September 18, 2009

The Forgotten San Franciscan

Hatched by Dafydd

Just a brief, annoying Lizard lecture. Please pay no attention to this post; don't bother reading it. It's a complete waste of your time, I promise.

Ever since yesterday -- when Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) tearfully warned us that Republicans plotted to launch a wave of political violence and assassination, just like in "the late seventies" in California -- I've heard more than a dozen explanatory references to "the assassination of Harvey Milk."

There is absolutely no doubt that Dan White assassinated openly gay San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk. But only after he first assassinated openly straight San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, who was White's primary target.

White was enraged at Mayor Moscone: White had resigned his seat on the Board of Supervisors (due to financial problems); but he was persuaded to change his mind, because Moscone -- who opposed the pro-development position of a one-vote majority of the Board -- planned to appoint a replacement for White who would tip the balance to Moscone's side of the development issue.

So White packed a revolver (he was a former cop), snuck into City Hall via a basement window to avoid the metal detectors, and confronted Moscone in his office. He shot Moscone multiple times, killing him; then he left and headed towards the offices of the Board members, where he met Milk.

Harvey Milk was one of Dan White's two biggest opponents on the Board (the other being Carol Ruth Silver). In White's own office, he shot and killed Milk; then he fled on foot. He eventually turned himself in to a former friend from the police force, homicide Det. Frank Falzon. He was tried for two counts of first-degree murder with special circumstances, charges that could have gotten him the death penalty; but the jury instead convicted him of voluntary manslaughter, and he was sentenced to only seven years. (He was paroled after only five -- then committed suicide two years later.)

The sentence was, of course, a terrible miscarriage of justice... caused by very pro-criminal laws enacted by California liberals. Fortunately, White's defense of "diminished mental capacity" was abolished after, and because of, his trial.

Somehow, George Moscone has become the "forgotten victim" of the Dan White killings. Why? Very simple: As everyone knows, Harvey Milk was one of the very first openly gay elected officials in the United States... so of course, the myth has arisen that White murdered Milk because White was homophobic. (As always, it's all about them.)

Therefore, George Moscone became an annoying distraction to the clear storyline: Right-wing conservative homophobe guns down pioneering gay politician! So Moscone has been by and large erased from the picture.

The "homophobia" interpretation makes no sense:

  • The first person White killed was the mayor, who was heterosexual, married, and had four children.
  • White had severe political differences with Milk, the same as he had with Moscone -- which supply a much more plausible motive than supposed homophobia (the financial motive is also strong, as is the clinical depression... which is not a defense but certainly an explanation).
  • After White was released from prison, he confessed to Falzon that he also intended to kill two other political opponents: Supervisor Carol Ruth Silver (of the anti-growth faction of the Board) and California Assemblyman Willie Brown (later Speaker of the Assembly, later Mayor of San Francisco) -- neither of whom is gay.

I think it very clear that Dan White's motives were (a) politics, (b) money, and (c) clinical depression; I've never seen good evidence that supposed homophobia played a significant role.

Incidentally, White's attorneys never claimed that White had diminished mental capacity because he ate junk food (the infamous "Twinky Defense"). Rather, they argued that he had diminished mental capacity due to clinical depression -- and one piece of evidence of that clinical depression they introduced was that he had started eating huge amounts of junk food. White's defense claimed the junk food was a symptom, not the cause, of his depression.

I believe White should have been executed; he murdered two people with obvious premeditation, for political reasons (that's two separate counts of special circumstances). I'm very glad that we abolished the diminished mental capacity defense shortly thereafter; and I'm also very pleased that White did the honorable thing at the end (even if he was driven to it by other demons).

But it's simply wrong to say that White assassinated Milk because Milk was gay, as well as saying that White's attorneys claimed that eating Twinkies and other junk food drove him crazy.

And can we please remember poor George Moscone -- White's first victim, and the forgotten man of the Dan White murders?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 18, 2009, at the time of 10:59 AM

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The following hissed in response by: Geoman

A couple of small additions:

White was a registered pro-union Democrat, and was elected as such.

White and Milk had worked well together for sometime before the killing. Milk attended the baptism of White's child.

White's record on gay issues was decidedly mixed. For example, he solidly opposed the Briggs initiative, which would have banned gays from public schools. He supported Milk in this effort.

The zoning issue caused the falling out between the two, as well as a falling out between White and other Board members.

There is not a single conservative or Republican that has ever defended White getting off on the crime so easily. Most wished he had gotten the death penalty.

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 18, 2009 11:47 AM

The following hissed in response by: AD

We can only wonder what the direction of San Francisco and CA would have taken if Dan White, after killing Harvey Milk, had not lost his sense of purpose, had continued on his mission, and had not fled the scene?
In the long run, I do not think that Willie Brown was a positive for CA, or for The City.

The above hissed in response by: AD [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 19, 2009 11:11 AM

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