That’s how the headline should have read in the center, front, above-the-fold article in today’s Denver Post. I wish I were kidding.
Douglas Bruce went to jail for 104 days and faced cruel and unusual punishment: the rolls were cold and the gravy tasted funny. And he’s gonna sue.
I don’t know who to be more furious with: Bruce for being a selfish jerk, or the Denver Post for devoting so much space on its front page to a middle class white guy who goes to jail for just over three months and fails to receive gourmet-level cooking.
Denver Post, Mr. Bruce, I’d like you to meet Troy Anderson. Mr. Anderson has been in solitary confinement at the Colorado State Penitentiary for 12 years. In those 12 years, he has not been allowed to exercise outdoors.
I’d have loved to introduce you to Shawn Vigil but, sorry to say, he’s dead. He committed suicide at the Denver County Jail in 2005 — after being locked up for a month in solitary without a sign language interpreter. You see, Mr. Vigil was deaf. He was in solitary with no way to communicate with his jailers. Wonder what he thought of the gravy? Perhaps the Denver Post will write a front page story about that.
Actually, the Denver Post did write about Mr. Vigil’s case when we filed. This many words. Though I don’t have the print edition, I’m confident it wasn’t on page one. Former Post columnist Susan Greene* also wrote about it in more detail, but of course she’s not there any more. Can’t have someone providing nuanced coverage of marginalized people.
Back in the day, Spy Magazine had an equation for how many column inches a story would get in the New York Times based primarily on the number of people killed and the distance of the event from Times Square.** Although I’m not a math major, there has to be some sort of equation at work here: R x C x L x G where R = race, C = class, L = length of sentence, and G = quality of gravy. In the newspaper world, being white (r = 100) and middle class (c=100) will completely outweigh the length of your sentence and other conditions.
* Full disclosure: Susie is a friend. And also a kick-ass journalist. The lack of her voice (and other recent departures) in the Post makes it not much more than People Magazine: Denver Edition.
** Yes, of course it’s on the internet: the November 1989 issue of Spy Magazine. The equation is on page 56. Check out page 55 for proof that Donald Trump has been annoying us for a long, long time. And generally peruse the issue to take yourself back to a time when being a smart-ass, sarcastic, irony-appreciating young law grad felt fresh and new. Or maybe that was just me.
[June 2: Edited for accuracy.]
“Smart-ass, sarcastic, irony-appreciating young law grad”–guilty as well. I still cannot see anything about Donald Trump without mentally adding in the phrase “short-fingered vulgarian.” (Is that right–or was it “stubby-fingered?”)
I share your outrage about the differential journalistic treatment based on race and class–I can intellectualize it (pervasive racism in society and the legal system? Too big, too hard to change. Funny-tasting gravy? That might be something we could do something about!) but it makes me heart-sick.
So instead I take comfort from some slight schadenfreude–the other day, The Donald was mouthing off about Obama’s birth certificate, and he was not described as a financier, a real-estate developer, or even a (joke) Presidential candidate–it was “reality TV star Donald Trump.” Surely “National Joke” is the next title that he will earn?
All true! Spy has contributed so many important things to the culture!
Amen, Sister. Add the other three sheriffs and two police departments and countless deaf individuals thrown to the floor and locked up for longer periods because they did not understand or did not “cooperate” with a deputy’s commands. The hours endured in handcuffs while being interrogated when the individual’s only way to communicate is by using her hands. How ’bout THAT story?