As a card-carrying member of the evil media, I’ll acknowledge being a little out of touch, but there’s one thing you civilians do that has always bugged me. And that’s the insistence that when terrible crimes are committed, it’s somehow wrong to pay any attention to those who perpetrate them.
Seriously, I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard people claim that it was wrong to put O.J. Simpson on the cover of some newsmagazine, or Tim McVeigh, or anyone other than, oh, Osama bin Laden. (Funny how this rule is suspended for certain terrorists.) Sometimes this goes to extremes; one of the best criticisms I read about the Oklahoma City memorial was that McVeigh is barely mentioned, and his cause not at all. We wouldn’t want to offend the families of victims, who don’t want to see him mentioned.
How such an unspeakable tragedy can happen in a vacuum escapes me. And I don’t think O.J. killed his wife and another man to get on the cover of Time magazine. But that’s how people think, and all I can do is argue.
This came up because Alan and I watched “Tower” on Saturday, an interesting and excellent documentary on the sniper shootings from the University of Texas tower in 1966. (Last year was the 50th anniversary.) The film uses actors, and the animation technique known as rotoscoping. This gives you the effect of hearing young people describe a 50-year-old incident, which gives it a sense of immediacy. It also covers up for the lack of contemporary footage – contemporary with 1966, that is. There’s some of that, but it being the era before cell phones and video, there’s not enough to make a whole movie from it.
But here’s what’s missing: Charles Whitman. I believe his name is mentioned once, and there’s zero discussion of his motivations, admittedly oblique. So what? So this: As these hideous incidents pile up, an amazingly consistent throughline is emerging – domestic violence. In fact, Whitman’s first act, before he climbed the tower, was to kill his wife and mother-in-law.
So when you say you don’t want to “glorify” killers, consider what else you’re doing, i.e., turning your back on knowledge that may be valuable in the future.
Last year I did a story on human trafficking, and one of the advocates made a comment that’s stuck with me; that is, that human trafficking is, in terms of public awareness and understanding, approximately where domestic violence was 30 years ago. The better we understand the link between domestic and mass violence, the better prepared we’ll be to put a stop to the next one.
But we can’t do that if we act like it’s somehow wrong to talk about the men — and it’s always men, at least so far — who perpetrate these things, that won’t happen.
It’s a good movie. On iTunes. Recommended.
Man, this week started at a gallop, and it’s still galloping. Worked last night, worked a little tonight, gonna work on the usual schedule all week because you all know what comes on Friday, right?
And today I drove back and forth to Ann Arbor. In a driving rain. I listened to a Chapo Trap House podcast, a Pod Save America podcast, and missed the day’s big news – the
pardon commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence. What should we think of this?
The Obamas have started their move, evidently.
And that’s all I got. Back to work.