May 1 1989

So Sayeth Newsweek on Crime

In a cover story on crack (11/28/88), Newsweek tells us that the residents of America’s “Crack Nation” are both poor and black and white and middle class. Yet when I looked at the pictures, conspicuously missing were the white and middle-class residents that Newsweek assured me also lived there.

The blacks were profiled in the usual flattering postures that the media delight in showing us. They were in handcuffs, stretched out on the ground, spread-eagle against a wall, in court, marching off to prisons and drug wards. The media have made it abundantly clear that, except for a stray Asian or Latin transgressor, blacks hold a monopoly on dope dealing and drug addiction.

In the same issue, Newsweek carried another story. The headline was “White-Collar Shame”. The story was about the disgrace and embarrassment white-collar criminals feel when they get caught. Now these aren’t just nickel-and-dime crooks, largely poor and black, but millionaire bank swindlers, ex-Reaganite influence peddlers, stock cheats, corporate bribers and a long laundry list of starched-shirt deviants.

There is no question about the racial make-up of this “Suite Crime Nation.” They are all white. But there is a difference in the diplomatic status Newsweek accords this “nation.” The Crack Nation, says Newsweek, “feeds on junkies, cops, hookers and babies,” and must be “mercilessly destroyed.” For the residents of the Suite Crime Nation, well, here’s Newsweek again: “The harshest penalty is the one they inflict on themselves.”

Lord have mercy on these poor white-collar sinners. When they get caught, that’s punishment enough. Look at the pride and self-esteem they lose. That’s the gospel according to Newsweek on white-collar crooks.