Tuesday, September 11, 2007

put on your new face

From The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are afraid of the wrong things, by Barry Glassner. Excerpt from pages 30-31.
'The myth of Halloween bogeymen and bogeywomen might never have been exposed had not a sociologist named Joel Best become sufficiently leery that he undertook an examination of every reported incident since 1958. Best, currently a professor at the University of Southern Illinois, established in a scholarly article in 1985 that there has not been a single death or serious injury. He uncovered a few incidents where children recieved minor cuts from sharp objects in their candy bags, but the vast majority of reports turned out to be old-fashioned hoaxes, sometimes enacted by young pranksters, other times by parents hoping to make money in lawsuits or insurance scames.

Ironically, in the only two known cases where children apparently did die from poisoned Halloween candy, the myth of the anonymous, sadistic stranger was used to cover up the real crime. In the first incident family members sprinkled heroin on a five-year-old's Halloween candy im hopes of fooling the police about the cause of the child's death. Actually, the boys had found and eaten heroin in his uncle's home. In the second incident a biy died after eating cyanide-poisoned candy on Halloween, but police determined that his father had spiked the candy to collect insurance money. Bill Ellis, a professor of English at Penn State University, as commented that both of these incidents, reported in the press at first as stranger murders, "reinforced the moral of having parents examine treats - ironically, because in both cases family members were responsible for their children's deaths!"

Yet if anonymous Halloween sadists were fictitious creatures, they were useful diversions from some truly frightening realities, such as the fact that far more children are seriously injured and killed by family members than by strangers. Halloween sadists also served in news stories as evidence that particular social trends were having ill effects on the populace. A psychiatrist quoted in the New York Times article held that Halloween sadism was a by-product of "the permissiveness in today's society." The candy poisoner him - or herself was not directly to blame, the doctor suggested. The real villains were elsewhere. "The people who gave harmful treats to children see criminals and students in campus riots getting away with things," the Times article quoted him, "so they think they can get away with it too."

In many of these articles the choice of hero also suggests that other social issues are surreptitously being discussed. At a time when divorce rates were high and rising, and women were leaving home in great numbers to take jobs, news stories heralded women who represented the antithesis of those trends - full-time housewives and employed moms who returned early from work to throw a safe trick-or-treat parties for their children and their children's friends in their homes or churches, or simply to escort their kids on their rounds and inspect their treats.'
You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Does the average American student have less vocabulary today than in days gone by?

Screw the iPhone, I want one of these:
The Helio Ocean - I don't generally care that much about cellphones, but damn do I like the look of this one ...

God put [dinosaur fossils] here to test our faith!"... I think God put you here to test my faith, dude. - Bill Hicks

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