The Kendrick Johnson Effect

Enter Crime Scene DoSome events will never be set aside. Dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of people pay close attention to violent incidents whose details they find particularly intriguing. People still speculate about the Black Dahlia (Elizabeth Short was murdered in 1947, and the term by which the crime is known has nothing to do with race) and will obsess over JonBenet Ramsey and Jack the Ripper until the end of time. They’re never gonna leave it alone.

When the story told about a death seems sketchy, and a possible crime is behind it, and it poses disturbing questions, and seems to have a lot of missing parts, and so forth – some people can’t help saying “Huh?” It’s how they are wired, and there’s nothing wrong with that. And when a certain number of insignificant comment-makers and mere bloggers are agitated about a story, it can attract the attention of one of the investigative reporting heavy hitters.

The ones who are not easily satisfied with ready-made answers, and keep thinking up new questions – what’s in it for them? At some later point in history, they may well turn out to be vindicated. With luck, they will live long enough to see it. For example, some have gained satisfaction from hearing admissions issued from high places, that the Vietnam war was a monumental clusterfuck.

The crowdsourcing of investigative reportage can never be an exact science. But then, what is? According to Sturgeon’s Law, 90% of everything is bullshit, and has always been because: life on Earth. But people who have, or are trying to develop, functional bullshit detectors derive satisfaction from plowing through all the merde looking for the parts that ring true. Sadly, some mysteries that linger from the past will never be solved, and even if they are, it will be far too late for justice.

This is where Kendrick Johnson comes in. What I started out looking for was a referral to a truly authoritative longform account by an narrative nonfiction writer I respect, or could learn to respect. Just something that would reconcile every discrepancy. A total and complete history of what transpired January 10th and 11th at Lowndes High School.

It would be interesting to know everything that happened for many days afterward, but really, only a few definitive facts would sort things out. So I could put it to rest and return to other projects. I’m still looking for that masterpiece of expository prose that could wash away every qualm. In fact, it may already be in the list of recommended sources, sent by various people familiar with the matter. A list that awaits.

Image: Alan Cleaver

About Pat Hartman

Before publishing the two books "Call Someplace Paradise" and "Ghost Town: A Venice California Life", my main project was "Salon: A Journal of Aesthetics. " I wrote extensively for "Scene," a monthly arts and entertainment magazine with a circulation of 25,000. Also proofread, sold ads, put together the music calendar and, for a couple of years, served as editor. Presided over a couple issues of the local NORML newsletter, as well as being featured speaker at chapter meetings. Wrote a complete screenplay; collaborated on another one; worked on a couple of scripts (additional dialog and general brainstorming) with an indie film producer. Booked the talent for a large music festival. Wrote, designed, illustrated and produced various catalogs and brochures for small businesses. Spoke at a high school as a panelist on Women in the Professions; was a featured speaker at the 1991 Women in Libertarianism Conference; presented public programs on "Success in One Lesson" and "The Bloomsbury Group: What's It To Us?" Created the website and wrote many politically-oriented pieces for
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