As soon as I heard the terrible news about Lara Logan, I knew it would only be a matter of time before a handful of numbskulls, marching forward under the banner NO MORE POLITICAL CORRECTNESS, would say something charming.
It didn’t take long. Roy has a roundup. It’s the Daniel Pearl story with sex and a prettier victim. That is, there are lots of she-asked-for-its, sprinkled with what-else-can-you-expect-from-those-animals, and a certain amount of what-exactly-happened-in-this-sexual-assault (and please, spare no details).
I’ll go in a different direction: What happened to Logan isn’t shameful in any way, and she should talk about it.
There was a movement in this direction some years back, in journalism circles. The editor of the Des Moines Register, I b’lieve it was Geneva Overholser, wrote a column asking, if rape isn’t “about sex” and is an assault like any other, why journalists have a widespread shared agreement not to name victims in news accounts. Maintaining the veil only serves to silently reinforce all the ugly prejudices about victims — that they’re ruined, somehow, and should never talk about it.
A woman came forward in the wake of that column, Nancy Something, and told her story to
Overholser a Des Moines Register reporter, who wrote about it in painstaking detail, using her full name. It was a compelling read, and underlined her point. What happened to Nancy Something was an assault, plain and simple, that just happened to take a sexual form.
And nothing changed. If anything, the atmosphere regarding reporting crimes got even chillier. Look at a newspaper from the 1960s, and that’s one thing that strikes you — how much more open that sort of reporting used to be. If you got mugged in an alley, you could expect to find your name and address printed in the paper, as well as what hospital you were taken to, and what your condition was at press time.
I understand Overholser’s position, but I don’t share her belief that changing the journalism will change the nature of the crime. Every single one of us practices something I call “distancing,” i.e. the immediate calculus, upon hearing upsetting news about misfortune befalling someone else, of how this would not have happened to us. We wouldn’t have been in Detroit at that hour. We would never buy real estate in a city below sea level. We never accept opened bottles of beer from strange men. And so on. It’s far, far worse when it’s rape, because, as we’ve learned to accept for a while now, so often the perpetrator is someone we know. (But it wouldn’t be something we know, because we have such great people sense. And also, we would never wear anything that tight and low-cut, and we aren’t blonde, and so on.) It’s taken us a long damn time to get to where it’s acceptable for a woman to not be a virgin when she gets married. I think we’ve got some ground to cover before being beaten up = rape.
But maybe having Logan talk about it would help. Although who knows? Reading some of those reactions Roy rounded up, I’m wondering if it would make things even worse.
Let Jimmy Kimmel harvest the low-hanging fruit of the Harry Baals story. And then let Jon Stewart get the good stuff.
And that’s it for me, alas. This week, Wednesday is the new Tuesday.