Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth
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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

What's a Killer Supposed to Look Like?

Matthew Taylor Coleman confessed to murdering his two children, and, of course, reports of the crime have to insist he was an otherwise good guy

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On Wednesday, Matthew Taylor Coleman was charged with the murders of his two children, a two-year-old and a 10-month-old, after telling the FBI he shot them with a spear gun because QAnon videos had convinced him that “they would become monsters,” according to CBS.

It’s a horrific story. One that begins with Coleman becoming quietly convinced by Qanon and Illuminati videos, fed one after the other by social media algorithms, that his wife “possessed serpent DNA and had passed it on to his children,” before allegedly kidnapping their two children from their Santa Barbara home, taking them to Mexico, and murdering them while his wife frantically texted him and called police last Saturday:

“Coleman confessed to the FBI during an interview that he took his 2-year-old son and 10-month-old daughter to Rosarito, Mexico, where shot a “spear fishing gun” into their chests, according to an affidavit filed by an FBI agent with the criminal complaint.”

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But instead of calling Coleman a man radicalized by internet hatred in the misinformation age, CBS explains that Coleman is a “surfing school owner” before explaining that he confessed to being a child murderer and closes with a paraphrase of neighbors who reportedly said he seemed like “a good family man.” CBS is meticulous in noting how “stunned” those neighbors are, not because of the fact that this crime is brutal and symptomatic of the same terrifying cultural moment that gave us a deadly insurrection at the Capitol earlier in the year, but because the surfer who allegedly committed the crimes didn’t look like the “type,” a type reports like this are always careful to avoid describing.

As my colleague Stassa Edwards once wrote about Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes—just one among the billion pieces of media content aggrandizing Ted Bundy as a charming and handsome dude first, misogynist woman murderer second—the trope is “almost as cruel as it is boring.” In this case, with two children murdered and their mother almost certainly enduring the unimaginable grief of having lost everything in a matter of two days, harping on what a normal-seeming guy this alleged murderer was when what reports almost certainly mean was that the killer was white and middle class puts a different aspect of that vile impulse on display: it’s not just a cruel way to frame this story, it’s also laziest option possible.