What’s unspoken.

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.

Just sayin’.

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.

Posted at 8:31 pm in Movies |

42 responses to “What’s unspoken.”

  1. alex said on January 17, 2017 at 8:50 pm

    Well, maybe Assange can come home to a Republican tongue bath now, if he really wants it, and Chelsea can get a fer real snatch.

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  2. David C. said on January 17, 2017 at 8:51 pm

    Just a correction. Chelsea Manning had her sentence commuted, she wasn’t pardoned.

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    • nancy said on January 17, 2017 at 9:56 pm

      Right you are. Fixed.

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  3. Sherri said on January 17, 2017 at 11:47 pm

    I think commuting Manning’s sentence was the right call. The original sentence was excessive and way out of line with any prior cases.

    Assange isn’t going to budge an inch out of his Ecuadorian embassy sanctuary. He’s never been been charged with anything in the US, and was unlikely to be. Staying where he is let’s him play the martyr and keeps him safe from those pesky rape charges. He can claim that really, he’d be happy to face the charges if only he weren’t afraid of extradition to the US.

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  4. Sherri said on January 18, 2017 at 12:23 am

    Evidently Betsy DeVos had quite the day in hearings today, not knowing the difference between testing for growth or proficiency, not understanding that disability education requirements were federal law, and suggesting that one reason for having guns in schools would be to keep the grizzlies out.


    Not that it will matter. Lamar Alexander, a former Education Secretary himself, seems determined to grease the skids for her.

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  5. ROGirl said on January 18, 2017 at 4:41 am

    I think it’s easier for people to just label these killers as “monsters” instead of really examining their motivations in terms of control issues and domestic violence. It removes that huge topic from the table, separating the real danger of domestic violence from the private realm to what erupts into mass public tragedy.

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  6. Suzanne said on January 18, 2017 at 8:29 am

    It seems silly to not name the killers in stories about, well, killers. I think it serves as a reminder that these people are our neighbors, co-workers, friends, even, and that there is some sort of evil lurking in each one of us. Will some nut job look at the coverage and think, “If I go shoot up the mall, I’ll be a celebrity”? Maybe. John Hinkley was set off by Jodie Foster, so a person who would do a mass killing could be set off by just about anything. Usually, we discover that there were signs all along that were ignored or help was sought and none found. Do we memorialize the victims enough? Perhaps not, but when there are 30 or 40, that is difficult to do.

    OH my, Betsy DeVoss! Guns should maybe be allowed in school because once a bear got into a school out west!?!?! Well, there you go. Logic 101.

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  7. basset said on January 18, 2017 at 8:42 am

    Seems to me, having been part of the evil media for awhile and fielded some of the angry phone calls, that a substantial part of our population thinks putting something on TV or in print implies some kind of approval. “Glorifying” was the description I heard several times, PO’d caller to the news room would demand to know why we was glorifyin’ somebody or other.

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  8. Connie said on January 18, 2017 at 9:07 am

    My schedule has been galloping for months and yesterday I opened my shiny new 35,000 sq ft library building. Whew, sit down Connie, take a break. It’s not really done as a chunk of the furniture has yet to arrive. But we met the artificial deadline set by the politicians and we all survived. If you have any interest in pictures, https://www.facebook.com/CommerceLibrary/ .

    basset, people think that about library collections too. Just because your library has Ann Coulter’s book doesn’t mean the library or library staff approve of or are pushing Ann Coulter.

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  9. Diane said on January 18, 2017 at 9:26 am

    Congratulations Connie! What a lot of work and what an awesome thing for your community!

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  10. Deborah said on January 18, 2017 at 9:28 am

    Connie, is that a fireplace in your library? That’s cool. It looks like a flexible space that can be use for lots of things. Smart.

    I think commuting Chelsea Manning’s sentence was a good thing too. Now I hope Obama pardons Bowe Bergdahl before it’s over. That poor guy doesn’t deserve to spend time in prison after what he went through. Listen to season 2 of Serial if you’re interested in that case.

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  11. Randy said on January 18, 2017 at 9:34 am

    Here in the Great White North, a Shark has left the tank and entered the Canadian Conservative Party’s leadership race:

    He entered the race the day after the French-language leadership debate. To his credit(?) he was blunt and said he did that on purpose, since his French is not that great. Tell that to 30% of the country’s population. Mind you, he will only need about 40% of the popular vote to win the next election…

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  12. brian stouder said on January 18, 2017 at 10:10 am

    Connie – what Diane and Deborah said!

    We love our downtown library, as I’m sure your patrons will love yours. Generally, on any given weekend when I say to the young folks “Say, let’s go to the library!” I get one or two takers. It’s a lively space, and things are goin’ on

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  13. BItter Scribe said on January 18, 2017 at 11:35 am

    It’s not just glorifying killers. People resent the news media for “exploiting tragedy” when they do basic stuff like trying to get a statement from loved ones. They then proceed to lap up every single word.

    The flipside is political partisans, usually on the right, bitching that the media is “suppressing” this or that information. Of course, it’s information that they would never had known about if it hadn’t come to their attention through the media.

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  14. Peter said on January 18, 2017 at 11:53 am

    First off, congratulations Connie! Although I’d be careful about the fireplace – you don’t want to make it too handy for Betsy Devos and her biddies to burn books.

    Speaking of which – was that Joe Lieberman next to and/or behind her during the hearing? He reminded me of Larry King sitting behind the plate when the Dodgers were playing the Cubs in the playoffs. All Joe needed to complete that scene was a chili dog, a young lady sitting next to him, and someone to wipe his mouth every so often.

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  15. Sherri said on January 18, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    Oh yes, that was Joe. He introduced DeVos, extolling her as having the most important qualification for the job, not coming from the education establishment.


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  16. FDChief said on January 18, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    I think the whole issue of “glorifying the killer” depends on 1) the crime itself and 2) what you’re trying to do with the story.

    I haven’t seen the dramatization of the shootings you’re talking about, Nancy, but as a GI I have a sort of left-skew on it. It’s a sniper story.

    Snipers are feared and hated by GIs for the same reason that mines and artillery are feared and hated; they are like a sort of force-of-nature, like lightning from a clear sky. It’s almost impossible to foresee where and when they will attack you, when they do it’s nearly impossible to be sure how to defend or protect yourself. Unless you actually SEE either the muzzle flash – and that’s damn near impossible unless you’re looking right at the sniper’s firing position when he shoots – or see the rounds actually hit someone or something it’s often damn deadly difficult to tell where the person is firing from.

    So…in a sense, if the story you’re telling is the story of the targets the shooter doesn’t matter. So far as they’re concerned suddenly death just starts dropping from the sky. That’s what it’s like. You dive behind whatever cover you can find (hoping that the cover is actually between you and the sniper) and hope to hell that someone is calling for artillery on EVERY SINGLE FUCKING BUILDING and tree and hole and everywhere ELSE the sonofabitch may be hiding. You don’t meve…because you don’t know where the dude is and whether he can get his rifle onto you before you can get behind the next hard cover or even if the cover will work as cover…because you don’t know where the dude is

    Now…if you’re telling the story of the shooter…that’s different. But you wouldn’t care about the “motivation” of a tsunami or a volcano, right? To the person in the crosshairs, that’s what a sniper is like.

    Which is why, BTW, that VERY few snipers make it to the POW cage. Regular grunts don’t like ’em much. Even our own snipers are more respected for their skills than loved. They’re an odd breed.

    Oh, and FYI, here’s Fred Kaplan with a good breakdown of the Manning commutation and how it bears on Snowden:


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  17. FDChief said on January 18, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    And I wish I could post this here…but I’ll post the link:


    Grizzlies. Sure.

    As Damon Wayans said: “You don’t be sellin’ no fuckin’ Amway?”

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  18. Scout said on January 18, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    Grizzlies. FFS.


    “As nearly as I can tell, the nominees for the president-elect’s Cabinet fall into several different categories. There are the people you’d pretty much expect from any Republican administration. (James Mattis, Stephen Flynn, Ryan Zinke). There are the people who understand the mission of their departments and have spent their lives undermining it. (Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, Rick Perry at Energy, Andrew Puzder at Labor). And there are the people who are fundamentally clueless about the general nature of public service. (Rex Tillerson at State.) On Tuesday night, DeVos demonstrated that she is that rarest of Trump administration fauna: Someone who fits capably into all three categories.”

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  19. Sherri said on January 18, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    It’s possible to believe that commuting Manning’s sentence is just, that pardoning Snowden is unjust, and that the Espionage Act is a bad law. I think that Snowden should be held to account for what he did, but I do also think that there are arguments to be made as to how much the benefits of what he did mitigated the harms of what he did, and as I understand it, charging him under the Espionage Act does not allow for that defense.

    Had Snowden limited himself to exposing NSA wrongdoing in domestic spying, I’d be all in favor of pardoning him. But because he also exposed legally established foreign spying programs the NSA pursued, he should not be pardoned. He seems to believe philosophically that no state has the right to spy on anybody, which is his choice, but there are consequences of that choice. I part ways with many of my ACLU friends on this case; the ACLU has been a primary driver of the movement to pardon Snowden.

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  20. FDChief said on January 18, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    And I think the other factor in distinguishing between Manning and Snowden is that Manning acted in the tradition of “civil disobedience”; she came forward knowing that what she did was “illegal”, stood trial, took her lumps, and has paid for her acts.

    Snowden dumped his intel – and we honestly don’t know WHAT he stole, just that there was a lot of it – and ran like a thief. To a place not exactly known for being picky about not spying on its own people…

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  21. Deborah said on January 18, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    FDChief, I’m curious what you think about the Bowe Bergdahl case? With your military background, I’d like to hear (read) your perspective.

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  22. Sherri said on January 18, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    How to not get harassed on Facebook: have a team of a dozen Facebook employees dedicated to deleting harassing comments.

    How to have a beautiful Facebook page: professional photographers and writers.


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  23. FDChief said on January 18, 2017 at 4:26 pm


    I actually had to look this joker up; I’d forgotten all about the incident.

    Well, first of all it sounds like this guy was poorly suited to be a grunt in the first place. “Thoughtful loner” is NOT the job description of an earthpig born. He might have made a good intel weenie, or some sort of training position or advisor to the ANA/AP. But he was definitely not cut out by his nature to be a line dog in the Five-Oh-Worst.

    Second, it sounds like this guy was having issues with his outfit, and it also sounds like his outfit didn’t realize that. His squad leader and platoon sergeant should have seen that this dude was having issues with his unit, his mission, or both and squared him away. A trip to the head-shrinker at the unit’s CASH might have stopped this before it ever happened.

    Third, I think that GEN Abrams is a total tool and should be fired downrange for rejecting the findings of the guy’s Article 32 hearing. A general court is not right for this guy, IMO. He’s a kind of special headcase and should be heard under the special courtmartial recommended by the presiding Art.32 officer.

    Bottom line; this guy deserted his post in time of war. That’s a UCMJ offense and he should be given the right to a trial to establish the exact events and his part in them.

    That said, sending him up in front of a general court seems excessively harsh. The dude doesn’t warrant a lifetime at the disciplinary barracks – hell, if he does why are the U.S. Army commanders of OIF not behind bars for violating the Nuremburg principles and leading aggressive wars? But some sort of court-martial? Yes.

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  24. Deborah said on January 18, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    FDChief, I agree the guy should have never gotten in to the Army after what happened to him in the Coast Guard (I think it was). And it seems like a special case to me. He spent 5 years in captivity under severely harsh conditions. I hope they don’t lock him away again. I hope they can be flexible in a court martial. If you listen to season 2 of Serial, you get a good idea of the complexity of his case. For some reason I’ve found myself obsessively interested in what happens to him. His trial starts in april.

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  25. Jolene said on January 18, 2017 at 5:15 pm

    I watched a piece of the hearing for Tom Price, the nominee for head of HHS. What a prick he is. He’s the sort of doctor that hospital staff–nurses and such–hate. Arrogant, condescending, and smarmy in his forced compassion. It’s bad enough that we have to have Trump, but all these jerks that he has appointed to help him ruin the world are going to make me crazy. I’ve been a news junkie for years, but I may have to find a new way to relate to the world.

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  26. Sherri said on January 18, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    TV news: irredeemable. Who needs Macedonian teenagers with fake Facebook sites when a local CBS affiliate is willing to spend 5 minutes of air time on “there’s no proof here, but wow, that pizza guy is strange, why hasn’t anyone really investigated him and Podesta?”


    I have no proof, but Ben Swann sure looks like he could be a robot operated by the FSB, why doesn’t anyone investigate that?

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  27. FDChief said on January 18, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    Deborah: Well, everything that happened to Bergdahl post-capture is kind of a wash where the Army is concerned. He’s being tried for what he did when he walked away in June ’09; that doesn’t seem particularly complex – he was unhappy with the war, with what he was doing, and he grabbed a hat.

    That’s “desertion” under Article 85 of the UCMJ: And servicemember who

    (1) without authority goes or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to remain away therefrom permanently;
    (2) quits his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to avoid hazardous duty or to shirk important service; or
    (3) without being regularly separated from one of the armed forces enlists or accepts an appointment in the same or another on of the armed forces without fully disclosing the fact that he has not been regularly separated, or enters any foreign armed service except when authorized by the United States; is guilty of desertion.

    Unless he was flat-out kidnapped – which doesn’t seem to be possibly the case – then he deserted. His state of mind isn’t really material unless he was bull-goose looney and that doesn’t seem to be anywhere near proveable or, in fact, likely.

    But…my point is that he seems to have been a troubled soldier whose trouble was either ignored or dismissed by his chain-of-command. Like I said; had his team leader, or squad leader, or platoon sergeant, referred the guy to the shrink this might never have happened; he’d probably have been evaluated as a desertion (or even a suicide) risk and put somewhere he couldn’t do any harm or harm himself. I think the special court would have been appropriate. I think the general court will hammer him flat.

    I don’t have much sympathy for soldiers who suddenly decide they don’t want to soldier. You take the Congress’ shilling you play the tune they ask for. But I also don’t see the point at throwing this guy into the USDB for life. Give him a couple of years and then the boot; that and his misadventures are punishment enough for leaving his squaddies in the lurch…

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  28. Sherri said on January 18, 2017 at 6:45 pm

    Tim Raines has been elected to the Hall of Fame. Finally.

    You can resume your non-baseball discussion.

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  29. Deborah said on January 18, 2017 at 7:20 pm

    FDChief, Not to beat a dead horse here, but yeah, I get that he deserted. Then he spent 5 years in captivity of the Taliban. That seems like an awful lot of punishment for his foolishness. I just hope they go a bit easy on him.

    Sherri, Lol, I have no idea who Tim Raines is.

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  30. susan said on January 18, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    Deborah, he ran for VP with HRC.

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  31. redoubt said on January 18, 2017 at 7:38 pm

    FWIW–Ben Swann works for the fourth-rated news station in town, with a constantly changing staff; this is about his visibility. He’ll be gone in six months.

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  32. Sherri said on January 18, 2017 at 8:05 pm

    Tim Raines played most of his career for the Montreal Expos, which meant he was underexposed and under appreciated. That, plus a cocaine problem back when cocaine was everywhere, kept him out of the HOF for far too long. The Montreal Expos are now the Washington Nationals, in part thanks to a sleazy owner and a backroom deal.

    It just might be possible that Tim Price is more corrupt than Donald Trump, but you know, Clinton was uniquely corrupt because cattle futures and speeches to Goldman Sachs.


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  33. Mark P. said on January 18, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    FDChief, my father was in Europe in WW II. He told me about a German sniper that was completely surrounded by the Allies in an Allied-held area. He shot and shot, and no one could find him or shoot back. When he ran out of ammunition, he climbed out of his hiddey-hole and tried to surrender. His surrender was not accepted.

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  34. Sherri said on January 18, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    I’m more qualified to be Energy Secretary than Rick Perry. At least I know what the Department of Energy does.


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  35. David C. said on January 18, 2017 at 8:39 pm

    Any of tRumps cabinet nominees could switch roles and nobody would notice. One empty suit is pretty much the same as another. WASF.

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  36. Suzanne said on January 18, 2017 at 8:50 pm

    I do think Betsy DeVoss has given us a great rock band name: “Potential Grizzlies”
    I’d give her points for that, anyway.

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  37. Deborah said on January 18, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    David C, I had to look up what WASF means, we are so fucked. Ha ha, no wait, I should be sobbing.

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  38. FDChief said on January 18, 2017 at 9:29 pm

    Mark: the traditional expression is; “Too late, chum.” Snipers get it automatically…

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  39. FDChief said on January 18, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    Deborah: His time w the Talibs was due to his own bad decisionmaking (and, yes, the negligence of his chain…). That sucks for him, but doesn’t negate his choice to desert in the face of an armed enemy. There’s pretty much no worse crime a soldier can commit.

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  40. Eric Zorn said on February 3, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    “I don’t think O.J. killed his wife and another man” … Nancy Nall

    There, now you can never run for public office. No one will want to hear about “context” or what you were trying to say or what was “edited out.” These are your exact words, ma’am, your words. Not mine.

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    • nancy said on February 3, 2017 at 2:41 pm

      OK, OK, go ahead and be picky: “…his ex-wife and another man…”

      Can I run for office now?

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