[This column was written a week before the tragic kidnapping and murder of seven year-old Somer Thompson, which occurred on the same day that Misty Croslin was robbed in the parking lot of an apartment building. In the latter case, the media chose to focus on the likelihood that Croslin and friends were attempting to buy drugs when the robbery occurred; typically, the logic holds that anyone using illegal drugs is fair game for any harm that may come to them.
The points raised in the column–which was rejected as being “preachy” and “overwrought”–ring far harsher, in light of subsequent events. A week before Somer Thompson was killed, someone tried to abduct another young girl within a few yards of where Thompson was last seen. Local media was too busy flogging the “Balloon Boy” debacle out of Colorado (which occupied two whole days of media coverage, and continues to linger even after being eclipsed by other, more relevant matters) to report on what had happened in their own city. As such, the people of Thompson’s Orange Park community were denied fair warning of what had occurred, and given no opportunity for enhanced scrutiny. It was later revealed that there are at least 150 registered sexual offenders within a three-mile radius of where the little girl disappeared; not one has been sought for comment on the situation.
Recently, a woman was raped in broad daylight on the streets of Riverside, the neighborhood where I’ve lived since the late Clinton years. The community was not informed about the crime until nearly a week later, by which point there had been at least two other rapes in the area. Typically, the assailants were given ample time to flee; the victim is probably living in fear that the attackers (who also robbed her) may return to silence a potential witness. As always, the response of men in the area was, sadly, sorely lacking.
Sometimes it feels like I’ve been living through variations on the same nightmare, on an almost weekly basis, in the three years-plus that have passed since I lost a close friend under somewhat similar conditions. Hundreds of women and children–the epitome of defenseless “soft targets” have been killed around the United States since, and these crimes have occurred in stark disproportion in the state of Florida, enough that it can now be considered the nation’s capital for predatory misogynist violence. Having already established itself as the “murder capital” of the country (at least, before the steadily deteriorating situation in Chicago altered perceptions), Northeast Florida now faces severe challenges to its plans for long-term growth. That, combined with the economic recession and the self-destructive response of our “leaders”, threatens to undo decades of reasonably careful civic planning.
National media has at least been honest enough to call it for what it is: an “epidemic” of predatory violence directed against women and girls, an epidemic exacerbated by the slack, pathetic, exploitative methods of commercial media and the inadequate response of a law-enforcement community stretched to the breaking-point by a civilian political “leadership” that has compromised their effectiveness with constant busy work, of which the treasonous Drug War is just one example. I was especially appalled by the sight of Governor (and would-be Senator) Charlie Crist, who just happened to be visiting the scene when Thompson’s body was discovered. While expressing the usual sympathies, he was careful to point out that (reported) crime is down 8% this year, as if that is some consolation to a grieving family. His remarks were directed to the cameras, an unseemly political maneuver that outraged many casual observers, who’d spent two days searching for the girl before Crist arrived to stump.
Having written extensively on this subject, and having taken the rhetoric of retaliation farther than anyone, anywhere, I take all of this shit very personally, and the fact that 2009 is the all-time peak year for gun sales in this state and country suggests that more and more people feel exactly as I do. All that said, your “Money Jungle” reject. Sorry I could not have been more helpful. Somer Thompson, RIP.]
It may not be exactly true that Florida is the nation’s epicenter of pedophilia and other sex-related crimes, but stereotypes exist for a reason. The Sunshine State is prolific in prostitution and human trafficking. It’s a major supplier of talent to the porn industry, which is at least legal. Georgia’s harsh treatment of sex offenders causes many to move south, into a state that’s much easier to blend into.
An ever-growing population means more schools, more kids, more prey for the super-predators that all the world has come to fear—but less oversight, fewer social and moral standards. The best thing Charlie Crist ever did was turn the heat up a little bit, a practice that has continued under Bill McCollum; Crist can own that issue in 2010, if he’s not too busy denying the vicious rumors being pushed by his political rivals. Funny how people who rightly inveigh against anti-gay discrimination are so eager to engage in the politics of personal destruction when it suits their agenda, huh?
We have all followed the tragic story of Haleigh Cummings, the little girl whose mysterious disappearance has tugged at our heartstrings and tickled our gag reflexes for over six months now. Seemingly every detail of the case has played out luridly across our TV screens, with national networks piggybacking their affiliates’ intrusive coverage for all it’s worth—which isn’t much, really. Rarely does the media play any productive role in cases like this. The media doesn’t find lost kids or doesn’t bring down criminals, but they have considerable gifts for prejudicing juries and muddying up the facts in such a way as to greatly reduce the likelihoods of happy outcomes.
But it’s not about happy outcomes, is it? No. It’s about money. The individual reporters may have some compassion for victims and their families, but the institutions themselves couldn’t care less, and their coverage of the Cummings family demonstrates that. Institutions are void of human attributes; they can’t feel anymore than a flag can bleed or statues of holy figures can cry for all the pain they see. At some point, long ago, the coverage stopped being about finding the child and became about destroying what remained of the lives she left behind, and it’s sick.
The case is similar, somewhat, to the death of little Caylee Anthony. Another child disappearance, this one with the worst possible outcome. Again, the media turned on the mother pretty quick; their prejudices were partially borne out by evidence, not that anyone was aware of that evidence at the time. America hates women; misogyny is more of a factor in modern society than racism, in part because blacks already internalized the self-destructive dogma invented and propagated by the white majority. Casey Anthony made two big mistakes: she had a child, and then she lost her.
At no point has it occurred to anyone that one or both of these young people are probably going to end up dead as a result of the extensive mind-fucking they’ve received from people two and three times their age, who have built them up as potential child-killers based on a smattering of real evidence. They would surely have prepared relevant graphics maudlin theme music to mark the occasion, if they had. This is not surprising; our culture is committed to stealing the innocence of all youth, ASAP.
So far, based solely on the public record, one can make a stronger case that Frank Sinatra had JFK killed because he blamed the Kennedys for the death of Marilyn Monroe than that Haleigh Cummings’ guardians were responsible for her disappearance. If there’s more to it, the government will suss that out. But the subtle insinuations of talking heads raise the question: what do they know that we don’t? Nothing, except that the people of Florida have very short attention spans; as such, the only way to keep them motivated on any subject is to douse them liberally with scandal.
Of course, all this would be somewhat acceptable if it helped to bring any of these children home safely. Unfortunately, this dynamic only helps the super-predators; in most of the major cases in recent years, the perps were registered offenders living near the kid, sometimes in the same neighborhood. The fact that we can’t stop/won’t stop such people should be a factor in the thinking of anyone wishing to raise a family in Florida. Those few precious hours, when lives hang in the balance, are typically wasted making sure the families aren’t somehow involved. By the time clearer heads have prevailed, it’s too late to save lives. Every predator knows this, and acts accordingly.
October 13, 2009