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.

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Michael McKay

Michael McKay is NARSOL's Director of Marketing and a frequent contributor of articles to the NARSOL website. He is the published author of several non-fiction books, contributing editor & board member at LifeTimes Magazine, the executive editor of The Registry Report, and founding host of Registry Report Radio on BlogTalkRadio.

  • This topic has 17 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 2 years ago by Jasonjason.
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    • #41546 Reply

      I am really glad you wrote about this. It was a topic of discussion today. These headlines are so infuriating. I hope to discuss ideas for countering them.

    • #41547 Reply
      April Stapleton

      My thoughts exactly!

    • #41551 Reply
      Pat S.

      I saw someone posted this on Facebook. I know my friend meant well, especially since it was an amber alert. The media is lazy to learn the facts and eager to promote hysteria.

    • #41553 Reply

      “Obviously, because sex offender stories sell and because news media corporations are businesses out to make a profit.”

      And because the American public are so demented and perverted as they say people with sex offenses are. They literally love to hear about such stories. Their deep, dark personal ‘sickness’ is what keeps shows like “Law & Order” on TV.

      • #41559 Reply

        Absolutely well said ^ how have more people not noticed this?

        • #41620 Reply

          It’s because people in the US love to gossip and love to hate.

    • #41561 Reply

      How about these headlines,
      Fox News Seen assisting accused sex offender. in a attempt to hide the facts Fox news have fired correspondent John Huddy. The news comes hours after his sister Juliet Huddy made an appearance on Today to talk about her sexual harassment claims against former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.


    • #41565 Reply

      Yes its true.. be in a TV Newsroom during sweeps and News Directors will ask for stories that embellish and exploit. Any Sex Offender story rises to that occasion it doesn’t matter about guilt nor any question of innocence. Sex Offenders are used to sell stories and get high TV Ratings.

    • #41567 Reply
      Michael Shimkin
      Michael Shimkin

      Journalism in this era of so much competition is half advertising and half news. For our cause, I don’t know that it matters if only 32% of the public trust news media since it’s the advertising half (i.e., sensational headlines) that does the damage and it comes so quickly in so many forms. Remember the days of subliminal ads appearing before a movie (not Netflix or HBO but in a real movie theater)?

      The desk editor isn’t likely the one who would be willing to give up the swanky headlines but a well crafted appeal to the publisher or the owner of a few choice outlets might be a step in the right direction. Or better yet, being invited to a publishers conference to discuss how harmful suck titles can be. If just a few publishers could understand the ridiculousness of some offenses maybe we could begin to see stories from the other perspective. A good place to start might be public television/radio and a special series on debunking stereotypes and defining offenses. Being called a “child molester” is scary but if the public could begin to understand how so many seemingly innocuous scenarios could garner such a title they may slowly begin to soften.

      Of course, then there is the option for a libel suit but I suspect the coffers wouldn’t support that.

    • #41609 Reply
      Michael McKay
      Michael McKay

      To be perfectly honest, I rarely gave this issue any thought at all until I was arrested myself. For months, the local police and DA’s office were allowed to issue press release after press release making the most outlandish claims imaginable about me and about the people associated with me, without any regard for the truth whatsoever. I was blissfully(?) unaware of what was happening, as I was cut off from family, friends, and news sources for quite some time as they continuously shuffled me from facility to facility, sometimes without even my lawyer knowing where they’d moved me to. Many of the media reports relied heavily upon social media postings as their sources. (Someone said it on Facebook, it must be true!) At least one news outlet published all the profile photos of contributing authors on my blog and stated that they were all my sex partners. I could go on and on. Suffice to say, the great majority of the things reported about me were complete nonsense, but that didn’t stop it from almost destroying lives of many innocent people whose only crime was being my friend or business associate. Since then, I’ve become extremely sceptical of news articles peddling sex offender sensationalism. A great example is the recent media circus surrounding “Smallville” actress Allison Mack and the supposed NXIVM “sex-cult” she promoted with Keith Raniere. I have no idea just how accurate the news reports have been on that story, but I’d be willing to bet the rent that the answer is, “Not very.”

      • #42726 Reply

        When I was going through treatment back in the early 90’s over in Washington State; one of the guys from treatment got out and stayed at his brother’s house. The media let everyone know where he went to live, but not who owned the house. A mob burned his brother’s house down that night.

        Bill from Michigan

    • #41708 Reply

      When you call this guy a “bad man”, you are using the same demonizing tactics so often decried by the SO community when used against registrants. A man with a bunch of drug offenses sounds like a man with a drug problem. People with drug problems and drug-related convictions deserve the same respect from us that we demand from the media. I understand your point, that the reporter landed on the SO label as proof that he’s a scary guy. No need for us to do the same thing just differently.

      • #41727 Reply
        Michael McKay
        Michael McKay

        [ Marie said “When you call this guy a “bad man”, you are using the same demonizing tactics so often decried by the SO community when used against registrants.”]

        Marie, I have to respectfully disagree with you here. By definition, “demonizing” is characterizing someone as far MORE than a “bad man” (i.e. he is NOT merely a flawed MAN, he is a monster). When you demonize someone, you deny him his humanity, and this makes it much easier to incite the torch-and-pitchfork crowd to destroy the “demon” by any means possible.

        I truly do believe that evil exists in the world, and being afraid to point it out runs the risk of not only being labeled amoral, but actually becoming so. That doesn’t mean that everyone who has made a few poor choices in life is evil. Make a bad choice once, and you’ve simply made a mistake. Make the same bad choice a few times, maybe you’re just a slow learner or in a bad situation. But 32 convictions, with more charges pending, many of them crimes of violence, a guy who literally steals a baby at knifepoint in a parking lot? I’d say calling him a “bad man” is being rather charitable. I think promoting the notion that there are no bad people in the world is self-defeating and flies in the face of reality.

        As for the “tactics so often decried by those who are often the targets of demonization”… I have no problem with someone thinking I am a bad man. I don’t like it, and I certainly don’t agree with their assessment, but it’s their right to make such judgments and a very human thing to do. The problem I have is with the “bad” people who demonize me and want to burn my house down with my family inside.

    • #41726 Reply

      I tried posting a reply earlier but I don’t see it. Trying again:

      If *we* don’t like registrants being labeled and treated like bad people, why is it okay to do the same to this guy? His multiple drug convictions indicate a problem with drugs, which should draw our sympathy. He is a registrant – ONE OF US – and doesn’t deserve being labeled as a “bad man”, as “despicable”, for drug crimes any more than other registrants do for their sex crimes. He and his family don’t need to see crap like this if they should turn to NARSOL for help.

      • #41732 Reply

        All comments must be approved by a moderator. They will not be immediately posted. Your previous comment was approved and answered by the author.
        We welcome all views, as long as they are respectful to others commenting here. Thank you for sharing yours.

    • #42519 Reply
      Old offender

      The day I was arraigned for possession of child pornography, a local TV station began their broadcast, “our lead story is about a very bad man”. I had no previous arrests or convictions of any kind. I don’t deny what I did was very wrong, but I don’t believe I am “a very bad man”.

    • #50331 Reply

      I agree with Marie. If the goals of NARSOL are truly to help reform laws and help registrants, having anyone associated with NARSOL declare anyone as “good” or “bad,” doesn’t help in any way. Where does the line of judgment end? Who puts one person in charge of being that judge? There’s enough vigilante justice and online smearing in our communities today. This organization should avoid that approach if it wants to make an impact.

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