Notorious H.I.V.: The Media Spectacle of Nushawn Williams by Thomas Shevory

Notorious H.I.V.: The Media Spectacle of Nushawn Williams by Thomas Shevory

By Thomas Shevory

Within the fall of 1997, public specialists in Chautauqua County, manhattan, have been granted an exception to the state’s HIV confidentiality law—and published Nushawn Williams’s identify and imagine to the clicking, deeming him a "public overall healthiness threat," the resource of a "near epidemic" of HIV transmission. Williams, who's HIV-positive, had had unprotected intercourse with many younger ladies and women and contaminated at the very least 9 of them. In infamous H.I.V. Thomas Shevory kinds during the resulting media panic and criminal imbroglio to inform the tale at the back of the Nushawn Williams case. via media studies, felony files, and interviews with the various participants—including Williams, who finally pled responsible to reckless endangerment and statutory rape fees and is at the moment serving time in a greatest safeguard criminal in New York—Shevory exposes the numerous exaggerations, misunderstandings, and distortions that riddled the Williams case from the beginning. He contends that Williams’s portrayal as an "AIDS monster" served political reasons; in particular, representations of Williams helped to foster the passage of HIV-transmission statutes, leading to criminalizing a public ailment in a nearly unheard of model. infamous H.I.V. additionally strains the effect of such high-profile situations on groups. Shevory offers a nuanced portrait of the difficult financial and cultural realities of Jamestown, long island, and, drawing on Williams’s narratives, of the lifetime of a lower-level drug broker in a small upstate urban. His paintings exhibits how media insurance robs participants like Williams in their humanity, making a pervasive surroundings of danger that warps the integrity and equity of the felony justice and penal approach.

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The justification for the invocation of emergency public health measures in the Williams case, as well as the intense media attention, was, and in fact had to be, based on the numbers of women and girls potentially infected by Williams. The original “cluster,” uncovered by Commissioner Berke, was made up of four young women. The number of Williams’s sexual partners, or possible partners, however, continued to escalate as the “crisis” unfolded. The problem of determining the number of people involved was heightened by reporters’ and columnists’ apparent inability to distinguish among primary and secondary exposure, HIV positivity, and actual AIDS.

23 Of course, the line between “appearance” and “reality” is never very clear, and in our media age it is increasingly difficult to make the distinction. “Crime” is a social reality, and real people are injured by it in multiple ways. How is it possible for us to know when its representations are inconsistent with actual existing threats? There is no easy answer to this question. In the case of the “white slavery” scare of the early twentieth century, there seems to have been little or no evidence of any actual threat that girls and young women were being kidnapped and sold to prostitution rings, although prostitution itself was of course a concrete reality.

116 The Town Media representations of a given community, or a given story, cannot be treated as monolithic. Newspapers have different constituencies and are driven by different economic imperatives. 119 In the Nushawn Williams case, a fairly consistent picture of Jamestown and Chautauqua County emerged, and this depiction or representation carried through even small press sources, such as Harper’s. Variations in the story resulted usually from the resistance generated by local reactions to the national media blitz.

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