The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > Great Debates

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 10-18-2004, 03:32 PM
cmkeller cmkeller is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Why was the Willie Horton ad racist?

My asking this question was sparked by a mention of Willie Horton in the "Dirty Tricks" thread. Since 1988, it has been widely claimed that the use of Willie Horton in Bush I's campaign against Michael Dukakis was an appeal to racism.

How so? The facts behind the Horton incident are chilling: Willie Horton was a convicted rapist and murderer. In the mid-80's, when Dukakis was governor of Massachusetts, the state had a system of allowing prisoners "furlough" from prison, essentially, an unsupervised vacation day. Horton, on one such furlough, raped and murdered a woman. The accusation against Dukakis was that he vetoes a bill that would have stopped those furloughs, and as such, was soft on crime.

Now, it is true that Willie Horton was black. However, isn't his case a valid illustration of what was wrong with Dukakis's criminal-justice policies? What made the mention - even the visual display - of Willie Horton a racist thing?
__________________
"Sherlock Holmes once said that once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible. The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it that the merely improbable lacks."
-- Douglas Adams's Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 10-18-2004, 03:57 PM
jk1245 jk1245 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
IIRC, it was because there were other criminals who abused the furlough system (many of whom were white). It was Horton, though that became the sole symbol of the dangerous criminal released by Dukakis.

You could argue that the massage was that Dukakis was soft on crime (and that WAS the point of the ads), but it was made to seem especially dangerous that he was soft on BLACK criminals.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 10-18-2004, 03:58 PM
Diogenes the Cynic Diogenes the Cynic is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: St. Paul, MN
Posts: 58,797
The ad used a black boogeyman to terrify whitey into voting for Poppy Bush. That's what it was. That's all it was. It had nothing to do with any legitimate policy issue. It was a racist scare tactic, pure and simple.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:01 PM
Diogenes the Cynic Diogenes the Cynic is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: St. Paul, MN
Posts: 58,797
Nobody ever called him "Willie," btw. He was always called William. "Willie" was just a snide innovation by those who made the ad.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:14 PM
zev_steinhardt zev_steinhardt is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Posts: 6,859
Quote:
Originally Posted by Diogenes the Cynic
The ad used a black boogeyman to terrify whitey into voting for Poppy Bush. That's what it was. That's all it was. It had nothing to do with any legitimate policy issue. It was a racist scare tactic, pure and simple.
Well, that brings up two questions:

(1) Were there any other criminals (aside from Horton) who went on to commit heinous crimes while out on furlough?

(2) If the answer to #1 is yes, then was the Bush campaign required to find a "white" criminal to bring the issue up? IOW, why would it be OK to use a "white" criminal but racist to use Horton?

Zev Steinhardt
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:17 PM
Mr. Moto Mr. Moto is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 12,509
Spare me. He's a convicted murderer and rapist, and you're concerned that a nickname was used?

It's an affront to dignity, sure, but Willie Horton has shown in his life that he's not a dignified man.

I think the true racism here is that some people can't see Horton as a rapist and murderer. They only see a black face, and don't care about the content of his character.

If that isn't racism, what is?
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:24 PM
Stonebow Stonebow is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Moto
I think the true racism here is that some people can't see Horton as a rapist and murderer. They only see a black face, and don't care about the content of his character.
I agree. Though I'm unsure of which side of the political spectrum you are condemning with your statement.

Look, it's been shown that using the 'Black Boogeyman' works as a political ploy. Bush I was not the first, and won't be the last to use it. The 'Hands' spot run by the Helms campaign, the push-polling implying that McCain had fathered a black child... guess who won in these races? Unfortunately, there is a segment of the population that can be driven to the polls by using their fear and resentment of Black Americans as a goad. This fear is wholly independent of the life station of the Black person in question.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:29 PM
F. U. Shakespeare F. U. Shakespeare is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Baltimore or less
Posts: 3,213
Critics of the Bush campaign also contended that the photo of Horton used in the ad (in which Horton sported a big Afro and menacing glare) was selected deliberately to evoke a calculated response among whites. Whether there were any less threatening photos of Horton available, I don't know.

FWIW, there was a play presented in DC a few years back called "Fixin' to Die: A Visit to the Mind of Lee Atwater." (Atwater, the RNC chairman who authorized the ad, had died a few years earlier). The play was a ficticious series of soliloquies by Atwater. Musing over the Horton ad, the ficticious Atwater at one point declared, "We probably should have found a white guy."
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:31 PM
Bricker Bricker is offline
And Full Contact Origami
SDSAB
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 45,640
Quote:
Originally Posted by Diogenes the Cynic
The ad used a black boogeyman to terrify whitey into voting for Poppy Bush. That's what it was. That's all it was. It had nothing to do with any legitimate policy issue. It was a racist scare tactic, pure and simple.
Permitting prison furloughs is a legitimate policy issue.

If there was another criminal on furlough that committed worse crimes that did Horton, who was he? And if there was not, then why wasn't Horton the best example of the wisdom of shutting down the furlough program?

- Rick
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:34 PM
Bricker Bricker is offline
And Full Contact Origami
SDSAB
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 45,640
Quote:
Originally Posted by F. U. Shakespeare
Critics of the Bush campaign also contended that the photo of Horton used in the ad (in which Horton sported a big Afro and menacing glare) was selected deliberately to evoke a calculated response among whites. Whether there were any less threatening photos of Horton available, I don't know.
It's standard practice in campaigns for your literature to feature a picture of your candidate in perfect pose, and the opponent in some awkward, eye-popping moment. Why would the Horton ads choose to not use this time-tested technique?

- Rick
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:52 PM
F. U. Shakespeare F. U. Shakespeare is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Baltimore or less
Posts: 3,213
Assuming you're expecting me to respond, I never argued that the ads were out of line, merely recounted what was said.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bricker
It's standard practice in campaigns for your literature to feature a picture of your candidate in perfect pose, and the opponent in some awkward, eye-popping moment. Why would the Horton ads choose to not use this time-tested technique?

- Rick
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 10-19-2004, 10:20 AM
Ravenman Ravenman is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 14,712
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bricker
It's standard practice in campaigns for your literature to feature a picture of your candidate in perfect pose, and the opponent in some awkward, eye-popping moment. Why would the Horton ads choose to not use this time-tested technique?
The Horton ad relied on this legitimate attack ad method, and then took it to new heights.

The picture of Horton, according to Larry McCarthy, the ad's creator, was chosen to make him look like "every suburban mother's greatest fear." Is race a part of that? Does the Pope crap in the woods?

Look, the Willie Horton ad did not invent racism. But it was designed from the get-go to prey upon the widely held yet irrational fear of white people being attacked by black criminals. We've all heard statistics about how black men are more likely to be sentenced to the death penalty for murdering white people than for murduring another black person. The Willie Horton ad was intended to capitalize on that suppressed, racist view of how some crimes are worse than others.

Apparently, some reseach bears this out. According to this, "subjects who were exposed to news broadcasts about the Horton case responded in racial terms." Is that just some kind of bizarre coincidence? Are we really to believe that the Republicans dumped the names of all those people who committed crimes while on furlough in Massachusetts, and just happened, by pure chance, to draw out the name of a black man who attacked a white couple? If you buy that, I have a bridge to sell you.

The issue of furloughs is of course a legitimate issue. Bush did another ad, "Revolving Door," in which people dressed in prison getups walk towards a jail fence, enter a revolving door, and walk right out again. An attack ad, yes, but I have never heard anyone complain that that ad was out of line in the same way that the Willie Horton ad was. There are attack ads, and there are attack ads that prey upon the seemy underbelly of intolerance in America. "Revolving Door" is an attack ad, "Willie Horton" counted upon the race of the attacker inflaming opinion against Dukakis.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 10-19-2004, 11:29 AM
bup bup is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 1999
Lee Atwater, as he was dying (I guess he was in the "bargaining" phase of dealing with death), admitted they picked Willie Horton because he was black.

1991 was before this big ol' internets thingie, so I'm having problems finding a cite right now. I'll keep trying, though.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 10-19-2004, 11:34 AM
bup bup is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 1999
Actually, googling "Lee Atwater death confession" turns up tons of stuff that mentions it, without being directly about it, but I did find these:

http://www.gibbsmagazine.com/Deathbed%20Confessions.htm

http://www.deanesmay.com/archives/000147.html
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 10-19-2004, 03:31 PM
Bricker Bricker is offline
And Full Contact Origami
SDSAB
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 45,640
Look, the challenge is simple. Was there a better candidate for the attack ads than Horton? Was there another Massachusetts criminal of another race whose crimes on furlough during the Dukakis administration were worse than Horton's? If so, I willingly concede racism in the Horton ads. If not, I don't. It's that simple.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 10-19-2004, 03:37 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bricker
Look, the challenge is simple. Was there a better candidate for the attack ads than Horton? Was there another Massachusetts criminal of another race whose crimes on furlough during the Dukakis administration were worse than Horton's? If so, I willingly concede racism in the Horton ads. If not, I don't. It's that simple.
Actually, it's not even that simple. Just because there was another (white) candidate for the attack ads does not prove the Horton ad was racist. It implies that it might be, but that's about all.

bup: Got any REAL sources for the deathbead confession? If it's true, I'd expect to find it in one of the national newspapers.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 10-19-2004, 03:46 PM
Bricker Bricker is offline
And Full Contact Origami
SDSAB
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 45,640
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace
Actually, it's not even that simple. Just because there was another (white) candidate for the attack ads does not prove the Horton ad was racist. It implies that it might be, but that's about all.

bup: Got any REAL sources for the deathbead confession? If it's true, I'd expect to find it in one of the national newspapers.
If there is a white candidate who committed worse crimes, that certainly creates enough evidence in my mind that choosing Horton was motivated by racial concerns. I agree it's not "proof," but it delineates the point at which I will stop arguing.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 10-19-2004, 04:35 PM
ElvisL1ves ElvisL1ves is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: New England
Posts: 33,269
The already-linked statements by the very people who created the ads that they chose a black subject intentionally is not, to you, evidence that that's what they intended? Okay, keep arguing if you like, but you've already lost. Sheesh.

Wikipedia is your friend:
Quote:
Al Gore was the first candidate to publicly raise the furlough issue, in a debate held in New York prior to the Democratic primary in that state, although Gore never mentioned Horton by name. Bush did mention Horton by name in a speech in June 1988 and his campaign brought up the Horton case repeatedly. An independent group, the National Security Political Action Committee, aired an ad entitled "Weekend Passes" which used a mug shot image of Horton, who is African American. That ad campaign was followed by a separate Bush campaign ad, "Revolving Door," criticizing Dukakis over the furlough program without mentioning Horton. Dukakis was unable to refute criticism of his veto of a bill passed by the Massachusetts legislature to limit the furlough program, and his refusal to apologize to Horton's victims.
So the policy had already been in place for some time, and Dukakis simply continued it.

Link:
Quote:
The Massachusetts inmate furlough program actually began under Governor Francis Sargent in 1972. But in 1976 Governor Dukakis vetoed a bill to ban furloughs for first-degree murderers. It would, he said, "Cut the heart out of inmate rehabilitation."
This being an anti-Dukakis site, it fails to mention Sargent's party affiliation. You can Google it in private.

Another link, judge its credibility as you wish:
Quote:
The furlough program which caused Dukakis so much strife was not even initiated by him. The program was created under Republican governor, Francis Sargent, in 1972. In 1973 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court declared that first-degree murder inmates must be eligible for furloughs. This was often conveniently forgotten by the paper, the Bush campaign and the media. The fact that the Massachusetts program differed little from the federal program under the Reagan/Bush administration was not common news either. However, Dukakis's lack of punctual response to the federal program did not help refute Republican attacks.
This is an interesting factoid:
Quote:
Other state governments and the federal government have them, too, and murderers have been furloughed in many of these jurisdictions, including by the federal government under Reagan/Bush and by California when Reagan was governor.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 10-19-2004, 04:36 PM
Contrapuntal Contrapuntal is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bricker
If there is a white candidate who committed worse crimes, that certainly creates enough evidence in my mind that choosing Horton was motivated by racial concerns. I agree it's not "proof," but it delineates the point at which I will stop arguing.
Is there a particular reason to assume that the purpose of the ads was to show the criminal who committed the worst crimes, rather than the criminal most likely to swing the vote to Bush? In other words, is the purpose of a political ad information, or persuasion? It seems disingenuous to suppose that those who produce such propaganda (on both sides) are constrained by a search for truth.

Respectfully

TRT
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 10-19-2004, 04:46 PM
bup bup is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace
bup: Got any REAL sources for the deathbead confession? If it's true, I'd expect to find it in one of the national newspapers.
As I pointed out, the internet in 1991 was mostly usenet groups. There weren't any newspapers.

Here's another cite: http://www.truthonrace.com/greetings2.html (search on "Pretty soon after the Bush victory, Lee Atwater").

To me, this OP is a GQ, not a great debate. If you don't believe that Atwater himself calling the strategy racially motivated makes it racially motivated (or if you try to move the goalposts again without taking any responsibility for finding the facts out yourself), I don't give a damn. It's no longer a debate. It's you being stubborn because you believe what you want.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 10-19-2004, 05:14 PM
Bricker Bricker is offline
And Full Contact Origami
SDSAB
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 45,640
Quote:
Originally Posted by ElvisL1ves
The already-linked statements by the very people who created the ads that they chose a black subject intentionally is not, to you, evidence that that's what they intended? Okay, keep arguing if you like, but you've already lost. Sheesh.
Job candidates Bee, Sea, and Dee apply for a job. If I hire Bee because he's black, and it so happens that he is also the best qualified candidate for the job, is my action racist?

Horton was a bad guy, one that was able to rape and attempt murder because of Dukakais' policies. The fact that Atwater thought the selection of Horton was racist does not make it invalid, if sufficent independent facts exist to support it.

Quote:
So the policy had already been in place for some time, and Dukakis simply continued it.
He did not "simply continue it." He actively vetoed an attempt to stop it. Its negative effects after his veto are thus fairly imputed to him.

Quote:
This being an anti-Dukakis site, it fails to mention Sargent's party affiliation. You can Google it in private.
What of it? Sargent was not a presidential candidate. His foolishness in instituting the program was evident, but hardly relevant.

And was Gore's use of Horton racist as well? Or did it only become racist after Atwater got hold of it?
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 10-19-2004, 05:16 PM
Bricker Bricker is offline
And Full Contact Origami
SDSAB
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 45,640
Quote:
Originally Posted by trandallt
Is there a particular reason to assume that the purpose of the ads was to show the criminal who committed the worst crimes, rather than the criminal most likely to swing the vote to Bush? In other words, is the purpose of a political ad information, or persuasion? It seems disingenuous to suppose that those who produce such propaganda (on both sides) are constrained by a search for truth.

Respectfully

TRT
The two are not, in this case, mutually exclusive. The persuasive aspect of the ads would be heightened most by the depiction of the most dangerous criminal. In this case - rare though it may be - the truth and the political value happily coincided (at least for opponents of Mike Dukakis, be they Democrats such as Al Gore in the primaries or Republicans in the presidential race itself.)
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 10-19-2004, 08:24 PM
ElvisL1ves ElvisL1ves is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: New England
Posts: 33,269
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bricker
Job candidates Bee, Sea, and Dee apply for a job. If I hire Bee because he's black, and it so happens that he is also the best qualified candidate for the job, is my action racist?
If you later admit that you chose on the basis of race, as the Bush campaign personnel did in the links you were already given, then yes. Sheesh squared.



Quote:
The fact that Atwater thought the selection of Horton was racist does not make it invalid, if sufficent independent facts exist to support it.
For pity's sake, we're talking politics here. Atwater appealed to racial fears based on raw political calculation. Or are you saying that that is an acceptable tactic?

Quote:
He did not "simply continue it." He actively vetoed an attempt to stop it. Its negative effects after his veto are thus fairly imputed to him.
As are any positive effects you fail to mention.

Quote:
What of it? Sargent was not a presidential candidate.
But he was the creator of the policy, not Dukakis. The policy was also in the mainstream of corrective-systems policy of the time, as the cases of Gov. Reagan and the US federal system I pointed out to you make clear.

Quote:
His foolishness in instituting the program was evident, but hardly relevant.
You've had time in just the last few hours to do enough research to become an expert on corrective system policies? You've concluded it was foolish based on what? Or have you simply accepted Atwater's campaign propaganda as true when even he himself did not? Come on.

Quote:
And was Gore's use of Horton racist as well? Or did it only become racist after Atwater got hold of it?
To be "ultra clear" here, as you like to say, Gore did not use Horton himself. He criticized the policy in general without mentioning any names. You'd have known that if you had read any of the material that several of us have taken pains to provide you. The choice of Horton as poster boy was the Bush campaign's, with strong encouragement from the fiercely anti-Dukakis Lawrence Eagle-Tribune (again, read what you're given).

It was intended to appeal to racism. The people who did it have told us that was their intent. Why are you denying it?
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 10-19-2004, 08:27 PM
MovieMogul MovieMogul is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
If the color of WN's skin was incidental, and he was genuinely the "best" candidate for the argument against Dukakis, why show his photo? Wouldn't a rundown of his crimes be sufficient? Maybe a sensational newspaper headline of the crimes? Interviews with the families of the victim?

The photo was to an expedient shortcut to tap into the latent bigotry of those who would be effected by it. Sure, some people might've seen him simply as a criminal, but the conscious effort to play up his race was to pander to the fears of those who associate the worst type of criminal element as the type who conveniently share his features.
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 10-20-2004, 08:43 AM
Ravenman Ravenman is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 14,712
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bricker
Job candidates Bee, Sea, and Dee apply for a job. If I hire Bee because he's black, and it so happens that he is also the best qualified candidate for the job, is my action racist?
No, I do not think that that makes your action racist. But the assumption in your question is that the "job" in question is value-neutral.

But the Republicans who produced the Horton ad in 1988 were not hiring a black man to work in a factory or play with kittens. The "job" in question was to scare the living s*** out of white voters. They chose the best candidate who would not just illustrate that furloughs are a bad idea -- Al Gore made that case without reference to race, as George Bush did after the Horton ad -- but who would also inflame a deep-seated and irrational fear in many whites that black people, in general, are ruthless criminals. That act is, at the very least an act of racial intolerance, but more likely an act of flat-out racism.

Bricker, I agree with you on the substance of the issue. Furloughs were a terrible idea, and Dukakis was flat-out wrong to not stop them. Even if the Massachusetts legislature hadn't have passed a bill (which Dukakis wrongly vetoed), in my view, it would have been incumbent upon a responsible governor to put an end to furloughs by whatever means at his disposal. But that does not mean that it is okay to use a race-baiting ad to make that case.
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 10-20-2004, 09:58 AM
Contrapuntal Contrapuntal is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bricker
The two are not, in this case, mutually exclusive. The persuasive aspect of the ads would be heightened most by the depiction of the most dangerous criminal. In this case - rare though it may be - the truth and the political value happily coincided (at least for opponents of Mike Dukakis, be they Democrats such as Al Gore in the primaries or Republicans in the presidential race itself.)
Actually I agree that the two are not mutually exclusive. My understanding of your objection was that truth was the deciding factor. Since we know nothing about the #2 candidate, i.e, what color he was or how heinous his crimes, it is all speculation anyway. If the # 2 guy were white, and his crimes only slightly less heinous, but he looked like a bookkeeper, does that affect the persuasive aspect of the ads?
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 10-20-2004, 10:32 AM
cmkeller cmkeller is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
I must say, until this thread I never knew that Atwater actually said it was intended as an appeal to racism. But I guess if he did, it can't be denied.

Which is a shame, because I'd seen the Horton issue raised even before the 1988 campaign. I distinctly recall a Reader's Digest article about the Massachusetts prison furloughs in 1985 or 1986, with Horton pictured.

It was a real issue, but I guess I can't deny that it was raised for the wrong reasons.
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 10-20-2004, 10:34 AM
cmkeller cmkeller is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Incidentally, have any of Dukakis's successors done away with the furloughs? Or are they still there, unnoticed without a presidential campaign spotlight, until another Horton-esque atrocity happens?
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 10-20-2004, 11:03 AM
Mr. Moto Mr. Moto is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 12,509
Dukakis actually signed legislation to eliminate them in 1988.

Of course, this was after the citizens of Massachusetts got so angry at the program that they forced the issue onto the ballot. Dukakis was also running for president at the time, and didn't want the issue hanging over his head.

It was a reversal from his earlier veto of the elimination of the program, which was effected in 1976.

So, amazingly enough, he shares some small credit for getting rid of the program, and I'll give him his due there. Of course, if it weren't for his original veto, the program would have been eliminated twelve years earlier, and Willie Horton and other criminals wouldn't have been on furlough to rob, rape and kill.
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Old 10-20-2004, 11:06 AM
ElvisL1ves ElvisL1ves is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: New England
Posts: 33,269
Dukakis ordered it ended in early 1988, during the primaries. No cites found easily for the fates of other states' programs or the federal one.

A thoughtful look at Illinois' furlough program, makes an interesting read.

The Readers' Digest article is copied on one of the links I gave earlier.

Atwater deserves better treatment than he's received in this thread, really. He apologized for his conduct and asked forgiveness for conduct while literally on his deathbed.
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 10-20-2004, 11:10 AM
Bricker Bricker is offline
And Full Contact Origami
SDSAB
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 45,640
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ravenman
The "job" in question was to scare the living s*** out of white voters.
I don't agree.

The job was to scare the s--- out of ALL voters, white, black, Asian, Hispanic, and presumably any Aleutian Islanders voting in that election.

For that job, it is eminently reasonable to pick the criminal whose crimes are the most heinous.

I contend that criminal was Mr. Horton, and his selection is thus entirely justified on race-neutral grounds.

- Rick
Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 10-20-2004, 11:20 AM
BobLibDem BobLibDem is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
No. Bush knew that he had no prayer of getting significant black support no matter what he said or did, therefore the ad was in no way aimed at black voters. The intent was to scare white voters. And it worked.
Reply With Quote
  #33  
Old 10-20-2004, 11:33 AM
cmkeller cmkeller is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Elvis:

Quote:
The Readers' Digest article is copied on one of the links I gave earlier.
Why so it is...and it was in July 1988. How strange that I thought it was printed independently of the 1988 presidential campaign.

(In any case I wasn't old enough to vote that November.)
Reply With Quote
  #34  
Old 10-20-2004, 11:42 AM
Bricker Bricker is offline
And Full Contact Origami
SDSAB
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 45,640
Quote:
Originally Posted by BobLibDem
No. Bush knew that he had no prayer of getting significant black support no matter what he said or did, therefore the ad was in no way aimed at black voters. The intent was to scare white voters. And it worked.
Why wouldn't a black voter be scared of the prospect of being raped and stabbed by a furloughed, yet dangerous, criminal?

To the extent that the race of the criminal is at all relevant, black-on-black crime is at least as prevalent as black-on-white crime.
Reply With Quote
  #35  
Old 10-20-2004, 11:52 AM
Ravenman Ravenman is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 14,712
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bricker
The job was to scare the s--- out of ALL voters, white, black, Asian, Hispanic, and presumably any Aleutian Islanders voting in that election.
Larry McCathy, the man who designed the Horton ad, was initially worried about using the mugshot of Horton because it would be too inflammatory. He then snuck in the picture in the second version of the ad -- the one that actually aired -- because it made Horton look like "every suburban mother's greatest fear."

I find it astounding that anyone would dispute that "suburban" is codeword for "white."
Reply With Quote
  #36  
Old 10-20-2004, 11:59 AM
BobLibDem BobLibDem is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bricker
Why wouldn't a black voter be scared of the prospect of being raped and stabbed by a furloughed, yet dangerous, criminal?

To the extent that the race of the criminal is at all relevant, black-on-black crime is at least as prevalent as black-on-white crime.
A good point but in my opinion inner city blacks are already all too familiar with criminals such as Horton and seeing him in a commercial just isn't going to have as much (if any) impact. Middle class blacks perhaps might be more likely to be frightened by Horton's ilk but still I believe that on viewing the ad would have been more likely to conclude it was race-baiting for white fears.
Reply With Quote
  #37  
Old 10-20-2004, 12:16 PM
Bricker Bricker is offline
And Full Contact Origami
SDSAB
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 45,640
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ravenman
Larry McCathy, the man who designed the Horton ad, was initially worried about using the mugshot of Horton because it would be too inflammatory. He then snuck in the picture in the second version of the ad -- the one that actually aired -- because it made Horton look like "every suburban mother's greatest fear."

I find it astounding that anyone would dispute that "suburban" is codeword for "white."
Can I have a book of these "codewords," please?

If, in fact, "suburban" means "white" -- something I think will surprise my neighbors, inasmuch as the ones across the street appear to be black and the ones to my left are evidently pretending to be Asian -- that is still not germane to my central point: the selection of Horton was absolutely accurate by race-neutral criteria. True, or false?
Reply With Quote
  #38  
Old 10-20-2004, 12:19 PM
Mr. Moto Mr. Moto is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 12,509
Again, I have to wonder if reverse racism is in play here.

If Willie Horton looked scary, it's because he was a scary individual. Nobody forced him to look unkempt, and scowl at the camera during the mug shot.

Nobody forced him to rape and kill either.

Put Bill Cosby or Michael Jordon in an ad, and nobody's fears are aroused. Indeed, both of these men were highly successful commercial product spokesmen.

What's the deal here, except the perpetual bleat of the continuously aggrieved?
Reply With Quote
  #39  
Old 10-20-2004, 12:26 PM
athelas athelas is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: In Transit
Posts: 3,351
Indeed. And the racism explanation would be much more convincing if a white criminal who was worse was passed over.
Reply With Quote
  #40  
Old 10-20-2004, 12:33 PM
ElvisL1ves ElvisL1ves is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: New England
Posts: 33,269
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bricker
Can I have a book of these "codewords," please?

If, in fact, "suburban" means "white"
Gawdamighty, how sheltered is your gated community anyway? "All-American" is another. On the other side, we have "Urban" (check your local hip-hop radio station to see how it's marketed) and "inner city".

Quote:
that is still not germane to my central point: the selection of Horton was absolutely accurate by race-neutral criteria. True, or false?
False, because the decision to create the ad was not race-neutral, as I trust you now recognize.

Quote:
The job was to scare the s--- out of ALL voters, white, black, Asian, Hispanic, and presumably any Aleutian Islanders voting in that election.
Maybe - but are you oblivious to the raw political calculation evident there? Black voter turnout is much lower than whites', and there are far fewer of them. They are notably in the minority in the swing states where advertising is targeted. The means of reaching the target market was pretty damn obviously chosen on the basis of who that market would be receptive to - and yes, quite as obviously, a scare tactic using a well-dressed white guy wouldn't work as well as the retouched shots of a thuggish-looking black guy.
Reply With Quote
  #41  
Old 10-20-2004, 12:45 PM
Shayna Shayna is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by ElvisL1ves
As are any positive effects you fail to mention.
Indeed. Not that I support the concept of furloughs for violent criminals (I don't), but there does appear to be evidence that there were some benefits to the program overall.
Quote:
http://www.bop.gov/orepg/oreprrecid87.pdf

Recidivism Among Federal Prisoners Released in 1987

Miles D. Harer Ph.D.
Research Analyst

Federal Bureau of Prisons
Office of Research and Evaluation
Washington, DC

Recidivism rates were lower among inmates who received a social furlough while in prison than among those who did not. Of the 302 persons (25.1 percent) in the sample who received at least one social furlough during their prison term, 19.5 percent recidivated, compared to 47.8 percent of persons receiving no social furloughs.

<snip>

Social Furloughs

Table 14 displays the number of releasees in the sample who did or did not receive a social furlough during their prison term and associated recidivism rates. We see a dramatic difference between the recidivism rates of these two groups; 19.5 percent recidivated among those receiving a social furlough, compared to 47.8 percent among those who did not.
Reply With Quote
  #42  
Old 10-20-2004, 12:51 PM
Ravenman Ravenman is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 14,712
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bricker
Can I have a book of these "codewords," please?
From the "establishment" -- Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting: "It's clear that "suburban," as used by the New York Post, is a barely veiled code word for "white."" cite.

To the "anti-establishment" -- George Clinton: "God bless Chocolate City and its vanilla suburbs." (speaking of DC, by the way.)

Face it: "suburban" is frequently used as a code word for white. I know you'd prefer to rely on its literal meaning, but there are those race baiters who are perhaps are too personally embarassed to actually use the term "white" when that is what they obviously mean, given the context. Imagine that: folks in politics not being forthright with their choice of words. Now I've seen everything!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Moto
Nobody forced him to look unkempt, and scowl at the camera during the mug shot.
Actually, while Googling, I came across this:

Quote:
Playboy Magazine interviewed Horton as he sat in prison in 1989. According to Horton, while he recovered in the hospital, the police guarded him closely for 20 days. During that time he was not allowed to shower or change regularily. This mug shot of a tired, unshaven and scary looking Horton eventually was seen by the masses. Horton would even agree that the mug shot was repelling. In the Playboy interview previously mentioned, Horton commented on the mug shot, saying "Hell, I agree with you, that picture would have scared the shit out of me, too. It was horrible, really horrible. It makes me look incredibly evil."
That's no defense of Horton and what he did, but you did remind me of it.
Reply With Quote
  #43  
Old 10-20-2004, 01:26 PM
Duke Duke is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bricker
Look, the challenge is simple. Was there a better candidate for the attack ads than Horton? Was there another Massachusetts criminal of another race whose crimes on furlough during the Dukakis administration were worse than Horton's? If so, I willingly concede racism in the Horton ads. If not, I don't. It's that simple.
I found a similar case, although admittedly not a worse one. Surprisingly, I found it on a site that is extremely--
Quote:
to say the least
--critical of Dukakis:
Quote:
* Variations of (Horton's) story were repeated on several occasions in Massachusetts. Confessed rapist John Zukoski, who had brutally beaten and murdered a 44 year-old woman in 1970, became eligible for furloughs and was eventually paroled in 1986. A few months later he was arrested and indicted yet again for beating and raping a woman.
True, Zukoski didn't commit the crime while on furlough, but he wasn't exactly a shining light for the furlough program. Zukoski could have made almost as good a reason for ending furloughs for violent offenders.

I haven't been able to further research the site's claim that Horton's "story" had been "repeated on several occasions in Massachusetts." My version of Lexis-Nexis only carries the Boston Globe back to about 1988. Without Findlaw or something similar I can't supply many more stories than that of Zukoski. Still, it's interesting that the site implies that "several" other furloughed prisoners--some of whom, like Zukoski, may have been white--committed crimes similar to that of Horton.
Reply With Quote
  #44  
Old 10-20-2004, 01:27 PM
Duke Duke is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Oh, bloody hell. So much for my coding skills. Here's that link.
Reply With Quote
  #45  
Old 10-20-2004, 01:51 PM
ElvisL1ves ElvisL1ves is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: New England
Posts: 33,269
How about the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, Duke? Cite:
Quote:
The Massachusetts furlough program gained its first notoriety through a local newspaper, the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, which covered the Merrimack River Valley in Massachusetts. For its coverage, which has been described as despicable by analysts who have since reviewed it, the paper won a Pulitzer Prize. Its coverage has not been without valid criticism. The approach and manner by which the paper handled itself and stories has led observers to the conclusion that its content was not objective. The Eagle-Tribune demoralized Horton, calling him a cold-blooded killer, and made no effort to represent an opposing argument defending the furlough program.

The Eagle-Tribune's biased anti-furlough slant began the onslaught of those attacking Dukakis as the father of the program. However, if the paper had reported a more even-keeled analysis of the story, perhaps the intensity of the criticism of Dukakis would have been diminished. After Horton was arrested in Maryland, the paper, petitioning to ban certain furloughs, dedicated several front-page stories to the sexual mutilations committed by him on the body of Joseph Fournier after murdering him. However, these allegations are questionable. An autopsy of Fournier reported that he had only been stabbed above the waist and that no damage was done below the waist. The paper finally recognized this at the end of a nineteen paragraph story. There is also some doubt as to whether it was Horton who did the killing of Fournier. Horton was convicted of murder with two other men. During the trial two key witnesses testified that the other defendant killed Fournier. In fact, one of the defendants confessed to the killing of Joseph Fournier, but the confession had to be disregarded because he had not been read his Miranda Rights. The court never decided which one was responsible for actually stabbing Joseph Fournier. However, the paper recognized that accusing William Horton of being a cold-blooded killer helped incite public alarm over the furlough program. Interestingly, even if Massachusetts had a death penalty provision, it would not have been applicable to his case. In Enmund v. Florida [458 U.S. 782, 797 (1982)], the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty exercised on an accessory to a murder violated the Eighth Amendment's ban on disproportionate punishment.
Dunno how well the author's claims against the paper are; FAIR didn't exist in 1988.
Reply With Quote
  #46  
Old 10-20-2004, 01:54 PM
ElvisL1ves ElvisL1ves is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: New England
Posts: 33,269
well-supported, that is.
Reply With Quote
  #47  
Old 10-20-2004, 02:26 PM
Duke Duke is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
L-N Development only has the Eagle-Tribune going back as far as 1990, so no luck there either. 1988 with the Boston Globe is as far as I can go back, and even for that year L-N hasn't loaded in all of the stories.
Reply With Quote
  #48  
Old 10-20-2004, 02:37 PM
Bricker Bricker is offline
And Full Contact Origami
SDSAB
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 45,640
Quote:
Originally Posted by Duke
I found a similar case, although admittedly not a worse one. Surprisingly, I found it on a site that is extremely----critical of Dukakis:
True, Zukoski didn't commit the crime while on furlough, but he wasn't exactly a shining light for the furlough program. Zukoski could have made almost as good a reason for ending furloughs for violent offenders.
Since the crime was not committed on furlough, and didn't involve a death, Zukosi was simply not as a good a choice as Horton.

As you acknowledge.
Reply With Quote
  #49  
Old 10-20-2004, 02:55 PM
Duke Duke is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
A semi-hijack, but I thought it was interesting. During my lunch-time research (yeah, I know, I should get out more) I saw more than one claim that "over 80 violent offenders" went AWOL on the Massachusetts furlough program during Dukakis' governorship. None of these same cites, though, made any mention of offenses committed by these criminals on the lam (other than those by Horton and Zukoski).

OTOH, I did find two L-N cites of furlough-jumpers from Massachusetts who apparently stayed out of trouble during their time on the run. One guy went to California and started a family, even taking time out to appear as an extra in the film Colors. The other next resurfaced in appeals courts, appealing his original conviction (he probably would have been better off just staying on the lam, as at the minimum he would have had escape charges to face).

Still though, I wouldn't say that Horton was the only furloughed offender to get in Big Trouble. Sure, he's the only one that's talked about now, and in the Boston Globe, and was the proximate cause of Dukakis' ending of the furlough program. But without the Eagle-Tribune's series of articles, I don't know how long Horton would have retained media attention. We've got violent offenders up here in da Falls--I can't remember any of their names, unless I went to Lexis. Without the same, I can't answer for Horton.
Reply With Quote
  #50  
Old 10-20-2004, 02:57 PM
jk1245 jk1245 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bricker
Since the crime was not committed on furlough, and didn't involve a death, Zukosi was simply not as a good a choice as Horton.

As you acknowledge.
Is it possible there weren't any choices besides Horton? Thus negating the whole point of the ad in the first place, except as a play to racist fears. I mean, Shayna's link states that 302 people received furloughs, and as far as anyone can find, Horton's the only one who committed a crime while on that leave. Now, I think furloughs are a bad idea, but that doesn't seem too outrageous a failure rate.

We're really just arguing hypotheticals now. If the words of the people who conceived of and created the ad aren't enough evidence, then nothing is.
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 06:04 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.