Thursday, March 09, 2006

NOTICE THE TONE OF THE NYT ARTICLE that reports the arrest of three college students for setting fire to nine Baptist churches in Alabama last month. Emphasis mine:

Three college students from the prosperous suburbs south of Birmingham, two of them 19 and one 20, were arrested today in the burning of nine Baptist churches in rural Alabama last month that federal officials say was a prank that spun out of control.
The identities of the accused came as a surprise to investigators, who had speculated that the arsons were the work of people intimately familiar with the remote rural roads where the fires were set, not products of Birmingham's upper-middle class, one the son of a doctor and another of a county constable.

"This is just so hard to believe," said Alabama Fire Marshal Richard Montgomery. "My profile on these suspects is shot all to heck and back."
Agents later interviewed Mr. Moseley who, they said, confessed to setting the five fires in Bibb County with Mr. Cloyd and Mr. DeBusk. "Moseley stated that after they set fire to the first two churches, they saw fire trucks driving by," they said. "Moseley said that, after that, burning the other three churches became too spontaneous."

A prank that spun out of control? At what point is arson considered a prank, and when does it spin out of control? When they burned down the first church: Was that the part federal officials think was a "prank"? Or was it the first two or three? Did it only "spin out of control" when all nine churches had been burned to the ground?

A "prank" is a humorous, harmless practical joke, right? And "spinning out of control" implies that these young men never intended to burn as many churches as they did? I take it from this usage that it's not within the imaginative capacities of local or federal authorities to believe the sons of Alabama's local gentry could commit a crime like arson.

Notice that delicately worded description of who the investigators thought had set the fires: People "intimately familiar with the remote rural roads" where the churches were located. Plainly stated: Poor blacks or white trailor trash.

No comments: