Because “there’s a dearth of smart, non-sensationalistic crime coverage on the Internet these day,” Slate’s brand new crime blogger, Justin Peters, explains. Given that a follow up post is about the Cannibal Cop, the explanation makes complete sense. Serious stuff with none of the fluff.
Of course, it hurts to learn that I’m part of the dearth. I hate to be part of the dearth. Dearths are bad. It could be that I’m stupid and sensationalistic, but I’m more inclined to think that I, as well as the other criminal defense lawyers who write about such sensationalistic stuff as crime, am just not important enough to make it onto a crime guy like Justin’s radar. I’m am a gnat to his elephant.
Who, you ask? Justin Peters. He explains his qualifications to fill the huge internet crime blog void:
What are my qualifications? Well, I was burglarized last year, which was unsettling. (As it turns out, I have nothing of value to steal, which was even more unsettling.) I was a background extra in the movie Curly Sue, so I’ve got unparalleled insight into crimes involving homeless grifters with hearts of gold and their adorably sassy adopted daughters. I’ve read everything ever written by Elmore Leonard, James Ellroy, and Franklin W. Dixon. And, of course, every Christmas I go down to the homeless shelter and distribute cakes laced with arsenic.
In short, I’m just the sort of preening, narcisisstic [sic] sociopath you’d want writing a blog like this.
Hah! What a card. Except after I stop slapping my knee, it’s kinda hard not to notice that Justin has no qualifications to write about crime at all. Whether he’s actually very funny, as if that was important, is a matter of personal choice. I thought it was a bit of overkill, but that’s just me, and I am, after all, part of the dearth.
From his actual Slate bio, here the picture of himself he uses professionally, where he describes himself as “editor at the Columbia Journalism Review.”
As easy as it may be to ridicule Justin Peters, or anyone named Justin for that matter, the fact is that he’s going to be the honcho of Slate’s crime blog, which means that a whole lot of people, even more than read here and Bennett’s blog combined, are going to be reading what he, and his minions (I assume he has minions) write. Which raises the question: will they be any better off for having done so?
My fear is that they won’t. My fear is that this will be a popular blog, much like Huffington Post, that can be used for good or evil, to illuminate or make readers lose brain cells, and that it’s heading toward the latter. In fact, I can’t imagine that Justin has the capacity to distinguish between illuminating and making people stupider because, well, he hasn’t got a clue what he’s doing.
Every once in a while, the question is posed whether the internet makes people smarter or stupider. The answer, as usual, is it depends. After all, Radley Balko writes at Huffington Post, and he illuminates most of the time.* But then, Justin Peters is writing at Slate, and from all indicia, his light is dim. Actually, reading the two substantive posts written since his introduction, it’s seems pretty clear that Justin’s style would be better suited to deep and thoughtful posts about, say, Lindsay Lohan playing Elizabeth Taylor, God rest her soul.
Consider, for example, his conclusion as to whether Ritalin reduces crime or helps criminals get away with it.
But it’s also entirely plausible that impulse control makes for better criminals. A jittery, hyperactive thief seems more likely to get caught or make a stupid mistake than one who has his nerves under control. As a user of such medication myself, I can say with confidence that the nefarious plots I conceive while on my meds are much more focused and plausible than the stuff I come up with when unmedicated. If your criminality involves long-term planning—if, for example, you are involved in an elaborate heist that requires you to memorize the blueprints to a museum—then a stimulant might be just the thing you need to succeed.
I can’t tell you how many clients have regretted not having downed a few tabs of Ritalin before memorizing blueprints for that museum heist.
Clearly, blogs written by lawyers lack the entertainment value that a major player and intellectual giant on the internet like Slate would demand. After all, they’re written by lawyers, drones of the legal sort, who couldn’t possibly have anything sufficiently interesting or titillating for the likes of Slate readers. I understand this, and certainly can’t blame Slate for demanding a saucier approach. But at the same time, as one of those drone-like lawyers, for whom the effort to illuminate matters and who believes the foremost rule of blawging is to make no one stupider for having read what is written, Justin’s posts are not likely to help.
People are already pretty darned ignorant of criminal law. Now that Justin has filled the gap created by that sad, pathetic dearth of good criminal law blogs, it appears that they may well be a whole lot stupider. Thank you, Justin. Thanks, Ms. Slate. And really, thank you internet. The dearth is now officially gone.
* Just leaving myself a little wiggle room here.