Press Box

The New York Post Perv Patrol

Nobody beats Murdoch’s paper on this sordid beat.

New York Post, Nov. 14, 2006

The New York metropolitan region teems with pervs,if the city’s tabloid headlines provide any guide.

Over the last eight years—as far back as Nexis covers the Post—the New York Post has woven the word perv into the heds of at least 642 stories and the word pervert into another 59. That’s almost 90 a year. Working as a slightly slower clip, the city’s Daily News has published at least 163 perv heds (29 pervert heds) in the past four years. That’s about 48 a year, which makes the Daily News half as perv-minded as the Post.

Nexis snares not a single New York Times perv hed.

The Post trounces the Daily News on the perv beat in both volume and pure salaciousness. The Post has published almost two dozen perv heds during the past year about former fashion writer Peter Braunstein, who stands accused of a number of deviant acts in the city. In the process, the paper has made Braunstein so familiar to readers that it now refers to him as “Perv Pete” in heds. Over the same period, the Daily News has printed only seven, telegraphing in each hed its discomfort with the topic.

Compare, for example, the Daily News’ Nov. 13, 2005, hed—”H’ween Perv Can Hide … But Sicko Sightings Deluge Cops”—with the exuberance of the Post’s Nov. 14, 2005, treatment:

Perv’s Profile Probed—’Fire Fake’s’ S&M Idol—S&M Clue In Mag—Scribe’s Bondage Idol

Who or what is a perv? The Post naturally bestows the hed on rapists, pedophiles, molesters, and collectors of child pornography. But also describes suspected peepers, fondlers, touchers, flashers, obscene callers, hidden-camera artists, slaves to dominatrixes, and foot lickers as pervs. An extortionist who conned college women into sending him nude photos of themselves earns the hed, as do a boss who invited a lesbian employee to join him and his wife in a three-way, a priest who inappropriately “hugged” young teen parishioners while they sat on his lap, and a dentist who groped his sedated patients.

One would think that the city would contain sufficient numbers of depraved people to keep the Post busy, but in the last few years, it has extended its harvest to Long Island to fill its perv quota, publishing at least 23 “L.I.” perv stories. I leave it to the sociologists to determine whether these Long Island stories are cultivated in a manner that is proportional to their occurrence or if they represent a gift from the Post to the city’s citizens designed to make them feel superior to those sick suburban swells. Here’s a sample:

Freed ‘Perv’ in L.I. Kid-Rape Rap —March 12, 2005’Net-Perv Rap for L.I. Lawyer —Aug. 26, 2005Hot-Line Call Bags L.I. Perv —Feb. 7, 2006L.I. Karate Perv Gets 15 Years —June 14, 2006’Perv’ Sweep on L.I. —Aug. 2, 2006L.I. Teach a ‘Cannibal Fetish Perv’ —Sept. 28, 2006

The Post rarely uses many more words in the bodies of its perv stories than it does the heds, with few exceeding 250 words. “Fake-Gyno Perv Gets 6 Months” from last May 3 spends only 56 words, informing readers that the bogus doc “lured women to motel rooms to perform fake exams.” Stories headlined with such tabloid buzzwords as perv or fiend (535 examples in the Post over the last eight years) allow editors to arouse and bring their reader to climax inside the same literary gesture.

To paraphrase H.L. Mencken, the aim of British-style tabloid newspapers like the New York Post is to “stir up the animals.” But the frenzy must be fed with something that’s extraordinary yet familiar, lest readers become panicked. ” ‘Devil’ Perv Stalks B’klyn,” a 191-word Post news story from Feb. 2, 2006, doesn’t read like a Stephen King short story in miniature by accident. Although the Post stocks its perv stories with ample brutality  and degeneracy, it bleeds the true horror out of these nightmares in order to entertain. It’s not just that the Post goes there. It’s that they go there so often. It’s enough to make you wonder, who are the real pervs?


Thanks to reader Matthew Diebel [11/21 Addendum: a former New York Post features editor], who alerted me to the Post’s “perv-a-page” editorial policy. Don’t send perv stories to I can’t take it. Send something civil, something with happy bunnies or frolicking puppies. Live ones. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slateis owned by the Washington Post Co.)

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