What makes an overdrawn bank account newsworthy?

by Paula Jean, WHAT’S UP?! Core Committee member

This response to publicity about Brandi Fisher’s financial business started from a place of personal familiarity with overdrawn accounts and financial mistakes. Full disclosure: I hear from a collection agency or receive a late notice on a bill just about every month, for my own reasons that may or may not have any relation to Ms. Fisher’s. When I read Liz Navratil’s article detailing the Alliance for Police Accountability’s (APA) recent financial struggles, I felt frustrated. I also felt a lot of empathy with Fisher herself, and her present situation.

Dealing with checks can be fraught business. Consider the investment that went into developing technological solutions from Visa to Paypal to Bitcoin, because people so broadly desired an alternative to troublesome transactions with checks. Overdrawing an account, too, is a mistake that anyone could make, and one that many, including myself, have made. Often. In 2012 alone, Forbes magazine reports that banks took in $32 billion in overdraft fees. This figure represents the fact that the individual accounting melt-down is a massively commonplace phenomenon. People out there in working and middle class communities of this country, I know you feel me.

So what makes an overdrawn bank account newsworthy? Considering the normalcy of checking errors and overdrafts, the only real intent that writer Liz Navratil could have in publicizing this incident must be to put Fisher’s credibility on the chopping block. It’s part of a distasteful tradition. The president of the APA dares to shed light on injustice and misconduct within institutions of authority, so those who don’t like her work choose to expose her personal affairs in an attempt to discredit her formidable accomplishments. Just think of how often this happens to others— whistleblowers, for example— who are willing to rock the boat. To everyone’s detriment, it is those who toe the line and accept the dehumanization of participating in unjust systems who are rewarded the privilege of overdrawing their bank accounts in peaceful privacy.

Navratil’s attempt at character assassination is no small matter. Rebecca Solnit describes just how important the issue is, writing that “credibility is a basic survival tool,” especially in situations involving legal systems. Despite the lowness of the blow, this article’s petty attack will not prevail. A financial jam does not make Fisher a lesser person, no matter how many people know about her situation. This classic Ad hominem logical fallacy won’t change the real issue on the table: the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police has significant issues to reckon with, especially regarding what even Police Chief Cameron McLay has described as the “disparate impact [of policing] on communities of color.”

Brandi Fisher’s work with the Alliance for Police Accountability remains powerful and necessary. News of an overdrawn account cannot cause the profoundly damaging racial disparities in Pittsburgh’s law enforcement to disappear. The overblown charges against Fisher may themselves prove to be another case in point.

Follow the APA on twitter-  @apa_pgh & facebook – https://www.facebook.com/APAPGH

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