Gerry Spence Is Dead?


The headline of this piece alone will prompt a spike in readership of this page. Gerry Spence casts a long shadow. He has admirers from one coast to coast. Silent lovers will ponder these words and write secret notes to others. They will ask. Is it true?

Is Gerry Spence dead?

He stepped down as president of the Trial Lawyers College this past summer. Several of us raised a storm by questioning the financial arrangements underlying the college. Was it really true that the Spence Foundation, controlled, you guessed it, by Spence and family members, held a revocable lease for the college's ranch in DuBois, Wyoming? Were contributors misled about where their donations were going? I raised the questions here, and, so far as I know, they've never been answered.

I let the topic go on the theory that what others do with their funds is their own business. It really isn't my problem. So I dropped it, and moved on.

But I do from time to time check Spence's blog page, however. Every couple of weeks I check in to see what he is writing about and to read the comments on his page. He has a passionate following.

The other day a piece appeared on his blog that began with the following line: "We are the new slaves, enslaved by the Corporate King." My first thought? Isn't that the theme of the books he was writing 10, 15 and 20 years ago?

So I ask you, Is Gerry Spence dead? Has someone at the college taken to writing faux-Spence posts, reworking old wine and trying to pour it into new bottles? Isn't this the same old neo-populism?

We are slaves, he says. We have lost our freedom to big corporations and a government grown unresponsive. But I wonder, really, when and whether we have ever been free. There were slaves by nature in Aristotle's time; and Christians were sometimes fed to the lions to entertain Rome. When the barbarians came crashing into town, centuries of darkness set it: serfs found security in the service of temporal lords. But these chains were shaken with the rise of nation states, and the world convulsed. Industrialism transformed the way we live. Computers now have hastened the pace of change to a steady whir. During these past few giddy centuries we've gone from the disenfranchised to wage-slaves, and then to consumer-slaves yoked like small dots on grids we cannot discern. Somehow this entire sweep seems steeped less something less than freedom.

I don't fault Spence his populist rants. But I wince when the wealthy preach to those without means. We are all slaves, a man preaches from the safety of his pleasure palace. Are those platinum chains I hear rattling as he pecks at his keyboard? Or is it someone writing in his stead.

I ask again, is Gerry Spence dead? I think not. The flesh is willing, but the spirit seems weak.

Comments: (1)

  • What's worse is to read this right after I read th...
    What's worse is to read this right after I read that Fredi Sison and Mary Peckham were fired from TLC staff. (Don't know if it's true yet, but hope to report on it shortly)
    BTW, Spence hosted ranch club members during a ranch club only weekend at his, sorry, TLC's, ranch last fall.
    I don't know if this was a reward for those who signed up to donate $100 a month for 10 years or, instead, a method of establishing consideration in case past members tried to stop what they may have thought of as voluntary donations to the college. (i.e. "Jude, I don't like the way you treated Fredi and I want to stop my ranch club donations." Jude: "You made a 10 year commitment, with special perks, you can't just quit without violating the contract.")
    What's clear is that Spence's organization, while railing against corporate greed, has set up a sort of "skybox" that the commoners in the group can't enter. There's even a lapel pin that denotes your Ranch Club status!
    When you read Gerry's rantings about the horrors of the modern corporation, with knowledge about how he operates his organization, it brings to mind the Russian Proverb "choose your enemies carefully for you will become like them" to mind.
    How sad. The man has had an amazing effect on my life, through his books, his organization and the people I've met through it. But his rantings on corporate greed, that used to be instructive in themselves, now demonstrate how important it is to believe your eyes over your ears, actions over words on a blog.
    Posted on February 6, 2010 at 11:56 am by David Tarrell

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