I’d like to ask the question “what does a criminal look like?” Or at least what does a criminal look like in your opinion? In today’s world of high-tech gadgets, excessive violence and professional deceit, crime takes on many forms, and usually, these physical manifestations don’t quite meet our internal image of a criminal.
How many faces does crime really have?
In today’s fast-paced society, the villain, the killer the fraudster and the street hustler all share one common similarity, what’s that? None of these criminals has a face.
Even if the idea of an unidentifiable crook scares the life out of us, it’s simply a reality we must accept.
Just as Bernie Madoff, the financial fraudster (responsible for the $65billion ‘Ponzi Scheme’) had a smile on his face and a tie around his neck, so did Ted Bundy, the America serial killer/law student that plagued a number of American states with terribly unimaginable crimes during the 1970’s. As did Dr. Harold Shipman a middle-aged, well-spoken physician from Hyde Manchester that was alleged to have killed around 200 of his patients during the 1990’s. All the while Harold used the disguise of the friendly village doctor.
Another example (and I by no means put these crimes into one category, but use them to explain my theory) is Howard Marks, or ‘Mr Nice’, the Cannabis smuggler, with a pleasant Welsh twang and time for everyone. Howard spent nearly a decade in American Prisons for masterminding a million dollar ring during the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s. Mr Nice was a pleasant man with a love for cannabis, he was never violent or physically intimidating. Howard was just a well-connected Welshman and Oxford University graduate.
These four men couldn’t be more different. Two are of the worse criminal variation and the other two surely flex our idea of a Crook. They had a friendly smile and usually good standing positions in their community. Men that can seemingly act with impunity due to their husband/brother/friendly neighbourhood appearance are surely scary, right?
The public perception of the crook, killer or villain is usually one of a strange man, dark and ominous, standing in the alleyways of your town with a shadowed face and foaming at the mouth. But this simply isn’t true. These men, the Bernie Madoffs of the world, the Ted Bundys of your school are usually well-spoken, with a friendly and warming demeanour, that often leaves people feeling completely at ease or at least, capable of trust. I mean who would have known a young Ted worked tirelessly in a suicide prevention centre and saved countless lives, while at the same time he lurked the streets of America hunting young women? Nobody would have guessed that an ageing statement like Madoff was secretly stealing billions of international currencies while running NASDAQ and catering to celebrity clients in the financial industry.
A criminal enterprise has no face…
Once you see it, it’s nearly impossible to unsee. The amorphous figures of criminal backgrounds and ‘wronguns’ are always changing and warping with the times. I think the stereotype for these outlaws are built early on during our childhood, when parents are trying to teach the ‘stranger danger’ narrative. ‘The bad man’ is drilled into our young minds as someone to fear. Someone unlike us. Our parents then move onto building an almost Disney-like image of someone that could potentially cause us harm. The wicked witch, the Disney villain image is focussed into our subconscious and drawn upon, when we step out of line.
In later life, the baton is passed onto the mainstream media. Often drawing on those childhood fears and using catchy headlines to focus on whats socially unacceptable.
I believe everything in life is fear-based, a hostile audience, stereotyping crime is one of the ways the system keeps the majority in check. Often warping the truth to fit the story and collectively informing the public on crime. Not different crime, just crime and as I’ve said above, crime has no face and surely can’t be collectively represented. Each criminal act is different and should be approached in it’s own way. Something that is key for when we, as the public, find ourselves faced with a criminal dilemma.
It’s our job to stay vigilant and open-minded in order to protect ourselves from a potential threat. Don’t be fooled by the smile, and the high IQ, anyone could be a criminal.
What are your thoughts?