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April 10, 2012

Tulsa Murder/Hate Crime Suspects: Who Needs Investigators When You Have Facebook Ads?


With all the different ways social networks and self-publishing platforms offer up sketches of everyday (or not-so-everyday) citizens, I was looking at the Facebook pages of Jake England and Alvin Watts, the pair having confessed to the appalling and apparently random shooting of five black citizens on the streets of Tulsa, three of them fatally. Given The Bag’s visual agenda, I was mostly drawn to the FB ads thinking about how the advertising algorhythm, in a bizarre way, actually formulates a crude profile.

The ads on Watt’s page (if you read the threads, he’s an easy-to-offend and very volatile 33 year-old) aren’t as robust as England’s. The creepiest and most telling ad, however, is the one for a bullet proof vest, likely an easy match, however, given the agressive and threatening ramblings. (After this, can you imagine law enforcement thinking about how to monitor these profiles — if they’re not already.) Beyond that, anyone who considers conservative candidates as meaner-spirited or more “wedge driving” would be interested to see the two political ads show up, one for a local Congressional candidate looking “to retire” a liberal opponent, and another pro-Romney, anti-Obama ad.

As a worthy aside, by the way, you might also take note of Watt’s sports heros and musical interests. If it turns out the Tulsa murders are hate crimes and the pair were looking to randomly kill African-Americans, it is curious that four of Watt’s five favorite athletes are Black and the musical list includes Lil John. Is the point there that cultural icons, for some people at least, manage to transcend color?

Of the two, England is the most broken figure in this miserable story. He’s the 19 year-old who’s father was killed in a fight two years ago (by an African-American). On top of that, his girlfriend committed suicide a few months ago by shooting herself in the head leaving England with their baby. Reading his FB site, it feels like he was clearly straddling a nervous breakdown — and, in his suffering, seemed like a mark for his much older, combustible housemate, Watts.

Looking at the ads on England’s page, they do seem to outline a guy with truly few resources left.  Here, again, you get the terrifying and seemingly portentous bulletproof vest. Then, a casino ad has the smell of risk taking; an ad for a truck driving course (though England’s profile states he’s self-employed) hits at a basic vocational void; and the gay pride ad goes to issues of identity. Beyond that, of course, there is also the similar mix of conservative politics — in this case, the ad for that conservative local candidate and another (and didn’t England do a “Game Change”?) promoting Sarah Palin’s new morning show gig.

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