In another real-life example of the halo effect (I also wrote about the phenomenon here), people are shocked, shocked I tell you, that 23 year old Boston University medical student Philip Markoff has been arrested on suspicion of being the “Craigslist killer.” He’s a handsome young man who was pursuing a medical degree, so his (alleged) penchant for violence is completely unexpected. Nearly every report on his arrest also notes that he is “clean-cut” (read: doesn’t look like a killer).
The implication is that horrible things are done by people who are not clean-cut, who are not handsome, who are not highly educated. Nevermind that some of America’s most famous murderers were bright, charming, handsome fellas – Ted Bundy, for instance. Doctors are capable of brutality, too. And not only is Markoff intelligent, white, good looking and “preppy,” he’s engaged, which completes the “good guy” circle.
Markoff’s fiance is in deep denial. The woman sent an email e-mail to ABC News, writing, “Philip is an intelligent man who is just trying to live his life, so if you could leave us alone we would greatly appreciate it. We expect to marry in August and share a wonderful, meaningful life together.” Ohhhkaayy. His former stepdad can’t believe it either, saying, “He’s a very bright, intelligent, articulate guy. I just keep thinking there must be some mistake.”
I suppose I can understand the shock immediate family members and good friends feel upon learning the news about their loved one, but it pisses me off that the media perpetuates the notion that pretty, rich, educated, professional people are incapable of doing awful things (or, in the case of Susan Boyle, that plain, lower-class, uneducated people are devoid of talent). When will humanity learn?