“Man Trains Lesbian Monkeys To Kill Pope!”

good-evilor Killers, Media and (Unintended?) Celebrity

by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

Did that headline get your attention? It was meant to do so. Sex and violence sells.

In my usual perusal of the news, I came across a death notice for someone who was famous for no other reason than she killed her wealthy lover. My immediate response was, “Why does anyone care?” She’s simply a murderer and as such her memory (as opposed to remembering the victim) and her passing should be lost in the sands of time. The manifest answer for her receiving attention was celebrity. This person was made famous by the media exposure her crime, trial and conviction created.  The operative term there being “made”. Her celebrity was manufactured. The notice of her death was just another example of the business of media trading off of the celebrity they helped manufacture. Her celebrity was manufactured by an industry that was once and ideally still is primarily in the information business – journalism. Not all journalism is created equal though.  Indeed, there is more than one recognized form of journalism. Good investigative and basic factual journalism is based on the simple structure of the “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, “how” and occasionally the ancillary commentary of “why”.  A focus on”why” is often coupled with “what to do about it” in the form of advocacy journalism. Advocacy journalism often strays from imparting information and persuasive speech into outright propaganda. That is its nature. Increasingly news media is less about information and more about sensationalism.  Tabloid journalism (writing which uses opinionated or wild claims) and yellow journalism (writing which emphasizes exaggerated claims or rumors) are becoming more the norm rather than the exception. Many items that pass for “news” are in reality little more than long form advertisements for some product or service. As the essence of communicating important information has been watered down by the solvents of sensationalism and advertisement, our society has become overwhelmed with what is now colloquially called the neologistic portmanteau of “infotainment”.

Is this shift from news to infotainment in part responsible for a culture that makes celebrities out of killers? Or is it human nature that prompts such sensationalism and misplaced celebrity? Can anything be done to mitigate these circumstances and minimize the potential celebrity of killers?

“If it bleeds, it ledes” is a well-known axiom of the infotainment world. Violence sells as well as sex. This is a simple fact. It is also a fact of business that commercial mass media survives on sales and advertising dollars. It makes good business sense to sensationalize news in the infotainment model. It’s consumer capitalism. However, the press is more than just a business. It is a public trust. It is such an important public trust that the Founders gave special protection to the press in the form of the 1st Amendment. “Congress shall make no law [. . .] abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press“. They realized a free press was a bulwark against tyranny – a way to speak truth to power. But did they count on the economic tyranny of the marketplace corrupting a vital public service – investigative and advocacy journalism – into a circus sideshow that puts common killers on a mass media pedestal? I think not. But that is what has happened. They also probably didn’t foresee the degeneration of news into propaganda and advertising either, but that is a topic in itself and for another time. The salient point is the desire for profits has made the Fourth Estate a slave to profit. In that never ending quest for the bottom line, the news has not only lost utility in disseminating unbiased information and speaking truth to power, it has created a subculture where killers are often given the status of celebrity. All while making a tidy profit. None of which is illegal, some of which is even necessary, but I ask is it ethical to do so in a way that makes a celebrity of killers? Should the protections our society affords the press come with a duty of the press not to encourage they criminals they report upon by sensationalizing their crimes?  Perhaps.

There is also the ancillary market of selling tragedy. I have a 1st edition of “Helter Skelter” by Vincent Bugliosi which details the events surrounding the murder of Sharon Tate and her friends by the “Manson family”. My particular interest in the book is as a collector of 1st editions, not specifically true crime although I do read some true crime.  However, the book was a bestseller at the time it was published and it made Bugliosi famous in addition to a healthy profit. Is this kind of profiteering off of the blood of others ethical? I don’t think the answer is a clear cut yes or no. Some books, like “Helter Skelter”, are in some ways filling the gaps in infotainment created by investigative journalism falling to the wayside in mainstream news. A great deal of true crime writing is less about sensationalism than facts and trying to come to some kind of understanding of heinous acts many find incomprehensible. But what of other kinds of promotion of killers? Artistic or otherwise? I can buy a Sharon Tate t-shirt at Amazon and I can buy a Charles Manson t-shirt at there too. I’m just guessing here, but I imagine that Manson’s shirts far outsell Tate’s. The question of ethical or not  becomes even murkier. Is it offering and profiting on the shirts that is problematic or is it a reflection of the immorality of the market from a consumer standpoint? For contrast, consider pornography. Does the “fault” lie with the producer or the consumer generating the demand? Why do we as a society place so much emphasis on restricting displays of a sexual nature and think that a film where a couple of dozen people are killed by torture (looking your direction Saw movies) is entertainment?

What about actual entertainment? Drama requires adversity to work as a form and there is nothing more adverse to a protagonist than the threat of or actual violence and death. If you omit violence and death from art, you’d wipe out half of Shakespeare’s works – a cultural tragedy by any measure. But entertainment in the modern world isn’t just books and plays. It’s movies and television with ever more realistic (and unrealistic) effects. It’s video games that are first person shooters which by their very name indicate the player/audience is a participant in the violence that moves the story along. While psychology has yet to prove a causative link between violent behavior and violent entertainment, they have shown that content is more important when dealing with children. Children watching a lot of television and playing violent video games are more likely to be desensitized to the true effects of violence, be more fearful of the world, and engage in violence or harmful behavior as a problem solving technique although being an innately violent child didn’t correspond to watching more television. This suggests but does not definitively demonstrate a causative link between violent entertainment and violence in children, but what of adults? Why does entertainment with violent content seem to have little or no effect on them? It prompts the question what is the primary difference between adults and children? I say that primary difference is the ability to distinguish reality from fantasy.

Another factor is base human nature. We are both born and conditioned to look out for danger to either avoid (flight) or defend (fight) against it. It is primal. Because of this, even if we lived in a world free of violence as entertainment, we might not be able to avoid creating celebrity killers simply because as social creatures we will tend to share this information relating to a danger even if (or perhaps especially when) that danger is one of us. Could the celebrity killer phenomenon be unavoidable?  Perhaps. But can we mitigate some of the effects if that is so?

The problem of celebrity killers seems three-fold. Firstly, it rests in part in our natural proclivity to pay attention to them. While rooted in a very real survival instinct, that attraction to violence for practical reasons is blurred by the attraction to violence for entertainment reasons. Secondly, we are drawn to fictional violence because we love to see the protagonist overcome adversity. This attraction carries over in to news. Unfortunately, this fictional heroic outcome is rarely the case in real life. Victims of violence usually die or have horrible repercussions to live with. This is rarely portrayed in entertainment or in infotainment as it is a “downer”. Entertainment demands a happy ending. Reality? Not so much. Sometimes there is no happy ending. Thirdly, it is rooted in our own individual relationships to what is real and what isn’t.

Consider that the line between reality and fiction can become even more blurred in the realm of infotainment as news. When raw information is made to be sensational, reality is brought to the appearance of entertainment. Although violent entertainment seems to have less effect on the adult mind, one has to wonder what effect the of sensationalizing news has on one’s perception of reality? Is the fact that one sideshow barker selling fantasy and the other is selling hyped reality apparent or does that lead to confusion in the mind? Just because children are more prone to act on that confusion than adults does not mean that the confusion isn’t there but rather suggests that the effects may be more subtle than simply acting out. Sometimes there is neither simple answer nor solution.

What can we as a society and as individuals do? Become better educated and better consumers of news for one thing. Demand more straight fact and less sensationalism in your reporting. Force the marketplace to respond to a demand for information as the primary content of news over entertainment. Learn to keep reality and fantasy better segregated as a matter of social structure. Information is the key ingredient to education and that is the role our Founders envisioned for the press when they gave them special protection: to inform the public and public debate. It is not enough to be simply critical in the examination of news. We as a society needs to be more critical of how that news is delivered and of the people and institutions that deliver it and more questioning of their motives. In doing so, we may or may not be able to eliminate the celebrity killer from our culture, but we may be able to minimize the celebrity aspect. We can also better educate our children (and adults for that matter) on how to distinguish reality from fiction by teaching critical thinking from an early age. This, of course, runs afoul of those in society who seek to control others for a specific political agenda but the battle against authoritarianism is a separate issue. Are there other steps we could take to minimize celebrity killers?

We already as a society have taken steps to prevent killers themselves from profiting from their celebrity.  Son of Sam Laws are an example of this, but such laws are difficult to craft as they run the risk of running afoul of the 1st Amendment Right of Free Speech if they are overbroad and/or overreaching. However, despite their challenges, such laws do reduce the phenomenon of celebrity killers by not allowing criminals to profit from their crimes. Given the difficulty of crafting such laws, are other legal solutions a viable step? Or do we as a species or society need to change how we identify and inform about killers?

There are quite a few questions here about the role of media and ourselves as media consumers in creating the culture of celebrity killers. I don’t think there is an easy answer. There may not even be an answer.

One point or all, what do you think?

~ submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

60 thoughts on ““Man Trains Lesbian Monkeys To Kill Pope!””

  1. @Idealist: Civility is NOT a requirement; and you broke it first with your holier than thou statement. Making civility a requirement would reduce the value of this site so much I would no longer visit it; being required to endure the pablum, lies and drivel without any recourse to incivility would be too much of a cost to bear. Incivility is the salve for the cognitive pain of reading self-centered, illogical, and just plain irretrievably stupid writing. No matter how “civil” it may be.

  2. Did I say that the film called “zero dark and dirty” is guaranteed a CIA film.

    Just as the trailer: “Get the natives excited” recently shown to the joy of berserk extremist muslims. Such a gift to their campaigen
    It, btw, was a typical Bush maneuver. Multi-step, deniability, prepared fall-guys, traceless, and using our Special Ops to do the assault and hold it for almost 3 hours. What EFFing muslim group could have done that. Do the assault and flee it there MO.

    “The credit to all, and the torture was only part of it,” bla bla. press realese of the director’s statement does not erase that all who see the movie will NOT read the statement. They might have calmed down to read the notices and credits before the film begins. Result. The public thinks it is a legit docmentary and go from there loving Dubja for having saved us with his torture.

    Last despicable bit: Hollywood or CIA choice? Decide for yourself.
    The one who gets to show horror is a WOMAN. Talk about typecasting.
    Guys are tough. Guys play for keeps. BS!

    The CIA ladies are tough. Even the ones on the analysis side of the opn.
    Even the bookkeepers on the op side will cut your nuts off if you piss’em off..

    Read Ismael Jones’ book “Human Factors” There it all is exposed except the secrets, tradecrafts and operational details. He criticiizes the CIA. And the income is donated to a good cause. No profit for him

    Do yourself a favor. Read it.

  3. “Phuck you on behalf of those I accuse while excusing myself,” my paraphrase of what you wrote. That you said “Phuck you” is clearly in the record.

    Good stuff. Really convincing.
    Just like blaming it all on the FFs. Do you claim that only they have influenced our injustice system?

    As for my being holier than thou, that is your take. Welcome to it.

    I have convince others here that that is not my motive. I offer the outside view from another country with another justice system, another government, somewhat different politics. and a different economy and social responsibility for the poor, sick, afflicte, and the aged to name a few items.

    I never say it is better here, nor that I am better. God forbid.
    I left the country as a 29 year old adventurer and never went back.
    Never kept an eye on USA happenings before I got interested again when Obama was up in 2008.

    So try again. Your shots are wide of the mark.

    And your shots are also hardly within the limits of civility which is a requiremant here. Don’t think ´”smart?” scientists are excepted from the rule either.

    A scientific mind is not a guarantee that it is accompanied by other talents, knowledge or wisdom.

  4. Tony C..,

    Don’t throw skit. It will get your white researchers robe dirty. Smile.
    No, do do it because it shows that your arguments are soom exhaisted.

    WE? Why the citizens of the USA, of which I am one and also why I am concerned with its injustice system. It is obvious to me that not only pols and lawyers are responsible. We citizens have as much responsibility as they do, perhaps more as we are the victims of it.

    Are scientists excluded? I have acknowledge today, and in previous comments made clear my understanding of your metier. You have told me before but have forgotten…….what is your specialty?

    Calling me addled shows either limited understanding of what I refer to as citizens responsibility in a representative democracy, or a liking for ad hominems. or simply anger. Any other alternatives that you prefer?

  5. The tragedy of a private school ‘s headmistress murdering her lover is compounded by your misogynstic sneering . The story might have seemed far fetched at the time but murder is never the solution to any romantic break up or indeed to any imagined trespass . All celebritiies are pseudo celebrities indeed she redeemed herself somewhat to become a pseudo celebrity. Her need for self importance was palpable but exaggerated emotional preening ( in a fit of high dudgeon ,my favorite de – pompouser would say ) seems to be the order of the day.
    About over analyzing motivation thing :
    There’s so much good in the worst of us
    And so much worst in the best of us
    It behooves every one of us
    To not gossip about the rest of us

  6. @Idealist: You folks created a faulty system or allowed it to continue uncorrected.

    You Folks?!? Why am I blamed? This system has been the norm my entire adult life; and the idea that I could do something to change it is ludicrous. Heck, I have spent six figures just getting it to work like it should have done for free.

    You seem a bit addled, I am not a lawyer or politician, I am a research scientist, formerly a consultant. It is my job to solve problems and design systems, but I am not going to solve the problem of corrupt and homicidal cops, judges sleeping during a trial and then making rulings that ignore facts and evidence, or prisons that punish petty crimes with a massively increased risk of death, rape, battery and mauling.

    I do not blame individual lawyers, either. They have a little more power than me (they do not have to pay a lawyer to sue, for example) but they still don’t have the authority or resources it would take to solve these problems.

    Therefore, on behalf of whomever you include in the phrase “you folks,” phuck you. The blame for the faults of this system fall squarely upon the designers of the system, the founding fathers of this country, the authors of the Constitution that failed to foresee the cracks in the vessel that would let corruption seep in and fill it, and the corrupt judges and politicians that sought to widen those cracks to let their fellow vermin in.

    The only blame or shame citizens share is their common unwillingness to waste their lives and fortunes to beat their fists against the stone walls of the villain’s castle.

    On that score you are at least as much to blame as I or any other American, so do not try to set yourself apart from us and point your finger in judgment, sinner.

  7. Listen to BarkinDogs story in tomorrow’s program. Will he got to Yale to get grip on these unkown acronyms? Will he there get an offer to work the CIA? Will he piss more? Skit more? What perils lurk? Will he be eaten of by his puppet pack. Tuje in and find out in our next exciting episode of a celebrity dog’s life in “Barkin’ is my name.”

  8. And what is a Fiscal Cliff? Something to do with Cliff Notes? How can we all fall off of one when we dont all live anywhere near a cliff? its creepy. What does it have to do with New Years Eve? Am I gonna lose my dog tag? My barkin rights? Are the lights going out? Why would Biden talk to Boner?

  9. Can someone define: OTOH. Something to do with Ohio? I dont know what LoL means either. Or F U which appears here sometimes.

  10. TonyC,

    A link example to the petition WH site.


    Use it as you see fit. It is your life and freedom to do so. Beíng found a guilty perp is the easyist way out for the police and DA, particularly if the suspect is black. You must know that.

    You folks created a faulty system or allowed it to continue uncorrected.
    Now live with the consequences of celebratism, you created that too, by flocking to such claptrap. And don’t believe that many convicted murderers get a re-trial easily. OTOH, foofball players etc do get an advantage. But that is why we need an incorruptible justice system. Agreed?

    Justice is correctly, although not intentionally in my meaning, pictured as a blindfolded woman holding a scales. She thus does not notice that the justice system is askew.

  11. OK, Gene H, I’m going to get serious now. Because I can, I guess. When I first saw this article up there with its headline, it would have been the farthest thing from my mind to get serious on this thread. But a few things happened. That’s always the way.

    The way I was raised, and the raw materials involved, brought me (fortunately or unfortunately) to the adult habit of asking, whenever something was seriously wrong, “OK, what can be done about it?” If the answer was “nothing,” I moved on very quickly because I always had the feeling that we REALLY are in the sewers under the Warsaw Ghetto, that we REALLY never get out. And, therefore, time is of the essence.

    So when I reach a point of realizing that all efforts are likely to fall between “negligible” and “zero” in terms of positive effect, I experience a wild castabout moment (every damn time, with lots of damns after it) during which I cannot tolerate the knowledge that nothing can be done about it, and I contemplate the ultimate remedy: the flamboyant murder, the explosion, the heart-stopper, the front-page-above-the-fold-hey-you-mufukkers-this-is-what-it-came-to-suck-on-that story. That has gotten me through a lot of bad nights.

    And I will never do it (which is why I can write this) because the fallout would just inevitably fall OUT and the unintended consequences would overtake the intended consequence which is, simply, to get rid of that feeling, that minute.

    So who is the person who can actually go there, actually do the deed, actually become the celebrity by the violent rupture of the common taboo? I don’t want him to attract my attention but in a sense I cannot help being fascinated by the question: Since he is “NOT ME” who the Hell IS HE? Since he is of such a different constitution from me, what species does he belong to? There is, without any doubt at all, a kind of magnetic quality to his outsider-ness. I do want him in a test tube, analyzed, explained. I do want to know what makes him tick. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit it. I don’t care what he looks like, don’t need to see his face on the screen, don’t care if his neighbors all predictably describe him as “a nice guy, quiet…” But I do want to know all about him. In spite of everything. Even in spite of the possibility of contamination.

    By the way, among celebrity killers, I wasn’t all that fascinated by Harris. She seemed banal to me. A friend of mine said, at the time, “I don’t blame her for killing him; I HAVE TRIED THAT DIET!”

  12. TonyC,

    Well made points from your POV.
    Not in my POV however.

    I quote:
    “The justice system should be as fair and impartial and open to correction of its errors as we can make it.

    It is NOT justice, or impartiality, for courts to give in to public pressure, that is unequal treatment based upon celebrity and fundamentally wrong, it slights those that fail to generate sympathy, the ugly, the inarticulate, the non-white, the non-Christians. It is unfair and unjust to have to rely upon the media, fame, wealth and/or personal charisma in order to get a fair trail or appeal. It is a
    of the victims of psychopaths trying to make a name for themselves as celebrity killers.”

    The public is a factor that the current President respects with his petitition system at whitehouse.gov. If not google petition system. Or I’ll give a link.

    The current justice system, notice I said system, which includes investigation, prosecution and defense. None of this stands the tests of doing what they are intended to do. As an informed person and scientist, which you remind us, you should be aware of these defects and the thousands unjustly incarcerated. Especially if one includes the aftro peoples, and the poor who can not pay for lawyers and appeal assistance in many states. The system is rotten and much proof of that is offered here for consideration.

    You said “appeals court”, and I expanded that to include the whole system of finding someone guilty without reasonable doubt.

    That is my privilege, but not the attribution to you. My bad, but did not expect such (“stingslighet”) ungenerous attitude, but lawyers are lawyers and scientists do often quibble over such matters. Not I.

    Happy New Year.

  13. Gene,
    I take exception to your comment that “we are not perfect social creatures”. I am of course perfectly social in every way!! 🙂

  14. @Idealist: Similarly the freedom of speech is even higher hallowed in the Constitution

    It is not placed above LIFE. It is not even placed above endangerment of others; which is why we prohibit shouting “fire” in a crowded place, and why we prohibit inciting people to riot or murder or assault.

    Plus, my argument was that speech is a right that we can take away from a convict; you can’t argue against that by saying it is a right. I know it is a right. I said so. So is liberty, but we can incarcerate thieves, so is life, but we can put murderers to death. When somebody is convicted of a crime they can forfeit some or all of their rights, all the way up to life itself, and for murderers, rapists or sex slavers, we could choose to make speech one of those rights to be forfeited.

  15. @Idealist: TonyC would take away that right of appeal to the public and the justice system

    I would not take away the right to appeal to the justice system; I specifically allowed for that. Perhaps you can try to make your points without attributing to me words I did not say.

    I said, “to anybody but an appeals court.

    I will also stress, he has been convicted. We only presume people innocent until they are proven guilty; they are considered proven guilty by being convicted.

    I do not believe in appeals to the public, I do not think justice should be a popularity contest, and I do not think the public has the information necessary to make anything but an emotional decision.

    Certainly I do believe some innocent persons are in prison, the justice system is not infallible, and any source of new evidence that may exonerate a convict should be persued; including any information they recall. But that can be conveyed to their attorney, appointed or otherwise, it does not need to be conveyed to a reporter and the public. Any changes needed to help exonerate innocent convicts and correct the errors of the justice are changes that can and should be accomplished without resorting to reporters or public opinion. The justice system should be as fair and impartial and open to correction of its errors as we can make it.

    It is NOT justice, or impartiality, for courts to give in to public pressure, that is unequal treatment based upon celebrity and fundamentally wrong, it slights those that fail to generate sympathy, the ugly, the inarticulate, the non-white, the non-Christians. It is unfair and unjust to have to rely upon the media, fame, wealth and/or personal charisma in order to get a fair trail or appeal. It is certainly unfair to the families of the victims of psychopaths trying to make a name for themselves as celebrity killers.

    I would definitely take away the right to appeal to the public. They had their chance to appeal to the public as represented by a jury and the jury unanimously convicted them! For murder, they probably got an appeal and then got convicted by another jury. If they have something new to say they should be allowed to say it, and it should be investigated, but they do not need the press for that.

  16. GeneH,

    You did not address me but I address your comment above.

    Pressures of a societal nature or for ethical grounds are OK, I feel.
    But elimination of constitutional rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press is beyond the line, again IMHO.

    The problem is the same for all celebrity building, unless we think of the right of petition directly via public opinion and the exposure of injustices.
    The examples of DNA based freeing from conviction after 25 years incarceration are speaking loudly for the rights of convicted murderers, who were in fact not guilty of the crime. TonyC would take away that right of appeal to the public and the justice system , thus causing a new examination of evidence and a new trial.

    The irony is that the people nor the press are not defending their constitutional rights as much as NRA is defending our dubious right to bear weapons.
    Both have perhaps abandoned their duties in favor of the soporifics provided by our rulers.

  17. TonyC,

    I will challenge you on the grounds of freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. The presses presence and investigative (even exploitive use) is protected. You would take that away. Similarly the freedom of speech is even higher hallowed in the Constitution and in observance by the courts.

    Many corrections of injustice after 25 years of incarceration are launched in the public eye by the press speaking after being advised or the prisoner speaking in his own behalf

    That the Constitution gives you or anybody or corporation entitlement to change these rights I heartily oppose.

    You apparently want to limit these Bill of Rights amendments.

    Your words:

    “Tony C.1, December 31, 2012 at 8:55 am

    It seems to me, that once somebody is convicted of a crime, we are entitled to strip them of any rights we deem fit. Including life and liberty, so why not speech?

    If somebody is convicted of murder, torture, kidnapping, slavery, or other heinous crimes that may provide tabloid fodder, we can take away their rights of free speech, for life, even if their time in prison is for whatever reason limited. Once convicted prohibit interviews, statements, writings, etc by the criminal; he doesn’t get to tell his side of the story or provide details to anybody but an appeals court.

    As for the press, we do not restrict what they print, but they are not above the law, and helping a convicted criminal to communicate with the public is aiding and abetting a new crime, trying to get such an interview or communication is engaging in behavior expressly for the purpose of helping a convicted criminal prohibited by law from such communication to break the law. The same is true for any guards passing notes or repeating stories told by the prisoners.” TonyC.

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