19 September 2009

Did Science Kill Annie Le?

But thanks for playing.
On second thought, get bent, CBS.

Earlier this morning, the CBS morning show-Saturday edition aired an interview (link forthcoming) with a former colleague of Yale lab tech Raymond Clark III.  New Haven police recently arrested Clark, who they've charged with murdering Le.  But enough about her, what about Clark?  What possible injustice could have driven Clark to the brink?

Did I mention that Clark was a lab tech?

So, this is pretty much where my head explodes.  The interview covers some really important ground.  Working in a lab is stressful.  Given the very real threat of vandalism and violence from animal rights protesters, there are security concerns to be mindful of.  In part as a result of society's concern for animals' welfare, there are strict protocols to follow.  Also, there's science afoot, so it's important to be very precise, lest you mess up the one experiment that was finally going to cure all that cancer.

But wait, there's more!  There's a nasty power hierarchy in science and the academy.  Presumably there's a rich, good-looking professor at the top, who drives a brand new Beemer to the office in order to decide what top-flight journal to publish in, and maybe answer the occasional inquiry from the Nobel committee.  Punk 20-something grad students and post-docs with college degrees, who may come from money, who may or may-not have social skills do most of the sciency-bits.  And of course, they're the ones supervising the techs-- who may not have a college degree, are probably fairly likely to come from working class backgrounds, and may well be older than the grad students who are totally on their way to becoming big shots in their own rights.  Yet the lab techs are doing a lot of the work.  They're making $8.50 an hour.  And people refer to them as janitors, despite the vital role of lab techs in making bio-medical research possible.

These are all very real, very important points.  We should totally have a discussion about them in the near future.  Perhaps we can air it on CBS.  But fortheloveofgod, not in the context of explaining why some poor guy needed to kill a graduate student.

As for Clark's potential motivations, let's review the circumstances:
"Went off" doesn't quite cover the nature of the relationship.  As the NY Post puts it, Yale Lab Tech "Forced" Ex into Sex.  (which is rape, but as always, I thank the Post for the quotation marks and paraphrasing). 
Ms. Le was murdered on her wedding day.
And this one's important: working as a lab technician is not a justification for violence.

As has been the case with lots and lots of recent horrible acts of violence, this case shines a light on a culture that at times gives a wink-and-a-nod to violence against women.  And while I haven't seen a lot of folks waving pom-poms for sexual violence, by trying to make Le's murder an understandable act caused by a nice guy's(TM) misfortune, CBS certainly isn't helping the next victim.

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