Accuracy in Media

It’s fashionable these days to sing the praises of criminals. Witness the front page coverage by the New York Times and Washington Post of the so-called “prison journalist,” Wilbert Rideau, who was released back on the streets. He’s a confessed killer who wrote books and directed a film while in prison. That meant, according to the liberal media, that he had been rehabilitated.

But Rideau had another card to play-the race card. Professional civil rights organizations found fault with the fact that he was black and convicted by a white jury. So they pressed for a new trial that released him for time served. Remember, though, that he’s not innocent and has never claimed to be so. He’s guilty of the crime of murder and confessed to it. They simply used the racial arguments to get him back on the streets. This is political correctness carried to an extreme. It reflects a return to the discredited thinking of the 1960s that criminals are victims of society, even if they do kill and maim.

Contrast the sympathetic story in the Times about Rideau to the trashing of a new film, airing on HBO,  that was sympathetic to a rape victim. The film, “Rape in a Small Town: The Florence Holway Story,” examines how Holway fought for tougher penalties for rapists after she was raped and the perpetrator got a light sentence through a plea deal. Holway, now 89 years old, was 75 at the time of the rape.

Initially, the media played a very constructive role in this case. A local New Hampshire paper covered her story, and it was then picked up by wire services, major papers, and television stations. The media openly took the side of a crime victim who was being victimized again by the criminal justice system.

But the review of the film by Virginia Heffernan in the January 11 New York Times demonstrates how priorities have changed. She found fault with the film because “Good and evil are too unambiguous here.” She apparently wanted a film that was more understanding of  the rapist, John LaForest. We are led to speculate about what this means. For example, did he rape because he was mistreated as a child?

In fact, Heffernan goes on to say, “No twist exists to complicate the crime, and the filmmakers inexplicably refrain from interviewing Mr. LaForest in prison.” What Heffernan seems to be saying is that the point of view of the rapist was not given enough air time. Heffernan comments, “?never do we get an answer to the blunt question raised by the merest mention of the crime: Who is this man, and what was he thinking?” In other words, what caused him to rape? And should that excuse him for what he did? This seems to be the direction the Times is taking us.

This review was an insult to all women and all rape and crime victims. Rather than punish criminals, we are supposed to understand what makes them tick and why they prey on society. That leads back again to that old notion about society being responsible for what these predators do. In rebuttal, we ask: who are these reporters and what are they thinking?  Whatever is going on in their heads, they show an inability to separate good from evil, right from wrong.

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