I have been following the news regarding the alleged murderer Luka Rocco Magnotta. For those who have not heard of him, Magnotta was recently arrested at a German internet cafe, for allegedly killing his lover and mailing body parts to Canadian politicians. According to the CBC, Magnotta “faces charges of first-degree murder, committing an indignity to a dead body, publishing an obscene thing, and mailing obscene matter.”
Obviously, what this man is accused of is absolutely horrendous. If he is guilty, he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of Canadian law; however, his sexuality should not be part of this discussion. Magnotta is a gay man and he is alleged to have killed his Chinese immigrant lover. Part of the reason that this has become such a sensation in Canada, is because of the politicians he threatened, including the right dishonorable Stephen Harper; however, the constant mention of his sexuality is disturbing.
If Magnotta did indeed commit the crimes that he is accused of, his sexuality didn’t make him do it, but reading the news stories about this case, as well as watching televised media, one would be led to believe that there is some sort of connection, because there is a constant reference to the fact that Magnotta is gay. The reporting on crimes committed by historically marginalized people is always treated differently in the media, to those of privileged people, but this is the first time that I personally have seen the constant juxtaposition to this level of violence and sexuality.
I am certain that part of this fascination is built upon the false idea that gay men are predatory. The media, no matter how often it claims to be neutral, is guilty of enforcing harmful stereotypes in its reporting. Crimes that are committed by privileged White men for instance, are constructed as an aberration from the norm, and there is no repeated reference to their race in the reporting. Though Magnotta is White, he is marginalized by his sexuality, hence the repeated reminder that he is a gay man, as though this in any way factors into a reason for his alleged actions.
While I am disgusted with the reporting on this issue, what I find interesting is the similarities on how this crime is being discussed in the media, to crimes committed specifically by Black people. When the accused is a visible minority, the media drives home the point, and it not only “others” the accused, but frames race as a causation of the violence, without looking at systemic issues which are far more relevant to criminal activity. The reporting serves to elevate Whiteness and to push the idea that Blacks are uniquely violent and people to be feared and institutionalized.
In the case of Magnotta, it seems that the media is determined to make continuous references to his sexuality. When a straight man commits a violent act, the media does not continually reference the fact that he is heterosexual. Think back to a moment to when Paul Bernardo was a media sensation after murdering Kristen French, and Leslie Mahaffy, and committing numerous rapes as the Scarborough rapist, nowhere in these stories was the public informed continually that he is a straight man. Bernardo’s acts of violence stretched for years, and escalated from rape to murder and still yet, his sexuality was never associated with his crimes. He was and is still constructed as an aberration in terms of White, straight, able bodied young men. Given the fact that many straight men murder, brutalize, stalk, rape and commit various acts of violence against women, based in a desire for power, a legitimate conversation could have taken place regarding the effect of hyper masculinity and patriarchy, but it did not occur. The media was far to wedded to the idea that when straight, White, able bodied men commit crimes that it is an aberration.
This is why when marginalized people read or watch the news, it is not uncommon to hope that when a crime is discussed that the alleged perpetrator is not a member of our communities. When I learned about the shooting at the Eaton Center this past weekend, I hoped fervently that the perpetrator would not be a person of colour. The commission of a crime by a marginalized person gives the media license to engage in bigoted behaviour under the guise of keeping the public informed. It is further problematic because only the most privileged are constructed as individuals, whereas marginalized people are always understood to be a group. This is why one bad act committed by a marginalized person, is so quickly extrapolated to be representative of the group. We know that we are individuals and not responsible for the actions of others and still yet, marginalized people will say at least privately, please let it not be one of us. We know that the actions of one person will make it difficult for us to lead our lives, because bigots become emboldened, because they feel justified in their ignorance.
I am going to continue to follow this story, but to be quite frank, I don’t expect the reporting on Luka Rocco Magnotta’s alleged crime to shift. It has become so bad the victim in this case has become obscured, in order to remind the public of the supposed, gay threat that Luka represents. Even the most supposed liberal media sources are jumping on this homophobic line of reporting with what feels like glee. If anything, this story highlights why it is important to think critically when consuming the news, rather than assuming that media is not working an agenda when relating so-called facts of the case. What we internalize without thought, is a reflection on our privilege and it will only serve to cause even more problems for historically marginalized people.