Monday, September 21, 2009

The Monsters Among Us

My fair city of Raleigh has seen its share of shame lately. It is not even October, yet monsters lurk among us. They disguise themselves as our doctors, neighbors, bankers, teachers, pastors, colleagues, friends. Believe me when I tell you that there are indeed monsters underfoot. And you never know when one is going to send you in a tailspin.

A successful doctor killed a promising young ballerina just a week ago. He was drunk, careening his Mercedes at twice the posted speed limit and ran a red light. This case has me reeling, and I can't seem to shake it. Taste my venom on the story here.

And today, I read in the paper that someone I know awaits sentencing for child pornography. David Chatham. Someone I have broken bread with. Someone I respected. It makes the skin on my neck shiver into icicles just to write these words. As a mother, nightmares such as this are the fibers my worst fears are made of. One of the excruciating details of this story involves a six-year old boy.

The same age as my Bird.

I taste bile and hate and disgust and repugnance when I think of it. My skin shivers, and my eyes get crossed at the back of my head. My heart races, and my fingers gnarl into stiff clenched fists.

To know this man, to have sat across the lunch table and the conference table from him on multiple occasions, makes the facts of the case surreal and more potent.

The reporter's coverage fuels my disgust. I don't know if Mandy Locke is a journalist, a tabloid reporter, or a public relations spinner. What I can tell you is she's likely not a mother. At least not the kind of mother I am.

Let's start with the headline:
"N. Carolina Man recalls how porn obsession cost him his life"

I don't give a damn about his life! He's a grown man who made choices. Don't play the victim fiddle here. This headline is all about the criminal, laying its case for the subsequent sympathetic angle the story unfolds. Nothing other than getting caught fueled his desire to seek help.

And here's the disclaimer that follows:
The following story contains explicit descriptions. Readers may find portions disturbing or offensive.

Is this what sells papers these days? Boy am I glad we canceled our News & Observer subscription a few weeks ago. The term "child pornography" is descriptor enough; readers do not need to visualize any more than the horrific images those words conjure up. It is unprofessional, insensitive, and plain blasphemous. The writer takes the cheap, shock approach here. The heinous details do not improve the story; they simply show that the writing is amateur tabloid journalism at best.

This is how Cornell University Law School defines child pornography. Suffice it to say I couldn't stomach reading past the first few lines. Even the legal mumbo jumbo is painful to read. We certainly don't need Locke's shock value details to complete a story here.

Read on to see how the writer paints this man in a victim's light:
"These children weren't real to him. They had no mothers or fathers, no baseball games to play, no school field trips. There, on a flat computer screen, Chatham convinced himself this was make-believe. He didn't hear their screams, didn't notice their vacant expressions. This was his personal, private fantasy, and they were actors."

Actors?! You have got to be kidding me! Even if they were actors, they were CHILDREN. Children acting in ways that no parent, not even the worst of the Toddlers in Tiara breed, would consent to. These kids were not acting, you dumb ass. They experienced horrific crimes of humanity acted upon them. Without their consent. Without a choice. Without a voice. These are someone's sons, daughters. Innocent no more. Hell on earth that will burn the flames eternal wherever people like Chatham and his ilk end up.

Transparent spinning:
Clearly admitting culpability, finding God, and promising to help others are the ingredients to spin a tale of forgiveness for any crime. No one knows this better than David Chatham, the consummate public relations spinner. And here he goes down spinning his own crisis management tale. He must have still had some press contacts on his side to yield a story like the one in the News & Observer.

Let's add to the cliche to show him in Bible study and toss in references to his discussions with his pastor. And is he welcomed and embraced by the same church that has banished homosexuals from its ranks? Let's hammer home the sad, pathetic story line of the supportive wife awaiting his return from jail by focusing on their whispered I love you's, frolicking in the waves over the summer, and forfeiting of the wedding ring as he's whisked off to jail while she raises her ring in a show of solidarity. Let's milk those cliches to play us all into seeing him as a do-gooder who's found God and wants to help others stricken with his "craving," as he puts it.

A craving is sneaking shots of Ready Whip in your mouth at 10:30 PM when you need a sugar fix, not amusing yourself with pornographic images of children being obscenely defiled.

This is how Mandy Locke describes Chatham:
"Chatham is a public relations specialist who knows the power of a compelling story and the need to get ahead of a negative one."

No shit. This article is nothing more than transparency at its finest. David Chatham turned to God and promises to repent simply because he got caught. I see nothing earnest and genuine here. What I see is someone monstrous.

And now a word to my local newspaper:
New & Observer, you failed. You failed your readers. And worse, you failed our children. It is incumbent upon every single one of us to protect our children. When we fail to protect them, we must step in to advocate for them. We owe our children every ounce and every breath we can muster to keep them from harm and punish those who harm them.

We must adopt a zero tolerance policy for such unspeakable crimes against children. We must equip parents to be vigilant. We must encourage parents to trust their instincts. We must serve our communities one child at a time.

Mandy Locke's article made no mention of the lifetime of pain these children endure. No mention of resources to seek help. No mention of empathy for the real victims here. The David Chathams of the earth do not deserve to be within reach of our heartstrings.

Since the newspaper provided no information or resources for parents and care givers (or even just concerned citizens), I will do so here. Here is the website for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. And here is where you can find more resources on the sexual exploitation of children. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also has a cyber tipline. You can access it at www.cybertipline.com or call 1.800.843.5678.
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Marty, a.k.a. canape said...

That article was atrocious. That man is disgusting.

Anonymous said...

Makes me sick to think an adult can do these kinds of things. What is wrong with the world where they don't see fit to print how horribly, despicable this is!!!

Thanks for putting the feelings of a mother into words!!!

Jen L. said...

This makes me ill. You are right--they are CHILDREN. It doesn't matter if you can't visualize what their lives are like in the real world, they are still innocent children. It is our responsibility as adults, whether we are parents or not, to protect them.

I know someone currently serving a (much deserved) jail sentence for something similar. His whole defense was "I never touched anyone." No, asshole, you didn't, but you DID exchange inappropriate photos and plan to meet up to have sex with a 14 year old. (that's an 8th grader) Meanwhile, your wife was working her fingers to the bone to support you and your own child. How dare you ruin your child's life for 15 minutes (if that) of disgusting physical pleasure.

Nothing like this is ever ok and no excuses are ever enough. The person I know has also supposedly started "living right." I say it's easy to live the straight and narrow in an 8 x 12 foot cell...and that's where they should remain.

I can't find my blog said...

Unbelievable. That is NO journalism.

dadshouse said...

That's really sad. We have our own monster case out here - the guy who abducted Jaycee Dugard and held her captive in his backyard for 18 years, raping her and fathering 2 children with her.

When he was arrested, he said his was a heartwarming story because he finally changed.

WTF? And newspapers printed that? It's sick, not heartwarming. And I don't care about the guy. Let's psychologists study him so they can figure out how to keep creeps like him away from children. But otherwise, he can rot.

Anonymous said...

YOUR post should be the one published in newspapers--brilliant analysis of the sickness on every end of this case. Now I need to go calm down.

shiny said...

I wanted to comment about something similar which occurred in my world.

The very first "To Catch a Predator" serial on Dateline NBC caused quite a stir in my community. Since then the program became more streamlined and sensationalized and was done in conjunction with law enforcement. People knew that there was visibility of this issue -- of adults who were trolling the internet in order to partake in sexual encounters with minors. But at the beginning, this was still a shock and surprise for many.

Within the week that the first show aired, our community was all abuzz about the sudden resignation of a teacher, mentor and rabbi who had been serving the local area for two decades. He had been working at an organization which creates and executes public policy and social awareness programs for high school aged children nationwide. He decided to distance himself from the organization (and the rabbinate) before the show aired. Independent investigations were initiated at both the organization and the local synagogue where he had worked.

And then the show aired. Although I do not condone his actions one bit, I was livid at the way he was portrayed and by the methods and tactics used by Perverted Justice, the "vigilante" group which had lured him into a house where, instead of an underage boy, Chris Hansen was waiting for him. The message became distorted when they broadcast a picture of him with a group of several rabbis -- another one of whom had been convicted of sexual abuse. The message became one about how even rabbis can be sexual predators rather than focusing on the phenomenon of the perpetrators.

He ultimately was convicted and now is in jail for the foreseeable future. I certainly think he should be incarcerated for him crime. But what upsets me even more is that he was such a wonderful teacher and rabbi. He connected extremely well to people of all ages. He was very engaging. And these independent, rigorous investigations at any of his professional positions showed no complaints or evidence of misconduct with any of those with whom he worked.

He was a role-model. Someone I know and learned from. And I guess that's why it makes me even more angry than it would have been had he not been someone I knew -- or liked and respected. I have a feeling that your connection with this person is likely what fuels an even more intense anger as well.

Thanks for letting me share...

khubbard said...

Well-said, Ilina. It goes without saying that these are atrocious acts he committed and I'm not sure why he should be allowed to "get his life in order" before paying for his crimes in jail. On another note, I feel like this story is a huge "elephant in the room" story within the PR community and it's something that should be openly discussed among our peers. Thanks for posting what many are thinking.

coleenehanson said...

THANK YOU for this posting and for calling out the N&O for abusing the power of PR professionals and connections at the expense of everyone who read that story. Thank you, thank you.

Anonymous said...

You have quite an immature, preconceived notion of what a pedophile is. For someone who so enjoys playing the role of the open-hearted liberal, you seem to have missed some key points. While I understand that you are a mother, and that puts a different spin on things, you should really think about it in broader terms.

Do you think he likes being attracted to children? Is that a choice he made? I don’t think so. I in no way support or condone the actions of this man, or any pedophile, but I do think you should consider that they are not “monsters” but human beings like the rest of us.

Who are you to say what a craving is? True, one person’s craving may be Ready Whip, but why is a much more serious offense not applicable to that word? Merriam-Webster defines a craving as “an intense, urgent, or abnormal desire or longing.” It fits perfectly to me. I think it’s unfair for you to label someone as less than human because they have a serious problem.

A good movie on the topic is “The Woodsman."

Heather said...

Since the N&O unveiled their re-designed website yesterday, the link to the story no longer works.

Susan said...

I have been to parties in David and Lisa Chatham's home and vacationed with them on one occasion. I would have never suspected that David was capable of something so heinous. Considering how good he was at hiding his predilection for kiddie porn from his wife and everyone else in his life, I have to believe that the N&O article was just another attempt to get ahead of the story.

Pete Rau said...

Well put, Ilina. As to the defense of this man posted by Anonymous, I'd reiterate that THERE ARE VICTIMS HERE. It's too bad that Chatham has these urges, but it's solely his responsibility to control them and any actions he takes - public or private, direct or indirect - that contribute to the abuse of children are his fault. Would Anonymous care to defend snuff films or cannibalism next? I do hope Chatham is truly remorseful and penitent, and that he pulls himself together. But he needs to recognize the gravity of his actions, and frankly contributing to (or initiating) a spin piece to rehabilitate his image doesn't seem consistent with that idea.
As for the News & Observer, this article represents high crimes of the Fourth Estate. I cannot imagine a more shameful action on the part of a community newspaper. As one who has recently canceled a decade long subscription, I'll now take it a step further: I'll never buy a copy of the N&O again.

Anonymous said...

It needs to be said, this pedophile Chatham is a PR expert. So of course he is spinning his story in the best possible light. Let's remember also, that he was a star player in one of the area's best known PR firms. Did he plan the response in the N&O on his own? Ask yourself: could the company have helped Chatham get his message in the N&O? Ken Eudye, head of the company, is a former journalist. Did he do any string pulling with the N&O to get the "positive" coverage? Did Eudye help Chatham write the article? Looking at the response to the N&O article, if Capstart had any role in getting the article into the N&O, it was a gross miscalculation for an otherwise experienced PR company. As Kelly wrote, this is a big issue for the PR community and begs the question of how far they will go whoring themselves to protect their precious reputations.

LaoTzu said...

I to have spent much time with this man. In fact, I would have called him a good friend for many years! We met back in '86 when I started my journey in recovery from drug addiction. We lost touch several years ago when I moved away and he became a big shot executive.
I could not believe that he would stoop this low. He always had some new issue going on in order to get others to focus the attention on him. And just like the article and his new blog, he always stands up and preaches the expert in the movement against or recovery for, whatever his new addiction is.
It makes me very sad for all the victims to read how he is trying to help others in the recovery from sexual addiction, when I just cannot help but to believe he is full of it, and trying again to feed his enormous ego!
Prison will force him to wake up and let go of ego and form!

Maggie, Dammit said...

Good. LORD.

Maggie, Dammit said...

Here's the new link:


Mr. Nuggets said...

Speechless. I can only ask since when did the perpetrator so easily become the victim in this crazy, mixed up world?

I don't know the man, and it's probably a good thing. Because, even though I am a too-patient-for-my-own-good type of guy, this offense has me straining for payback.

My feelings are all the more fueled by the memories of a young girl I knew growing up who, after being abandoned by her father, became a victim of the child porn industry. The destruction it wrought in her life is mind-boggling.

In my humble opinion, there are few penalties too extreme for those who indulge in child porn.

Thank you for not pulling any punches in this post.

Ilina said...

Thanks for all your words and thoughts on this matter. While I have been threatened with losing any hope of doing business in this town again in my marketing consulting business, I stand behind what I wrote, regardless what political bloomers I've gotten in knot.

As for the sole anonymous commenter: A) I can stand behind my words with no shame or remorse. B) Since when does being liberal mean accepting those who exploit and hurt innocent children?! You seem to have an immature, preconceived notion of "liberal." C) Being a mother changes everything.

Anonymous said...

So I went to leave a comment on David Chatham's blog and guess what, you have to register to comment. No anonymous comments there. Well this is what I wrote:

To Pedophile Child Pornographer David Chatham:
I guess I just don't understand how you can deceive all those people such as folks at Capstrat who trusted you. And then think that having a crap little blog makes you think that you are now in a state of grace. It stinks of PR, David, and you will never, ever escape that. You have lost all credibility, and even when you get out of jail, your betrayal of your friends and colleagues will haunt you FOREVER, not to mention the terrible toll on your victims.

Did Ken Eudy, CEO of Capstrat, help you get your say in the N&O? He has connections with journalists and one of Capstrat's employees told me that Eudy said in meetings that he was in contact with Chatham constantly. Eudy was so afraid of bad PR that he wanted to manage the situation. How far did he go?

Ilina said...

I thank all of you for your comments. I can't tell you how refreshing it is to hear from you, especially after some people have tried to make me out as the bad guy here.

Anonymous said...

According to his LinkedIn profile David Chatham is still working with Capstrat. WTF!! What kind of world do we live in where it is acceptable for a company to help their employee spin their outrageous and illegal behavior. I can only guess Chatham was pulling in the big bucks and Capstrat didn't want to let go of that.

David Chatham's LinkedIn profile (if you can stomach it).