Monday, January 06, 2014

Yellow Journalism at its Worst

Menachem Stark
What can I say about such a heinous crime? First my sincere condolences to the family of real estate developer, Menachem Stark. Mr. Stark, who was a Satmar Chasid, was brutally murdered after being kidnapped. From the Forward:
Video surveillance cameras show Stark, who reportedly had $4,000 on him, being attacked as he left his real estate office on Rutledge Street, just a stone’s throw from a police precinct house at 11:30 p.m. Thursday as winter storm Hercules pounded the city. At least two men subdued him, bound him with duct tape and tossed him in a light-colored van.
His body was discovered partially burned in a dumpster last Friday afternoon. It is not known if he was set on fire before or after his murder. God have mercy!

Mr. Stark was a very kind and generous man to the people of his community. He was apparently very well liked.

There has been a lot of buzz on various publications, websites, and blogs about the possible causes of this heinous crime. He was a wealthy man who made his money in real estate.  Wealthy people often make enemies on the way up. People invest in their ventures and not all of them are winners. Some people lose money. Some over-invest and lose a lot more money than they can afford. There are a lot of accusations flying around in various media about his business ethics. And possible motives for such a heinous murder. 

I can certainly understand the anger someone might feel if for example they invested their life savings on real estate deal and lost all their money. Or if a contractor wasn't paid. I don’t know his particular circumstances. But whatever they are, he must have made some people very angry.  

But any loss an investor, contractor, or vendor may have suffered in Mr. Stark's real estate ventures is not necessarily his fault. I’m sure that every project he attempted was with the intent of making some money. There is always risk – especially when the returns are potentially high. There are many ways a real estate deal can go bad. It is also possible that a some of his deals went south when the economy tanked a few years ago. People probably lost a lot money. Contractors may not have gotten paid.

But whatever the case may be, there is absolutely no justification for this kind of brutal murder.  If investors, vendors, contractors, or tenants on his properties had claims against him, or if there were improprieties in his business dealings... that’s what courts are for.

This is a terrible tragedy for the family. The only proper reaction from anyone with a human heart is shock and horror. And to express heartfelt condolences to his wife and children.

Which brings me to a cover page and headline in the New York Post, yesterday. To say it is shocking is an understatement. How callous does a publication have to be in order to do that?! It makes me wonder if the people who run that rag are even human. It is so bad that I am not going to link to it.

For a widely read newspaper - even one with a terrible reputation like the Post - to vilify the victim and imply that there was some kind of justification for a murder - especially one as brutal as this is the height human indecency. It is yellow journalism at its worst.  There is a time to discuss the issues raised by the Post article. I have done so myself. But this is clearly not one of them. There is no excuse for it. The only reason the Post did it was to sell newspapers. 

In my view nothing can redeem this paper even if they apologize. But if they have even a modicum of human decency left, the least they can do is put up the reward money for the capture of the human pieces of garbage that did this.