Only Some People Get Full Dimensionality and Representation
March 15, 2021 7:42 AM   Subscribe

Many people made money from what happened in that U.S. Bank in suburban Cleveland in April 2011. New York editors and go-betweens, Hollywood agents and filmmakers, and others, all sticking their hands into the big “Cherry” pie and pulling out green. That the underlying story at one point included real people and real victims: This was erased through careful, diligent inattention. From Crime and Hollywood by Matt Gallagher in The Intercept
posted by chavenet (10 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Great piece; lots of things to think about in there.
posted by Slothrup at 9:07 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]


There is something to be said for the thought that many criminals may have a very good justification for why they committed their crimes; how they were victims of circumstance and hard luck.

However, I also notice that it is only the white male criminals - and usually rich ones - who get the privilege of having these stories told. There doubtless were non-white veterans-turned-drug-users-turned-bank-robbers, but they don't get the privilege of publishing companies and movie studios rushing in to clean up their images.

I'm reminded of a moment from the movie Quiz Show, strangely; that was a film about the 1950s quiz show scandals, where the more popular contestants were fed the answers in advance so they could keep "winning". Ralph Fiennes plays Charles Van Doren, one of the contestants going along with the rigged game; John Turturro plays Herb Stempel, the guy Van Doren "beat", who became the whistleblower because he suspected the quiz show's reason for ousting him was entirely because Van Doren was a suave rich dude and he was a quirky nobody. Congress conducts an inquest, and Van Doren finally decides to publicly admit participating in the scandals and beg forgiveness. The first two Congressmen to speak after this praise Van Doren for his "bravery" in admitting to his failing and his willingness to come forward. It speaks well of him, they say.

And then the third congressman says: "Mr Van Doren, [like you] I'm also from New York, a different part of New York. I'm happy that you made the statement, but I cannot agree with most of my colleagues. You see, I don't think an adult of your intelligence ought to be commended for simply, at long last, telling the truth."

I'm with him - I don't think that simply admitting to a crime is worth a book deal and a Hollywood adaptation, and I definitely don't think that only white dudes deserve that privilege.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:47 AM on March 15 [23 favorites]


“He has Spider-Man portraying him,” Foster told me. “Pardon me for saying this, but what the fuck?”
There’s a lot more carefully reasoned indictment of how this story was cherry picked and reframed, but yeah.

The other bit that sticks with me is someone saying, of a bank robber, well, you couldn’t expect someone to come back from war and work retail. There’s so much shit rolling downhill in that sentence. Made me think of Bret Deveraux’ comparisons of soldier and warrior iconography; also Cincinnatus.
posted by clew at 9:47 AM on March 15 [8 favorites]


Walker sounds like he's had a lot of coaching: “Do I appreciate the wrongfulness of brandishing a gun …?” and “I lose track. …”, amongst others, smack of a lot of work being done on him/by him to make the story palatable.

I wonder how dead he'd be if he hadn't been a white gun-toting junkie bankrobber?
posted by scruss at 10:16 AM on March 15 [8 favorites]


I read the book, and thought it was pretty good. It's certainly true that white males, even white male junkie bank robbers, have privilege in USian society - he wasn't gunned down by the cops, he very possibly got a lighter sentence than a black or hispanic person would have for the same crimes. I bet a white criminal is more likely to get a book deal or have his book deal optioned than a black criminal, but the odds of that happening to any criminal are pretty fucking low in the first place. Does the fact that he lives in a profoundly racist society mean he shouldn't write a book? Or should he turn down a book or a movie deal out of solidarity? Should he have refused his plea deal because a black man would probably be forced to serve more time? Would anybody truthfully say that if they were in his place, after getting to prison, they would have done anything differently? That they would turn down the money from a book advance or a movie option while they are in prison making literally 10s of cents a day (if they're "lucky" enough to score a job at all)?

I'm sure he was "coached" if you want to call it that, because you have to speak in a very particular way if you're accused of a crime and want to minimize the amount of time you're going to spend in prison, and then speak in a very particular way if you're going to make parole and/or get sent to a halfway house. That's a huge part of your criminal defense lawyers job - teaching you how to talk (or how to shut the fuck up) so you serve less time in prison. I know almost nothing about Walker other than what I read in the jacket of his book, but I did time in something like 8 jails and prison, and I can tell you that there is no better way to understand what it is like to be oppressed is the USA than to serve time in the USA.
posted by youthenrage at 11:37 AM on March 15 [11 favorites]


Yeah this is one of those situations where I see people point this out:

It's certainly true that white males, even white male junkie bank robbers, have privilege in USian society - he wasn't gunned down by the cops, he very possibly got a lighter sentence than a black or hispanic person would have for the same crimes.

and I just want to follow up with... and you mean in an ideal world the black guy gets a second chance at life, and a chance to have his story told, too, right? Not the other way around? Right?
posted by atoxyl at 4:18 PM on March 15 [5 favorites]


The article’s argument is that this guy didn’t get his story told - he got a more flattering, less culpable story told to replace his story. And one of his victims’.
posted by clew at 4:29 PM on March 15 [7 favorites]


and I just want to follow up with... and you mean in an ideal world the black guy gets a second chance at life, and a chance to have his story told, too, right? Not the other way around? Right?

What on EARTH makes you think people mean it the other way around?....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:16 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]


What on EARTH makes you think people mean it the other way around?....

I didn’t mean to imply that people here were doing this necessarily, but I’ve seen people talking about these issues in a way that gives me a really bad vibe, like they really want to see the book thrown at somebody, but they know enough about disparities in criminal justice that they channel the impulse into those terms. When I see people take the opportunity, every time a white guy manages a relatively smooth transit though the justice system, to point out that a black guy might have been shot or locked up forever - sure one could call it raising awareness. But there are a lot of times I see it and it comes off to me as a way to say can you believe they’re letting this guy off so easy?? with the racial awareness acting as a counterweight to avoid falling out of the bounds of liberal social acceptability. And even when it avoids that undertone, it risks minimizing how brutal the system can be for most people in it, even the white guys.
posted by atoxyl at 6:54 PM on March 15 [4 favorites]


@atoxyl - I agree, sometimes in situations like this one I want to just double check that everybody is on the same page, like we all are wanting to live in a society where everybody regardless of race gets treated like the currently privileged white racial group, and not in a society where a randomly chosen, not necessarily representative member of the privileged white group gets absolutely hammered with prison time or worse as a way to somehow sooth our collective rage, angst and/or guilt? Right?!
posted by youthenrage at 11:12 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


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