'Hurricane' Carter: Fact vs. Fiction


Believe me: If my mother-in-law didn’t live with us, the sights and sounds of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) would never pollute my home.

But for much of her life, there were only 13 channels, so she habitually switches to the state broadcaster when she can’t find anything else to watch.

That’s how I heard, on Easter Sunday morning, via various noises making their way from our living room television into my office, that Hurricane Carter had died.

Judging solely by the anchor’s somber tone, one would be forgiven for concluding that the deceased had been some great Canadian statesman or artist, not a notorious American boxer and ex-con.

For all their purported sophistication, the Canadian media is embarrassingly parochial. One particularly annoying manifestation of this inward-looking mindset is their habit of conveying “hono(u)rary Canadian” status to any celebrity foreigner with a friendly if tenuous connection to the country.

(Note that these same liberal media types happily mock the Mormon custom of baptizing dead “gentiles” — presuming they’re even aware of it.)

And so CBCNews duly informs us:

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the former professional boxer who became an advocate for the wrongly convicted after spending 19 years in prison for a triple murder he didn’t commit, died Sunday in Toronto. He was 76.

Carter’s struggle for freedom and exoneration was made famous in a number of books, a Bob Dylan song and a Hollywood film.

Although born in the U.S., Carter had a special connection to Canada, where he settled following his prison release, which came about with the help of a group of Canadians.

It’s a one-sided, anti-American message the CBC has been pushing for years (using my tax dollars), even on so-called “investigative” programs like The Fifth Estate, which is Canada’s answer to 60 Minutes:

From the moment he was arrested in 1966, Carter maintained his innocence. His arrest and conviction, he insisted, were all evidence of systemic racism.

“Hurricane” soon attracted celebrity devotees, some of whom happened to be blessed with a handy talent for propaganda:

Bob Dylan penned a hard-driving hit song about the imprisoned boxer. Norman Jewison later directed a well-received 1999 Oscar-bait biopic, The Hurricane, starring Denzel Washington.

Because Jewison is Canadian, that film turns a familiar Hollywood convention upside down:

In most American movies — from those set during the Normandy invasion to 2011’s Argo — Canadians’ contributions to real life events are downplayed; The Hurricane, on the other hand, exaggerates them to an embarrassing degree.

However, the role played by a teenage Canadian, his hippie parents and their fellow commune dwellers in Carter’s eventual release was just one aspect of the story that the movie deliberately got wrong, in order to portray “Hurricane” in the most sympathetic possible light.

Even the New York Times, which has always championed Carter’s innocence, nevertheless scolded the movie makers for taking liberties with the facts:

A major fabrication is the creation of a racist Javert-type detective who hounds Mr. Carter from the age of 11 until he finally ensnares him in the triple homicide. The film brands the phantom detective as primarily responsible for framing Mr. Carter. (…)

The film also sterilizes Mr. Carter’s history before his arrest for murder. He is characterized as a nearly model citizen who overcame persecution as a juvenile and remade himself as a boxer and civil rights advocate. What is omitted is that Mr. Carter served four years in prison as an adult for three muggings, crimes that later tarnished him as potentially violent and damaged his cause in the murder case.

And while the film would have audiences believe that Mr. Carter was a teetotaler, he never denied taking part in an occasional pub crawl and, although married, having a romantic fling. One of those night owl excursions enmeshed him in the murders, a fact obscured in the movie.

Larry Elder also penned a compelling column when The Hurricane came out.

Besides listing the movie’s many sins of omission and commission, Elder went further than the Times and declared Carter guilty as charged.

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was a thug, having spent several years in juvenile detention for muggings. On the eve of his 1964 middleweight title fight, he bragged in the Saturday Evening Post about his savagery, “I stuck a man with my knife. I stabbed him everywhere but the bottom of his feet.” Carter also said he and a friend “used to get up and put our guns in our pockets. … Then we’d go out in the streets and start fighting — anybody, everybody. We used to shoot at folks.” (…)

When out of prison, awaiting his second trial, Carter viciously beat a woman who worked tirelessly to free him. (…)

At the recent Golden Globe Awards, “Hurricane” Carter received a standing ovation from the Hollywood-ites in attendance. Did they love-serenade a man who killed three people? Chilling.

Buried at the very bottom of that old NYT article is by far the most revealing and inadvertently hilarious chapter of this sorry tale:

A feel-good screen afterword notes that Mr. Carter lives in Canada and runs an organization that seeks to correct judicial wrongs, and that Mr. Martin has become a lawyer in Canada. Left unsaid is both men’s eventual disenchantment with the commune and its treatment of them.

After his release Mr. Carter married Ms. Peters. But he soon ended all relations with her and other commune members, asserting in his biography that they patronized him as a ”trophy horse” whose main purpose was to raise money for the group. He further complains that the commune tried to control his life, with members escorting him everywhere and censoring his words.

As for Mr. Martin, he was expelled. His crime: dating a woman without the commune’s permission.

In other words:

That white liberal hippie do-gooder commune was just another type of prison.

At least Hurricane Carter had the good sense to leave.