The supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal can work up a teeth-gnashing hate when they run across someone who isn't convinced that the convicted cop killer is the victim of a massive racist and political frame-up.
The way they see it, if you don't accept their version of the truth, you are a white racist, a fascist, a fawning tool of the establishment, senile, feeble-minded, brain-dead, just plain stupid, or all of the above.
It's almost like waking up and finding yourself back in the name-calling 1960s.
But I suppose that type of passion is to be expected, since Mumia -- a former Black Panther and public radio journalist -- has become world-renowned as a victim of American racism and treachery.
Not every American convict is elevated to hero status by literary and academic elites of Paris, London, Rome, Berlin and New York. Or such Hollywood legal scholars as Ed Asner and Whoopi Goldberg.
And let us not forget Ft. Wayne, Ind., where a disdainful Josh Klugman wrote:
"It is inexcusable for you to offer up such brain-dead opinions on subjects you know nothing about and where a man's life hangs in the balance."
Or Mildred Avenue in Chicago, where a contemptuous Michael Serpe writes: "You are so far removed from reality it's pathetic. I think you must have had one highball too many. That is the drink of choice for the dinosaur generation, isn't it?"
Or as David Frazer, of Rollinsville, Colo., says: "Why don't you use both hands to jam your head right up . . ." and so on.
Insults aside, I'm impressed by the number of people -- here and abroad -- who know so much about what really, REALLY happened one night in Philadelphia when a young cop was gunned down.
They know far more than the jury that took only four hours to find Mumia guilty in 1982. They know more than the reporters at the Philadelphia Inquirer, a fine paper, who have sifted through testimony and the evidence. They probably know more than the judges who will hear Mumia's appeal.
These people seem to really know how ridiculous it is to think that Mumia was convicted of killing the cop based on such flimsy and faked evidence.
Consider what is known to have happened the night in question:
A cop was giving a ticket to Mumia's brother, William Cook. They argued and got into a tussle.
Mumia, who also drove a cab, happened to arrive. How he happened to be there isn't known. Just luck, I guess.
There were gunshots. The cop was found dead on the street. His gun had been fired.
A few feet away, Mumia was found wounded by a bullet from the cop's gun. Near him was his own .38.
A witness said a guy wearing dreadlocks ran up and shot the cop. Mumia, who used to be Wesley Cook, wore dreadlocks.
Is that convincing?
I thought so. But then I received a stunning piece of information from dozens of Mumia's admirers.
As a Elaine Graham of Chicago said: "You senile fool. How could he have killed the policeman when his gun was a .38 and an expert identified the bullet in the policeman as a .44? Why don't you look at the trial records, or are you too far gone to do that?"
A very knowing Charles Rosenberg of Evanston said: "I would like to point out one fact. As you say, he had a .38-caliber gun in his possession. But the court records show that the policeman was shot with .44-caliber bullets. Isn't that a good deal of reasonable doubt?"
Reasonable doubt? It is more than that. It is so powerful a piece of evidence of Mumia's innocence that he should be released immediately and given a full pardon.
If it's true. But I don't think it is.
What the records show is that a medical examiner said a bullet that shattered in the cop might have been a .44.
But he didn't testify about the bullet because (a) he isn't a ballistics expert and (b) he said he really wasn't sure.
However, a genuine ballistics expert did testify. And he was sure. He said the bullet in the cop's body was a .38.
So I guess the information being passed around by Mumia's admirers isn't all that shocking because it isn't all that true.
The fact is, they don't offer much in the way of new evidence. Or even interesting old evidence.
To this day, Mumia hasn't testified, nor has his brother. They have never told a reporter -- even a friendly radical scribbler -- what really happened that night.
What Mumia's supporters have is a shared belief that Mumia was somehow framed by white America because he was a journalist (part-time) and a former Black Panther.
Maybe. But maybe he was just a hot-tempered guy who thought a cop was beating up his brother.
And maybe this is just another case of a glitzy crowd falling head over heels for another jail-house author.
They ought to get together, put on some beads, and have a 1960s nostalgia party.