“Today, we’re publicly announcing our Highway Serial Killings initiative to raise awareness among law enforcement agencies and the general public about this issue and our unique assistance on these cases.” –from a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) press release
Let me make this clear at the outset: I have absolutely no problem – ZERO – with law enforcement using every tool at their disposal to try and track down serial killers that drive commercial trucks as a cover for their horrible crimes. So when the Federal Bureau of Investigation launched a nationwide initiative focusing on solving “highway serial killings,” I immediately said, “bully for them.”
And yet … I just couldn’t help but think to myself, “here we go again.”
No sooner had the FBI put out its press release on the “highway serial killer” program that every mainstream new organization had a story on it – CNN, The L.A. Times, The Tennessean are prime examples – as well as online media, too, such as the Huffington Post.
All of them reported the story the same way, as well: “Database links long-haul truckers, serial killings.” Not that serial killers were masquerading as truck drivers, or that serial killers were found to be driving trucks for a living – oh no. The news folks go right to the “truckers-are-serial-killers” headline.
It makes me angry – REALLY angry – because this is the kind of biased reporting that unfairly tars and feathers an entire professional class of workers with a huge negative brush. You don’t see headlines reading “Database links Obama political appointees to tax fraud” do you? Yes, several of President Obama’s appointees owed taxes – and several withdrew from nominations as a result. Does that mean EVERY Obama political appointee is a tax cheat? Hardly. Yet here we are, broadly linking truck drivers and serial killers without a second thought.
Serial killers are malignant human beings – and need to be hunted down without remorse. Yet they exist EVERYWHERE in human society. They’ve been clowns, bankers, and workers in manufacturing plants, and, yes, drivers of trucks; they are Black, White, Hispanic; they are male and female.
In fact, one of them most notorious “highway serial killers” in history wasn’t a truck driver – nor a man. Eileen Wurnous, a prostitute whose real name was Aileen Carol Pittman, killed seven men between 1989 and 1990 along various roads before being captured by police. She was convicted and executed for her crimes in 2002. Take it a step further: Actress Charlize Theron won an Oscar portraying Wurnous in the movie “Monster.” Are we to expect such Hollywood “glorification” for serial killers who drive big rigs? I hope not.
My point here is that truck drivers are routinely portrayed in all sorts of negative contexts, without a second thought, by the general media. While this “highway serial killer” initiative from the FBI is important, it’s being misinterpreted to portray the truck driving profession as a haven for murderers.
At the end of the day, it would be nice to see some balance – say, the same amount of ink and video spent highlighting Goodyear’s "Highway Heroes" program, which recognizes the heroism of truck drivers for diving into burning cars or fighting off assailants that are trying to kill police officers. But I guess the mainstream media isn’t interested in that – it would upset their preconceptions of truckers, and we can’t be having that, can we?