Thursday, August 7, 2008

Nice guy with an infectious smile

Many years ago, when I took my son to New York for a short vacation, we were greatly amused by the way in which a sordid crime had become the non-stop theme of TV news during the first day or so of our stay. A Mexican resident, Tony Gonzalez, had murdered several innocent people in a brutal fashion, and none of his former friends could figure out what might have made him act that way. Journalists succeeded in tracking down all kinds of people who knew Gonzalez well, and their comments were unanimous: "Tony's such a nice guy. I can't understand what came over him, to make him commit those murders. He's always so kind to his mother and sister, and all his friends saw him as a happy guy who was incapable of hurting anybody. Tony always speaks with such a lovely quiet voice. Etc. Etc." My son and I found this stuff hilarious. We felt that Gonzalez should be released immediately from police custody and awarded a certificate for fine citizenship and good-neighborly conduct.

I'm reminded of Tony Gonzalez when I see the way in which the US anthrax suspect Bruce Ivins has been presented by various colleagues since his suicide. He was described as a churchgoer with a friendly disposition, who did a juggling act at community get-togethers, composed humorous songs that he performed on guitar or piano to farewell colleagues, and never seemed to have "any particular grudges or idiosyncrasies".

Alas, it's only today that we learn from hearsay that a psychiatrist had described Ivins as "homicidal, sociopathic with clear intentions". To go to the trouble of posting envelopes containing powdered anthrax spores through the mail, the perpetrator would indeed need to be sociopathic with clear intentions.

Today, we can finally read the emails of Ivins. It's a little too late, of course, since the nice guy with an infectious smile has committed suicide. I can't help thinking, rightly or wrongly, that any run-of-the-mill computerized spy should have been able to intercept these emails, which are poems of evil pulsations.

Verily, I say unto ye that Americans are fabulous fools (whom I often admire enormously, nevertheless, in the domains of science and technology). They proclaim the existence of an evil axis on the other side of the planet, but they can't necessarily detect the smelly crap exuded by their own assholes.

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