Thursday, August 29, 2019

Words Matter - How the Media Snookers Us

You can sway opinion in a "news" article by your choice of words.

Reading the news these days is a risky business.   When you look at an article, you have to first look to see who the publisher is, and figure out their associated bias.    If it is from The Federalist, the Washington Examiner (a paper that does not really exist) or Fox News, you can be sure you are going to get some right-wing news.   On the other hand, if it from the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times, or the Washington Post (where democracy still cries in the darkness) you can be sure of a left-wing slant.   All news today is propaganda for one side or another of our partisan civil war - which may brew into a real civil war before we know it, aided an abetted by these partisan hacks that pass for journalists today.

In a recent article in the Washington Post, the headline reads, "He stole $50 and got life without parole" which sounds rather harsh, even for Alabama.   The headline alone contains a whopper of a lie, which is repeated early on in the story:
At 22, Alvin Kennard was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.His crime? Stealing $50.75 from a bakery in 1983.
Um, not exactly.   The theft armed robbery from the bakery was the latest in a string of criminal acts he committed over time as an "habitual offender."   Again, the Post glazes over this:
The unusually harsh punishment was the result of Alabama’s Habitual Felony Offender Act, also known as the “three strikes law,” which was originally intended to crack down on repeat offenders when it was enacted in the 1970s.
You may not have been alive in the 1970's or 1960's, but crime rates were through the roof back then.  People were robbed, beaten, stabbed, murdered, and raped.  Your stuff was stolen regularly, even if you locked it up or chained it to a tree.   Criminals had rights, and citizens had none, and people got sick and tired of folks who decided that society didn't apply to them.

As I noted before, the police can only police law-abiding citizens.  The guy with four DUIs who rams into a busload of nuns, while driving the wrong way on the Interstate at 100 mph (something that happens with regularity in our country) is finally sent to jail.   The treatment program, probation, and two-year sentence - as well as taking away his license, did no good.   He basically lives as an outlaw, outside of the law, and can only be put away for good when he does something horrendous.

Meanwhile, the secretary at the company Christmas party has one glass-too-many of eggnog and blows 0.081 on the breathalyzer and her life is ruined.   She loses her job, her license, and life's savings to legal fees and court fines.   They can punish her, as she has a fixed address, pays taxes, and lives within the system.

Outlaws, on the other hand, don't give a shit about what laws you enact or what the punishments are. They will shoot a cop if they think it means they might not get caught for stealing a car.   And usually there is a pattern with such outlaws.  They start with petty crimes - breaking and entering, petty theft and so on.  But then they graduate to armed robbery, perhaps rape, and then eventually murder.

And bear in mind, that for every one crime they are caught and convicted of, there are perhaps two or three they are arrested for but not convicted, or at least suspected of committing.  And for every one of those, there are probably a half-dozen they are never caught for.   You wonder who broke into your house and stole your stereo?   It was probably some habitual offender.

So the idea was, back then, to put people away for long periods of time - perhaps forever - if they didn't want to play by society's rules.   You commit three felonies, and well, you're out of the game.  They put you away so the rest of us are safer and moreover, you age out of your crime-committing years.

And it is a law that worked, too.  Crime rates have fallen precipitously since these sort of laws were enacted - and incarceration rates have skyrocketed.   Of course, some on the left say there is no connection - we are confusing causation and correlation.   They argue that as the population ages, crime rates go down.   And maybe there is a nugget of truth to this.  It may also be that we are a wealthier nation than before - and have more social programs and welfare programs than in the past.   There may be a number of factors.   But frankly, I think putting outlaws in prison tends to reduce the number of outlaws in circulation.   Call me crazy, but I think there is a connection there.
But Kennard wasn’t exactly a hardened career criminal when he was sentenced to life behind bars: His prior history consisted of being charged in connection with a break-in at an unoccupied gas station when he was 18, which landed him on probation for three years, reported. 
Several years after that incident, Kennard and another man walked into the Highlands Bakery in Bessemer, Ala., wielding a knife, and emptied the cash register, according to court records. In 1984, Kennard was convicted of first-degree robbery. Because he had pleaded guilty to three felony counts in the gas station break-in, the penalty was a mandatory life sentence.
Read that last part again - wielding a knife, and emptied the cash register - as if they used the knife to jimmy open the cash register and not to assault and threaten the cashier (who is nowhere mentioned in the story).  With armed robbery, it doesn't matter if you stole $50 or $5000 - it is still a felony, and the seriousness of the crime isn't determined by the amount stolen, but the violent means used to do so.  Kennard was well on his way to the last, sad part of a habitual offender's saga - the robbery that goes wrong and a dead and bleeding cashier on the floor.    Armed robbery is a serious crime, it is not merely "emptying the cash register!"

Ask any clerk who has had to look at the business-end of a gun or had a knife held to their throat, while some masked man screams obscenities and threatened to "waste" them unless they hand over the money.  Many are scarred for life - most suffer from some sort of PTSD later in life.   It isn't fun being assaulted, and citizens have a right to carry on their ordinary business without fear for their lives and safety.

Oh, but Kennard is the victim here, of mean old Alabama!   He did nothing wrong, or nothing seriously wrong.  He just stole stuff, "broke into a gas station" (which glosses over what really happened there - you don't get three felony convictions for "breaking into a gas station" - he stole some serious shit!)

And these are only the crimes we know about.   Is it possible someone like him didn't steal other things?   Or was involved in other armed robberies but never caught or identified?   Is it possible that by putting him in jail for so long may have done him a favor by interrupting his crime spree and saving him from a lethal injection down the road when his life of crime ended up with someone dead?   Perhaps.

Now granted, maybe life without parole is a bit harsh.   Maybe 20 years is sufficient to turn him from an angry young man who rejects society into a middle-aged one who has run out of energy to support his rage.   And of course, here the system worked and he is out of jail after 32 years.  Was that too harsh a sentence for his life of crime?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I'm just glad I'm not the store clerk who had  to face down a violent and crazy young man with a knife.

The point is, regardless of whether you believe his sentence was fair or not, or whether his release was fair or not, the Washington Post is playing a word game here, playing down his crimes as trivial offenses - things that happened almost by accident, that could happen to anyone, that were youthful transgressions.  And it starts with the headline, which states a flat-out lie that this man was imprisoned for stealing $50.  This simply is not true - he was imprisoned for a rash of crimes, the bakery robbery was only the last in a series.   Oh, and it was armed robbery, too.  It wasn't like he was stealing loaves of bread after-hours to feed his hungry children.

The same Washington Post goes after President Trump for his constant lying - and they should, too.  But you can't fight lies with more lies, and if the Left continues with this strategy, it will simply polarize our country even further.   You can't be the "good guy" by wallowing with the pigs.  Besides, the pigs like it, when you stoop to their level.

There is a hue and cry on the left to abolish all sorts of criminal justice acts passed in the 1970's and even during the Clinton years.  The press publishes articles acting amazed that felony murder laws exist (when they date back centuries, at least).   "Little Joey is convicted of murder, even though he didn't pull the trigger!" they whine, not bothering to mention that Little Joey is a gang-banger and they shot a guard during an armored car robbery and one of his cohorts was killed in the melee.

Pardon everyone! Let felons vote - from jail!  Abolish parole!  Abolish ICE!   Hamstring the Police!  That is the platform of the "new" Democratic party.  As Ronald Reagan once said, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party, the party left me!"  And I am beginning to understand how he felt.  The problem is, there is no alternative - no "middle-of-the-road" party to join.  And no, I am not ready now or ever to wear a MAGA hat and attend one of Trump's little Nazi rallies.

Democracy dies in the darkness?   Maybe so.  But in any battle, the first casualty is the truth, and the WashPo is doing a good job of annihilating that.