“Newsflash: Man kills dozens; woman, naturally, to blame”

Once, just once, can we have a story about the suspect for a high-profile violent crime without the lede being “OMG JILTED LOVER”?

Victoria fires: Brendan Sokaluk, Gippsland arson accused, fails to appear in court

I guess the Court of Public Excuses failed to find evidence of him complaining of having “depression”, which, as we all know from the news, causes rape, molestation, child abuse, drunk driving, mugging, murder, battering, arson, and the squishing of teeny newborn puppies.

Fucking Inquisitr has a giant photo of the woman who supposedly rejected this bushfire arson suspect, according to what they say was his Myspace page. No, I’m not linking, because it was an act of supreme douchewittery putting her picture up in the first place.

Lauredhel is sick of this shit. Pass it on.



Categories: gender & feminism, law & order, media

49 replies

  1. Because he couldn’t possibly be a psychopath, that would just be too gloomy? Hopefully the people of Victoria hate this scumbag enough not to fall for “excuses” like this.

  2. Surely the truth too is more likely to be that he has been sneaking off to set fires in the bush for years – my understanding is that firebugs don’t just suddenly start doing it in middle age. It’s just that this time he got caught.
    It’s sadly typical for a firebug to be a volunteer firefighter as well. It’s a great chance to set a fire, when you’re out of sight of the rest of the crew checking on stuff.

  3. Uhh, what’s a 40 year old doing with a MySpace page? (Isn’t it mostly for high school kids?)
    Deus Ex Macintosh’s last blog post..Even welfare mothers are bigger in America

  4. And *publishing her phot0*????

  5. What the hell? That whole “he was a jilted lover” thing is just so RANDOM. It reads like someone tacked it on the article at the last minute. It sure doesn’t have any damn *relevance* to anything in there.
    Cherchez la femme, indeed.

  6. Hang on a minute, wasn’t it God’s revenge? I wish they’d make up their mind who we are supposed to blame so that we can get back to doing something constructive!

  7. @ fuckpoliteness:
    Not only publishing her photo, but describing costume angel wings as “fairy wings” in order to make her sound more flaky or infantile.
    Also, *significantly* mentioning her dog’s name as if “Pyro” means “arson” rather than “fire”, when they’ve already pointed out that she appears to have a volunteer fire-fighter background of her own.

  8. Soon there will be rumours about how “Pyro” really secretly means “sacrifice in the forest”.
    I’m glad other people see what I see.

  9. From the gossip I’ve been hearing around the traps the town involved knew it was him from the beginning, because as mentioned above he has been lighting fires for years. But why would the media worry about that if you can find a sleazy “love” angle.

  10. Apart from the ABC and the smh, the fire coverage has apparently been sickening. I say apparently because I only watch the ABC and read the smh. I have been able to get information from those sources that answers my questions without any feeling that I am perving on misery or getting inflated or intrusive coverage.

  11. The Australian reported that the suspect had attended a special school when he was a child. I don’t think the word ‘psychopath’ or should be bandied about, it has a specific meaning which is unlikely to apply in this case. He appears to be the kind of person that professionals who work with serial arsonists had predicted – a socially isolated man who has an intellectual impairment and a history of lighting fires.

  12. Oh good Lord, we’re judging people on pet names now?! I might as well just report to prison already. Or possibly a mental institution.

  13. The Australian reported that the suspect had attended a special school when he was a child. I don’t think the word ‘psychopath’ or should be bandied about, it has a specific meaning which is unlikely to apply in this case.
    Su, is the inference then that special school children are all potential ‘psychopaths’??
    And I do agree with the specific meaning/shouldn’t be bandied around.

  14. Just to be clear I’m asking if that’s the paper’s inference, not yours Su.

  15. I thought it was more about “Let’s not perpetuate ideas about people with intellectual disabilities being dangerous cos they get enough of that shit”?

  16. I thought it was more about “Let’s not perpetuate ideas about people with intellectual disabilities being dangerous cos they get enough of that shit”?

    Is that a common association? Admittedly, just this week Nicky Reilly (mental age of 10) was convicted for his attempted to blow up a restaurant in Plymouth and using women with downs syndrome as bombers is almost a regular occurrence in Iraq.

  17. I’m confused. Maybe it’s just me, but I think you’re reading too much into the media coverage. While they certainly had no proper reason to show the woman’s photo (but what to expect from “inquisitr”, whatever that is?), it’s perfectly possible for the fact she blew him off to be a factor in his crime – along with the other things – without there being any implication that it’s either an acceptable excuse or that she’s in any way to blame.

  18. Deus 16: Yes it’s a common stereotype, people with mental illnesses or an intellectual disability being dangerous. This is promoted a lot through news media, and cultural narratives that use ableist language.

  19. I think the paper was reporting on local heresay, FP it was just a single line (and in The Melbourne Herald Sun not the OZ, sorry, I won’t link but the title was “Accused arsonist Brendan etc seeks fire damages claim ). Yes P.P, the stuff I’ve read suggests that while there is frequently a childhood history of behavioural/emotional disturbance and/or intellectual disability it is often in association with serious family dysfunction. They also stress that since most arsonists are never apprehended, the picture may be distorted and that the less impulsive and more resourceful offenders simply don’t get caught. I should have clarified that in my comment above.

  20. @ Oz Ozzie:

    it’s perfectly possible for the fact she blew him off to be a factor in his crime – along with the other things – without there being any implication that it’s either an acceptable excuse or that she’s in any way to blame

    Except that’s hardly ever how it works, Oz. Witches who break men’s hearts are always to blame for whatever horrible thing the man does within the next few years, because she didn’t take on the job of taming him and keeping him close.
    As well as, again, ignoring the whole point that a middle-aged man is most unlikely to just start lighting fires with no previous history. This is behaviour that typically begins in the teens, so how could him lighting yet another fire be down to her in any way?

  21. @tigtog: Except that’s hardly ever how it works, Oz
    Breaking relationships is fairly stressful. Can cause several sorts of inappropriate behaviour to (re)emerge. I’m sure that’s not a controversial statement (? please. surely this is not controversial. I’m not claiming that it’s the only way they emerge, or that they always emerge…)
    My immediate take was, well, of course she blew him off, she got a sense of what he was like, good for her, Maybe I’m just weird, or my sheeple index is running low these last few days.
    As for this: “Witches who break men’s hearts are always to blame ” – it sounds ludicrous to me. Like the old joke about the Jew reading the Arab press so he could find out how powerful he was.

  22. @Lauredhel – but why? I didn’t want to be offensive?

  23. Well it’s good to know that next time I get dumped I can go set fire to a state. And hey, if I’m not being picky, I should pick a state that has recently legalised somethnig that has the churches in uproar. Then I can escape the blame twice!
    Except that I’m a woman, so I don’t get that sympathy card. Better make sure I’m careful about who I dump in future though. Especially since my current nigel loves fire.

  24. So the girl in question was meant to have continued in a crappy relationship rooting a loser guy for that last twelve months as some sort of public safety service? Riiiight
    I hope she sues the paper for publishing her photo and vilifying her in this way.
    Re the “mental health problems” of the arsonist. Every adult decides their actions. There are plenty of people who have had horrendous childhoods or suffering from debilitating mental illnesses that don’t go out setting fires and committing crimes. Lawyers like to play up this aspect as a way to reduce the sentencing of their clients. Many people like to categorize murders, rapists, arsonists, child molesters as mental sick as thinking of them something “other than fully human and not like a normal human” makes them feel safer. I’ve worked in programs for serious offenders and believe me they are normal human beings- fucked up ideas- but normal -sorry.

  25. Oz: And yet you are, repeatedly. Moderator decision correspondence by email only, please, as per our guidelines. Read them all first.

  26. Oz, the problem with attributing causality in almost any situation you don’t have a lot of knowledge about is that it could be completely backwards, or unrelated.
    I think it’s actually more likely that she dumped him because she realized he wouldn’t stop lighting fires, rather than the reverse, he started lighting fires because she dumped him.
    As tigtog said, this isn’t something you start doing in adulthood because something in your life is making you unhappy. It’s a (sick) coping mechanism developed when you’re young.
    This reminds me of the story about the murdering Santa Claus. The explanation for his insane act as the result of going through a bad divorce where he had lost the engagement ring he got her and his dog (forget that he kept the house and car!) misses the point, that he may already have been a mean person capable of brutality.
    And that may have been why the wife wanted to divorce him.

  27. Mortisha -“There are plenty of people who have had horrendous childhoods or suffering from debilitating mental illnesses that don’t go out setting fires and committing crimes.”
    Not just plenty don’t, most don’t. That’s why I think it’s important not to be so quick to label people who *have* commited dangerous crimes as “crazy” “nutters” “loons” and “maniacs”.
    It’s exclusionist rhetoric that makes life damned uncomfortable for people with a mental illness.

  28. P.P your are right my apologies – better choice of words

  29. I shouldn’t but I will.
    Oz, let me spell it out for you. The mainstream news media is controlled by men, as is everything else, and by bringing up the issue of him having been “jilted” they are, as usual, just coming up with a lame excuse to blame wimmin for *everything*.
    Good old-fashioned opportunistic woman-hatin’.

  30. you are
    bloody hell – i’ll go away now and learn how to type

  31. Mortisha-no worries!

  32. Oz. If the man in question had been laid off from his job, do you think a picture of his boss, or even the company logo would have been published? Do you think this would have been mentioned in any reporting?
    What if he’d just been evicted? What if he’d recently injured in a hit-and-run accident? Lost a parent? Been estranged from a brother?
    Do you think any of these events, just emotionally difficult as a relationship breakup, would have been considered newsworthy, related to the crime, or if they were, actually rate an image of the other party involved?
    Think about that.

  33. The judge who lifted the ban on naming the suspect, banned the media from showing his image or giving his address. I was watching channel 10 last night and saw their news updates show the top of his Myspace page.
    I think it’s generally irresponsible of the media to have even mentioned his account on Myspace. Undoubtedly, people have looked him up as a result of these stories (many people would not have thought of trying to find his Myspace otherwise). I also read stories about the vigilantism certain people have engaged in via Myspace, that the media expects us to believe they have been surprised by.
    This new kind of “reporting” where the media includes the information and images people put on Myspace, Facebook etc, as though it is necessarily meaningful, is becoming ridiculous.

  34. Deus 16: Yes it’s a common stereotype, people with mental illnesses or an intellectual disability being dangerous. This is promoted a lot through news media, and cultural narratives that use ableist language.

    Well I’m familiar with the stereotype linking violence to mental illness (it’s all over the papers when the occasional schizophrenic goes off their meds and assaults someone), but not intellectual disability. I wouldn’t think most people would consider someone with an intellectual deficit capable of violence (though of course, they’re as capable as anyone else).

  35. Strange how being dumped somehow explains mass murder (Santa, this guy etc.) but women who are traumatised over and over and over are blamed for not only their own trauma, but anything maladjusted they ever do because they chose the trauma. Depression and abuse didn’t get sympathetic coverage for the Yates’ of the world, but poor guy gets dumped and all of a sudden it’s a trigger.
    You cannot call lighting fires in Victoria in summer in a heatwave at all a response to being dumped. Because that implies a level of logic or understandability. And implies that men don’t/can’t control their response to the HORRIBLE HORRIBLE TRAUMA OF A WOMAN NOT WANTING TO BE PARTNERED WITH THEM. And seriously? If she’d stayed with him, she’d be vilified as well.

  36. Oh I am so pleased to see you guys pick up on this, it hit me immediately upon reading the article – the angle they’d taken. Whadaya know the dangerous loner has “woman troubles”.

  37. Fuck. When will they ever stop blaming the woman?

    As someone who has battled depression, the way the term gets bandied about by the media as an excuse for the most reprehensible crimes is sickening. Depression does not make you kill people and read child porn.

  38. I’ve had depression (chronic endogenous depression) for the last twenty-four years. It hasn’t made me beat my partner, set fires, rip up telephone boxes, or hurt anyone. Of course, it has brought me close to suicide a few times, but I’m still here to talk about them.
    Depression didn’t make him do this. He might be depressed because of other factors, but that had *no* connection with his decision to set fires in the middle of one of the hottest and driest Victorian summers on record. He’s a fool, and that has nothing to do with the depression, either.

  39. I don’t think the word ‘psychopath’ or should be bandied about, it has a specific meaning which is unlikely to apply in this case.

    Hm, I see your point; I was considering the guy from the perspective of being a mass murderer than a serial arsonist (in the former case, I’d contend the word would apply, and no it’s not a word I use casually). But if he does have a history of firesetting rather than a history of violence, then yes, his pathology is likely to be different.

  40. Deus Ex Macintosh
    Uhh, what’s a 40 year old doing with a MySpace page? (Isn’t it mostly for high school kids?)
    DEM, musicians of whatever age find MySpace very useful, with its multimedia style presentation. I’m sure a lot of other older people do too. Just like blogs.
    /threadjack

  41. DEM, musicians of whatever age find MySpace very useful, with its multimedia style presentation. I’m sure a lot of other older people do too. Just like blogs.

    Not threadjack, because this all ties in. The existence of a MySpace page (or any other internet presence) is used, as well as a source of mining for information, as another way to demonise and Other suspects, by painting them as a Lonely Internet Loser. Indeed, the international press has taken this exact tack with this suspect, with openers like this: “The man accused of starting one of Australia’s deadly wildfires is a lonely web surfer who liked dogs, always said ‘G’day’ to neighbours, and was trying to find love online.”
    If I were ever charged with a major crime, I’m sure the fact that I have Facebook and Livejournal accounts would be all over the place in no time, followed by the predictable tut-tutting of folk who think that these things are just for those pesky kids, and any adult who uses them is automatically strange and suspect.

  42. I was just curious, as I’m used to thinking MySpace/High School, Facebook/Uni…

  43. A great deal of this awfulness (and M-H is absolutely right about its origin) has come in the wake of media reporting after the Court lifted the suppression order (thus revealing the accused’s identity). There are legal arguments both ways with respect to suppression orders, but as has emerged in a lengthy debate on this issue at our place, there comes a time when irresponsible media reportage simply has to be managed. Serious issues of justice are at stake.
    skepticlawyer’s last blog post..On the top shelf with all the other porn…

  44. “I was just curious, as I’m used to thinking MySpace/High School, Facebook/Uni…”
    Oh shit, are they the rules?

  45. Skepticlawyer, that post and thread were interesting enough for me to *happily* run late to work. Thanks.

  46. what fp@46 said. Thanks.

  47. Cheers, M-H & fp.
    skepticlawyer’s last blog post..On the top shelf with all the other porn…

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