Why do so many people seem to care so much? I’m very sorry for the Holloway family, but no more so than I am for the families of several missing children–of all races and backgrounds–in my own backyard.
Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post published a provocative column on what he calls the “Damsels in Distress” phenomenon. It’s titled “(White) Women We Love.” Excerpt:
Every few weeks, this stressed-out nation with more problems to worry about than hours in the day finds time to become obsessed with the saga — it’s always a “saga,” never just a story — of a damsel in distress. Natalee Holloway, the student who disappeared while on a class trip to the Caribbean island of Aruba, is the latest in what seems an endless series.
…The specifics of the story line vary from damsel to damsel. In some cases, the saga begins with the discovery of a corpse. In other cases, the damsel simply vanishes into thin air. Often, there is a suspect from the beginning — an intruder, a husband, a father, a congressman, a stranger glimpsed lurking nearby.
Sometimes the tale ends well, or well enough, as in the cases of Smart and Lynch. Let’s hope it ends well for Holloway. But more often, it ends badly. Once in a great while, a case like Runaway Bride comes along to provide comic relief. But of course the damsels have much in common besides being female. You probably have some idea of where I’m headed here.
A damsel must be white. This requirement is nonnegotiable. It helps if her frame is of dimensions that breathless cable television reporters can credibly describe as “petite,” and it also helps if she’s the kind of woman who wouldn’t really mind being called “petite,” a woman with a good deal of princess in her personality. She must be attractive — also nonnegotiable. Her economic status should be middle class or higher, but an exception can be made in the case of wartime (see: [Jessica] Lynch).
Put all this together, and you get 24-7 coverage…
On his TV show Thursday, Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly also read and responded to a letter-writer who criticized the MSM’s apparent, racially disparate treatment:
Michael Marone, Boca Raton, Florida: “Natalee’s case shows the media’s hypocrisy. If this was black girl, would she be getting this kind of coverage?”
Well, there is something to what you ask, Mr. Marone. Natalee’s all- American girl status does drive the story, but not here. Remember, “The Factor” championed the cases of Rilya Wilson and Destiny Ashe, both black babies who were murdered. You’ll always get fairness on this program.
O’Reilly deserves credit for highlighting outrageous cases of deadly bureaucratic neglect such as Rilya’s and Destiny’s. But that kind of coverage is the exception these days, not the rule.
Regular readers know I don’t think much of unfounded race-card politicking and class warfare-ism. But I do believe that race and class play a role in elevating some of these missing girl stories above others. That is a damned shame. Robinson believes this is an indictment against American society at large. But, tellingly, he says nothing about the hypocrisy of so many diversity-preaching, social engineering champions in the MSM–who, in the end, are “greedy” profit-seekers just like all the other corporate institutions in America they regularly attack.
I’m not sure, though, how much race is a factor relative to others. Would an overweight, unattractive white girl who went missing get preference over a Tyra Banks-look-a-like?
As for class, I think it may be a significant factor not so much because of prejudice, but because of the more mundane concerns of producing 24/7 cable TV. Missing girls from broken homes may be less likely to have an army of relatives and friends who can fill airtime night after night. (Actually, I can think of a few recent, highly-publicized cases off the top of my head that undermine this argument: the Jessica Lunsford and Sarah Lunde murders).
Whatever the reasons these missing pretty white girl cases get flogged, I find the whole Missing Pretty Girl Sndrome disturbing (and that’s coming from someone who works for FNC). I think we should be paying a hell of a lot more attention to Lodi and Tampa and Denver than Aruba.
Commenter Hube at La Shawn Barber’s speaks for me:
I couldn’t care less what color these missing women are. Who the hell cares to be updated EVERY dang hour upon hour on cable news about it? It’s get[ting] absolutely ridiculous.
What do you think?
Update: The Jawa Report hits the nail on the head. Rusty refers to MPGS as “[m]ore evidence of the vast gynocratic conspiracy and the Oprahization of the news.”
A sample of reader feedback…
Have you considered that the Missing Pretty Girl Syndrome is not a racist phenomenon but rather a sexist one? I mean, after all, when’s the last time you saw a breaking news alert on a missing young man? If a pretty young woman is missing for a minute, Mom starts calling her friends, the police, and the hospitals. However, if a young man is missing, everyone says “Oh, he’ll show up eventually.” Obviously, the MPGS demonstrates the feminist bias which places more value on women than men. Ask any man alive and he’ll tell you plenty of women have told him to get lost. It’s oppression, I tell you, feminist oppression by a gynocentric society.
Tongue In Cheek,
I confess to being as uncomfortable as hell in getting into this. Yes, I suppose we can push the race button here( white women continue to define the standard of beauty, etc., even given the huge number of non-white women who have won beauty contests of the last several years)/ But we could just as easily play the gender card. No one would care, and I mean no one, if this happened to a white male (unless he was the son of a prominent politician/businessman or media type, of course). Gender radical that I am, I simply refuse to go there. The ratio of the number of stories that the media should be covering against the trivia they are covering probably is near infinite. Those of the non-Left should ignore it and focus on the business at hand. Internet media is growing. Big Media (BM, my preferred term for MSM) is dying. Eventually the problem will rectify itself.
This morning when I saw my first broadcast about the girl in Aruba (I don’t know when it started – I’ve been out of pocket for an entire week), I noticed again that she was white and pretty (blonde is always a plus!), but more than that I thought that my heart goes out to the family, but is this REALLY national news, especially every hour or 30 minutes?
Why can’t we hear a different good story from Iraq or Afghanistan even twice a day, and stop hearing about these missing babes that are certainly local news, but not crisis-level national news…
…I am beginning to experience “compassion fatigue”, and I’m tired of all the coverage they get.
-Reader Marian B.
More blogger reax:
Lisa at Two Babes and a Brain:
If it happened to my daughter, I would certainly be working to get the media attention and anything else that would increase the possibility of my daughter being found alive. I would hope that every parent would.
Dave at Garfield Ridge, guest-blogging at Ace of Spades, weighs in:
What’s the solution? Short of every American turning off the television, I don’t know if there is one. This stuff is television crack to ratings-hungry producers. For every ten instances where there is no value in these broadcasts, the producers can point to the one instance where television coverage *did* pay off in finding the missing girl or runaway bride, which merely perpetuates the cycle. Meanwhile, stories of much greater significance to the viewer are lost in the shuffle, or more likely, never reported on at all.
This is merely the latest example of the MSM exploitation of one family’s sorrow for the prurient interests of their viewers. However much the Holloway family deserves our prayers, the media deserves our scorn.
Then again, they’re only giving us what we want, right?
Jim J. shares his view of the justice system in Aruba.
Lane Core sends a related flashback from three years ago.
And reader Dave M. sends this post from Orin Kerr from last week.
Scott at SlantPoint has more thoughts.