Tag Archives: media

Mugshots and Corporate Crime

gates mugshot Let me start by saying, I’m not sure whether I am for or against the prominent use of mugshots in the media. On one hand I think public shame and humility for your crime seems like it could be an acceptable deterrent for a community. On the other hand, see the world through our predetermined perceptions and we might only reinforce our stereotypes. So, long story short, the verdict is still out as to how I feel about mugshots in general. That said, let me move on to my topic.

I read the Star Tribune in my reader every morning. Mostly I browse headlines and scan pages, but I’ll read whole articles when I think it’s relevant. I’ve been doing this for the past year, so I feel this insight is at least partially backed by a decent research sampling of the Star Tribune’s online articles. Here’s my observation: The Strib tends to print mug shots of street crime criminals that fit the archetypal “Black Male”, at least that seems to be what I have seen. And then there is the mug shots that the Strib doesn’t print (In fact, it seems rare any news outlet does). The rather anonymous ones are the corporate criminals. The white collar men and women who’ve stolen and spent millions of dollars in tax fraud and real estate scams. The ones whose crimes have affected hundreds and caused the sort of instability in our economy we are currently facing. For Example, Jon Helgason and Tom Balko of TJ Waconia, who plead guilty almost a year ago to a $35 million dollar housing fraud scheme in my neighborhood. What’s crazy is that they haven’t even been sentenced yet, they are still walking the streets as free men, and the Star Tribune has yet to post a picture of either of the two men. In fact, a Google search brings up any photos of either of these men on any news site. Why is that?

I’ll cut to the chase, whether intentional or not, the Star Tribunes use of photos of criminals seems to clearly be unequal. In Strib articles, Street criminals (often African American Males) tend to have photos posted with the article, while white collar crime (often White Males) tends not to. It goes without saying that we are a visual people, and while facts and stories slip in and out of our memories, those images will stick in our minds. It’s a great disservice to us as a community and an injustice to us as a people that we continue to reinforce incorrect stereotypes and ideas of what crime is and what we should be afraid of.

I’ve pointed out before that it is corporate crime, not street crime that really wrecks havoc on our lives and nation, but when we continue to publish media the way we do that fact won’t really sink in.

Here’s a brief overview of stories from the past year that were covered in the Star Tribune, without photos.

  • TJ Waconia trial– As I mentioned it’s been over a year since they plead guilty (the case has been around even longer), which is plenty of time to get at least a photo. The Star Tribune has published multiple stories on this case and has never included a picture. My own councilman, Don Samuels, whose 5th ward was particularly affected by the crime, has never seen a picture of what these guys look like (and he’s asked).
  • Tom Petters– This was the biggest corporate crime story of the year in Minnesota. Tons of articles published on Petters, and since even his arrest was a public news story there were photos of him (including of his lavish, money spending lifestyle). There were many others involved in the scheme, but only one other photo that I saw.
  • Robert Beale– A millionaire who was involved in church planting and running a successful medical device company, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax fraud. No picture that I could find on the Star Tribune (though a google search turns some up from other sites).

There are multiple others, in fact the Strib wrote a summary article about all the corporate crime in 2008, of course without photos. Oddly, the only other corporate crime article I ran across that had a photo displayed, besides Petters, was of Carolyn Louper-Morris who defrauded the state out of $2 million through a fledgling tutoring company. What’s odd about it? Of all the corporate criminals they could choose from to publish a picture of they pick Louper, an African American women. How do you interpret that.

And just as a final quick contrast (sorry this has gotten quite long), here are a couple articles that address the very downfalls of what I’m talking about.

  • Valleyfair Beating– the Star Tribune and others posted photos of eight black male suspects in this crime. Outrage ensued with blogs, news sites (including the Tribune) and local talk radio lighting up with claims of this being a hate crime. It wasn’t till later that it was made clear the victims were also black.
  • Ali Abdilahi – was a suspect in an abduction case and his mugshot was plastered on TV and elsewhere. Though the charges were dropped Abdilahi lost jobs, his vehicle, thousands of dollars raised by friends and family for bail, and a difficult and frustrating few months afterward.
  • Publicizing mugshots of ‘Johns’ – I think prostitution and the men who perpetuate it is wrong. So, reading about this effort by the city to use a billboard to encourage people to view the photos of those charged for soliciting prostitutes seems like a strategic deterrent to the crime. But where are the public dollars to make corporate criminals publicly shamed as well?*

In conclusion, my point is simply this: if we are going to use public photos of criminals, do it consistently. Don’t simply reinforce the stereotypes that have been so ingrained. And if your reading or watching your local news, keep a critical eye on bias in the media. It’s there.

*aside: a brief look at the website they’ve posted shows 22 arrests made in the last six months, but they all occurred on only three different days. If the city really wants to crack down on crime I suggest they keep their eyes out for ‘Johns’ all 182 days of the next six months, not just three of them.

The Myth of Redemptive Violence (Avoid It)

Braveheart“The Myth of Redemptive Violence is the story of the victory of order over chaos by means of violence.” It was through my reading of Christ’s teachings to “Love your enemies” and the idea of overcoming evil with good, that I began to realize that there must be another road to victory than violence. Quite simply, I found I could not support a culture of war and violence and still claim to follow Christ’s teachings, I could not rationalize it.
After coming to that conclusion I picked up Walter Wink’s book, The Powers That Be, and my eyes were opened to the myth that our society and myself have been indoctrinated with for centuries.  I’ve heard the word’s of others too who have walked this path in an attempt to follow Christ.

Derek Webb sings, in My Enemies are Men Like Me,

peace by way of war
is like purity by way of fornication
it’s like telling someone murder is wrong
and then showing them by way of execution

Dr. King said,

Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time — the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts… Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

You should really take the time to read the short article about The Myth of Redemptive Violence. It describes the Babylonian Creation Myth and how it’s violence-centric story is perpetuated today. I’m not just talking about war here, I’m speaking of primarily the media that we expose ourselves to. Think Braveheart and Gladiator, Batman, Lone Ranger, Road Runner and many others:

The psychodynamics’ of the TV cartoon or comic book are marvelously simple: children identify with the good guy so that they can think of themselves as good. This enables them to project out onto the bad guy their repressed anger, violence, rebelliousness, or lust, and then vicariously to enjoy their own evil by watching the bad guy initially prevail. This segment of the show–the “Tammuz” element, where the hero suffers–actually consumes all but the closing minutes, allowing ample time for indulging the violent side of self. When the good guy finally wins, viewers are then able to reassert control over their own inner tendencies, repress them, and reestablish a sense of goodness without coming to any insight about their own inner evil. The villain’s punishment provides catharsis; one forswears the villain’s ways and heaps condemnation on him in a guilt-free orgy of aggression. Salvation is found through identification with the hero

As, I think about entering parenthood, I’m struck by the fact that though I have continually acknowledged to myself and others that this myth is a lie and it is dangerous to our culture, I have still chosen to expose myself to plenty of movies that carry this theme.  I’ve decided both in preparation, and probably for personal well being, that I’m going to stop watching movies that carry a redemptive violence theme (for at least a year). This won’t be a hard and fast line, but one I want to consider for the well being of my family. Which means Die Hard, Rocky, and Spider Man will be off my movie viewing list for the year. 

The News makes choices on what’s important

The Crocodile Hunter dies. Okay, so I realize why this gets media attention. An international celebrity, an environmentalist, quite a character. As a friend said, “This is seriously like finding out there’s no Santa. He was invincible.” If you want to find out about another crazy radical killed by dangerous animals he hung out with, check out this movie.

I understand all that, and I understand why the news story on The Today Show yesterday spent time commentating on the death of the Crocodile Hunter and how sad that is.

What I don’t understand is why we don’t spend an equal amount of time commentating, discussing, and pondering the tragedy of six children dying in a fire because a candle tipped over in thier apartment where there were no working smoke alarms and the candle was their current source of light since their electricity had been off since May. I’m not advocating for universal electricity service or anything. I’m just saying, that’s a tragedy, and it’s an important one for us to discuss.
Where was the interview of the local pastor, asking how we can preach a gospel that calls us to help those in need, and yet we let this women and her children live without electricity for months? Where is the commentary on the reality of slum landlords that don’t keep their buildings up to code?
Why is the death of six children not worth as much media time and energy as the death of a man who many expected would die in an accident similar to the what happened?

Fire kills 6 children in Chicago – The Boston Globe

Commonwealth Edison spokesman John Dewey said the apartment hadn’t had electricity since May, but he wouldn’t say why it was turned off, citing confidentiality policies.

Orozco said smoke detectors were found in common areas of the building but not the gutted apartment.

“We have working smoke detectors in all of our apartment units at the time the tenants sign their leases,” said Jay Johnson, the owner of the building. All the smoke detectors in the building are hard-wired to the electrical system, he said.

I am African: Is it accomplishing it’s goals or just offensive?

I heard about and read some commentary concerning a recent ad campaign I thought I should share with you.

Mixed Media Watch – tracking media representations of mixed people

I was surprised to learn that supermodel Iman is behind those “I Am African” ads fetauring Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker and other, mostly white, celebs in faux tribal makeup. As Global Ambassador for Keep A Child Alive, an organization that provides medication to African children with HIV/AIDS, she created the campaign to call attention to the plight of those who cannot afford lifesaving drugs. She states on keepachildalive.org that “each and everyone of us contains DNA that can be traced back to our African ancestors.” So this is why we should care about the issue? What aboout compassion, empathy and commitment to social justice?

Race and the Media: It’s not just a Katrina thing.

Some of you might have been paying attention during the Hurricane Katrina coverage and hopefully at least considered the idea that our media is sometimes biased in the way that it covers news stories.

Mixed Media Watch, one of my new favorite blogs, has posted on some recent coverage of two murders written about in the Washington Post:

I just read an interesting column by the ombudsman of The Washington Post, attempting to shed some light on how the paper handled two equally horrific murder cases. A reader had written in to note that the murder of the white man, Alan Senitt (pictured), landed on the front page of the paper, while the murder of the black man, Chris Crowder, only made the front of the Metro section. The reader asked:

“Can you think of a reason why the white man would get front-page treatment while the black man wouldn’t? Why does the white man merit a photo with the story but the black man doesn’t? Did geography and skin color have any impact on where these two stories were placed in the newspaper? I don’t see anything about the Senitt story that would merit front-page treatment over that of Crowder.”

Read the response and the rest of the story…

What’s your take on this one? Is it normal and your tired of raising concern about it? Is this the first time you’ve considered something like this? Are you busy validating the justification in your mind and writing this one off?

A new favorite podcast: Addicted to Race

The women of New Demographic and bloggers of Mixed Media Watch, have a podcast that I find extremely interesting: Addicted to Race.
Jen and Carmen co-host the show which discusses our obsession with race and provides thoughtful commentary on many race-related issues in our society. They discuss big news events as well as personal stories and I appreciate their balance in it all as well.

It bothers me to no end when folks try to ignore racism or try to belittle the effects of race. “Race” is only a social construct one might argue, but regardless it has a profound affect on the way people view one another and they way they are treated in our world.

I don’t necessarily agree with Jen and Carmen’s perspective all the time on the show, but who am I to argue with them. It’s good to learn and try to understand a different perspective.

I’m going to need to chime in and ask them a few questions sometime. I was pretty shocked at the lack of discussion of race at the event I went to last weekend, so I’ll be discussing that later.

For now, take a moment and listen to the latest episode of Addicted To Race.

When Mixed Families where illegal

Yesterday marked the 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to overturn anti-miscegenation laws. That is not ancient history, it’s just a short time ago. When some of your parent’s where getting married they could not have married a person of a different race (actually only whites and other races couldn’t marry, a black person could happily marry a Korean person).

From The Anniversary of Loving v. Virginia

It’s also crazy that so many people don’t even realize that this case exists — that at one time, it was illegal for mixed families to exist in many places. Think about that, and ask yourself, how far have we come? Sure, it’s legal now, but I would caution anyone against celebrating this win and stopping there. If we remain satisfied with the basic rights we are given, we are in huge trouble. Having the right doesn’t negate the fact that there are still many ways that interracial couples are targeted and subjected to racism and discrimination.

Good Night, and Good Luck: A Strong Statement about our media

The opening lines of Good Night, and Good Luck:

It is my desire, if not my duty, to try to talk to you journeymen with some candor about what is happening to radio and television. And if what I say is responsible I alone am responsible
for the saying of it.
Our history will be what we make of it. And if there are any historians about 50 or 100 years from now and there should be preserved the kinescopes of one week of all three networks they will there find recorded in black and white, and in color evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live. We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable, and complacent. We have a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us then television and those who finance it those who look at it and those who work at it may see a totally different picture too late.

I’ve just started watching this film from Participant Productions about the real-life interaction of Edward R. Murrow and Senator McCarthy during the year 1953. This is an interesting movie to be watching amidst some recent news I’ve heard about a situation in Little Rock (I’ll write more when I have the chance). It seems a common occurance that our media is more often giving us what we want to hear, rather then what we need to hear.
Good Night, and Good Luck.
Check out the film, and then Take Action.

Why most guys should read Ms. Magazine and B****

I was reading the other day when a guy looked over and asked what I was reading…
“Ms. Magazine,” I said, “It’s really good.” All I got in return was a funny look. I think I tried to justify it, but nothing was going to convince him.

Ms. MagazineMs. and B**** and other magazines like it our written off as “feminist propaganda” and they receive a slim readership because of it. Instead of being the often informative piece of journalism that they could be, they end up preaching to the choir. Unfortunately, the very people that should hear a lot of the things that are said in those magazines, men, are the last ones to ever think about picking them up.

Men, go to your local magazine rack and instead of sneaking around looking at inappropriate magazines, boldly pick up Ms. Magazine and give it a read through. I think you’ll find yourself learning things you never had a clue about, hear stories that will break your heart, and considering new perspectives you’d never imagined.

Of course, you’ll probably need some proof that you might read something worthwhile, so here are a few tidbits:

In September, the court ordered an end to discrimination against menstruating women, confronting a tradition in parts of Nepal of keeping women in cowsheds during their periods.

From Paradise Lost

That expensive blouse you’re wearing? It may have been sewn by a Filipina garment worker laboring in a factory owned by a Hong Kong mogul on a western Pacific island. The Northern Mariana Islands, a territory of the United States, offers the possibility of an American label — Made in Saipan (USA), Made in Northern Mariana Islands (USA), or simply Made in USA — to garment manufacturers, and throws in a unique exemption from U.S. minimum-wage and immigration laws.

From Too Many Women in College?

Although American women still struggle for parity in many arenas, we have outpaced men in at least one: undergraduate college education. Currently, 57.4 percent of bachelor’s degrees in the United States are earned by women, 42.6 percent by men. This is an almost exact reversal from 1970, when 56.9 percent of college graduates were males and 43.1 percent females.

There’s even a pocket guide from an expert in nonviolent confrontation tactics. An anti-harassment tool kit that really works.