Winston Moseley, Who Killed Kitty Genovese, Dies in Prison at 81Last year, I blogged:
By ROBERT D. McFADDEN APRIL 4, 2016
Winston Moseley, who stalked, raped and killed Kitty Genovese in a prolonged knife attack in New York in 1964 while neighbors failed to act on her desperate cries for help — a nightmarish tableau that came to symbolize urban apathy in America — died on March 28, in prison. He was 81. …
Mr. Moseley, a psychopathic serial killer and necrophiliac, died at the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., near the Canadian border. He had been imprisoned for almost 52 years, since July 7, 1964, and was one of the state’s longest-serving inmates.
His life behind bars had been relatively eventful. Mr. Moseley was condemned to die in the electric chair, but in 1967, two years after New York State abolished most capital punishments, he won an appeal that reduced his sentence to an indeterminate life term. While at Attica Correctional Facility, in 1968, he escaped while on a hospital visit to Buffalo, raped a woman and held hostages at gunpoint before being recaptured. He joined in the 1971 Attica uprising; earned a college degree in 1977; and was rejected 18 times at parole hearings, the last time in 2015.
When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, one of the most famous Moral Lessons of Our Time was the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese. It came up all the time in editorials, sermons, graduation speeches, and other forms of upbraiding uplift: All Americans were guilty of apathy, of not wanting to get involved.[Comment at Unz.com]
The one thing the murder of Kitty Genovese didn’t have much to do with in the respectable discourse of the time was crime. Or if it did, it was proof that Society’s Apathy was preventing us from dealing with the Root Causes of Crime, such as poverty.
The official lesson that respectable, law-abiding citizens were to blame for the woman’s murder was driven home by the famous first sentence of the New York Times article about“For more than half an hour thirty-eight respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens.”That turns out to have been quite exaggerated, although still true to some extent. … the Kitty Genovese parable was usually presented in a morally bullying Sixties fashion about What’s Wrong With Society. That’s why Kitty Genovese is in all the Social Psychology textbooks — not to remind you to call 911 if you hear something suspicious, but because it’s part of the narrative of American Society’s Guilt.
But the more I think about the Kitty Genovese story, the more I think it reflects the kind of distractionary tactics we’ve should have become familiar with since then. The story was pushed hard by NYT editor A.M. Rosenthal, who was kind of a genius and kind of not quite right in the head. …
There really were big, frightening changes going on in American society in 1964, and the Kitty Genovese case was reflective of them, but they weren’t ones that we were supposed to talk about. So we all ended up talking obediently about Apathy.
Looking back, Kitty Genovese’s murder seems reflective of two big 1960s changes, just not the ones we were supposed to notice:
First, I had never heard until very recently that the murderer, Winston Moseley, was black. A historic black crime wave was washing over New York City in 1964, but the race of the confessed killer wasn’t mentioned in the famous NYT article. In fact, I don’t recall the killer’s race ever being mentioned in the 1960s/1970s. As a child, I just assumed he looked like all the muggers in cartoons then. I can see now that mentioning that the killer was black would have been distracting from the political lessons White America was supposed to be drawing at the climax of the Civil Rights era.
As feminist Susan Brownmiller pointed out in the 1970s, sex crimes tended to have political connotations. The big increase in black-on-white sex crimes in New York City, Brownmiller suggested, wasn’t unrelated to the black liberation and black power ideology. (Brownmiller called out the Left’s celebration of books by Franz Fanon and boastful rapist Eldridge Cleaver as indicative.) But that’s complicated and distasteful, so let talk about Apathy.
As D. K. points out in the comments, the New York Times article and Rosenthal’s subsequent book didn’t mention that the murder started out as an attempted rape. I would guess that there were multiple reasons for this, but likely there’s nothing more sensitive for liberals than black men raping white women, since it seems to be a side effect of black liberation (e.g., Reconstruction, the 1960s, and South Africa in the Mandela Era). …
Now that I think about it, I’m struck that I never noticed Moseley’s story before because it’s so familiar. He sounds like he was made up by irate Silent Majority callers to talk radio complaining about liberal judges. Of course, the callers probably were referring to Moseley. His further adventures were covered in the newspapers, but Moseley didn’t become part of The Narrative of the era. The Narrative is controlled in the retelling of the story.