Thursday, July 12, 2007

Some Media Damage Perception of Milwaukee

Milwaukee Police Chief Nan Hegerty is correct when she says that media does exaggerate crime in Milwaukee, creating an unrealistic perception of public safety in the city.

She made the remark in the context of a decrease in violent crime in Milwaukee during a summer anti-crime initiative, noting that Boston has crime statistics similar to Milwaukee's, but Boston isn't seen as unsafe.

This is not to minimize Milwaukee crime, but you only need to look at The Waukesha Freeman's alarmist and demagogic editorial copy to understand what Hegerty is referencing.

Exhibit A: former Freeman editor Pete Kennedy's "Milwaukee sucks" screed.


Anonymous said...

What media exaggerations? I've been hearing about this "Screed" for some time, and having finally read it now, I have to say it is VERY mild.

Down in one of the better areas of District 6, NONE of the shootings and homicides blocks from my house have been reported on, ever. Just little JS Newswatch blog blurbs that go on page 3 of the metro section the next day.

If those stories were to go on the front page, all that would do is give more people a small taste of the impact on those of us who hear the blasts and screams, some who have seen the dying and the dead, not to mention the daily and nightly crackle and boom of gunfire that doesn't end in crime story at all. And believe me, this is a better and "upcoming" (maybe) area a world apart from places like Metcalfe Park. Still, this is bad enough, with mortal threats around all the time. That gets on you after a while, along with the open drug dealing and drug houses, thugs who will take any confrontation of their bad behavior by residents as an opportunity to verbally threaten your life, cite their prison resume, and who knows, maybe act on it. I've had 3 vehicle thefts in under 10 years here, 2 of them in the first half of this year. One was tied to a break-in, and reporting prowlers is like reporting the gunfire--like asking cops to give out speeding tickets at the indy 500. Add to that the racism, the anti-white racism. Add in the McGees.

This doesn't suck?

Context is everything. The media "exaggeration" is always dead-on accurate for the majority of Milwaukee neighborhoods which are either in the bright red killing zones or their maroon penumbra on violent crime distribution maps for the north and south sides.

I take it you live somewhere else. Shorewood? Plaisted on the East Side? Xoff in some other high-priced honkey area?

From that perspective media "exaggeration" means the environmental "surround", the whole context of threat and instability conjured up by media crime stories. It's not indicative of "Milwaukee as a whole" meaning downtown and the east side are nice. Walkers' Point, maybe Bay View. I.e., the white middle-upper class areas. Well it goes the other way as well--those areas are not indicative of Milwaukee as a whole, or even Milwaukee by the majority portion of its geography or population distribution.

So let's put it this way: the primary experience of most Milwaukeeans in close to half or more of the municipality, compounded with high interest over time, is an experience of accurately perceived criminal threats and truly experienced criminal injury of some kind or another.

What really galls is living between white "liberals" and white "conservatives" who argue incessantly over whether or not Milwaukee sucks.

It sucks boulders through a straw, and neither side has a clue or serious interest in changing that.

Anonymous said...

It's terrible that something as basic as crime has been politicized and racialized. All this talk by people who don't live in or near the really tough areas--that is probably the cause of all that.

The problem is crime and criminals. Forget perception and political correctness. You got complainers who see the problem--but not really even the half of it, and it bugs them but from afar. It's not their problem to the point it's in their neighborhood, so they're not going to do anything but try to keep their burbs insulated. Totally understandable, as Eric Von has been saying today--maybe the only guy willing to note there is a crime and societal crisis in Milwaukee without making it into a race and partisan politics issue. (Remember Hegarty said that too. CRISIS.) Con talk radio is entirely clueless as to how bad off things are to actually wonder why a community would have no problem with sexual relationships between 20 and 14 year olds--and on the left the denial and minimization comes from essentially the same middle-class white ignorance, just a version of it that wants to see the happy side and be nice everywhere, has no stomach for the hard business of rooting out people who are vicious or enablers or vicious crime.

As for Boston, it's a much bigger city, and I bet the problem areas are proprtionally smaller than in Milwaukee. But there is a cultural difference too. Milwaukee has always been a small town defined by small town, slow living, solid provincial midwesterners with values and ethics that preclude even thinking of engaging in vicious crime. THere's always been plenty of small town and rural psychoness, but the dominant spirit is the golden rule, and it's a good thing. Such people have little stomach for hard core urban mayhem. New York or Boston, Philly, etc.--these have been big tough places a long time. Chicago too. Milwaukee was a quiet, clean, happy place in recent memory and the shock it took in the 60s-80s is going to take a long time to get over. It's a kind of shock and hard new reality that the regional cultural simply may not be able to accept. Maybe you have to make your bed in the hell of the worst neighborhoods for at least a night or two to grasp this, but things are really bad in enough places with enough people to make it unreasonable and naive to think it will all just go away by different talk, different media coverage.

What I will say is imbalanced about the news in Milwaukee is that it totally ignores the poorest roughest areas until major bad things happen. This means ignoring good things and a lot of "small" killings, and the mundane activities of the prevalent criminal economies. They'll focus more on crime in borderline mostly white middle class areas, or thoroughly upscale areas. But in fact a fuller and more balanced coverage would mean an even more depressing, ugly portrait of Milwaukee.

xoff said...

Mark Belling says only parts of Milwaukee suck

Anonymous said...

Belling makes a lot of good points. I am amazed at how cogent and articulate he can be in writing, since my scant listening to his show guaranteed I won't be checking in to it much--his radio voice is pretty bad--maybe a distant second worst to McBride (I guess that makes him first worst now)--and not nearly as intelligent sounding as this article.

James Rowen said...

To the last anon:
I'm not sure Mark will like that.