Notes On A Silencing · Reddit + Unsolved Mysteries

Plus, VF on podcast copaganda reckonings, and a content prediction

Apologies for the late entry! Vicissitudes of the recording schedule. On the plus side, you’ll see us again in just a few hours! — SDB

The crime

“Lacy Crawford’s story is as common as a housefly. As a 15-year-old girl, she was sexually assaulted. Two older male students at St. Paul’s, the elite boarding school Crawford attended at the time, lured her to their room and forced their penises down her throat. Her abusers went unpunished. Even after they bragged about their assault. Even after Crawford told her parents and her parents told St. Paul’s. Even after she contracted herpes from the attack. Even after decades. Crawford was scapegoated, shunned. She absorbed the blame, became depressed, took Prozac. She was silenced: by the school, the law, her parents, threats, time. So what makes her story special? Its very ordinariness.” — Kerri Arsenault in the Boston Globe

The photo

Arranged by Leslie Lindsay, who interviewed Lacy Crawford about Notes On A Silencing here.

The story

Crawford was two years behind me at university; I don’t think we ever crossed paths, which is a bit disappointing now, but then again, Ted Cruz was two years ahead of me and I’ve always been relieved to say I had no contact with that puffy scrote, so that sort of thing cuts both ways. I didn’t go to St. Paul’s, either, but the world she describes is familiar to me on the cellular level — not just the recognizable sensory aspects (weight of backpacks, smell of an admired acquaintance’s conditioner) but that feeling of realizing, first, that there are unimaginable worlds of even higher privilege than yours, and second that their existence and your not belonging therein is as close as you will get to knowing them. It’s extremely good writing, elegant and spare, and it’s the only thing that kept me from throwing the book through a closed window. My God, the rage I felt, reading Notes On A Silencing — on Crawford’s behalf; on my own; for my friend who got raped by the two-sport douche I had managed to fight off, barely, two weeks prior. For the fact that this isn’t the first story I’ve heard of a woman getting herpes from a sexual assault, or the third, or the eighth. For me at 17, hearing that the first guy I slept with had told everyone he knew that he was “breaking me in.” Hearing that that guy had cheated on me, and that that was why. For the powers of ten worse it is for women of color, queer women, poor women.

“It didn’t matter to us, who he was. He was every boy in our world. He was the world. We understood.” (323)

If you feel like you still don’t quite understand why women don’t report; why, 30 years ago, we didn’t share information on the Two-Sport Douches of the world amongst each other; why we didn’t insist that those fucks at the top of Blair Tower (who were shitty tippers, by the way) get kicked out of school on honor-code violations for literally pissing on the Take Back The Night March, well, he was the world. And that world tells women over and over again, you’re good for one thing, if you do that one thing you’re no good period, everybody can’t wait to tell you how wrong you’re doing it, and but also, also! how much nobody cares.

That great sadness — thinking about how many of us internalize that judgment of worthlessness and act accordingly, believing that it’s true. And then, that other great sadness, thinking about how…it’s true. When men and institutions tell us we don’t matter to them, that is them telling the truth. For once — this is what Crawford gets at, repeatedly, those sadnesses, these truths. This “review” is more of a rant, but I’ve walked around with this book for days like a burn, and I can’t quite think of a way to explain how angry I am and how proud of Crawford for building the fire. So, I’ll just say it like that. It is a great and terrible book, and you should read it. — SDB

An item from NY1 last week has me in a predicting mood. No, not the part where more than two dozen wrongful convictions studied by Brooklyn’s conviction-integrity unit proceeded from prosecutorial misconduct. No, certainly not the part where, of the 25 people dinged for more than 400 years of prison time, all but one were people of color.

No, all that is pretty unsurprising. What I’m gazing into my crystal ball about here is how many limited-series event docs we’re looking at in a year’s or two years’ time — on these cases in aggregate and individually. My prognostication: first one through the door is Frontline in March of next year, and by this date in 2022 we’ll have seen 15. And that’s just TV. Y’all have guesses here? (Feel free to soothsay podcasts, too.) — SDB

Does the internet have a shot at solving Rey Rivera’s case? That’s not snark; I think the stars may be aligning, and here’s why. I was scrolling desultorily through a Reddit thread called “True Crime cases that still haunt you?”, and was about to bail out after seeing the same handful of cases over and over (with, I must admit, some solid longread/podcast recs to pair with the references) when someone finally mentioned Rey Rivera. I was glad to see someone bring up a different case — one, we learned last week, that the new Unsolved Mysteries got a credible enough tip on that the production alerted the FBI.

Moments later, I saw that Netflix created a public Google Drive to aid Redditors and other internet detectives in solving all the cases in the first part of Season 1. Netflix’s announcement in the r/UnsolvedMysteries subreddit last week mentions “all the assembled evidence, case files, interviews, and video clips for each story that didn’t make it into the final episodes” (italics mine), so maybe these “DVD extras” will help make that critical connection that cracks the case.

Or maybe it’s all just marketing, but UM has historically incorporated its audience into the investigation, so even if it is just branding, at least it’s correct branding… — SDB

You’ve probably already read Marisa Meltzer’s piece for Vanity Fair,Are True-Crime Podcasts Ready for the #DefundthePolice Era?” If you haven’t gotten around to it yet, you’ll find it here — but if you have read it, maybe you have some of the same questions I do, to wit:

  • Does it seem a little “off” that a journalist, in a piece on the ethics of police sourcing/copaganda in true-crime podcasts, would support Crime Junkie after the accusations of plagiarism? Not that Meltzer shouldn’t have disclosed that she’s a fan; it’s the fandom itself that doesn’t quite “go,” somehow.

  • Meltzer does mention those plagiarism charges against Crime Junkie, but shouldn’t the whole flap last year with Sword & Scale have gotten a sentence as well? Wondery, a giant in the genre field, kicked the pod off its network; Meltzer notes that, after the death of George Floyd, S&S “complained about ‘PC #CancelCulture and #SJW Mob,’” but doesn’t explore how that relates to podcasts’ relationship to police sources and accounts of crimes/cases. She can’t control what the editors chop out, I get it, but…

  • …would anyone else like to see what originally got turned in? Because it feels like this started as a longer, more careful comparison between reported true-crime investigation podcasts — and how they would be shifting their approaches to police sources and statements — and review/discussion podcasts that would be shifting in a different way after Floyd’s death, perhaps (i.e., keeping in mind that, in the crime-as-entertainment economy, it’s seldom us white podcast hosts who are paying). The result is, while readable and somewhat thought-provoking, also the usual suspects in terms of citations, and feels like it has to explain what My Favorite Murder is, like, who is this for? …I’m not a Meltzerologist over here or anything, but this is a more glancing hit than I’d expect from her byline. JMO.

  • Anyone want to blind-item this comment? I have my theories, but primarily about who it isn’t. (You can tell it’s not me or Eve because there’s not enough swears.)

“It’s a group of amateurs talking about a bunch of crimes they didn’t investigate, basically folks who are repurposing other people’s work and talking about the crime of the week,” said one crime writer, who preferred to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation from hosts or fans. “I call them the Wikipedia Browns. The problem I have is with the ones pretending to be serious, but they’re just taking information or reporting directly from police—a lot of ‘comma, police said’—and presenting it as a chilling story to titillate.”

Overall, it’s not NOT a worthwhile read — but there’s a Vulture/Marshall Project version of the story that feels less clickbait-y and more like the issues are fully unpacked and aired out, and this isn’t quite it. — SDB

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