There’s Not a Riot Going On

This is the piece that put a huge crack in the foundation of my reverence for Malcolm Gladwell (yes, it’s about school shootings). I’m not sure Winkler’s recommendations at the end of the piece add up to much, either, but there’s no question she’s right about the flaws in comparing school shootings to riots. Since reading this, I’ve noticed Gladwell often has the fatal structure of superficially compelling argument based on a messed-up premise. Of course, the New Yorker goes ahead and reprints his essay about school shootings as though nobody had said nothing.

The Answer

Well, time’s up (didn’t seem to generate a lot of interest). (I take it back — had not checked in a while, and there seems to be considerable hits.)

The answer is that Norman Mailer (Henry Abbott), Gunter Grass (Johann “Jack” Unterweger) and William Buckley (Edgar Herbert Smith Jr. — just died this year) all vigorously promoted the early jail release of convicted murderers who then went on to murder again, or, in the case of Smith Jr., attempt murder. Unterweger was the worst — he checked into the Cecil Hotel Room 1402 because it was where Richard “Night Stalker” Ramirez lived, and then went out, fooled the LAPD into giving him tips, and slaughtered three prostitutes.

The extra added dark laughter is that all three monsters became notable writers and flattered their famous-author mentors as faves (Smith was by far the most minor scribe). Why, a fine writer couldn’t be a psychopathic human-reaper, right? I don’t know about Unterweger, but I do know the other two played on the egomania of Buckley and Mailer to get their way with them. Anyone who admires me this much must be a fine fellow, right? The final detail is that Smith Jr. thought Buckley was such a tool that he contacted him after his victim got away, expecting Big Man to cover for him. Instead, Buckley contacted the cops and turned Smith in. Without, however, covering himself with shit and walking the streets for a week.

Little Note on a Wonderful Drawing

Thomas Nast, Tammany Tiger (circa 1870)

Nast was the creator of many iconic images and the first political cartoonist to hit hard.

This is from the Addison Gallery collection of drawings, and though we did not see it yesterday, I’m thrilled to have even a reproduction of it in the collection On Paper. (I can’t find any reproduction of it on the Interwebs.)

Nash’s brilliance is that he takes an otherwise un-humanized tiger and puts it in a human position: rolling on its back, arms folded across chest, legs kicking in the air and either roaring or laughing, doesn’t matter. The instant you see it’s called Tammany Tiger you understand it’s a caricature of a cruel, greedy, bestial human (Boss Tweed) given none of the dignity of being a person.

(Well, I should add, not a portrait of Tweed per se — he was a fat lump as uncatlike as could be imagined — but his corrupt organization.)

R.I.P.: Kate Millett

Cornerstone spirit and thinker. I had puttered around in The Second Sex during my exploration of French lit in high school, but ultimately found it too arty and indirect (the translation seemed terrible, too). Millett’s Sexual Politics came right out and said it. Unless you were a sex-stereotyper yourself, her arguments were undeniable. That my mother had always been a working professional probably helped my understanding. Also had a growing conviction that “the Revolution” was freeing men while leaving women in chains.