Thursday, November 27, 2014

Paparazzi goes mainstream

   It says a lot about the mindset of modern news media that Jian Ghomeshi was the only person who maintained a shred of dignity following his court appearance yesterday.
   While Ghomeshi kept his head down and his mouth shut, a swarm of journalists, cameramen and photographers comported themselves with the grace and decorum of a thousand seagulls at the scene of an overturned garbage truck, all in the relentless pursuit of the money shot or sound bite that would make their newspaper, website or network the Ghomeshi misery maker of the day. 
   As agents for the wider public, the media are only indulging the appetite of their audience.  There's always been a fascination with watching celebrity come undone or tragedy unfold, but piling on as a sport is a relatively recent phenomenon.  Social media doesn't wait for a story to play itself out before establishing a conclusive narrative that mainstream media feels duty-bound to follow.  The result is that supposedly reputable journalists are reduced to paparazzi-style reporting that caters to public sentiment at the expense of cornerstone journalistic ethics.
   Some people call it "social justice".  I consider irresponsible pandering to a crowd split between professional "victims" with a chip on their shoulder and closet sadists who delight in the ruination of others.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Evidence and due process trump outrage and mob rule in Ferguson

   When Missouri State Prosecutor Robert McCulloch mentioned social media and the 24 hour news cycle as contributing factors in the volatile aftermath of the police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, a collective groan went up...across social media.  When McCulloch announced that a grand jury had decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in Brown's death, the online cynicism graduated to borderline hysteria, aided and abetted by media coverage that was tantamount to cheerleading for civil unrest.
   The sneering refrain that McCulloch was blaming Twitter and CNN for killing Michael Brown only served to prove his point.   Social media has taken short attention span and instant gratification to the next level.  The clamoring for "justice for Michael" began literally within minutes of the August 9th shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, and was based on eyewitness accounts that have since been called into question, if not entirely discredited.  Once a theme is established on social media, it takes on a life of its own, and the Michael Brown shooting was and remains firmly established in the public consciousness as first and foremost a case of an unarmed black man being shot dead by a white police officer.  It matters not that Brown robbed a convenience store, roughed up the store owner and reportedly assaulted officer Wilson.  Those are pesky details to be ignored because they don't fit the racism narrative.
   Under the circumstances, indicting officer Wilson would have been the politically expedient thing to do.  Everyone - including members of the grand jury - knew what was going to happen last night if he wasn't charged.  Yet they decided that he acted legally and responsibly in his role as a law enforcement officer.  The only way to credibly dispute that decision is to weigh the same mountain of evidence the grand jury considered, and explain where they got it wrong.
   Have at it.

Monday, November 24, 2014

"Not criminally responsible" defence is crazy

 While we wait for Luka Magnotta's trial to play out to its conclusion, this is as good a time as any and a better time than  most to review the notion of "crazy" as an excuse for murder.  Greater psychiatric and legal minds than mine are required to fill in most of the blanks on the "not criminally responsible" defence, but I have a couple of common sense observations that I think are worth considering. 
   Guy Turcotte was a licensed cardiologist when he stabbed his two small children to death.  He was responsible enough to practice an advanced branch of medicine, but in the eyes of the law, he was too unhinged to appreciate the gravity of killing his 5 year old son and 3 year old daughter.  As a result, he was a free man fewer than four years after the murders, and remains free pending a new trial.

   Luka Magnotta isn't a doctor, but he functioned well enough in mainstream society, albeit as a fringe character with a record of petty crimes for which he was held accountable when he was caught.  It was only after he was arrested for murdering and dismembering Jun Lin that Magnotta and his lawyers decided he was mentally incompetent.
   Funny, that.  Not funny ha-ha, but funny-strange that people can function as normal - or, in Magnotta's case, relatively normal - members of society, but when they murder someone all of a sudden mental illness is the culprit.  That strikes me as blatant manipulation of a wishy-washy legal system, and a gross disservice and injustice to the victims and their families.  Worse than victim-blaming, the "not criminally responsible" defence excludes the victim(s) from the equation entirely, as if their existence was a moot point.
   I don't doubt for a second that Guy Turcotte and Luke Magnotta are mentally unwell.  You don't commit the kinds of crimes they committed otherwise.  But if crazy is a good enough excuse for not being held criminally responsible for murder, it's an even better reason to make sure the killer never walks among us again.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Winnie the hermaphrodite and every man for herself

   It is my unswerving belief that the best books and movies are based on true stories.  It's not unheard of for great writers and filmmakers to create epic works of fiction, but as an enduring producer of compelling content, the imagination is no match for reality.
   Winnie the Pooh's banishment from a Polish playground for being an "inappropriate hermaphrodite" probably won't be fodder for Hollywood or the major publishing houses, but it's definitely a story that no one could make up. Vigilant municipal councillers in Tuszyn, a small town in central Poland, have rejected Pooh as the face of a local play area on the basis of the animated bear's dubious sexuality and the fact that he's only semi-clad.  I've never given much thought to which way Winnie swings or why he's not wearing trou.  I've always been more puzzled about why he sounds like my great-grandmother.  
   Another fact-stranger-than-fiction story unfolded this week in Toronto, where a physical altercation broke out at a City Hall flag-raising ceremony for the transgender community.  And no, it wasn't transphobic violence.  The dust-up was between segments of the transgender community arguing over whether the ceremony was inclusive enough.  
   Rival transgender gangs - now there's a concept a good storyteller could run with.  
   Get me Kurt Sutter.  I think we've got a spinoff starring Venus from Sons of Anarchy.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

If it looks like a duck and it prays like a duck and it rapes and murders like a duck...

   It's been a tough week for the religion of peace. 
   Defenders of the One Truth Faith took a significant hit with the release of a report citing religious extremism as the main cause of terrorism in the 21st century, and Muslim extremists as the main culprits.  As if to underscore the report, the Islamic State released its latest graphic execution video, showing several Syrian prisoners being beheaded and an ISIS member proudly displaying the severed head of American hostage Peter Kassig.  In Jerusalem, meanwhile, four rabbis and an Israeli police officer were murdered when two Palestineans armed with handguns, knives and meat cleavers stormed a synagogue during prayers.  In Britain, yet another gang of Asian men is under investigation for sexually exploiting teenaged girls, but woe betide anyone who points out that they're Muslim or mentions Islam's history of subjugating women.  White liberal self-loathing has become so entrenched in mainstream British society that a politician was arrested for hate speech because Muslims were offended that he quoted Winston Churchill.  Let me say that again: he was carted off by British police for quoting the greatest democratic statesman of the 20th century.  Who's got the phobia here? 
   Even if Muslim extremists are in the minority, the moderate majority is clearly too weak-willed to bring the fanatics to heel, but why bother when they've got apologists running interference for them, including the President of the United States, who famously and foolishly proclaimed that the Islamic State is not Islamic? Between that and the guy getting busted for quoting Churchill, it's like we're living a real-life Saturday Night Live skit, but like the last half hour of SNL, there's really nothing funny about it. 
   Of course, not all Muslims are rapists and murderers, but the ones who are represent the largest existential threat to harmony among peoples and nations since the Nazis, and that needs to be acknowledged before it can be properly addressed.  Crying Islamophobia whenever someone points out the obvious is worse than ignorant or intellectually dishonest.  It's morally complicit with blackhearted degenerates who would slice your children's throats without a second thought.
   As always, Pat Condell says it better than I ever could.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cosby the latest lynch mob casualty

   Bill Cosby probably didn't expect his legendary show business career to end in disgrace any more than Jian Ghomeshi anticipated being brought down in his prime.  Such are the trappings of celebrity that the power of fame and privilege are considered a mighty bulwark against any potential stain on one's reputation.
   Cosby, like Ghomeshi and in part because of Ghomeshi, is being undone by a steady parade of accusers who claim he sexually assaulted them.  The allegations against Cosby go back decades and aren't new to the public eye - he settled out of court in 2006 with a woman who claimed he drugged and raped her - but the activist campaign urging women who've lived in silence and shame to come forward in the wake of the Ghomeshi scandal is now catching up with Cosby.  
   That's a good thing if it exposes genuine predators and abusers, but who's the judge of that?  The court of public opinion served as judge, jury and executioner for Ghomeshi, and the Cosby case seems to be headed in the same direction.  Both men still have recourse to civil action for damage to their reputation, but realistically, the damage can never be undone - even by a favorable judicial ruling.
   Which brings us to this: what happens if someone is falsely accused and gets destroyed in the court of public opinion?  Do we revert to the time-honored legal code that better 100 men go free than one innocent suffer, or do we chalk up the suffering innocent to collateral damage in a wider and more important war on male sexual privilege?  Regardless of the optics of the Ghomeshi and Cosby cases, a climate is being created where unsubstantiated criminal allegations can bring someone down, and no amount of legal recourse will restore their reputation.  To think that someone with a grudge or something to gain won't manipulate that mob mentality to their advantage is dangerously naive.
   We're at a cultural crossroads, and we need to decide whether public vilification is a legitimate substitute for due process.  We can't have it both ways in a fair and just society.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Do you take this wrinkly old homicidal maniac...?"

   Charlie Manson's still got it.
   Forty-five years after charming a drug-fueled clan of impressionable young women into going on a mindless murder spree around Hollywood, the former cult leader has been granted a license to get married in prison.  He's 80.  She's 26.  I'm nauseous.  Mercifully for the rest of us, as a life prisoner with no parole date, Manson doesn't qualify for conjugal visits, so that unpleasant piece of theater of the mind need not be entertained. 
   Romantic fixation on notoriously violent criminals is not new.  In fact, it's disturbingly common.  Luka Magnotta, Paul Bernardo, Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer (to name just a few) have or had devoted admirers who suffer from something psychologists call hybristophilia - sexual deviancy in the form of attraction to someone who's know to have committed an outrageous act like rape or murder.  I'll leave it to the mental health professionals to sort out the underlying motivations of the prison groupies.  All I know is that nothing says batshit crazy like professing your undying love for an unrepentant mass murderer who's 54 years your senior and has a swastika carved into his forehead.  
   Or maybe I'm over-analyzing it, too, and the whole thing is a ruse to sneak a file into prison in the wedding cake so Big Chuck can bust out.
   Somebody tell the warden.