Deceptive Headlines Stoke Sex Offender Hysteria

By Michael M. . . . The following headline appeared on Tuesday, June 5, 2018 at Fox News: “Virginia sex offender seen snatching 7-month-old from mother in photos released by police.”  It all seems pretty straightforward, at least until you read the accompanying article.

The first glaring ommission from the headline, but buried deeper in the article, is the fact that the alleged abductor, Carl Ray Kennedy, is the child’s biological father.  Surprise!  And even more interesting is the fact that we are told nothing about his custodial rights or lack thereof anywhere in the article.  We are simply left to assume that he is the non-custodial parent and perhaps even make the further, unwarranted assumption that sex offenders in general do not deserve custodial rights to their own children.

The next thing that jumps out  is the description of the man as a sex offender.  A simple Google search reveals that Carl Ray Kennedy has had 32 convictions for a wide variety of crimes since 1985.  His crimes include felony possession of cocaine, felony distribution of cocaine, felony conspiracy to sell cocaine, felony assault by strangulation, felony sexual battery, and a ton of related misdemeanors and SO registration violations. So, why doesn’t the headline read, “Convicted cocaine distributor snatches 7-month-old from mother?”  Obviously, because sex offender stories sell and because news media corporations are businesses out to make a profit.

The third thing in the headline that we might want to take a hard look at is the disingenuous use of the word “seen.”  Sex offender seen snatching 7-month-old.  Think about this for a moment. If a bank robber robs a bank, the headline never reads, “Bank robber seen robbing a bank.”  Why do you think that is?  The answer is actually quite simple.  Bank robbers rob banks, it’s what they do.  One need not see it happen in order to believe it.  But not all sex offenders are baby abductors or child molesters.  To get you to believe that they are, the headline writer sneakily slips the word “seen” in there.  After all, seeing is believing.

Further stoking the fire, WCNC reported that Danville police traveled to Durham, NC to investigate reports of a man there who was reportedly trying to sell a baby.  Officers determined that the incident was not in any way related to the Kenndy case.  Question: Does anyone really think that the non-custodial biological father of a child would kidnap her in order to sell her to a complete stranger? Seriously?

Let’s just be clear here. Carl Ray Kennedy, from the looks of his rap sheet, is a bad man That, for the most part, is indisputable. The point of this article is not to defend a despicable person but to point out some of the insidious techniques that are used by the media in order to make all who are on the registry appear despicable.  It should come as no surprise to anyone that only 32% of the American public trusts the media to tell the truth in its reporting.

When the media demonize sex offenders and stoke the public’s hysteria, they become willing accomplices to the vigilantism, murder, and collateral damage to innocents that will invariably result.  Their plan for that eventuality?  They’ll probably blame the NRA.

Sandy Rozek

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Sandy, a NARSOL board member, is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.