I read an op-ed piece by Leonard J. Pitts Jr. this morning lamenting the ignorant, un-civil, cold-hearted responses of some people to Lara Logan’s assault. (Lara Logan, in case you’ve been taking a news fast, is a CBS new correspondent who was beaten and sexually assaulted while reporting on the uprising in Egypt.) Pitts observes that while the internet has brought us closer together, it has also distanced us from one another, allowing us to treat “other people’s traumas as if they were abstractions.”
But this isn’t new and it isn’t a consequence of the internet. The internet just gives everyone, including idiots, access to a broader audience. It’s a habit of long-standing to blame the victim. We’ve made progress in the last few decades, but apparently not enough.
Apparently one refrain of blame that’s circulating is the old stand-by, “What was she, a pretty blond woman, doing in such a dangerous place?” Or to add the bonus of racism, “… in the middle of a crowd of Muslims?” The implication (and sometimes baldly stated conclusion) is that if you take risks you deserve to be hurt.
But this is fear talking. It’s an easy answer. This is a snake-oil nostrum sold by liars who promise that as long as you’re careful and don’t go into the woods the big bad wolf won’t get you. Guess what, folks, nearly 17% of American women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. That’s one in six. That’s a higher incidence than breast cancer. And that’s right here in America. They didn’t all wander into the woods.
And so what if they did? So what if Lara Logan was in a dangerous place? Yes, over the course of her career, it has surely occurred to Ms. Logan that her job was inherently risky. That she could be killed or seriously injured while doing her job. Does that make her less deserving of sympathy? Less deserving of a vocation she clearly loved? Are we really willing to say to all journalists that they shouldn’t go where the news is being made because it’s too dangerous? That we don’t want to know what’s going on in the world?
Or are we only going to say that to the female journalists?
At least we can answer “no” to that one. Daniel Pearl was criticized too, for dying at the hands of terrorists.