Surveying the current crop of well-known criminologists is sort of like watching a sack of drowning cats trying to make excuses for the guy who just threw them in a lake. It didn’t used to be that way. Once, giants in short-sleeved button-down shirts with clip-on ties labored anonymously in room-sized IBM computers.
Now we have celebrity criminologists like James Alan Fox jealously guarding his speciality of crawling into sex killers’ brains and popping back out to tell the rest of us stuff like: “serial killers are really angry, and they blame other people for their problems.” That is, when he isn’t seething with thinly-disguised contempt towards crime victims, who seem to bother him by existing.
Last week, Fox summoned all his professional expertise to pen a very nasty little screed decrying ABC news for hiring crime victim Elizabeth Smart to comment on crime. Here is Fox describing the poised young woman, who survived kidnapping and months of repeated sexual assault:
The 23-year-old college student is well-known, of course, for having been kidnapped from her home at the age of 14 and repeatedly raped by a homeless religious extremist, and lucky enough to live to tell about it. However, ABC is looking for Smart to speak about much more than her own victimization. Apparently, the network believes that her harrowing ordeal qualifies her as an expert on the general topic of kidnapping. Her name may be smart, but she is hardly an expert.
Does the professor realize that he is projecting all the gravitas of an aggrieved teen? Yet he also manages to sound like a middle-aged professor trying to kiss up to news executives by pretending that their coverage of topics like “kidnapping” is somehow dependent on dense intellectual inquiry. Here, by the way, is the cover of one of Dr. Fox’s dense intellectual inquiries:
That’s not lurid and exploitative because the authors are academics.
Fox certainly is an expert at what he does, which, in addition to stating extremely obvious things about serial killers, involves playing down the legal significance of woman-hatred as a motive for sexual crimes against women. I’ve written here, here, and here about his prominent role in deceiving the public about the ways hate crime laws are subjectively enforced, all in order to serve the demands of activists. Fox’s particularly low and ugly sub-speciality in this ruse is using his “expertise” on sex killers to distinguish between ‘hate motivations’ and ‘just killing bunches of women because you have low self-esteem, or can’t get a date.’
In other words, whenever some extremely angry guy gets a gun and mows down random women, or goes into a bar and attacks the first woman he sees, or rapes and murders woman after woman, you can count on James Alan Fox to blather on about the guy’s feelings of insecurity while carefully pretending that the question of whether the crime should be prosecuted as “hate” isn’t relevant. Reporters never interrupt this delicate tap dance with questions as Fox sashays “women killed by gunman looking to kill women” into the “non-hate” column.
So when James Alan Fox complains about the networks hiring “non-experts” like Elizabeth Smart, he isn’t just being offensive on a personal level: he is pretending that he and his credentialed peers aren’t pushing their own agendas when they appear on the evening news. Although these agendas routinely come with funding from activist groups, the network media never seems to mention that. Fox’s personal style is misdirection by omission, as when he manages to crawl through lengthy interviews about the causes of inner-city crime without mentioning broken homes or missing fathers.
It would be interesting to ask him why he thinks Elizabeth Smart’s captor wasn’t prosecuted for “gender bias hate” — or to ask that question of any of the academics who pull in big salaries and grants to lecture us about what we should be believing and not believing.
One might occasionally expect a little humility from the academic discipline that brought us whoppers like “unemployment increases crime . . . oh wait, scratch that.” One would be in error. The outrage expressed by Fox over the Elizabeth Smart hiring isn’t just about her: it is the outrage of a class of people who are used to getting away with promoting their own faux objectivity and controlling the message without being challenged or questioned at all.
But Fox’s outrage is also very much about Smart being a crime victim. Criminologists who tend to see criminals as the only victims of our justice system (in other words, criminologists like Fox who get quoted in the New York Times) are rendered deeply uncomfortable by the presence of actual victims. Victims, like their equally unreliable sidekick, The Public, often have the temerity to complain about crime, instead of relying on criminologists to tell them how they should feel. Fox’s meltdown over Elizabeth Smart is awash in the sort of anxieties and antipathies that criminologists reserve for crime victims (and never for criminals). He slips from fatuousness to outright contempt:
I will resist the temptation to judge whether such a role is healthy for someone who endured nine months of sexual assault and servitude, with the psychological effects lasting well beyond her rescue. More to the point, what insights can Smart bring to the table or the set of Good Morning America? . . . Smart may have had an up close and personal, albeit untrained perspective of her abductor, but most kidnappings are for very different purposes than hers. Wouldn’t viewers learn much more from an analyst who has specialized in the study of kidnapping . . . Obviously, hiring Smart is much more of an attention grabber. To be fair, ABC’s decision to feature Elizabeth Smart as their kidnapping specialist reflects a fairly common practice in what could be described as the mass media version of “it takes one to know one.”
“It takes one to know one”? It takes one to know one what? That saying is a pejorative, as is the entire tone Fox assumes here:
There are countless other examples of activists who turn their victimization into a credential for instant expertise. After surviving a mass shooting at a crowded Texas restaurant, Suzanna Gratia Hupp became the darling of the NRA, was elected to the Texas state legislature and published a book — all on her experience-based advocacy for right-to-carry laws. Closer to home, Donna Cuomo gained the limelight as the aunt of a teenager once murdered by furlough-absconder Willie Horton, and eventually gained a seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives predicated largely on her tough-on-criminals agenda.
The darling of the NRA. Gained the limelight. What did these people ever do to Fox, other than being crime victims and refusing to hide their faces in shame, as he and his peers would prefer? Note that he describes vicious murderers in neutral terms while lashing out at their victims. And what, precisely, is “experienced-based advocacy for right-to-carry laws”? Does Fox know how people become lobbyists? It’s not by getting a Ph.D. in lobbying.
Here is Suzanna Gratia Hupp’s story. It is sickening that James Alan Fox would skip these facts in order to enhance his contemptuous dismissal of her:
On Wednesday, October 16, 1991, Hupp and her parents were having lunch at the Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen. She had left her gun in her car to comply with Texas state law at the time, which forbade carrying a concealed weapon. When George Hennard drove his truck into the cafeteria and opened fire on the patrons, Hupp instinctively reached into her purse for her weapon, but it was in her vehicle. Her father, Al Gratia, tried to rush Hennard and was shot in the chest. As the gunman reloaded, Hupp escaped through a broken window and believed that her mother, Ursula Gratia, was behind her. Hennard put a gun to her mother’s head as she cradled her mortally wounded husband. Hupp’s mother and father were killed along with twenty-one other persons. Hennard also wounded some twenty others. As a survivor of the Luby’s massacre, Hupp testified across the country in support of concealed-handgun laws. She said that had there been a second chance to prevent the slaughter, she would have violated the Texas law and carried the handgun inside her purse into the restaurant.
It sounds as if the professor doesn’t wish to merely ban non-professors from speaking to the media: he wants to prevent the proles from doing things like running for office in state legislatures. How dare these women . . . represent people. What he says about John Walsh is even more shocking:
John Walsh made a career on the shoulders of having been the father of a 6-year-old abduction/murder victim.
Fox is too much of a coward to say “on the shoulders of Walsh’s six-year old abducted and murdered son,” though that’s obviously what he means. Otherwise, he’d be talking about Walsh standing on his own shoulders, which makes no sense. What a dishonest little quisling. Also, what an odd way of arguing that you’re more professional than someone. Yet, despite all the ill advised things Fox has already said, the professor has even more to say:
Although [Walsh's] efforts in hostingAmerica’s Most Wanted may have contributed to bringing certain criminals to justice, was he really the best person for the job? What is it about having his son grabbed and killed that qualified him as an expert on law enforcement investigation?
Hmmm. This begs an academic question, or maybe just a question about academics: did Dr. Fox do a scientific study to back up this assertion that crime victims don’t make the “best” hosts for popular television shows about fugitives from the law?
What’s that? He didn’t?
OK, is he at least a credentialed expert on casting for television shows? No? Then why is he writing authoritatively about a subject firmly outside his area of expertise in an essay arguing that people who lack academic credentials should not voice their opinions on subjects outside their area of expertise?
I guess he’s not an expert in logic, either.
In fact, the most laughable part of Fox’s argument is his insistence that he and his academically credentialled ilk act like professionals when they’re the ones out trolling for headlines. Here’s my evidence:
Professionalism Exhibit 1:
This is Fox’s own website, from the very classy WOLFMAN PRODUCTIONS, which also represents porn star Ron Jeremy and Daryl Davis, the “Black Klansman.” In the super-professional world of WOLFMAN PRODUCTIONS, Dr. Fox proudly boasts that he is called THE DEAN OF DEATH. This is itself an exaggeration: Northeastern University confirms that Fox is not actually the Dean of Death but only a regular professor in their criminology department.
|Dr. James Alan Fox, Lipman Family Professor of Criminal Justice and former dean at
Northeastern University in Boston, presents six incredible lectures on criminology, serial killers, and violence…
James Alan Fox is The Lipman Family Professor of Criminal Justice and former dean at Northeastern University in Boston. He has published fifteen books, including his two newest, The Will to Kill: Making Sense of Senseless Murder, and Dead Lines: Essays in Murder and Mayhem. As an authority on homicide, he appears regularly on national television and radio programs, including the Today Show, Dateline, 20/20, 48 Hours andOprah, and is frequently interviewed by the press. He was also profiled in a two-part cover story in USA Today, which dubbed him “The Dean of Death,” in a Scientific American feature story as well as in other media outlets. He served as a consulting contributor for Fox News following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and as an NBC News Analyst during the D.C. Sniper investigation. Fox often gives lectures and expert testimony, including over one hundred keynote or campus-wide addresses around the country, twelve appearances before the United States Congress, White House meetings with President and Mrs. Clinton and Vice President Gore on youth violence, private briefings to Attorney General Reno on trends in violence, and a presentation for Princess Anne of Great Britain. Finally, Fox is a visiting fellow with the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
For a fee, you can purchase,”Six Incredible Lectures on Criminology, Serial Killers, and Violence” by The Dean of Death. And he has had private meetings with both Janet Reno and Princess Anne of Great Britain. Princess Anne! Princess Anne?
Here are some of the reviews this knowledgeable and credentialed intellectual uses to promote his knowledgeable intellectual lectures on crime:
…incredibly astounding… marvelous…”
- Southwest State University
…a huge success. His thought provoking speech on serial killers was extremely entertaining and captured the audience’s attention. Mr. Fox did a wonderful job; I am still hearing great comments about his presentation.”
- Adams State College
Yeah, there’s just nothing more entertaining than listening to some self-important academic prattle on about people who rape and murder women and little boys. Fox’s choice of promotional materials begs another academic question: if James Alan Fox considers his serial killer research “entertaining” and “amazing,” and if he sells it as a gruesome sideshow through a company that represent porn actors and other assorted lowlife, then where does he get off scolding Elizabeth Smart and John Walsh for talking publicly about crime after they experienced it as victims?
Here’s a mental exercise: picture James Alan Fox hanging at the Wolfman Productions Christmas party, regaling Ron Jeremy with his cool stories about meeting Jeffrey Dahmer. Now keep that image in your mind as you contemplate the presumption Fox displays in these crude, published musings about Elizabeth Smart’s state of mind:
I will resist the temptation to judge whether such a role is healthy for someone who endured nine months of sexual assault and servitude, with the psychological effects lasting well beyond her rescue.
Servitude! The Dean of Death is also a word master. Fox pretends he is not “judging” Elizabeth Smart’s mental state but actually resisting the “temptation” to judge it by yammering on about it in print.
I wonder how he justifies even mentioning her mental state? Is Dr. Fox a mental health professional? Is he a psychiatrist? A psychologist?
Uh, he’s just a sociologist. He has no relevant degrees, no authority, no certification. Maybe it’s a hobby. Or maybe, to paraphrase Fox: he may be a professor, but he’s also the guy being represented by Ron Jeremy’s agent.