COLUMN- The colonel’s clothes

A man in a pink bikini graced the front of the newspaper Tuesday morning. His steely gaze almost penetrates through the picture and into your own heart. The swimsuit is one taken from the scene of the countless crimes he committed.

Col. Russell Williams showed up on the front of The Waterloo Region Record, as well as in the pages of countless other newspapers, all detailing the sordid goings-on that lead to the deaths of two women: Cpl. Marie France Comeau and Jessica Lloyd.

He also showed up in bikinis and ladies’ panties.

Col. Williams just pleaded guilty to 88 charges, including two counts of first-degree murder, and has been depicted as an inhuman monster in the media. To add to all of this injury, an additional insult has been added; in conjunction with hearing about the depravity of his actions, we also have to see it. Showing Col. Williams in his prizes only further sensationalizes the situation at hand. It also leads toward the goal of dehumanizing Williams, making him out to be more than just a social pariah, but also into an “other” that we can despise and fear.

Do we need to see the eerie sight of Col. Williams in his ill-gotten booty, posing for the camera? Do we need to further estrange this man from normalcy when he has already pole-vaulted himself onto the fringe of society?

The graphic nature of these photos makes them inappropriate for newspapers, and turns these serious proceedings into a theatre of the absurd. I believe that, if the pictures are graphic but lead to an understanding of the case, they should be included, within reason. The pictures of piles of bras and panties illustrate the sheer volume of raids and other crimes that Williams committed, and I do believe that it is important to know what he did with the pieces of clothing that he stole from his victims, but we did not need to see it. The pictures were disturbing, and, in the case of The Record, only placed to sell more papers.

The sternness of Col. Williams is sensationalized by the absurdity of how he is dressed. While it may sell papers to have these pictures on the front page, it also trivializes the trial. In some ways, it makes people laugh how foolish Williams looks. In others, it makes us look at a man who has done horrendous things as a circus sideshow.

These pictures also help to dehumanize the man. We work to “other” him to make us feel like we couldn’t be like him. It is a common thing to make monsters out of those people that have questionable moral standards, and the pictures of him in his victims’ undergarments provide that otherness that we look for.  The man has stolen from, raped and killed women. It doesn’t matter what he did afterward, only that he did it, and we, the public, definitely do not need to see it. He is an ill man. A sociopath. He is going to be locked away for the bad things he has done, and will probably never again be a free man. Do we really need to see the man in lingerie to know these things?

Col. Williams has been turned into an absurdist portrait of what it is to be crazy. These photos are in the paper to punctuate that thought both through shock value and entertainment. Well, I am shocked, but I am definitely not amused.

Show pictures of the lingerie laid out. Show it on his bed. It is important to see the scope of what he did, but Col. Williams dressed in drag is not needed in the newspapers.


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