TIL about the 1964 murder of a lesbian that was, even back then, spectacularly mis-reported by the New York Times

I just listened to what is, by far, one of the best podcast episodes to which I’ve ever listened, thanks to Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall and You’re Wrong About. The episode is about one New York City murder in March of 1964 and the way that murder of lesbian Kitty Genovese was so spectacularly mis-reported by an article in (where else?) The New York Times that was the genesis of the common urban legend about people being murdered in New York City and nobody – nobody – calling the police or coming to help.

Since You’re Wrong About doesn’t have transcripts anywhere, and I don’t feel like going back and doing one, I’ll let Wikipedia give you the background:

In the early hours of March 13, 1964, Kitty Genovese, a 28-year-old bartender, was raped and stabbed outside the apartment building where she lived in the Kew Gardens neighborhood of Queens in New York City, New York, United States. Two weeks after the murder, The New York Times published an article erroneously claiming that 38 witnesses saw or heard the attack, and that none of them called the police or came to her aid.

The incident prompted inquiries into what became known as the bystander effect, or “Genovese syndrome”, and the murder became a staple of U.S. psychology textbooks for the next four decades. However, researchers have since uncovered major inaccuracies in the New York Times article. Police interviews revealed that some witnesses had attempted to call the police.

In 1964, reporters at a competing news organization discovered that the NY Times article was inconsistent with the facts, but they were unwilling at the time to challenge NY Times editor Abe Rosenthal. In 2007, an article in the American Psychologist found “no evidence for the presence of 38 witnesses, or that witnesses observed the murder, or that witnesses remained inactive”. In 2016, the Times called its own reporting “flawed”, stating that the original story “grossly exaggerated the number of witnesses and what they had perceived”.

Winston Moseley, a 29-year-old Manhattan native, was arrested during a house burglary six days after the murder. While in custody, he confessed to killing Genovese. At his trial, Moseley was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. His sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment. Moseley died in prison on March 28, 2016, at the age of 81, having served 52 years.

The main thing I love about Marshall and Hobbes, among many, is how thorough they are in bringing new details to life, or correcting the falsities that get repeated elsewhere.

For instance, that last paragraph from Wikipedia is wrong, or at least seriously incomplete.

Mosely was sentenced to life, and his sentence was later commuted to life. And he did die in prison in 2016.

But what You’re Wrong About adds to the known record is that he actually escaped from prison during the time he was serving for Genovese’s murder. He went on to attack other people and ended up in a stand-off with police, after which was arrested and was sentenced to a second prison term. It was during this second prison term that he died.

This is but one small thing in the You’re Wrong About Genovese podcast episode that astound you, renew your faith in (some) humankind, and make you curse the police and media.

Just another victory for this podcast that is the most engrossing to which I listen.

And since I came in very late after the podcast started, I’ve got many more to enjoy before I am caught up.

Kitty Genovese, who was a kickass lesbian in New York City in 1964 at a time when being a kickass lesbian required a great deal of bravery and integrity — and whose murder was so spectacularly mis-reported by the New York Times that it became an urban legend.

No shock that America’s original gun tycoon was also a traitor

One of the best ongoing features of any blog I read is Erik Visits An American Grave over at Lawyers, Guns and Money, which is up to installment 1,135.

Installment 1,134 was particularly interesting because Erik Loomis visits the grave of Samuel Colt, the nation’s first true firearms tycoon whose eponymous company (founded in 1855) is still in business with an estimate $271 million is sales annually.

I did not know previously that Colt was a shady character:

Colt was a true capitalist in that he had absolutely no morals, positions, or scruples except for profit. He routinely sold guns to both sides in European wars. When the Civil War was moving toward starting, he took the same position in his own country. He sold tons of guns to Southern buyers well through 1860 and into 1861 and as late as that year, considered opening a second factory in the South so if secession did happen, he could make tons of money and his business wouldn’t be interrupted. Even when treason in defense of slavery occurred, he still sold 2,000 guns to a Confederate agent in 1861. Colt simply didn’t care. Finally, he came in for real criticism, though it wasn’t yet illegal. Major newspapers called him a traitor. He was outraged. He couldn’t be a traitor to the only nation that really mattered–his wallet. Colt then volunteered for the Connecticut militia for real in response, seeing his business being threatened. He never saw the field.

You can read the rest here.

An 1849 Colt Revolver.

May 4, 1970: 4 killed, 9 wounded as National Guard opens fire on Kent State students

It’s a good day to remember what happened at Kent State, given that it’s the anniversary.

But it’s also important to remember because there’s a good chance this country might re-elect as president the last guy who already expressed his desire to use the actual military to quell dissent by killing protesters. The only thing that stood between him and doing exactly that were some top military brass at the time who remembered that soldiers — even generals — swear an oath to the Constitution, not Donald Trump.

I doubt Trump will make that mistake twice on his military appointments.