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Week of February 15, 2007

Feature, January 25, 2007

Who's the Monster?

RFT's the monster: I was put off by Malcolm Gay's article "Monster Next Door?" and even more put off by the RFT for engaging in this FOX News-like sensationalism. Shame on you, RFT!

First, labels such as "monster," a pretty extreme pejorative, are probably a factor in Devlin's asocial behavior. Devlin obviously has been made fun of, bullied and insulted for most of his life, which likely made him feel alienated by others, which played a role in his loneliness — which also factored into him kidnapping two boys. We do not know yet know what went on in Devlin's life these past four years, including his motive for taking Hornbeck, how he treated Hornbeck, or whether he even molested Hornbeck or Ownby, yet Gay is quick to judge and create his own set of facts about the situation. When you call Devlin a monster without knowing the details of his life, you are acting no better than a playground bully. I thought Malcolm Gay was better than this, but obviously he is not. And I thought that RFT had a morsel of journalistic integrity to not stoop to the sensationalist tactics of other local and national media. I thought wrong.

Second, what in God's name was the RFT thinking by putting Devlin's face on the cover with the headline "Monster Next Door?" Doesn't RFT recognize that many of its readers are intelligent enough to form their own conclusions rather than having someone tell us what to think?

Malcolm Gay, maybe you are a monster that we should be wary of. Shame on you and RFT for stooping so low.
Courtney Baker, University City

It was the porn: "Monster Next Door?" raises some interesting questions. The authorities involved in this case reportedly found various sources of pornography, including child pornography, among Devlin's possessions. This discovery is certainly not surprising, since almost without exception a direct link to pornographic materials is par for the course in investigations dealing with crimes of sexual predation.

Pornography, like drugs or alcohol, can become a serious addiction, and similar to any addiction, the addict must progressively consume either a greater quantity or a stronger dose of the "drug" in order to achieve the same level of pleasure and/or satisfaction. For most people the notion of something such as child pornography is revolting and perverse — and rightfully so. What most people fail to understand is that no one, not even the most heinous sexual predators, started out receiving pleasure from such perversions.

The typical pattern is that these perversions, like any addiction, increase over time. First, it's just Playboy. Soon, Playboy doesn't "do it" any more, so it's off to Penthouse and Hustler. In time not even these satisfy the addiction, so it's off to something stronger, something more hardcore, something more violent. The pattern continues and the addiction grows. Given enough time, the person finds that their addiction cannot be satiated by even the most deviant pornography. This is when the addict becomes a real threat to society — particularly to vulnerable women and children.

Certainly the publisher and editor of the Riverfront Times are concerned about the victims of sexual predation, which raises a particularly difficult dilemma. The RFT prints numerous graphic advertisements for companies that promote and/or sell pornographic materials. In fact, it is one of the main components that distinguishes the RFT from other local newspapers. Does this practice not have the potential to be an enabling factor for pornography addicts and sexual predators in our community? Worse yet, the RFT is widely available in public places such as restaurants and grocery stores. Not only are vulnerable women and children at risk from the predators who are enabled by the ads in the RFT, but the children can easily pick up a copy and be exposed to the graphic advertisements themselves.

Will the RFT discontinue running these types of advertisements in an effort to help protect future victims of sexual predation, or is running these ads too lucrative an endeavor?
Frank Hogrebe, St. Louis

No, it was the Mountain Dew: The fact that Mr. Devlin consumed tons of Mountain Dew (drank it like water, according to the folks who knew him ) is pretty much all we need to know. All of the sugar and caffeine could not have been a positive influence.

If you don't publish this letter, I will understand. I presume that the Pepsi-Cola Company does advertise in your publication.
Earl Sigoloff, Creve Coeur

Keep talking: Malcolm Gay's article on the kidnappings was very enlightening as to who Michael Devlin is. Learning how he behaved in the world outside his apartment showed us that we should be more vigilant about what goes on around us. Will we learn more about Stockholm Syndrome? Will the media take this case and try to educate the public, or will they push it to the wayside when something else erupts? When the media has a chance to educate people about something, they seem to forget about the episode very quickly. Here is a chance to educate people about this syndrome and also help in alerting the public to stay vigilant, so maybe we can help prevent child abductions.

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