If you are intent on mass mayhem, and want to maximize the media coverage, head for a tall building. Bin Laden and his cronies knew that, and so, it may be, did Jeffrey Johnson, who shot and killed a former colleague near the Empire State Building the other day.
After shooting his victim in the chest and head, Johnson crossed the street, where he is said to have pulled his gun on a couple of New York City policemen who confronted him, and was fatally shot.
Somehow eight other people were injured by bullets alongside the city’s tallest building, which had regained that distinction, alas, on September 11, 2001.
The early reports seem to indicate that at least some of those collateral victims, and perhaps all, were hit by stray bullets fired by the cops. Johnson evidently did not have enough cartridges in his gun to wound that many people, and preliminary accounts seem to indicate that he may not have gotten off any shots at all in his brief encounter with New York’s finest.
The shootings have received blanket coverage in the media, naturally, but one is tempted to wonder how much attention they would have received if the exact same events had occurred on a sidewalk alongside one of the projects in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, an area made up mostly of poor, black residents.
To TV viewers in small-town America, those projects might seem fairly tall, but they certainly are not in a class with the skyscrapers of Manhattan.
With one innocent victim killed, and the shooter shot dead, and several other injuries that don’t seem to have been terribly serious – and with all the victims black – most of the media probably would have taken a pass. Just another one of those days in Brownsville. Put it on page eight.
There is a lesson to be learned here by the hoodlums of Chicago, the ones who have lately turned President Obama’s hometown – the town renowned for its “Chicago values” – into the murder capital of the United States.
On some weekends, several dozen blacks in the ghetto are killed by other ghetto blacks. These scenes of horror and tragedy make the Empire State Building incident look like a communion breakfast – don’t you just love trite metaphors like that? — yet the media are reluctant to give them much coverage.
A half-century ago, when I entered the newspaper business, the assignment editors on the city desk used to distinguish between black-on-black crimes and crimes involving important people, meaning whites. They would play up the latter and pretty much ignore the former. Nothing much has changed in the news business, it seems.
If I may be so bold as to offer advice to the murderers and prospective murderers of Chicago, why not take the slaughter downtown, the way Al Capone and his boys used to do? That way your murderous deeds will get more than just passing attention from the media.
Get yourself a copy of the 2012 World Almanac. Maybe you can boost one from the corner drugstore after shooting the proprietor. Turn to page 719, where you will find a list of more than one hundred Chicago skyscrapers, topped by the Sears Tower (pictured).
If you kill one or more people outside a downtown skyscraper, and maybe wound a few more, and if – this is crucially important — you include whites among the victims, you should make it to prime time.