...the laying of taxes is the power, and the general welfare the purpose for which the power is to be exercised."
Thomas Jefferson.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Minority Murders Are Not ‘Brazen’?

I watch a lot of tv news, mostly cable. I have been noticing lately (why didn’t I before? – well, I have other, even many, times but never blogged about it) that the producers like certain types of stories, and repeat them on the half-hour as if they are both newsworthy and noteworthy. They actually do this with many stories that have no real value except that the producers like the controversy or titillating aspect or celebrity flavor. But the kind of story I’m thinking of, and that makes me so disgusted with tv news, and society (for letting this happen) is the sensational murder. And what do all sensational murder stories have in common? The victims are ALWAYS white and usually female, and if female, often blonde, and if blond, the more sensational it is considered.
Today I realized the three current sensational murder stories being covered ad nauseum are:
Russell Sneiderman, a Georgia man who was the victim of a (as reported by MSNBC.com), ”brazen daytime murder … outside his son’s preschool [that] has police in an Atlanta suburb scratching their heads”. Not female or blond, but white and also upscale.
Natalee Halloway: young, white and blond who went missing in Aruba five and a half years ago and whose (likely) murderer has long since been arrested for a different murder to which he has confessed and is no longer a danger to the public. Remember how much air time THAT story got? And it’s still considered worthy of a spot in the news-not-really loop because a jaw bone has been found somewhere in Aruba.
Chandra Levy. This one I give them a pass on, back when it was a current story I thought it was a valid story to cover extensively. Although they hyped it ridiculously more than anyone could justify (can you say Anna Nicole?) it did have a politician involved, and sexcapades and the possibility same said politician committed the murder. This murder too has been resolved and the danger to society removed. To cover it now is so far out of the realm of news or interest I can’t understand the reason for covering it. Except it was a young white woman. Not blond though.
The thing is, how many fathers are murdered outside or near their child’s school in America on a (
, possibly?) daily basis. How many fathers anywhere in their neighborhoods? Or anywhere at all? Same with young women, blond or not? Near a school or not? How many? I’d say it happens often enough to not be newsworthy, and certainly not when the story is years old and concerns a resolved murder.
It’s not just murder victims either. Consider the circus surrounding the Runaway Bride, Jenifer Wilbanks, who went missing just days before her mega-wedding. Do ya think any non-white woman has ever run off with another man right before her wedding? And was reported missing? Here’s a photo. Have a look. Does she look white to you? Do you remember the 24/7 cable news coverage? Or how about the long-running saga about a blondschoolgirl accused and then convicted of murdering her room-mate? All the way over in Italy no less, even though Americans are notoriously uninterested in other countries, usually. She’s white too.
That story is still getting as much attention (because she had another court appearance, earth-shattering I know) as that other ‘BREAKING NEWS’ story concerning some British people announcing their engagement, who are (of course) also white. Are there no other royalty who would be deserving of our attention? Well let’s think of some other countries that have royalty.
  • There is Monaco, where they have Prince Albert and they have gambling. The gambling and romantic image of the island alone would make any story out of there (cable) news worthy and yes, when their royalty does something it is considered newsworthy. Prince Ranier and Princess Grace got as much attention as the Kennedy’s, or nearly so. They were white.
  • Another country would be Japan, where they have an emperor and empress.  They do get some press I think. It seems to me there was an engagement in the family that was reported on for a bit but a brief google search did not find it so it wasn’t too big of a story I presume, or I am mistaken about this. Japanese are not white.
  • What about Saudi Arabia, they have a King, I have no clue if there is a queen. Any successor will be a prince though. I can’t remember the last time I heard anything of their royalty. Can you? When you do hear about them, it is in a political context only. They also are not white.
These are the only royalty I remember hearing about on tv news. I know this is not proof of any kind of bias (intentional or not) but it sure raises lots of questions in my mind. Our interest in monarchies seems to extend to Britain (white) and on a lower-level (maybe because they’ve become boring, Monaco (also white)). If I am wrong about this, I hope someone will point out the other countries’ royalty that we (more correctly, cable news) pays attention to. The same goes for what kind of story, or more to the point what kind of actor/ character, becomes part of a  ’sensational’ story. I wish some reporter would ask those questions of news producers all over the dial and then report back to us. What could be some counter-arguments here?
Um, the audience is largely white, who are more interested in stories about white people and news channels are just trying to serve their audience. Hmph. Does anyone really think networks would ignore whole groups of viewers? If you agree they wouldn’t, then for this argument to be valid, they’d have to be reporting minority murders in the same percentage as minorities are found in their audience because surely that number is not zero. Or even any minority murder at all. Is every single murder of a person who is considered to be a member of a minority group not sensational, ever? Do their murders never stem from jealousy or greed or sex like the sensational ones involving white victims? Are they qualitatively different enough to call for a totally different treatment?
There is a bias but it is just that the people who decide what is news are unaware of their bias? Possibly…but can every television channel and newspaper happened to have hired IN EVERY CASE, producers with an unrecognized bias in favor of people who look like them/ are white?
Minorities being murdered is so common place it’s not noteworthy. This would be a ridiculous argument to make because it implies one type of person’s life is more valuable than another’s so some murders are not notable but we all know that Americans were “all created equal”. Hah! Anyway. Say the rate of black murder victims is five times that of whites murdered. We have to ask the same question as above, why aren’t they being reported at the same rates as they occur? Or even inversely? One murder of a black woman every five white women?
The young white women murdered stories are extra-newsworthy because we don’t expect our off-spring to die first, especially daughters. Neither do minorities
The father who dropped his son off at school is newsworthy because it’s such an every day thing to do and it happened in broad daylight. How many fathers are murdered near their children’s school? Since most children attend the nearest school, most murdered men with children could probably claim the deed happened near their child’s school. Maybe it’s sensational because he was an accountant and attended Harvard?
As for the Brits, I guess one argument would be that people love/ are infatuated with royalty. See above, we don’t seem to be infatuated with dark skinned royalty. I can’t come up with another counter argument.
I also can’t explain why white murders justify massive coverage, versus all other murders, which don’t. Can you?

UPDATE: This is an old post from a different blog but there is a new sensational murder getting an unduly amount of cable coverage so I wanted to add her to this. Her name is Ronni Chasen, she was a Hollywood publicist and she too was white with blond hair. To be fair, the cables would always like a Hollywood murder mystery but I thought I should include her here, at least her story is another example of the circus we call cable news.

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