The media and the public are calling for the head of Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, because he refuses to remove the “erotic services” portion of his website despite the allegations that Phillip Markoff used the website to locate victims for robbery and eventually murder. I’m surprised that everyone is being so conservative about this. Quite frankly, I want to know what type of car he drove and we need to get the manufacturer into court beside him. This is the vehicle that may have transported a killer so clearly they are culpable in the death of a young woman. They should have known that someone would utilize that technology for murder. While we’re at it, let’s just go ahead and blame Kink.Com as well because they produced the violent pornography that obviously inspired the murder.
I mourn the death of Julissa Brisman, 26 years old at the time of her murder, and I want to see the person responsible behind bars. That person is not Craig Newmark. The Erotic Services portion of his website was just as responsible for her death as the hotel where she was staying and that car that the killer drove. If Phillip Markoff is indeed the killer (and after looking at the mounting evidence
I do believe he is) he is a man who took actions of his own volition and I’m absolutely nauseated by the fact that people want to point the finger at a website.
I’m frustrated because it seems to stem from the fact that people don’t want to believe a young, attractive, intelligent man could do such a thing because he was fucked up in the head. On some level I understand the fear. Looking at photos of him at his white coat ceremony (a celebration of medical students entering the field) you don’t see something evil, you see someone you would have allowed to treat you at your most vulnerable state. I hate to break it to you, but murderers don’t always have a black horse and bad guy hats. This is a truly frightening thing to hold in your head because it means we can’t always identify the person that can cause such harm. We want to try to find the thing that made him tick and we want it to be something we already find repugnant. We want to blame angry music, violent video games, gambling, pornography, or advertisements for erotic services because they already stick out in our mind as wrong. It requires no paradigm shift to blame the usual suspects and it allows us to maintain a safe world view where everything is black, white, and safe.
I am grateful that Phillip Markoff is behind bars because my amateur studies of psychology and profiling give me the nagging feeling that he would have killed again. Unfortunately, sex workers take on more than their fair share of violence because not only are the entirely devalued by their killers they are also deemed worthless by many law enforcement agencies. The death of a hooker is no big story; it is, unfortunately, expected. A young man with his means and shell could have gone on killing for a long time. I’m also frightened by the prospect that we’re going to hear about more violence at his hands.
Did Phillip Markoff develop a serious problem with gambling and found himself driven to rob sex workers? A lot of people in this country have gambling problems, the vast majority don’t violently kidnap sex workers to stay at the table. I’m getting a little sick of seeing that theory in the news as well. To grab someone, bind them, bash in their head, and then shoot them at point blank range three times means you have bigger problems than a maxed out credit card. A lot of people gamble and a troubling number of people right now are having some very stressful times with money. There is no reason that murdering someone should be an inevitable conclusion.
Sex workers do take on a lot of violence in their field, more than their fair share. We have a culture that devalues sex and the lives of those who are professionals in the field so much that their lives have lost their meaning. If we want to stop these kind of killings we aren’t going to do it by taking down a website. We can do it creating a culture of change where we value sexuality in all of its forms and let go of this outdated notion that our desire is inherently evil. We live in an age with fiber optics and penicillin, we don’t have to maintain archaic notions about the human body. On top of that we have to confront the fact that sometimes the bad guy is the person we least want them to be. If porn, gambling, and erotic services were the source of murder then half of the country would be 6 feet under ground.