Coverage of the rare book Murder of a City, Tacoma, starts here.
I’m changing the format of how I write about this book. Reception (and just plain attention) for my blogging on this literary work of weird American history has been much better than I anticipated. I’m very grateful for that, but the narrative form I’d been using was just too time-consuming.
So, I’ve decided to use my technical writing skills and switch it up. I genuinely believe this will better serve most readers, too. You’re here just for the information, so I’ll cut the fluff and get to it. If you’re interested enough at the end, there will be longform content aplenty when I write the book on Crisman.
So, with no further ado, I present Murder of a City, chapter 4:
Murder of a City, Tacoma, Chapter 4 Summary
In this chapter, Crisman mainly expands on painting the political situation of the era, as he sees it. His main concern is with the Soviet Communist element he believes is trying to subvert U.S. culture. For the first time that he recalls, he mentions also that there is also a Far Right element that is far too extreme for his “plebian” tastes.
The political war really ramps up when Slim Rasmussen is denied his bid to replace Rowlands by a 5 to 4 City Council bid.
The Tacoma News Tribune, which Crisman continues to paint as the most nefarious player in this saga, launches a smear campaign to label Rasmussen a racist.
Rasmussen never says anything definitive, but the implication is that he’s ready to counter-punch.
Points of Central Importance in Chapter 4
- Crisman describes more about politician (including future Tacoma mayor) A.L. Rasmussen, but in doing so reveals more about one of his peculiar tendencies. Rasmussen is unerringly idealized in every representation.
Whether it’s intentional on Crisman’s part (meaning, if Murder of a City was indeed a work of straight-up propaganda and not a legitimate journalistic account) or simply an aspect of his character, everyone in the book is described in the extreme. They’re either morally perfect or completely reprehensible, heroes or villains, no in between.
- Crisman claims Rasmussen was a liberal and a Democrat, but that he wasn’t “Far Left” enough to satisfy his political opponents, and so was smeared by the Tacoma New Tribune.
- The city council is narrowly split (5 to 4) on whether to use the City Management form of governance, or to go with the minority Rasmussen-led alliance.
- Crisman reveals his greater fears of the influence of Communism on American life of the 1960s. He is unambiguous in his assertion that this influence is intentionally malicious and designed to undermine American society.
- Crisman leaves us with his meeting with Rasmussen. Crisman has come to let him know that his enemies are labeling him a racist in order to destroy his reputation. Rasmussen twirls in his seat and says, “If this goes on…” without finishing the sentence.
Important/Interesting Lesser Points of Murder of a City, Tacoma, Chapter 4
- The parallels with recent American history have become almost freakish. As Crisman prepares to take on the establishment with his pirate radio station, á la Alex Jones, he declares, “It never really occurred to [The Tacoma News Tribune] that they could lose this election.”
Replace The Tacoma News Tribune with CNN or MSNBC, and you’ve got 2016 all over again (but 50 years earlier).
- Crisman reasserts that he did nothing to help Rasmussen’s campaign, despite rumors that he did indeed write all of his material. This can be true, or it can again fit into the opposite narrative (I strive to avoid speculation in this stage of research), and in doing so fit another possible tendency of Crisman’s: coming out first with derogatory or inflammatory accusations about himself (rather than hiding them) and thereby controlling the narrative.
While I’m not a politician (thank God), my understanding is that this technique is fairly common among those in that world.
- Marshall Riconosuito returns, with Crisman explaining that he’d been assigned urban renewal adviser.
- Crisman and KAYE radio arrange to live-broadcast all city council meetings, which prevents them from continuing to slant their decisions without justification.
- Interesting, opinionated perspective on the now-ubiquitous but then-new field of “human relations” (or HR as we mostly know it as today). “For the most part,” Crisman says, “these boards simply worsened conditions as they arose and stirred up problems that never existed.”
- Crisman gives Lynn Hodges a backhanded complement by saying that rumors of his Communist affiliation had to be untrue because, “he was never capable of the self-discipline that a good, well-trained Communist must have.” In looking up Hodges, I found on the Tacoma Historical Society website that Hodges was named first executive director of human relations for the city of Tacoma on May 31, 1967. Crisman seems to be earnestly defending the man’s reputation, saying there’s no way he’s a Communist.
- Crisman says that he finds himself unwanted by both sides of the war, because he isn’t extreme enough for the Far Right and is ideologiclaly opposed to the Communist Far Left. He continues to assert that he is not part of any side of the conflict. He just wants justice.