do expect a public apology from her, in which case she does not need to identify herself; she may continue to be clothed in anonymity as long as comes clean. If neither of these conditions is met in due course, I will be bold enough to tell my reading public exactly who I think she is. Once I have revealed her identity, it would be left to her to sue me if she thinks I’m lying. Stay tuned as this drama unfolds.
Editor's Note: Worwlee Zuo's article was sent to The Perspective via Yahoo e-mail address on February 20, 2007. On February 21, 2007, The Perspective instructed the author to go to the following URL and re-submit the article: http://www.theperspective.org/submittingarticles.html. The procedure at the above URL, among other things, requires the author's real name, mailing address and phone number. Since then, we have not heard from the author of the article. Due to the author's failure to provide the necessary contact information, the article was not queued for review.