The Root of All Evil, Part 2

By Shamus Posted Thursday Feb 21, 2008

Filed under: Rants 45 comments

Here is a tragic, heartbreaking, and infuriating story about a couple who let their baby die. You see stories like this from time to time, and it never gets any easier to stomach. In this case they left the kid in his car seat and didn’t take care of him for ten days. During those ten days, they watched tv, played videogames, ate, sat on the couch, and basically lived as if they didn’t have a kid. So what headline does Fox News give the story?


Amazing. Man, we’d better ban videogames quick before parents start eating their babies. I’m glad Fox News is here to keep us informed.

NOTE: Twenty minutes after I wrote this they changed the headline on the front page a bit, although the focus on “Video Games” is still there. (Also, the number of days was changed from ten to eight.) I expect this to keep changing as stories get shuffled around. Still, the screenshot you see was taken from the site at ~4:30pm EST.


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45 thoughts on “The Root of All Evil, Part 2

  1. krellen says:

    Here’s the first sentence of the story:

    “Both 21-year-old Tracey Hermann, 21, and James Sargent, 23, appeared Wednesday in Peoria County Circuit Court in the death of Benjamin Sargent.”

    With writing of that calibre, how can we expect responsible journalism?

    (Bets on how long it takes for someone to, non-smart-assedly, ask what’s wrong with the sentence?)

  2. stuff says:

    Wow. How can you do that to your kid? If you don’t want him/can’t afford him just give him to an adoption centre, don’t just forget about him! Some people I just want to pick appart to figure out what makes ’em tick.

    And a typical Faux news headline, at least MSNBC is on our side

  3. Cadamar says:

    So, just because Video Games were mentioned by the prosecutor as one of the activities conducted by the parents this becomes an issue of “Video Games killing babies”?
    Why not “TV Watchers Leave Baby To Die” or “Eaters and Sleepers Leave Baby To Die”?
    I bet they had sex during those eight days too. So how about “Fornicators Leave Baby To Die”? I think that one would grab a lot more attention…

    And let’s see…
    Tracy Hermann (21) and James Sargent (23) appeared in Peoria County Circuit Court Wednesday to face charges in the death of Benjamin Sargent.
    Too bad it’s an AP article… Can’t really fault Fox for the bad grammar…

  4. Martin says:

    There has to be either something meth going on or a severe communication breakdown *what? I thought you were taking the kid*. I just can’t believe sober people would do something like this intentionally, not that people haven’t done worse.

    And stop reading Fox News!

  5. M says:

    @Krellen, #1:

    It actually took a second before that registered. Seems to be one of the easier typographical errors to make, and harder to notice…

  6. krellen says:

    I noticed it immediately. Maybe I should get a job as an editor.

  7. Ryan says:

    LOL! I can’t believe the title. Even more so the editing. If they truly wanted to link the death of a child to video games, they shouldn’t have mentioned the parents left the kid in the car for 8-10 days or that they conducted other activites besides playing video games. I don’t even see why this is a relevant story to be brought up on the news. There are some really bad parents out there and we don’t need to hear about them on the news.

  8. Zerotime says:

    Cadamar: I’ll bet you they didn’t. That’s valuable time they could spend raiding!

    Shamus: What, no captcha?

  9. Roy says:

    Well, you wouldn’t want to get confused by 21-year-old Tracy Hermann, 22… would you?

    And it seems clear to me that the real culprit here is the car. If it weren’t for cars, we couldn’t leave children in them. Ipso facto, ergo, therefore, and thusly… cars are to blame for this death.

  10. Henebry says:

    OK, wait, a 5-month-old kid was left in a car, alone, and it took him eight days to die? That doesn’t sound believable. A child that age would be dead from exposure in 24 hours. This sounds like sloppy reporting. And if the story’s not believable, I don’t see why I should let the damn thing take over my mind.

    Damn dying baby meme! Tenacious thing! Out with thee, I abjur thee!

  11. Rebecca says:

    My first impression was that they were probably more into dope than the video games.

  12. Facus says:

    Ah yes, those damn video games, keep causing so much strife and heart ache in the world. It couldn’t possibly be linked to bad parenting. =P

    though in seriousness, poor kid. some people should be banned from breeding.

  13. Shamus says:

    I’m with Martin and Rebecca: I’m betting drugs are at the heart of this story.

  14. Dev Null says:

    Does the fact that I agree with you – that drugs may well have been involved – go any way towards making us any better than Fox? Picking the obvious, sensational reason, without any basis in fact at all – not even the _mention_ of drugs in _our_ even dodgier source material?

    But pretty much, if you’re reading Fox news, it had better be because of a sick fascination with the worst of journalism. Me, I prefer the National Enquirer – more humour, less outrage, and more giant space snails coming to eat the earth.

  15. Hanov3r says:

    He wasn’t in the car, actually – he was strapped into his car seat, which was left in his crib. Don’t know how long it took him to actually die; all they have is “dropped off on Feb 4th” and “still in the same position 8 days later”.

  16. Amstrad says:

    Kid wasn’t in the car, kid was in the car-seat that had been placed in his crib in the house.
    And I agree that there has to be more to this story, either these parents were stoned out of their minds, or when the kid was dropped off they were never informed and made the silly assumption that he was still with whoever had been watching him prior.
    Either way it’s absolutely horrible parenting and rather amazing that their other child managed to live to the age of three.

  17. Shamus says:

    Dev Null – deprived of more information, “drugs” is a perfectly likely guess, based on past experience. Plus, I made sure I noted that it was a guess on my part. I wouldn’t read this story and tell somebody “A couple of heroin addicts let the baby die”.

    Finally – speculation is all fine and good in conversation, but not in a news headline.

    So, no – I don’t think I’m as guilty as FN.

  18. Unbeliever says:


    This isn’t quite in the same league as idiot parents letting their baby die… or even major media outlets who take every opportunity to bash gamers… but still…

    I got the following random tag line at the top of your blog again today:

    “Roses are #ff0000. Violets are #00FF00. My HTML is all over your screen.”

    Every time I see this, all I can think is, “Violets are green?” :)

    [EDIT: Oh wait. I get it. Duhhhhh… never mind.]

  19. Dev Null says:

    Yeah, I agree Shamus – particularly about the speculation being fine on a blog (esp. when labelled as such), but not in a news story.

    I guess I just felt sort of guilty, because it was my first thought too, and if anything drugs get unfairly demonised more often than computer games. (Which is not to say they don’t also deserve it quite frequently, but in most cases – like this one – I’d say the responsibility belongs squarely on the shoulders of the idiot humans. Anything that takes away from that is just begging the issue.)

  20. Shamus says:

    Unbeliever: No worries. A LOT of people have the same reaction. I get an email every week or so telling me what color violets are.

    Dev Null: I agree with you. And yeah, drugs are maligned unfairly sometimes. “Reefer Madness” being the most famous example I can think of.

  21. Leon says:

    I can think of no way to describe Fox News that is both accurate and free of obscenities.

  22. tussock says:

    Quite how the headline guy read that piece and thought it needed sensationalising is beyond me.
    Parents shut healthy baby away to die.

    Some seriously messed up brain chemistry there, especially with it being their second.

  23. vdgmprgrmr says:

    It’s changed again. Now, throughout the entire article, or the headline, nothing involving video games is mentioned. Only the incident and the possible punishment is covered.

    At least there’s not as many people claiming that D&D is satanic and teaches kids to summon demons anymore. I haven’t noticed them, anyway.

  24. Eric says:

    Dude I play a Ton of video games, and I’ll say nothing is more refreshing after a good gamming session like baby. The parents in question were probably heroin junkies. Hence the reason they are so irresponsible. Heroin does this to people, it’s dissgusting. My question is where the grandparents were to allow thier kids to keep this child, I mean obviously the parents to begin with must have been idiots. Why in the world didn’t they try to take custody away from these two! But i digress i enjoy cracking a few babies open before bed.

  25. Davesnot says:

    Man.. I just dropped by after putting my kids to bed.. and I read this.. I mean.. I lay on the floor next to his bunk after reading a chapter of Treasure Island.. then answering 2 questions (it was late.. 3 if there’s time.. 1 if it’s been a trying day).. He’s 5.. and I still lay next to the bunk til I hear him breathing heavy.. why?? will he sleep otherwise.. sure.. He’s my kid…

    Where’s my headline… Granted.. I don’t have a FPS loaded up.. I’m building some NWN2 stuff.. for my kids!! My kid rules at lego racers..

    It’s not gonna be “ordinary” drugs.. we’re talkin’ Heroin.. gotta be.. or they wanted to be famous and didn’t have the balls to shoot strangers in a mall… and the TV is more than happy to immortalize them..

    Who dropped the kid off?? .. Mom/Grandman.. nice parenting passed on down for the next generation no less…

  26. Davesnot says:

    Hmm.. though If I was a Heroin user.. and had a blog.. maybe I’d go.. “look what the news led with.. some baby gets killed by neglect and they go blamin’ Heroin.. “…

  27. ArchU says:

    Er. There’s no captcha today…

    Anyhow, I maintain my opinion that journalism and mass media in general are, by extrapolation, to blame for everything. The parents are irresponsible, their poor baby died. Heaven forbid they should continue to pollute the gene pool.

    I might add that, when I clicked on the link, the article has been further edited. Most of the errors have been fixed and the article retitled to “Parents of Baby Left Alone in Car Seat for 8 Days Face Murder Charges”. Feh.

  28. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    Its useless to speculate what substance/activity abuse made them forget their baby,because the fault is purelly on those two and the fact that they are idiots.I personally know of people that still use weed from time to time,yet are good parents(not to mention what they quit using for the sake of children).I know of people that drink a lot(and I do mean a lot),but still are good parents.The thing that makes them different from these two is the fact that they know their priorities and know how much of the stuff theyre using they can take without getting wasted.

  29. WysiWyg says:

    Am I really the only one who thinks that this could be caused by mental illness?

    I can’t be the only one who heard of mothers who put their newborns in freezers because their heads got screwed up?

    I remember something along these lines though, at least it was my first association, a couple years back in Sweden. Two parents left their young mentally handicapped child alone in the car because he always made a mess in the store when they went shopping. When they returned, he was gone.

    It was a HUGE thing, police and stuff everywhere. A 7 year old, mentally handicapped, kid alone in the middle of the winter!

    Turns out that it was even worse than that; they regularly threw the poor kid out in the snow when he didn’t “behave”, he was left sitting in his own excrements if he didn’t make it to the bathroom and the father, at least, beat the snot out of him every now and then.

    He had had some sort of seizure (the kid), and the father had, if I remember correctly, sat on him until he stopped twitching. When they realized that the kid was dead they did what every human being would do, they strapped some weights to him and sunk him in a lake.

    Anyways, the reason I brought this up was because neither one of them were gamers or addicts of any kind. (admittedly I don’t know if they were “insane” or not, but something HAD to be wrong, right?)

  30. ngthagg says:

    Based on the updates to the article (the only video game mention I find is in the description of what the parents were doing for the 8 days, near the end of the article), it seems like FN is simply behind on the editing of their articles.

    This doesn’t excuse them in the slightest. The only reason I go to a professional news source is for things like editing and fact checking. If they can’t provide that, why shouldn’t I just get my news from an independent blog?

  31. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    (admittedly I don't know if they were “insane” or not, but something HAD to be wrong, right?)

    I doubt that anyone doing that to another human being,especially if its their child,can be called sane.

  32. Roy says:

    Am I really the only one who thinks that this could be caused by mental illness?
    *raises hand*

    If it weren’t for the fact that the father was there, too, I’d have pegged it as post-partum psychosis or something like it. That they were both willing to completely ignore the child for so long makes it more difficult, though- I mean, what? Did they both snap at the same time? I don’t know…

    Who dropped the kid off?? .. Mom/Grandman.. nice parenting passed on down for the next generation no less…

    I’m not sure what you mean- lots of crazy people have perfectly good parents. I don’t like the idea of blaming her for something that she may have had no idea about.

  33. Deoxy says:

    This story made my stomach turn, which is quite a feat (I’ve eaten things that made others throw up on sight without problem). Of course, I also have an infant at home, and the thought of someone starving him to death… well, it’s just incomprehensible.

    As to Fox… you know, I really don’t see why they get picked on so much. Sure, they’re basically as bad as people are saying… but then, so are all the others. Remember CNN collaborating with Saddam Hussein to maintain “access”?!? I think that’s easily WORSE than anything I’ve seen from Fox.

    So, why does Fox get picked on, while the others basically get a pass? Help me out, here.

  34. Shamus says:

    Deoxy: I write about videogames here, so I see this as relevant to geek culture. If CNN was collaborating with Jack Thompson, I suppose they’d earn a mention here as well. It’s not about who’s worse, I’m just writing about what’s relevant to what we do here.

  35. Deoxy says:

    Which explains why you comment on Fox, and not the others… I was talking about commnts like Dev Null’s pretty much, if you're reading Fox news, it had better be because of a sick fascination with the worst of journalism, or Leon’s I can think of no way to describe Fox News that is both accurate and free of obscenities.

    Every time you comment on Fox’s apparent video game vendetta, such general loathing comments are dropped fairly liberally.

    BTW, others have noted the lack of captcha, but I have yet to see a response from you on it… ?

  36. Shamus says:

    Heh. I see what you did there. :)

  37. Shamus says:

    Oh: Lack of CAPTCHA? Yeah, I thought I’d turn it off and see how things went. Technically now that I’m running Bad Behavior it’s redundant.

    My spam has gone up from zero a day to three. I can live with that if it means everyone else can skip filling in the CAPTCHA.

  38. Deoxy says:

    Um, what DID I “do there”? Also, that isn’t really an answer…

    (Meaning about Fox – the captcha thing was answered nicely. Thanks)

  39. The DM says:

    OK, strip off the political implications of the following statement with me, if you will… not trying to go down that road at all.

    It’s akin to how Rush Limbaugh is constantly pointing out all of these “news” stories about how an “SUV drove into a building,” or “The SUV killed the driver and wounded the passenger.” Would they say “Prius” if it were a Prius? Probably not.

    In the above article, would they have said “Factory Workers” or “Needlepointers?” Never.

  40. MissusJ says:

    Ok, this article bothered me so I had to go check out to read something more positive… and as usual, I was cheered by it. A gaming article even, so I shall share here:

    And I apologize for using the wrong name and address the other day when I sent you another article as well.

  41. Delta says:

    has any one heard of the fox/monsanto thing?

  42. Aires says:

    All is not lost: There’s a glimmer of hope for Video Games yet!

  43. Roy says:

    Um, what DID I “do there”?

    Well, I can’t speak for Shamus, but this:

    “Every time you comment on Fox's apparent video game vendetta, such general loathing comments are dropped fairly liberally.”

    totally tickled me.

    Fox = Conservative
    Comments hating on Fox dropped “liberally”?

  44. Chris Arndt says:

    No! More! CAPTCHA!

    The CAPTCHA inventor was on Wired Science on PBS…. explaining about his wonderful text recognition and text scrambling tech all self-congratulatory… I wanted to teleport into the studio and yell his head off.

    That jerk has cost me more seconds than the poor judgment I exercised in reading….. ehhhh…. it rhymes with scorn.

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