Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Yet another Ripper candidate

A recent book about a South African pimp and career criminal points the finger at this notorious con man and batterer of women as Jack the Ripper. The author only devotes one chapter to his theory, having only drawn the connection toward the end of his research. The suspect in question had a lifelong hatred of women, was a Polish Jew (like fellow Ripper suspect Aaron Kosminski) and can be traced to England at the time of the Whitechapel murders. The author points to this and other coincidences to urge criminal historians to consider this man as a possible suspect. We'll probably never know who Jack the Ripper was, and this author does not make a definitive statement like Patricia Cornwall in her presumptuously titled book Jack the Ripper: Case Closed, where she uses mitochondrial evidence and hearsay to finger English painter Walter Sickert, a theory that has been laughed off by most criminologists.
The theory that the Ripper was a Jew originally stemmed from the influx of Eastern European Jewish immigrants in the East End of London at the time of the murders. Combining the natural animosity toward the new immigrant population with long-festering English anti-Semitism, the Jews, as has been common through history, became a ready-made scapegoat. But this, as former FBI profiler John Douglas relates in The Cases That Haunt Us, echoed by other criminologists, could be a case of scapegoating that could contain a shred of truth. The Ripper's evisceration of his victims' bodies was similar to the work of a butcher, many of whom in the East End at the time were Jewish. A man known in the neighborhood as "Leather Apron" was reportedly seen at some of the crime scenes, and was described as "ethnic," an English code word at that time for Jewish. Whether this latest candidate is taken seriously like Kosminsky, or shrugged off like Sickert and the even more ludicrous theory that the Ripper was a member of the British Royal Family, remains to be seen.
On a different topic, Don Imus is suing CBS for wrongful termination, citing a line in his contract that urged him to be irreverent and offensive along with the fact that a CBS producer could have cut him off at any time while he was making his racist remarks, but didn't. I read an online editorial that compared Imus to "Rooster Cogburn reading from The Turner Diaries." If that's the case, I likely wouldn't be a fan, but I still don't think he deserved to be fired. For those who don't know, The Turner Diaries is a badly written, often banned tome exulting racism, guns and anti-government terrorism, and was reportedly a favorite of Timothy McVeigh. I started reading it once, out of curiosity, but couldn't get through it. Not because of its ideology, sometimes a fascist point of view can be morbidly fascinating, but because the protagonist was dull and the story didn't go anywhere. That doesn't mean the book should be banned, any more than Don Imus should have been fired for making an admittedly racially insensitive but hardly dangerous remark. It brings to mind one of my favorite quotes from John Stuart Mill, a champion of free speech (he's also a favorite of mine for being an early supporter of women's rights): "Silencing the expression of an opinion is...robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, which is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error."

No comments: