Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Who the hell is Terry Ratzmann?

It's Day Four of the 24/7 incessant coverage of Brian Nichols. CNN spent the majority of the day plastering another angry black man (tm) photo of Nichols at his court hearing where he was denied bail. Hell, has anyone heard enough from Ashlee Smith? The guy who was carjacked? The guy who was in the courtroom next to the courtroom Nichols shot up a day after it happened? Why is this story so delectable? I've been pondering it for days -- and I think I've got it figured out. This is a modern day 'Birth of a Nation', complete with the predatory feral black runaway slave, the pristine white woman, and the salvation and glory of the Church (okay, I don't know if that last element is in Birth of a Nation, having never actually seen that racist piece of trash which is only, through an unfortunate accident of history, in such a prominent place in film history). Not only is the image of the black man as savage and violent reinforced (he shot a judge!), not only is the debate over the merit of female police offers revived (show me a female officer who can't carry out her duties because of her ovaries, and I'll show you a male Krispy Kreme addict who can't carry out his duties as a policeman because of his big tubby gut), not only is a blonde-haired, blue eyed southern belle depicted as both the epitome of feminine beauty and domesticity, but the black animal man is tamed by the (*gasp*) grace of God! This story has everything one could ever want to establish the hold of the white Christian conservative right on mainstream society, down to the mysoginistic attack on a woman's ability to do anything besides make pancakes. And the overall message is that 'God saves' -- I mean, this entire incident couldn't be better if Falwell himself scripted it. But I really blame mainstream media for obsessing over it. Forget the furthering of public knowledge, the average American has a hard time finding truly unfiltered news. As such, we rely on sources like CNN, NBC, and (god forbid!) Fox to give us the scoop on what's going on around the world. If they don't show us something, for anyone besides the locals, it's really as if it didn't happen -- we are so isolated from the actual incident that mass media does more than merely distill the news to faraway sources, it, in essence, makes the news. The responsibility of mass media is phenomenal. As such, the fixation on the Nichols case is disgusting. We care because we have nothing else to care about. And as I described above, caring about this case does a lot to reinforce the stranglehold of so many existing stereotypes onto our collective consciousness. After four days of the public 'Lynch-o-meter' on code orange, I have to ask, does anyone know who Terry Ratzmann is? This was the man who walked into a Sunday gathering of his church group and gunned down seven members before committing suicide. The question I ask is, given what I've just said, why don't we know or care about who Mr. Ratzmann is?


Blogger phillyjay said...

The guy killed a judge and two or three other people as far as I can remember.Then he escapes the court house, pass all kinds of security, and goes missing for a little while.If a white guy did it instead, I think it would probably get just as much attention.It's a big story because it sounds more dramatic then the church shooting I guess.I remember hearing about a church shooting two or three times but I don't remember it getting so much press.

3/15/2005 09:08:00 PM  
Blogger Karlos said...

"okay, I don't know if that last element is in Birth of a Nation, having never actually seen that racist piece of trash"

This statement struck me as a little odd. Am I the only one?

3/16/2005 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

odd how?

3/16/2005 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger Karlos said...

Seems like a pretty strong opinion to assert about something you haven't even seen.

I'm not saying it isn't a "racist piece of trash" - I haven't seen it, either, so I don't know - but that's just the point. See it, then slam it all you like. If what I've read about it is true, it probably deserves to be slammed more, but that's strong language to use in ignorance.

3/17/2005 12:52:00 AM  
Blogger James said...

K, it's not ignorance. It's like talking about the repression of Blacks in the Sixties or the bloody body count of Gettysburg. Birth of a Nation - the first blockbuster movie event - was Hollywood's beginning, selling racist fear of Black men to the entire nation, after adaptin D.W. Griffith's Civil War play.

How do I know this? It's a long silent movie, quoted everywhere. Every media theory class, every racism class, every film discussion on blackface in theatre you've ever seen holds some clips from Birth of a Nation. Hell, we've seen Bamboozled enough to see the relevant parts from that flick.

The idea that one has to see the entirety of something in order to talk intelligently about something doesn't work for me. I've never visited the bloody greenery of Gettysburg, but I've been taught for years about Gettysburg's importance. I've written enough history papers to know that Birth of a Nation is a important popular culture element found throughout American history discussions of the early 20th Century.

I think the real issue with the Brian Nichols trial involves the financial benefit media outlets gain through the constant barrage of dark Black sociopath photos and capture footage. It's more profitable to play to the racist fear of Black men in American media, and, unfortunately, Birth of a Nation provides the exact script for today's media firestorm -- Black man escapes authorites, goes crazy killing white folk, and sure enough, ends up threatening the pristine White woman. Americans need to examine why that old plotline still sells today.

3/19/2005 03:08:00 PM  

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