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Female Foreign Correspondents’ Code of Silence, Finally Broken

Lessons learned from CBS News Correspondent Lara Logan.

Reporter Kim Barker reporting in Afghanistan. (Kuni Takahashi)

This piece was co-published in the New York Times

Thousands of men blocked the road, surrounding the S.U.V. of the chief justice of Pakistan, a national hero for standing up to military rule. As a correspondent for The Chicago Tribune, I knew I couldn’t just watch from behind a car window. I had to get out there.

So, wearing a black headscarf and a loose, long-sleeved red tunic over jeans, I waded through the crowd and started taking notes: on the men throwing rose petals, on the men shouting that they would die for the chief justice, on the men sacrificing a goat.

And then, almost predictably, someone grabbed my buttocks. I spun around and shouted, but then it happened again, and again, until finally I caught one offender’s hand and punched him in the face. The men kept grabbing. I kept punching. At a certain point — maybe because I was creating a scene — I was invited into the chief justice’s vehicle.

At the time, in June 2007, I saw this as just one of the realities of covering the news in Pakistan. I didn’t complain to my bosses. To do so would only make me seem weak. Instead, I made a joke out of it and turned the experience into a positive one: See, being a woman helped me gain access to the chief justice.

And really, I was lucky. A few gropes, a misplaced hand, an unwanted advance — those are easily dismissed. I knew other female correspondents who weren’t so lucky, those who were molested in their hotel rooms, or partly stripped by mobs. But I can’t ever remember sitting down with my female peers and talking about what had happened, except to make dark jokes, because such stories would make us seem different from the male correspondents, more vulnerable. I would never tell my bosses for fear that they might keep me at home the next time something major happened.

I was hardly alone in keeping quiet. The Committee to Protect Journalists may be able to say that 44 journalists from around the world were killed last year because of their work, but the group doesn’t keep data on sexual assault and rape. Most journalists just don’t report it.

The CBS correspondent Lara Logan has broken that code of silence. She has covered some of the most dangerous stories in the world, and done a lot of brave things in her career. But her decision to go public earlier this week with her attack by a mob in Tahrir Square in Cairo was by far the bravest. Hospitalized for days, she is still recuperating from the attack, described by CBS as a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating.

Several commentators have suggested that Ms. Logan was somehow at fault: because she’s pretty; because she decided to go into the crowd; because she’s a war junkie. This wasn’t her fault. It was the mob’s fault. This attack also had nothing to do with Islam. Sexual violence has always been a tool of war. Female reporters sometimes are just convenient.

In the coming weeks, I fear that the conclusions drawn from Ms. Logan’s experience will be less reactionary but somehow darker, that there will be suggestions that female correspondents should not be sent into dangerous situations. It’s possible that bosses will make unconscious decisions to send men instead, just in case. Sure, men can be victims, too — on Wednesday a mob beat up a male ABC reporter in Bahrain, and a few male journalists have told of being sodomized by captors — but the publicity around Ms. Logan’s attack could make editors think, “Why take the risk?” That would be the wrong lesson. Women can cover the fighting just as well as men, depending on their courage.

More important, they also do a pretty good job of covering what it’s like to live in a war, not just die in one. Without female correspondents in war zones, the experiences of women there may be only a rumor.

Look at the articles about women who set themselves on fire in Afghanistan to protest their arranged marriages, or about girls being maimed by fundamentalists, about child marriage in India, about rape in Congo and Haiti. Female journalists often tell those stories in the most compelling ways, because abused women are sometimes more comfortable talking to them. And those stories are at least as important as accounts of battles.

There is an added benefit. Ms. Logan is a minor celebrity, one of the highest-profile women to acknowledge being sexually assaulted. Although she has reported from the front lines, the lesson she is now giving young women is probably her most profound: It’s not your fault. And there’s no shame in telling it like it is.

You can follow Kim at @kim_barker.

ProPublica reporter Kim Barker is the author of the forthcoming book "The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan." Paul Steiger, editor at ProPublica, is the chairman of the Committee to Protect Journalists cited in this story.

I thought the same thing about Ms. Logan: how brave of her to have the guts to tell it like it is. Men assault women because they are women. That is a well-known, yet often unspoken, fact. Logan did nothing to cause it; it is a simple and ugly fact of life. Thank you for your article which articulated this so well. I very much look forward to following you and reading more of your sharp perspective. Wishing you courage, interesting assignments, and safety.

Great article. Sodomy is rape also.

I’m also surprised this hasn’t been more widely discussed up until now.  The stories of rape being used as a tool of war are widespread, yet our expectations that female reporters and war correspondents have escaped this doesn’t make a lot of sense.

I’m sick over this, and echo Laura’s hope for you and your professions’ continuing courage and safety!

A journalist’s ability to tell a story is what should get them the job- not whether they are male or female, or whether they will be considered safe.  Perhaps it is time to look at new ways to keep female journalists safe from these attacks-in ways other than preventing them from doing their job.

Malcolm_McLean

Feb. 19, 2011, 5:28 p.m.

So what was her story?

You spent all that time talking about anything other than the headline?

Women journalists should not have to worry that if they speak up about having been raped during an assignment they might injur their prospects of future interesting assignments. It is a profession that comes with a lot of risks and getting raped is one of them like getting killed or beaten up or kidnapped .There is no shame in getting raped but only in having to keep quiet about it and having to fear one is dishonored..

Malcolm_McLean

Feb. 19, 2011, 5:34 p.m.

@Kim_Barker

So you story is: Men and Women journalists get molested? no Names? only vague references that may or may not be true.

Your own personal story is interesting - bye the way - did the Minster of Justice get a feel? LOL!!

Can we have some facts? Some names? Some actual storyies of incidents - even with the names redacted?

Or is this just another fictional made up story of stories that you have heard?

What percentage representation do journalist being molested compare to ordinary non journalists being molested - both in the countries you are reporting and here in USA?

Lets have a story here - this is school kids stuff my teenage son writes about in the college newletter!

You get paid for his?

Please!

To blame the victim is to rape them again, only this time psychologically/emotionally.  Why do women have to fight to
be free, to be respected, to be treated as equals?  Why do
men fear us?

There has been..is and will continue to be a double standard.  Women are always blamed for the attack ..too pretty..should have known better..etc…baloney!!  Time for this to just STOP…

The three major tv networks along with most newspapers kept this story under raps for five days…Sure seems that there was a political correctness cover up as not to expose the Middle East for its very negative acts toward Western woman. This is not as rare as the media leads on. Non covered up woman are fair game and are looked on as objects to be abused. Its difficult to see why such a kind and loving religion, accepts this as acceptable behavior. I have not seen a single Muslim Religious Leader come out against this act of violence. My prayers are with Ms logan and her family.

Michelle Martinez

Feb. 19, 2011, 5:56 p.m.

Thank you for speaking out about your experiences and this code of silence that is so unfortunately prevalent. In the wake of the abuse suffered by Ms. Logan, I have read several commentaries regarding the incident and the risks involved in covering political upheaval. Yours was the first to come forward and say, “Do not blame her, blame the men who assaulted her”. So often you hear rhetoric regarding sexual violence shifting blame on to the victim.

I read a post by a well respected journalist that reflected this rhetoric. His words brought attention to the advances of women in journalism in that they get the same options for assignments to the field. He said she could have covered a fashion show, but went to the protests instead. That journalists have that choice and how she chose the riskier assignment. This made me sick. It was more blame the victim rhetoric, packaged in a way that drew attention away from the abuser, and reiterated the choice to be at risk, the choice to be a journalist.

This rhetoric camouflages the point- women are sexually abused everyday, whether they are journalists, students, nurses, mothers, cops, wives, cashiers or waitresses. In the aftermath statements like “she shouldn’t have wore that”, “she shouldn’t have married him”, “she shouldn’t have gone” to excuse the abuser, and blame the victim.

This habit is so deep, so engrained that the abused all to often do not admit to themselves or anyone else that they have been abused. Women get abused in their homes, out in public, at times of political stability and at times of chaos. It is an ongoing epidemic of violence that we have learned to tolerate, gloss over, laugh off, or justify away.

Laura Logan has put an end to this silence in the field of journalism and opened this issue to wider discourse. Thank you Kim, for your post, your courage, and for willingness to share your story. Much success and safety in all of your endeavors.

To Malcolm:  I was looking for the first comment by the male of the species.  Unfortunately, you fulfilled all my worst fears.  Was there really a holocaust?

I just heard about the assault on Lara Logan.  What this report overlooks is that while Ms Logan was being assaulted the crowd was yelling, “Jew, Jew”.  As Jewish woman I don’t know if I am more upset to hear about a journalist subject to abuse because of a lack of respect for women or because of Antisemitism.  Remember Daniel Pearl?

So the Egyptian Revolution was not all glorious after all.  And, was this anti-American sentiment?  That is one thing this writer is not explaining.

fred dodsworth

Feb. 19, 2011, 6:18 p.m.

Malcolm McLean. Why are you such an assh0le? Her story was perfectly clear and it didn’t need any more details than she gave us. She wasn’t reporting a rape, she was reporting on the professional impacts of war related rape. If you would like, for your own prurient reasons, to know more, do some research. If you’d really like to know what it’s like, I understand we don’t have anyone on the ground in Libya today. I encourage you to go and file a report. Otherwise shut your pie-hole.

Audrey, from where do you have that last information, about what the crowd was yelling?

Malcolm: this story in detail has been in the news for days. Do your own research!


“Can we have some facts? Some names? Some actual storyies of incidents - even with the names redacted?

Or is this just another fictional made up story of stories that you have heard?”

As a student reporter, I was shocked that female sexual assault victims were never to be named. I heard “blame the victim” over superficial sympathy. I have yet to understand why naming a victim is seen as at least as harmful as the crime, itself.

I am so very sorry that Lara Logan has brought light to this aspect of crimes against women.

To Audrey:
“What this report overlooks is that while Ms Logan was being assaulted the crowd was yelling, “Jew, Jew”.
Where did you get that information? Did they shout in English?

Good for you Kim!

Remember, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  Edmund Burke OR Thomas Paine or JF Kennedy or ??

If there were a contagious disease that afflicted almost exclusively men, would male reporters insist on going into the ward where patients lay to get the story because deferring to their female counterparts would make them seem more vulnerable? Or would it be common sense for female reporters to get such a story because the men *are* more vulnerable and the women are at lower risk of acquiring the disease?

I hope these questions help reveal what I find to be a strange insistence on equal assignments for male and female reporters when the circumstances are not the same for males and females in the area being reported on. Unfortunately, in retrograde societies, women are subject to violence like this. That counsels sending men reporters. All else being equal, the story can be gotten with less peril to reporters.

That doesn’t mean there should be no reporting in such societies by women, of course. Indeed, women are essential reporters because they can access and report on the lives of women in those societies. But to think that a Western woman should walk into a gender-segregated society and ignore the very terms on which the society operates, endangering herself for a principle, it’s a bit much for me.

There are some areas where male reporters are a better fit, and some where female reporters are a better fit. It seems like a male-only gathering in a male-dominated society is not a good place for a woman reporter. I’ll be interested to see if this is controversial.

fred dodsworth

Feb. 19, 2011, 6:26 p.m.

Audrey Kadis and Ann Garrison
Directly from the story, bottom of the eighth paragraph: “It was the mob’s fault. This attack also had nothing to do with Islam. Sexual violence has always been a tool of war. Female reporters sometimes are just convenient. ”

To Ann:
“And, was this anti-American sentiment?  That is one thing this writer is not explaining. “
Not everything can be explained to your liking. The attacked person was a woman. Draw your conclusions.

Malcolm_McLean, just what is your problem?  Are you caught in a time warp and are trapped back in the 19th (or earlier) century?  Maybe if some of the atrocities that have been experienced by male and female members of the press were visited upon you you might change your tune.  Ms Logan and many others (remember Danny Pearl?) cover what is going on in the world to provide you, Mr. McLean, with ‘the news.’  But then if you’re back in the 19th century, current events mean little unless the ‘current event’ is the Boer War.

Malcolm_McLean

Are you really this clueless?

“Your own personal story is interesting - bye the way - did the Minster of Justice get a feel? LOL!!” SOL (Sad Out Loud)

“bye the way” Bye? did you fail grammar?

“Some actual storyies” There is that spelling and grammar thing again.

“What percentage representation do journalist being molested compare to ordinary non journalists being molested - both in the countries you are reporting and here in USA?”

This is important—-WHY?

Clearly you must be repugnatcan (on purpose!)

Totally agree with Angie’s comment that the news business is responsible for the safety of its reporters and it needs to keep improving the protection of all its reporters no matter the circumstances or whether they are male or female.

Malcolm McLean’s comments don’t require any response, except to say I am saddened that he a) appears to have procreated and b) might impart his own inability to read for comprehension to his teenage son.

Malcolm McLean

You are such a clueless bastard, I just had to comment again.  Did you really get past the 6th grade? As a male, I feel it necessary to say I’m sorry for other males like you - what an embarrassment you are to the male of the species.

Roberta Burnett

Feb. 19, 2011, 6:50 p.m.

This story should be read by every woman and, very specifically, every woman writer. All the blame being put on women who aggressively do their journalist’s job can’t be obscured by the fact that men need to keep their third legs inside their pants. Tradition is that rape is a reward of war. No! it’s an international CRIME against women. It must be reported, and women must be allowed to do their jobs. (I’m a former freelance writer for a major state newspaper and national and regional magazines.)

What was done to her was inexcusable by western standards of human behavior and decency.  And I suspect (but do not know) that her assailants were from the nonsecular more radical Islamist males of Egyptian society.  But this was not in the West; it was in a very different and dangerous Middle Eastern culture.

When soldiers go into a combat or policemen into a mob situation. they wear appropriate protective or camouflage gear as a matter of common sense When civilians go to work, church, social occasions, they also usually, but not always, wear appropriate clothing..  I saw the photographs of Lara’s clothing.  It would certainly draw unwanted attention from more radical islamists.  She was dressed appropriately at the incident in Pakistan and resulted in her being invited in the chief justice’s vehicle when she was being assaulted by that mob and in her safety.

When as a young captain in the army in Vietnam, I often had journalists forced upon me during helicopter landings of my company into landing zones in the jungle.  It really detracted from our combat strength in the early stages to be responsible for the safety of people who wished they could report a disaster and took the next helicopter back to the comforts of Saigon when there wasn’t.  After all, who, if they can avoid it, wishes to spend the night in the wet monsoon?. 

It is often simply a matter of common sense.  I don’t lean against a lightning rod ground during a summer thunderstorm.  I wear warm clothing in the winter.  Journalists need to exercise common sense and situational awareness.

I’m sure I will be assaulted about this. Ideology and common sense are about as related as law and justice.

Ooops. When Kim Barker, not Lara was invited into the Chief justice’s car.

Austin G. Mackell

Feb. 19, 2011, 7:03 p.m.

excellent article. I read with great interest.

I was just saying in a discussion last night that female foreign correspondents often seem much better at interviewing people without being condescending to them.

We should pay the favour back and not be condescending to female journalists in danger-zones.

It is a discussion that needs to be had.

So, what’s new?

This is news?

This is as old as the hills - and predictable.

This needed to be written.  I have looked for denounciations from the leaders of religion and community in Egypt.  I will continue this quest.  The gropers and rapists whom assaulted this woman may be able to explain their acts more easily to Representative Smith of New Jersey than they can to normal fathers, husbands and brothers.  It is horrible when disrespect and disregard for women is displayed in as base a manner as this.  It would be nice if we, in the USA, while commenting on this speck in the eye of others, were free of a similar foreign body in our own occular apparatus.

Sandy Lewis, would you fill in the blanks of your dismissive comments?  Substance, please.

edward engelberg

Feb. 19, 2011, 7:20 p.m.

Dear Mr “Malcom”

Quite aside from the aburdities of your comments, you also take to task people for their grammar. Would you please learn how to spell STORIES (IT’S NOT “storyies” which you continually misspell in your comments). What grade did you graduate?

Ed

For those few who stated that perhaps women should not be in these situations or that they should dress differently: Women may be more at risk in certain situations but these are professionals who understand the risks that are associated with covering these stories. Male reporters are certainly not immune to danger, some for being American, some for being Jewish, and some just for being reporters. Should there be a screening process in which those who look American should not go to certain locales? How about Jewish reporters? Should they be banned from covering the Arab world?

War journalism is dangerous—for women and for men. That some are at greater risk than others does not mean anyone should be excluded from this job. We need people of all genders, faiths, colors, and nationalities covering world events. Trying to discover what characteristics may make a reporter the “safest” choice doesn’t make any sense; it does a disservice to the profession; and it robs the world of a wide variety of perspectives. It is important to note too that sexual violence and hate crimes against any group are intended to put people “in their place.” In this case, women, the message goes, should stay home because it just isn’t safe for them to be out in the world. Good for these female reporters who say: screw that. They’ll be out there, they’ll take on the risk, and they will, eventually, have an outraged world on their side.

The most appropriate action is to express support for all those who bravely take on the task of reporting on world events—particularly those that are dangerous. They are doing all of us a great service. As a woman, I am particularly grateful to those women who bravely go out, see what is happening, and report back—bringing their unique perspective to the reporting. If any are hurt while doing their jobs—particularly because of any biases against their gender, race, or religion—it is appalling and the world needs to speak out against such atrocities, not suggest that perhaps that particular reporter should not have gotten the assignment because of their gender, race, or religion.

Much better, Sandy Lewis.  Thank you.  My plea for a little common sense is still valid, however, and takes nothing away from their courage.  I would prefer to see them unharmed, mail or female. A little common sense keeps the brave safer.

Jon H. Harsch

Feb. 19, 2011, 7:46 p.m.

Thank you Kim Barker for your insightful comments. As a journalist myself, I have never ceased to be impressed by women journalists who have to be better journalists just to break into this profession—and who have to be more courageous than males to go into war zones or accept other dangerous assignments. I’ve always been particularly impressed by Lara Logan, a thorough professional in every way. What a tragedy that she was brutally assaulted while doing her job in Egypt. And how shameful that any person would blame her in any way. The blind, self-defensive reaction of some males to this latest assault on women is just further evidence of the urgent need to bring not just the Middle East’s males into the modern world, but to bring benighted U.S. males as a whole into the modern world. Given cultural differences, there may be a slight excuse for some Middle East males to be a century or two behind the times. There is absolutely no excuse for anyone living in the United States to be so stubbornly backward.

Yes, I’m sorry Lara was victimized by her “brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating”...I’m even more sorry that you ladies can’t keep sexual politics and man-hating out of the mix. We readers aren’t getting all the facts to this story! I heard that the attackers were specifically Mubarak supporters. T? or F?...She wasn’t wearing a head scarf, so her blonde hair was very visible. T? or F?...(not that it should matter, but, *IN*EGYPT*IT*DOES*!...especially during a *RIOT*...) There have also been reports/rumors that she was *targeted*, because she was a western, female journalist. T?, or F?...etc., Much as some of you ladies want to gnash your teeth over this, and throw in Richard Perle & anti-semitism, too, I just won’t jump on your little red band wagon. She was foolish, stupid, and ill-advised to wade into the crowd she did, when she did, dressed as she did. Yes, I do prefer the idealized world where she would be safe reporting. *BUT*, we live in the world of *REALITY*, not the world that any of us want to live in. Deal with it. There is so much wrong with this story, but to make it all about “blame the criminals” / “blame the men”, *BUT* - not expect that Lara will take any *PERSONAL*RESPONSIBILITY*, well, that’s too much for me. After all, she knew, or should have known, the risks that she would be facing. As bad as it was, yes, it could have been much worse. But to see this complex story over-simplified down to the typical man-hating-bull-dyke male-bashing…........<—-See my point? Or are all you ladies too sexually indoctrinated to accept any personal responsibility here? Look up “metacognition”...you all need to think about what you think. I think about what I think, and I think about what you think, and I think that you all really don’t think anywhere near as much as you think you think. That’s what I think. I still feel sorry for you all…

We don´t know exactly what happened to Ms. Logan. There was and still is a major cover up around this story. Lara Logan and Egypt was public news. You can´t have it both ways. Regardless, I wish her a quick recovery.

Thank you, Laura, for what appears at least in part a response to my earlier comment. I wonder if your appreciation for the bravery of women reporters (which I share) is obscuring some important subtleties.

A news organization has both a legal and moral duty to look out for the safety of its workers. It’s not OK in the eyes of the law, and many readers/viewers would not see it as OK, for a news organization to send a reporter of either gender to his or her death, for example, even if he or she was fully aware of, and agreed to accept, the risks.

To get the news story while minimizing danger to reporters, it seems to make sense to choose the reporter who is at less peril than other reporters of identical merit in all other respects. (Again, I don’t think this should exclude women entirely from reporting from within certain societies, but it does counsel care in choosing their whereabouts and circumstances.) Does this “exclude” some reporters from some stories? In a sense, yes. But in another sense, it may sometimes be a bona fide occupational qualification of reporting a story that one be a certain gender, race, etc.

Another thought experiment: Your news organization has been granted an interview with the murderous leader of a white separatist group in his backwoods cabin, provided the interviewer comes alone and unarmed. You have two reporters who are equal in every respect but one. Do you send the African-American woman reporter or the white woman reporter?

It would be a strong statement against racism to send the African-American, but, for my part, I don’t think potentially martyring a reporter this way has enough positive influence on society to justify the risk to her or the news organization. Is that invidious racism?

You say that looking at what characteristics may make a reporter the “safest” choice “doesn’t make any sense.” But it makes some sense in some circumstances, doesn’t it? Reporters and news organizations seem right to do some very careful thinking about these issues. Exacting gender, racial, or religious equality in assignments seems to me unwise in some circumstances, much though we may wish that the world didn’t require us to think these nuances through.

J Martins: Was there an announcement made by the protesters that American women reporters would be brutally raped at Tahir Square on that day? Did CNN then decide, after hearing this news, that they would send a female reporter instead of a male reporter? And did they further make the decision to send her to this planned rape without any security, because that was demanded by the mob before any female reporters could come into Tahir Square? To make your analogy work, that would have to be the case.

Muslim and particularly Middle Eastern Muslim Men believe with all their being that women are property and NOT equal in ANY sense.  She is lucky she survived.

ProPublica is fundraising.

Hence, subjects and treatment should be filtered, accordingly.

Once again, the female or male - sexually assaulted - is not news.

Reporters are murdered across the globe. Even that is not news.

There are hundreds affected by what’s happening to the few.

News is suppressed.

Russia is one example - and China is another.

The mideast is only the most recent.

We have had reporters gagged in the USA.

This particular story is not really special - at all.

If each and every hit on a reporter, male or female, was reported, there would be no thing space for news.

Reporters know this.

Many of these comments are distressing. Too many of these still find ways of making this somehow her fault.

No one has the right to sexually assault anyone. It doesn’t matter where they are, who they are, what they’re wearing, etc. You do not get to violate others—ever.

As for the comments that criticise the writing while displaying shocking spelling, grammar, and organisation—I just have to laugh.

Jesse Westbrook

Feb. 19, 2011, 9:12 p.m.

Bradford, Sandy, and Malcolm McLean do not represent me as a man/woman/human being, or as a Republican/Democrat, or as a Patriot….Reading Comments and Blogs on the internet is too often terrifying and supremely depressing; I cannot comprehend, accept, or absorb the hatred, self-hatred, and degrees of insanity….“Free Speech” is for thought-out and analyzed opposing ideas, not for the spewing of toilet functions. And Free Speech is NOT free: there is an enormous cost to a civilized society when speech (and actions) is so destructive.

I am lucky that I was able to read many of the Egyptian reactions to this crime. I only one in any way held Ms. Logan to be at fault. There was almost universal agreement that this was a horrible crime; the disagreements were over whether protesters or pro-government thugs were responsible.

So for all of your looking for denunciations from community and religious leaders in Egypt, there have been plenty. It is here that they are lacking.

It is very unfortunate to read comments like
” And I suspect (but do not know) that her assailants were from the nonsecular more radical Islamist males of Egyptian society” here.
These words reflect as much shallow intellect and high prejudice as the mobs that attack anyone, female or male.

Jesse Westbrook

Feb. 19, 2011, 9:54 p.m.

Thank you, Laura….I read your comment carefully, and respect you for your thoughts.

I just want to add that in a just world (somewhere in space), naiveté, confused motives, or wrong decisions should not be crimes punishable by vicious condemnation, imprisonment, torture, death, or rape.

The second question that has been plaguing me since I was 17, is… what deeper USEFUL information do we really learn about another culture, a complex political/social situation, or the longer-term consequences of hatred, when courageous reporters risk their lives to send back war stories?

Do we read and tune-in the news (partially) to reinforce our own negative feelings about life, or to feel superior to those who are suffering more than ourselves, or perhaps even to be self-destructively and voyeuristically “entertained” by the pain of others?.... Is sympathy toward the suffering of strangers (who we really don’t want to know or live with) mainly a narcotic to help us feel more human and less alone?

Just questions that do not need to be attacked….

The gender thing is important.
The rape matter and sexual violence to both men and women is important.
Atrocity and the ‘tools of war’ are important.
The Religious angles are also important.

What catches my attention, however, is the ‘mob thing’.
By implication and historical document, mob behavior is immune to normal safeguards of decency, moral or religious commitment, political or ideological values or any other ordinary protection that a citizen usually depends upon to keep from acting out flares of deep aggression.  The ‘good people’s mob’ is no less frightening or dangerous for its composition than any other mob of distorted, sociopathic individuals. And, certainly no less excusable. Yet, it is a fact of life which eludes us. 

Before we turn on the precise individuals who comprised the mob that assaulted Ms. Logan, I think it befits us to ask about mobs in general and this mob in particular.  This is not to diminish the importance of the incident as both a personal tragedy and social commentary. Certainly, it does not lesson the need to call for justice and swift punishment for the offending parties. Nor does it lessen the need for an examination of the policies and practices of journalism with respect to gender.

However, knowing more about mobs and the atavistic impulses that were unleashed in this situation, may be one area in which the American press may have some contribution to make to the Egyptian quest for liberty.  If nothing else, it underscores the fact that those who might pursue the highest aims - the liberation of their country - are not immune to the lowest of impulses.

As many Egyptians have noted, America has little to say on how the people of Egypt should conduct their revolution.  Our own agenda is sufficiently flawed that “suspicion” is the least affect that prudent revolutionaries ought to cast on our suggestions.  But, in the case of this single event we, our professional news corps, may have something of value to offer to Egyptians as well as Americans. A lesson that the most noble of ideas are subject, at times, to the worst expressions. The examinations that should follow should not only turn outward - to matters of war and gender, violence and punishment, control and sanity - but inward as well. That each of us, Egyptian, American, whatever, can reflect that it can happen here, or there, or anywhere. That we, each of us, need to understand ourselves better as well as be informed and stand up to external events like this which shock the conscience. In short, any of us, under certain conditions, are vulnerable to becoming part of ‘that mob’.

That, I think, is a job and a challenge that awaits our professional journalists. I believe they are best positioned to tell that part of the story - the story of the mob, within and without.

This is my personal focus and my bias. It is not meant to dilute any of the other important comments that have been made.

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