- The American Conservative - http://www.theamericanconservative.com -

Big News That Didn’t Happen

[1]

In news from the Tree Falling In The Woods That Nobody Heard File, I got a text yesterday from my wife telling me that she had just driven past the “Blackbird Black House” in Zachary, a nearby town, and seen it surrounded by what looked like a police SWAT team, all carrying submachine guns and automatic weaponry. What the heck is going on? she wondered.

This was news. That house, a creepy place on a semi-rural road, is known as the Blackbird Black House because the former owner boarded up the windows and painted graffiti on the panels reading BLACKBIRD BLACK. It sounds very Stephen King, if you ask me. The former owner is a loon who has been in trouble [2] with the cops on drugs and other charges. It appears that the former owner’s son has been living there with his girlfriend and their baby. A month ago, police found the girlfriend wandering around the area in the morning, naked and out of her mind. A search of the Blackbird Black house found guns and drugs. Police found the body of her baby son in a ditch opposite the house. Now she is charged with killing the child.  [3]

People around here have been talking a lot about the Blackbird Black House, and the insanity attached to it. Like I said, this morning there was a major police raid on the house. All day I looked to the TV news and newspaper websites to see what happened. Why had police gone into this notorious house? Why the SWAT team? Did they find anything? What happened?

My eight-year-old son also saw the police with machine guns around the house too (he and his mom were on the way to the orthodontist). Tonight he asked to stay up late to watch the local news to see what had happened. “The police were wearing armor and everything!” he said.

Nothing. Not a thing on the news, anywhere. There’s probably a good reason for this, but it does make me wonder what happens all around us that we never find out about because it never makes the news.

39 Comments (Open | Close)

39 Comments To "Big News That Didn’t Happen"

#1 Comment By JonF311 On May 16, 2012 @ 6:17 am

An ugly business in your neck of the woods. And it does sound like something from Stephen King, or maybe (keeping with the venue) from Anne Rice.

As to why the SWAT team, police everywhere have come to love their toys and their pseudo-military style. And to be a bit fair, they don’t like to end up with bullets in them. Here in Baltimore when my bicycle was stolen from in front of the office the police even got their helicopter up in the air to look for the thief. I suppose I should be gratified by the effort, but I havet o wonder how much that useless flight cost the taxpayers.

#2 Comment By Sands77 On May 16, 2012 @ 6:52 am

They were probably conducting a typical narcotics search warrant, and those usually don’t make the news.  And because our police departments are becoming more and more militarized , it’s not unusual for them to use the SWAT team for search warrants nowadays. 

#3 Comment By Don Quijote On May 16, 2012 @ 7:11 am

SOP now our days…

The NRA having convinced our legislatures that the first clause of the second   amendment “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state,” is meaningless crap put there by the evil liberal founding fathers, guns have been flying of the shelf’s like they are going out of style, so now when the cops go to arrest Tom, Dick or Harry, they have to go in loaded for bear cause if they don’t, it’s very possible that Tom, Dick and Harry will be far better armed than they are, and if a few innocent civilians get their asses blown away by over-hyper, over-armed militarized cops, well them be the breaks…

Guns Uber Alles…

#4 Comment By JohnE_o On May 16, 2012 @ 7:52 am

Nothing. Not a thing on the news, anywhere. There’s probably a good reason for this…

My goodness, but you certainly do have a high level of trust in Authority…

#5 Comment By naturalmom On May 16, 2012 @ 8:19 am

If the house has been empty since the woman’s arrest, could it be that it was a training/drill for the SWAT team?  Post 911, many small town police departments went a little overboard in buying that kind of urban warfare paraphernalia.  They have to have fun with it train with it once in a while!   Of course some kind of real operation would be much more exiting.  If you know anyone with a police scanner, maybe they heard something about it.

There was something big that went down in my city a few years ago that I never heard a peep about on the news.  I’m pretty sure it was for real because I was on my way to the Historical Museum with my kids and I was turned away a hundred yards or so from the parking lot entrance by a police officer and told to go home.  (!)  The “go home” part is what got me worried — not just “The museum is closed” or “you can’t be in this part of downtown right now.”  I suppose it could have been a drill, but a drill that shuts down public buildings is usually advertised in advance.  I kept my eyes and ears open for the next couple of days, but never heard anything about it.  Strange, as I’m sure I’m not the only one who was sent away from the area.

#6 Comment By Christopher Jones On May 16, 2012 @ 8:46 am

Did your wife call the local newspaper or the TV station to tell them that something was up?  If neither she nor anyone else who saw it called the papers, how would they know (until the police issue a press release)?

#7 Comment By Joe On May 16, 2012 @ 8:56 am

Cops on drugs? No wonder he’s in trouble.

#8 Comment By Christopher Larsen On May 16, 2012 @ 10:07 am

I live in a fairly rural area and due to my work, I am privy to all sorts of dark things that happen in my small southern town. Almost none of it makes the papers or news. My region has massive drugs problems, kidnapings, satanic activity, church scandals, unbelievable amounts of child abuse, scandals in high places, lots of mental illness, crystal meth everywhere, attempted murder etc … The court dockets that are public record are chock full of these things. They never make the paper. Its as if there is a conspiracy of silence to present a wholesome face to the world. My town has a large university associated with a major denomination, is the national headquarters of two Christian denominations and is trying very hard to attract manufacturing. The local mullet wrapper, my name for the local paper since its only good for wrapping fish, presents a whitewashed Southern Living version of life here probably for political reasons. I am not a huge fan of southern gothic writers because I *live* in a southern gothic world .. and yes its for real! I wonder about other regions and whether the same is true for them.

#9 Comment By New_Helen On May 16, 2012 @ 10:08 am

That poor baby.  Terrible story.

#10 Comment By RodDreher On May 16, 2012 @ 10:09 am

A fair point. As a journalist, I’ve often been amazed by people who complain that reporters ignored this or that story, or, relatedly, that we have not told their side of it. But you ask them if they reached out to a reporter or editor to let them know of the event and/or their group’s perspective, and invariably the answer is no. True, the reporter’s job is to stay on top of these things, but people forget that reporters, editors, and producers are not machines. They (we) depend on the public to tip us off. 

That said, most local newsrooms monitor police frequencies. My first journalism job was as a cops reporter. I had a police radio on my desk, listening for stuff going on. 

My point here wasn’t to criticize the local media — like I said, there might have been a very good reason why this wasn’t on the news or in the paper — but rather to make the more philosophical point out how much we all depend on the media for our sense of the Way Things Are. It’s so artificial, and yet…

When I lived and worked in Dallas, a head of corporate security at a major downtown firm told me that his colleagues downtown shared information about security threats. He said you’d be shocked to see how many young, foreign born Muslim men they would catch inside high rises, off the tourist track, filming — and who would typically have a b.s. story to tell when they were confronted. None of these young men were violating any law, so the police never got involved, and obviously none of this made the media. Still, said the security chiefs strongly believed they were being probed, and shared information with each other. 

#11 Comment By Geoff Guth On May 16, 2012 @ 10:32 am

I have some very ambivalent thoughts about a story like this.

On the one hand, from what you tell us about the situation, it certainly sounds like police intervention would have been fully justified even before the death of the child. And I can certainly understand the overabundance of caution that resulted in the decision to use overwhelming force when entering into an unknown situation that offered the possibility of serious violence.

But I’ve long also felt that there’s a nasty element of morbid curiosity involved in stories of this kind, something akin to all those people on the highway who stop or slow down to look at an accident. There’s something to the stereotype of a certain type of reporter who gets a lean and hungry look in the eye at the thought of a horrific tragedy.

Beyond that, I’m more than a little concerned about the overpowering firepower deployed by the police in a case like this. Like I said, I understand the desire to protect the officers involved and the uncertainty of the situation. But on the other hand, there have been so many cases of police and SWAT breaking into the wrong house or arbitrarily injuring or killing bystanders or victims (the Cato Institute has done yeoman’s work documenting much of this sort of thing). It makes me wonder if there might not have been a better way of handling problems like this.

From what I’ve seen, one major problem with modern policing is how separated the police are from the communities they’re patrolling. This has several consequences, including fostering an “us-vs.-them” attitude on police forces and also means that police are less aware of what might be going on in the neighborhood,

#12 Comment By Geoff Guth On May 16, 2012 @ 10:42 am

(continued…ugh…did anyone even test this new interface on a smart phone? It sure doesn’t feel like it. )

Anyways, last point I was trying to make before the site decided to post my previous comment before I was ready:

Current policing techniques foster an “us-vs.-them” attitude on police forces, it means they lack good intelligence on what’s actually happening on their beat, and destroys trust between the police and people in the neighborhoods they patrol.

#13 Comment By JonS111 On May 16, 2012 @ 10:57 am

Swat makes sense, from everything here.  The house is boarded up so no way to get a good visual from the outside.  It looks like he killed his kid so he’s in serious trouble if he is caught, and he probably knows this. If he was arrested on illegal drug dealing charges, it means he has access to black markets generally, probably has access to illegal weapons.  Plus the guy sounds crazy enough to try to get into a shootout with the cops.  

#14 Comment By Tiparillo On May 16, 2012 @ 10:59 am

CBS reporting on recent FBI data released: 
72 police killings in 2011 marked a 29 percent increase over the 56 officer deaths recorded in 2010.

Guns were used in 63 of the police homicides, and more officers died in the South than in any other region.

Perhaps most troubling, 49 of the killings, or about two-thirds, involved officers who were wearing body armor.
[4]

#15 Comment By AnneMarie Dickey On May 16, 2012 @ 11:10 am

@JonF311:disqus 
The confluence of police and the miltary (unforms, weapons, tactics, treatment of civilians as a hostile populace) is a daily theme at Radley Balko’s blog The Agitator
 
As for big stories that never made the news, a good friend of mine in the Army describes one night in Southern California when as a teen he was out drinking with frineds in the late 80’s.  The car was pulled over at a roadblock in a suburban neighborhood.  The officer had a flashlight and immediately saw the open vodka bottle as well as the fact they were all underaged…and waved them through in disgust.  Driving through the police cordon, my friend saw the nighborhood was crawling with police and five…yes five…coroner vans were pulled up in a driveway and along the street.  He tried in vain to find out on the news later that night to sede what in the world had gone down in that neighborhood.  Nothing was ever reported that he could find.

#16 Comment By AnneMarie Dickey On May 16, 2012 @ 11:16 am

Unfortunately, it is also becoming more common for those SWAT teams to terrorize and ‘accidentally’ injure or even kill innocent people when they hit the wrong house or it turns out the drug tip was fake.  Family pets get killed an awful lot on these SWAT raids as well.

#17 Comment By RodDreher On May 16, 2012 @ 11:44 am

Wow. And I completely believe that. The stuff that goes on in my quaint little Southern town, that everybody (“everybody”) knows about, but that never, ever makes the paper, would blow your mind. I’m not talking about gossipy stuff; I’m talking about genuinely newsworthy stuff. We have always had a paper here, but it has absentee owners and rarely covers the real news. Nobody expects it to. 

To be fair, if it ever did do that, local people would probably be up in arms and cancel subscriptions left and right. A few local folks who are frustrated with the political nonsense around here, especially given how it harms economic development, have encouraged me to start writing somewhere about the real news, at least on the nexus between the dysfunctional political culture here and economic development. I’m tempted to do it at some point in the future — after my book is finished — just so it will be recorded somewhere. I’m not talking about advocacy journalism; I’m talking about straight-up, he-said-she-said journalism, which would be a tremendous boon to the place. What holds me back is the fact that I have to live here too, and in a small town, all of this stuff gets real personal, real fast. 

An example that I’m working on right now: I am told through several reliable sources that there was recently a spectacular jewel heist in the area, in a context that is — how do I put this? — incredibly, deliciously weird. It’s beyond Southern Gothic; it’s Southern Baroque. No charges have been filed, and I’m trying to find out the real story, because it’s something that ought to be written, if true. I’m spending very little time on it, because TAC doesn’t pay me to investigate this stuff, and besides, I have a book to finish. Still, if I were the editor of the local paper, I would be all over that. 

#18 Comment By MontDLaw On May 16, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

Be careful what rocks you turn over in a small town. An editor and reporter in a small town exposed some sexual abuse in the boy scout troop there and won a bunch of journalism prizes. The citizens of the town, real Americans one and all, destroyed them professionally and personally and all but ran them out of town on a rail.

Unless you want to move back to the sinful city to escape this kind of extreme ulginess do a personal audit to decide what price you are prepared to pay, and force your children to pay in the pursuit of truth.

As an aside – the new comment format has real problems on the iPad too.

#19 Comment By Dave Dutcher On May 16, 2012 @ 1:20 pm

The good reason is that news gathering is expensive as opposed to relying on national pre-generated content. My local paper has a tiny local section, but it sure loves the Wall Street Journal’s syndicated content since you don’t have to hire reporters to get it. Same with national news, just pull it down from the AP or Reuters feed. Newspapers are on life support, and they’ve quietly tried every cost cutting trick that they can.

This is an argument for your localism, by the way. The lack of a local news economy has created an odd situation where people sometimes know more about the global and national new than their own town. They know more about nannies in New York City than babysitters at home. 

#20 Comment By MontDLaw On May 16, 2012 @ 1:21 pm

 In a related story the entire German police force fired 85 bullets in 2011.

#21 Comment By Cecelia O’brien On May 16, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

that poor child – what a horror the baby’s life must have been too with parents like that.

Boy- nothing exciting happens in my town – well the occasional teenage pregnancy – seems kind of dull compared to life in other towns mentioned here.  Oh wait – the postmaster was discovered entertaining “ladies” in his office.  That caused a fuss.

#22 Comment By Christopher Larsen On May 16, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

You know Rod the newspapers that are still viable are the ones that report local news or have a niche market. I have often thought that good “impact journalism” in my little pocket of Dixie would be very viable as a business as long as you didn’t get run out of town. One of the biggest sellers here is the “Just Busted” magazine that prints mug shots. Some good investigative journalism focused on the corruption in local high places, the behavior of the wacky evangelical cults that flourish around here, or the Xanax dependence problem running rampant among the local denomination whose university campus ironically bans beer, would be brilliant and possibly very profitable. Just found out the county correctional facility down the road which houses federal prisoners too (prison is a local growth industry) had a walk out of 40% of their staff due to the working conditions and jail management. Not a peep about this in the local mullet wrapper. There has to be a viable market for this kind of local journalism.

#23 Comment By JohnE_o On May 16, 2012 @ 2:22 pm

 It trickles down also.

I’m a tech guy for a university police force. A year ago, the PD swapped out the university provided shirts and trousers that looked pretty much like what the support staff in all the other departments wear and replaced them with black 5.11 “tactical” shirts and trousers – the type with pockets all up and down the legs. Apparently, ‘tactical’ = ‘lots of pockets’.

Now I’ll be the first to agree that they are a lot more comfortable and practical to wear, especially if you use a lot of ‘big pocket’ stuff like voltmeters and CCTV viewers, but sometimes I get creeped out by the whole police-state color motif.

So I compensate by growing my hair long. What a rebel, eh?

#24 Comment By JudithLS On May 16, 2012 @ 3:06 pm

“What holds me back is the fact that I have to live here too, and in a small town, all of this stuff gets real personal, real fast. ”

Allegorical plays and skits were written for just that reason. There are many ways…

#25 Comment By pak152 On May 16, 2012 @ 5:07 pm

knowing how long it takes for the police to respond to a 911 call one wonders what would have happened to this man if he hadn’t owned a firearm
[5]
let us not forget the most crucial part of the second amendment  that you left out “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”
what do you propose we do with hammers?
[6]

#26 Comment By pak152 On May 16, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

 and those shootings were not done by honest law-abiding citizens, but by criminals. gun control laws don’t affect criminals

#27 Comment By pak152 On May 16, 2012 @ 5:09 pm

 link to story?

#28 Comment By SecularMisanthropist On May 16, 2012 @ 6:18 pm

John E, Rod does prefer hierarchical religious institutions and the need for authority. So it’s probably matter of temperament. The flip side are people like me who tend to assume people with power are probably lying. Hopefully it all balances out.

-MH

#29 Comment By WEB_Dupree On May 16, 2012 @ 6:21 pm

Are you talking about the story from Idaho?

#30 Comment By SecularMisanthropist On May 16, 2012 @ 6:31 pm

After I had kids I found news about bad things happening to children particularly stomach churning. I always wish that the adults could get it together for the sake of a child who didn’t ask to be born.

With regards to your boring town. Remember that happy people make bad drama.

#31 Comment By MontDLaw On May 16, 2012 @ 6:56 pm

 Here is a good summary.

[7]

#32 Comment By Sean Nelson On May 16, 2012 @ 7:31 pm

Don’t elide the “well-regulated militia” part, Pak. The “most crucial” part depends on it for authority.

#33 Comment By Another_Believer On May 16, 2012 @ 8:29 pm

I am reminded of Douglas Adam’s “Somebody Else’s Problem” field from one of his science fiction books.

“An SEP is something we can’t see, or don’t see, or our brain
doesn’t let us see, because we think that it’s somebody else’s
problem…. The brain just edits it out, it’s like a blind spot. If you
look at it directly you won’t see it unless you know precisely what it
is. Your only hope is to catch it by surprise out of the corner of your
eye.

The technology involved in making something properly invisible is
so mind-bogglingly complex that 999,999,999 times out of a billion it’s
simpler just to take the thing away and do without it……. The
“Somebody Else’s Problem field” is much simpler, more effective, and
“can be run for over a hundred years on a single torch battery.”

This is because it relies on people’s natural predisposition not to
see anything they don’t want to, weren’t expecting, or can’t explain.”

 

#34 Comment By JonF311 On May 16, 2012 @ 8:54 pm

Another probable scenario: the police got a very scary tip and prepared for the worst. And the tip turned out to be dead wrong, maybe even a prank. They would not be eager for a headline reading “Anxious police in SWAT gear corner stray cat in empty house.”

#35 Comment By Don Quijote On May 16, 2012 @ 9:01 pm

 

        People in the U.S. and Selected European Countries:  1994-99

                               Total                   Gun                                              Homicide Rate   Homicide Rate  Robberies United States       5.70               3.72              232 Canada                2.16               0.76              101    England               1.41               0.11              116 Switzerland          1.32              0.58               36(a) Average:               1.38              0.47               48Selected EU Countries (b) 

a) The Swiss state that half of their robberies are by non-resident foreigners.

b) Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Germany, France Austria, Italy, Spain, Ireland

That’s not what the stats say…

#36 Comment By Don Quijote On May 16, 2012 @ 9:09 pm

 And what are you going to do about [8], [9], [10] and other such miscellaneous toys, after all they are all arms…

#37 Comment By Monterey22 On May 16, 2012 @ 11:28 pm

Whenever people are found walking around naked and crazy, that’s usually a sign the occult is involved. I know that’s politically incorrect to say, but that’s often (not saying all the time) what is involved.

#38 Comment By Sean Nelson On May 17, 2012 @ 5:58 am

That’s funny, I did that once on mushrooms. No “occult” involved.

#39 Comment By JonF311 On May 17, 2012 @ 6:39 am

The occult? As in “Dark Shadows”? Witches and vampirse and ghosts, oh my…
People wandering around naked and crazy is usually a sign of psychosis, possibly brought on by heavy drug use or serious abuse.