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Hyperventilating on crime

I’m sure we’re all pleased that someone who has repeatedly raped is arrested, tried, and convicted. That is a good thing.

It would also be a good thing if we could write about it using our indoor voices.

Here is the opening sentence from a post on Baltimore’s Investigative Voice blog:

A man alleged to have brutally beaten and raped three women in a violent killing spree has been convicted of attempted murder and rape in the first of three trials.

If I may be forgiven for parsing this:

Let’s move away from alleged. The defendant was charged.

Rape and murder seem seldom to be accomplished gently, so brutally might be understood.

Is it a killing spree if he has not yet been tried and convicted of killing anyone?

Don’t rape and attempted murder already suggest violence, so that violent killing spree is just some more heavy breathing?

And is spree, which used to be used for something more nearly innocuous, like drinking spree, quite what we want here?

The bare facts are ugly enough. They don’t require hype.

 

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 7:21 PM | | Comments (16)
        

Comments

"Brutally (beaten and raped)" would indeed be redundant, but "(brutally beaten) and raped" is not: there are non-brutal beatings.

Also, I don't think a killing spree requires that people actually be killed: spraying the room with gunfire, for example, would suffice even if nobody died of it.

I agree with John Cowan above; "beaten" is not the same as "brutally beaten."

Furthermore, the man is alleged to have gone on a killing spree--or by your correction, is charged with having done so. That he has not yet been convicted does not negate the fact that two women died and he is considered sufficiently likely to be responsible as to merit being put on trial for their deaths. I would, however, disagree with JC above that you can go on a killing spree without actually killing anyone; however, that doesn't apply in this case as people were indeed killed.

There's a nice point of journalistic propriety here. The man was charged with rape and convicted, so callinghim a rapist presents no obstacle.

Writing about him as a killer, however, before that little formality of a trial and conviction, is something that scrupulous reporters avoid.

Also, I would like to see a description of a beating that does not involve brutality. It seems to me that brutality is inherent in a beating.


Prof. McI.,

Hmm..... my trusty (?), dogged-eared Webster's NewWorld Dictionary defines the word "spree" as "1. ----a lively, noisy frolic 2.----- a period of drunkenness 3.----a period of uninhibited activity (shopping SPREE)."

Whether the serial acts of "attempted murder" ("killing") accompanied by corporal assault and rape as described in the above quoted blog entry from the online Investigative Voice, would fall within the aforementioned definitional realm of Webster's NWD's, (the meaning of "spree), seems like a major stretch.

Further, the act of killing, no matter the means, intent or method, by its very antisocial nature, has an inherent 'violence quotient', and seems almost bordering on over-kill (sorry), or redundancy to conjoin the adjective "violent" w/ the word "killing" as it appeared in the Investigative Voice's hyperbolic opening sentence. (An prime example of more "heavy breathing" as you so aptly put it, Prof. McI.)

And if indeed the 'perp' in question was initially convicted of "attempted murder and rape", then the logical implication arises w/ the "attempted murder" conviction rap, that if none of the victims actually died at the hand of this rapist, then this serial flurry of mayhem could hardly have been a "killing spree". (And 'attempted killing spree' just sounds lame.)

Prof. McI, respectfully, I have heard the term "shooting spree" used by reliable media sources when reporting on various high-profile incidents of premeditated, purposeful killings of innocents by the use of firearms. The horrific Virginia Tech massacre from a number of years back, and the 2002 infamous (Washington D.C.) Beltway sniper case involving perpetrator John Allen Muhammad and his much younger, willing accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo immediately come to mind.

Interestingly, when I checked Wikipedia's entry for (now-executed) sniper J. A. Muhammad, in the first sentence of his 'bio', he is described as a "spree killer". I know Wikipedia isn't exactly up there w/ the OED, but it ain't chopped liver, either. Just sayin'.

So clearly the word "spree" doesn't always connote human activities of a strictly innocent, innocuous, or pleasurable nature (aside from "a period of drunkenness" HA!), although sadly the aforementioned murderous duo of Muhammad and Malvo must have garnered a certain degree of sadistic 'pleasure', or an emotional high, from their wanton, random killings.

But, in the main, Prof, McI., I agree that this particular Investigative Voice blog post was pure "hyperventilating on crime". Remember how Mozart's arch rival, Soliari (sp. ?) in the film "Amadeus", critiqued him (Mozart) for "too many notes" in one of his classical works-in-progress. IMO, this hyperbolic blog entry suffers from "too many words". Period.

ALEX

Alex, if I might venture one tiny correction, I believe it was the Emperor in "Amadeus" whose critique of Mozart's music was simply "Too many notes." Salieri recognized how divine those notes were and was grinding his teeth with jealousy.


Hi Dahlink,

As the late, (great?) Pres. Ronald Reagan was often want to say when frustratingly expressing some notion of déja vu, namely, "Well.......... there we go again. (Huh!)"

Hmm......... way off topic once again. But don't it feel liberating? HA!

But seriously, Dahlink.

Thanks for your earlier clarification re/ the memorable "too many notes" quote from the 1984 movie "Amadeus" which I attributed to Mozart's jealous rival, Antonio Salieri.

Although his Majesty, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II went on, and on, almost fixating on the notion of "too many notes", in checking out the precise clip of this passage in the film on YouTube, it's clear that this critical observation was not his own. It was one of his many sycophants in his immediate entourage, namely Herr "Director", who essentially fed him the line-----"too many notes, your Majesty", the Emperor being not quite able to pin-point what seemed amiss in Mozart's work-in-progress.

The Emperor (obviously way out of his league in opining about the nuances of classical music) continued to ramble on about the superfluity of notes, eventually querying Salieri, soliciting his opinion. And of course, quite predictably, Wolfgang's arch rival replies, something to the effect, "Yes your Majesty. Definitely too many notes."

A stunned, still youngish Mozart, totally nonplused by the uncomfortable, most embarrassing situation, asks the Emperor, "Which notes?", to which his Majesty replies, in perhaps not so many words, 'Oh, well just get rid of SOME notes.......... it can't be too very hard?' And so it went.

In my view, Tom Hulce as Wolfgang, brought so much boyish, naughty charm to the role, and actor F. Murray Abraham as Salieri couldn't have been a better, more contrasting foil to the young musical genius. Of course, the flash-back style of cinematic story telling worked beautifully in this multi-award-winning block-buster film.

I really can't think of a subsequent movie role for Hulce that would have eclipsed his magical performance in "Amadeus". He clearly peaked early in his acting career.I believe Hulce may have gravitated more toward directing theater productions in recent years.

Dahlink, I really appreciate you keeping me on my toes........... although I'm definitely not ready for an 'on point' walk-on part in the almost inevitable sequel, "Black Swan/ Pas de Deux". HA!

ALEX

Alex, I'd forgotten about the entourage in "Amadeus" feeding His Royal Highness his lines, so let us say we were both right--shall we?

Have you seen "Black Swan"? This one literally made me ill--not for the dark story line or the blood, but because of the swirling camerawork, plus twirling dancers and everything reflected in mirrors--too much for my poor little head! But I'm happy for Natalie Portman's award-winning performance (just don't make me watch it again!)

"It would also be a good thing if we could write about it using our indoor voices."

I may need to borrow this for other situations, such as clients who think capitalization is a valid form of emphasis (to me, it just reads like they're shouting--or, at the least, that they think things are more important than they really are, e.g., "The University's Fall Semester registration for Freshman Students will open on Monday."

Or for people who write e-mails in all caps...though I think perhaps those folks are a lost cause.


Sarah-----I'm equally, if not more, peeved by folks who think its beyond 'way cool' to e-mail in complete lower-case letters, w/ few, if any punctuation marks. Kind of a stream-of-consciousness blob of unstructured prose, if you will.

Perhaps they are suffering from a case of the dreaded 'e. e. cummings lower-case fetish/ syndrome'? HA!

I must confess that I have yet to uncover the "italic" function (or tab) in my Gmail, 'zone', so I've been opting, for emphasis sake, for capitalizing each letter of a particular word. I'm sure the location of the italic 'tab' is as plain as the schnoz on my face, but it sadly continues to elude me. Oh well.

Dahlink-----I haven't seen the film "Black Swan", as yet, but i can fully sympathize w/ the negative effects of the whirling dervish-like camera moves, which for many viewers can actually induce mild vertigo, or even nausea. (Not to mention a crick in one's neck.)

Hmm.......I wonder if the "Black Swan" director was trying to take a page from that low-budget mega-hit horror flick from a while back, "The Blair Witch Project", which relied heavily on hand-held, herky-jerky, audience- disorienting shots, hoping to create a fractured, foreboding, unreality from the viewers' perspective?

What a huge stretch for the now visibly pregnant Natalie Portman, from her heavy, macabre ballerina role in "Black Swan', to her recently released romantic comedy romp w/ Ashton Kutcher, "No Strings Attached".

Talk about going from the sublime to the ridiculous. Well, to be fair, their must be some diehard date-night-movie aficionados out there who just couldn't get enough of "No Strings Attached" and have seen it multiple times.. Poor saps.(Ugh!)

ALEX

The Investigatve Voice stuff is cheap. It wallows in the violence, and by so doing it lacks respect for the victims.

Alex, I do in fact suffer from vertigo from time to time, but I compared notes with someone else who had seen the movie, and she had the exact same experience. I also add trouble with the otherwise excellent "The Constant Gardener" a few years ago.

A bank robbery in Takoma Park, Md., has been in the news nationwide this week because it was captured by a security camera. The robber is seen walking out of the bank with a gun held to a teller's head, followed across the parking lot by police officers with guns drawn. Then he slips, the teller bolts, he goes after her, and the police shoot and kill him. Granted he can't be convicted now, but it's a little odd to see him called "suspect" or "alleged bank robber" when you can see what's going on in the video or still photos that accompany the story.

The Investigative Voice, and Stephen Janis in particular, are to be commended for years of reportage on individuals like Brown who have raped, mutilated and even murdered dozens of women in the Baltimore area over the past seven years. It is extremely unfortunate that, given the extent of I.V.'s efforts in this regard, you have chosen to focus on what you believe to be "excessive language" and not the newsworthy (and largely unreported elsewhere), groundbreaking nature of many of Janis's efforts. Through my own work, I happen to know (or, in the cases of the dead women, happen to have *known*) several of those who have been attacked. Let's use our "indoor voices"? Please be serious! These outrageous and intolerable acts should shock Baltimore's conscience -- and lead to a far more appropriate response then a pedantic lesson in word usage. I would suggest "thank you" for a start.

The Investigative Voice, and Stephen Janis in particular, are to be commended for years of reportage on individuals like Brown who have raped, mutilated and even murdered dozens of women in the Baltimore area over the past seven years. It is extremely unfortunate that, given the extent of I.V.'s efforts in this regard, you have chosen to focus on what you believe to be "excessive language" and not the newsworthy (and largely unreported elsewhere), groundbreaking nature of many of Janis's efforts. Through my own work, I happen to know (or, in the cases of the dead women, happen to have *known*) several of those who have been attacked. Let's use our "indoor voices"? Please be serious! These outrageous and intolerable acts should shock Baltimore's conscience -- and lead to a far more appropriate response then a pedantic lesson in word usage. I would suggest "thank you" for a start.

What does the prepositional phrase "in the first of three trials" modify? Isn't it at best ambiguous? Was he convicted of murdering and raping women during the trial itself?

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
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