Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A response to "Have you seen the news?"

I normally reserve this blog for technology posts, but this is an exception.

Over the past day, I've received a couple emails with links to news stories, regarding the tragic death of a British girl studying abroad in Italy, accompanied by the question, "Have you seen this?"  I'm asked because I happened to attend the same high school (within a couple years) as one of the suspects.  Too that question, here is my answer:

Yes, I've heard, so have you.  Now let's stop endorsing the unrestrained sensationalism of the media.  

If you browse around for a while, you'll see that various articles paint different pictures slandering different individuals. In situations like this, what normally is viewed as typical college debauchery is recast as criminally indicative behavior. After all, profit motivated media needs to sell headlines, and in the realm of "Buy this paper!", nothing beats a sexual deviant with a murderous dark side.  The deplorable part is that it doesn't matter if the individual fits the headline, only that the headline sells the paper.

Italian police are under enormous pressure, which the strong media attention only increases. They can't move too quickly, lest they appear hasty or negligent. They can't be too methodical, lest they appear incapable or overwhelmed. In either case, it is a tightrope to avoid having their qualifications called into question. Too many want the answer now, and too few want the right answer. It's a terrible situation all around and I feel for each person caught in this dragnet of media attention. I sympathize with all, each for a unique reason.

At this point, available information is limited to media sensationalism with underlying culture-stereotypic allegations redolent of long existing cultural partisanship and prejudice. The most important thing now is to acknowledge the havoc and irreparable change that has and will continue to affect the individuals and their families. The court of public opinion has no jurisdiction here, and we've all had a time when we deserved more privacy and respect than we received from overly eager interested parties. If out of nothing more than respect for the families, I hope that the hype will calm down.

And no, I'm not going to post links to any of the articles.  If you have no qualms about supporting sensationalistic media, then I'm sure your Google skills are already top notch.


Corey said...

I agree, mostly - though I hadn't heard of this at all. No emailed articles, and no TV, so less sensational news access. Of course, I think it's always easier to say these wise, respectful things when we have some kind of connection to the event. Maybe it should serve as a reminder for all those times when someone involved didn't go to our high school, too.

Abigail said...

I also think we need to be reminded of cultural differences/barriers in this situation. Being "detained as a suspect" in Italy does not necessarily have the same intentions nor meaning as it would in the U.S. Though I claim no knowledge of the Italian legal system, it is highly likely that their process is different and being slightly, if not greatly, twisted by the American media.

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