HELLO and welcome to the fifth installment of Things I Read That I Love, wherein I share with you some of the longer-form journalism/essays I’ve read recently so that you can read them too and we can all know more about murder, taxidermy, PTSD and sexual assault! This “column” is less feminist/queer focused than the rest of the site because when something is feminist/queer focused, I put it on the rest of the site. Here is where the other things are. The title of this feature is inspired by the title of Emily Gould’s tumblr, Things I Ate That I Love.
This week I’m giving you another hefty portion of stories that will horrify and trouble you deeply but that you will be compelled to read anyhow. We call this “The Law & Order Edition.”
The Fort Carson Murder Spree (November 2009), Rolling Stone – Soldiers returning from Iraq have been charged in at least 11 murders at America’s third-largest Army base. Could the killers have been stopped if they’d gotten the proper care they needed for the extreme PTSD they suffered? How did they get this far gone without anyone noticing?
Fatal Distraction (March 2009), The Washington Post – “Forgetting a child in the backseat of a car is a horrifying mistake. But is it a crime?” – A Pulitzer-Prize winning essay on the 15 to 25 parents a year who, for various reasons, leave their small children in the car to bake to death in the summer heat.
The Killer Cadets (December 1996), Texas Monthly – I actually remember when this happened and it being on the cover of People Magazine. This story is better than that one.
Sextortion at Eisenhower High (July 2009), GQ – “Last year, an awkward high school senior in Wisconsin went online, passed himself off as a flirtatious female student, and conned dozens of his male classmates into e-mailing him sexually explicit images of themselves. What he did next will likely send him to jail for a very long time.”
The NYPD Tapes: Inside Bed-Sty’s 81st Precinct (May 2010) – The Village Voice – You might remember Adrian Schoolcraft from a terrifying This American Life story which detailed the repercussions Schoolcraft suffered at the hands of the NYPD after he came forward with extensive audio recordings he’d made of the precinct’s sketchy operations. You can read the Voice’s complete coverage of The NYPD Tapes — released exclusively to The Voice from Schoolcraft — here.
An IM Infatuation (August 2007), Wired – “He was an 18 year old Marine bound for Iraq. She was a high school senior in West Virginia. They grew intimate over IM. His dad also started contacting her. No one was who they claimed to be and it led to a murder.”
See No Evil (May 1993), Texas Monthly – So the “coldest, most depraved killer of women in Dallas history” did this thing where he stole his victims’ eyeballs.
To Catch a Predator Sub-Section – there are so many ways in which this show was fucked up!
+ Tonight on Dateline This Man Will Die (September 2007), Esquire – An exposè on Chris Hansen and how his show “caught” alleged “perverts” online by posing as children on the internet and enticing men to come to their decoy house where they’d be arrested on television and everyone would feel very entertained! Dateline literally PURSUED the guy this story is about — an otherwise upstanding citizen — into being a part of their show as a criminal to a degree that shocked even me, and led to his suicide. I didn’t think there was room for compassion in these cases, no matter how fucked the show’s methodology, but it turns out that there is A LOT. This is serious business.
+ “To Catch a Predator”: The New American Witch Hunt for Dangerous Pedophiles (July 2007), Rolling Stone – How Perverted Justice, a citizen group, along with Dateline, have taken crime-hunting into their own hands at tremendous consequence.
The Lies and Follies of Laura Albert, a.k.a. JT Leroy (February 2008), LA Weekly – I realize I’ve read more or less everything ever published about “JT Leroy” but never read anything by “JT Leroy.”
Rendezvous in the Ramble (July 1978), New York – Once upon a time, the best way for a gay man in New York to find a hookup without showing their face in public was at The Ramble, an area of Central Park. Interesting from a historical perspective.
What Killed Aiyana Stanley-Jones? (December 2010), Mother Jones – “A nighttime raid. A reality TV crew. A sleeping seven-year-old. What one tragedy can teach us about the unraveling of America’s middle class.”
The Sexploitation/Tony Stancl story is really interesting/troubling to me in that nobody seems to consider how badly he was bullied before he did what he did and how that may have played into his decision to extort the other kids. What Tony did just happened to cross the imaginary line we draw between “normal” and “criminal.” Schools need to get a lot better at understanding bullying, especially the verbal/emotional/harassment kind (vs. physical beatings).
Oh Riese, you always know exactly what will make my day.
I love this feature — every time you post “Things I Read That I Love” I spend like 3 days reading everything. Can’t wait to get started on this one :)
That TAL episode about Adrian Schoolcraft is amazing; I’m going to read the Voice piece now!
I don’t know if this is the place for recommendations, but if you like crime journalism you should check out the mind-blowing article about the assassination of Rodrigo Rosenberg that was published in the New Yorker a while ago. It’s almost literally unbelievable: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/04/04/110404fa_fact_grann
Keep doing this, Riese–I love these!
Fatal Distraction is a really, really good piece. But super sad. Seriously.
ikr — i actually read that one yesterday, so it’s still super-fresh in my mind — like what do you do, where do you even go from there? i feel like i wouldn’t be able to go on. it’s hard to imagine anything that would feel worse.
yeah, it was really beautiful. wrenching, but somehow not overly depressing. in a strange way, it restored my faith in humanity. do you know what i mean? that people can be understanding and forgiving in the face of such horrific tragedy.
This is my absolute favorite best new thing on autostraddle
this makes me so happy!
YES YES love it! Give us more reading, please, Lovely Riese :)
I would also like to say that I love this new feature/column/whatever it is.
Fatal Distraction made me cry but it was SO good. I’m going to make everyone I know read it.
As a teacher, the Sextortion one scares me so much. I mean, the kid probably would have gotten away with it if he’d targeted fewer people and if he hadn’t insisted on more encounters with X. It’s not that hard to imagine how something like this on a smaller scale could happen but this kid really was an opportunist. Part of me is sad for him that he’ll spend the rest of his life behind bars (even thought what he did is inexcusable) and part of me is very relieved he was caught because I wonder what he would have been capable of in a few years.
Ok a couple of things.
1. I like this column. It reminds me of when my friend and I accidentally watched back-to-back episodes of criminal minds over Thanksgiving (a show we had never seen), thought that it was brutal, sordid, and violent, and played on conservative fears. AND YET WE COULDN’T STOP WATCHING. This is kinda how I feel about this column; I think the reads are interesting, but part of me is just like, ugh. But of course I will still read everything.
2. Also I’m having conflicted feelings about the Aiyana Stanley-Jones article. When I read the first few pages, I was overwhelmed by the horrendousness of what happened-I think a lot of the news articles I read when it happened neglected to mention that there was a component of reality tv involved, and I just couldn’t get over that a little girl had basically died for someone’s entertainment. (Esp after I just binge read the Hunger Games). 3. But THEN I started to get really irritated with how the author was handling race–it just felt like clunky Crash-type writing, like calling the man “the Arab” and clarifying that corruption isn’t a “black or liberal thing.” THANKS, dood, for clarifying that, I wasn’t certain of that before. And then to imply that Al Sharpton was basically deprived of his normal angry black man routine? OMG and finally the comment about the bookends? I just about lost it. Then I go onto wiki and find the author is a Pulitzer prize winner who has written about race?? Am I the only one losing it over this? Has anyone ever read his stuff on race, and am I just tripping out right now?
Anyway. Sorry, I just barfed a lot of words onto AS.
You are not the only one. I was incredibly bothered by how that author handled race in the article and engaged in victim-blaming as well – to the child’s father!
on a totally unrelated note, i visited this blog i forgot about http://streetanatomy.com/ and freaked out at the glass eyeball. shudder.
I unwittingly picked up Savannah Knoop’s book JT Leroy a few years ago during my binge on LGBT* reading material, but I never thought about reading the actual books, either. I just amazoned (can that be a phrase now?) them and the descriptions didn’t refer to the scandal at all! Weird. I don’t know if I want to bother reading them, though. Has anyone read them?
Oh man, these articles are filled with all kinds of what the fuck.
I do love these posts though! I always end up reading all of them, riveting stuff dude.
the sextortion one is amazing. it would be interesting to see something written on this from a queer perspective tho. basically he was creating a tiny fantasy world where he could be gay + in charge. but he did it in such an abusive, manipulative way. even tho what he did was obviously fucked-up and wrong, i feel like he did it out of an overwhelming need for intimacy and a need to avenge that was so, so badly misdirected. my reaction was ‘wtf that’s crazy shit’ + ‘poor kid’
also i love this series too. more!