crazyjane: (eclipse)
CNN's Anderson Cooper interviewed the mother of Rebecca Sedgewick. The girl had committed suicide after she was subjected to a truly horrific campaign of bullying (both online and off) by her schoolmates. It was a fairly standard piece designed to humanise the victim, while highlighting a significant social issue. Asked to describe her daughter, the mother replied, 'She was beautiful ... she was smart ...she was funny'.

Heard that before? Sure you have. In fact, if you watched any coverage at all of, say, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, the Boston Marathon bombings, the Trayvon Martin shooting - and the list goes on - you heard those phrases. Those exact phrases. Oh, sometimes the gender changes, or there's a synonym slipped in here and there - but what it all boils down to is 'beautiful, smart, and funny'. A description so generic that it could apply to anyone.

This isn't coming from the interviewers. These aren't the words of a reporter standing in front of a 'scene of tragedy' (another handy little phrase). These are parents, loved ones, friends, all describing the dead in terms that effectively render them faceless, colourless, and utterly without personality.

What does it mean that someone was 'beautiful', anyway? Did they have shining hair? Immaculate makeup? Up-to-the-minute taste in fashion? Soulful blue eyes, smooth chocolate skin, a dancer's physique?

How about 'smart'? Did they ace their exam results? Did they have a natural aptitude for tinkering with all things mechanical? Were they just good at problem-solving?

And let's not forget 'funny'. What does that mean? Quick-witted? Clumsy, in a kind of 'cute' way? Maybe they had a famous party trick involving spoons? Or did they just have a great repertoire of jokes for every situation?

When we think of those who are taken from us, whether by malice, accident, illness, or their own hands - we don't think 'beautiful, smart, funny'. We think about how her eyes sparkled when she was excited, or how he was about to graduate from high school as a top student. We think about the self-deprecating anecdotes he'd tell at parties that had everyone laughing along in sympathy. In other words, we think about the person.

It's the same at funerals or memorial services. We tell those who come up to commiserate with us, even those we barely know, little stories about our loved ones. It may mean absolutely nothing to the hearers, but what matters is that we tell them - because in a way, the dead person still lives as long as we share our memories of them.

And yet.

Shove a microphone in front of our faces, hear that question, and suddenly all that disappears. Instead of telling the world about our loved one, we fall back on stock phrases. We seem to be incapable of going beyond that, and the interviewers certainly don't push for details. Even in 'long form' interviews, we talk and talk about the circumstances of our loved one's death, taking great care to include every aspect - but we don't talk about the fact that she took the teddy bear she was given as a baby off to college with her. That sort of story doesn't come out unless we agree to do a 'special' program. Then - and only then - we are allowed to tell the world anything that will wring a few more tears from the TV audience.

There's a script. There are stock phrases, permitted synonyms and taboo topics. Think politics is full of standardised language? That's nothing to the media language of death, especially murder or teen suicide. Here are a few more. Every town is a 'tight-knit community'. Every mass shooting is an 'unspeakable tragedy'. (I find this one particularly ridiculous, since it's inevitably followed by a breathless, detailed description of exactly what happened.) Suicides 'slip through the cracks'. 'He was a quiet boy'. 'Everybody loved her'. 'The system failed her'. 'Cut down in his prime'.

Et cetera.

Don't believe me? Go hunt down some archival footage from any one of a dozen such incidents. And play bingo.

There's no doubt that the media encourages the script. No interviewer likes to be surprised, and no reporter likes to be caught without the 'right' words. Before we roundly chastise them for what amounts to an absolute de-humanisation of victims, however, we need to stop and acknowledge something about ourselves.

We read from that same script. We embrace that script. Confronted with the opportunity to tell the world about our loved one, we run back to the dubious safety of 'beautiful, smart, funny'. We are complicit in making them faceless.

It's easy to understand the media's motives, but why do we do it? Is it because we find it just too painful to talk freely? If that's the case, though, surely we would have a similar difficulty speaking openly at memorial services and to relative strangers.

What about context? Do we automatically shy away from sharing details about our loved ones with an audience we can neither see, nor hear? Is it simply safer to take refuge in vagueness?

Perhaps these contribute, but I believe there is a third - and most important - factor. We don't even think about it. Our mouths open, and the stock phrases are out before we realise it. It's a self-reinforcing paradigm. We've seen it at work so often that it's become 'the way things are done', or even 'the right words to use'. The microphone appears, the question is asked, and we respond as expected - and our loved ones become part of a generic mass of 'tragedy', indistinguishable from each other.

We owe them more than that.

I'm not advocating we give up our right to grieve privately. No one should be forced to walk in front of a camera. But if we make the decision to speak publicly, we must do so in a way that makes every one of our dead unforgettable. We do it with those who take the lives. How many of us know the names of the 35 people killed by Martin Bryant at Port Arthur in 1996, or the eleven elderly people murdered by Roger Dean's arson? Even if we can find their names, what do we know about them? We might be able to find out which ones were related to each other, but not much else. Unless we tracked down the relatives, we wouldn't know if one was a Dad with a penchant for cracking embarrassing jokes in front of his kids' friends. We'd know the exact causes of death for those who died in the Quakers Hill Nursing Home, but not whether one of those ladies had a secret love of watching Law and Order while drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows.

But Martin Bryant? Sure, we can find out all about him. There are papers, books, documentaries and any number of web pages devoted to the man who obliterated those 35 people. He has become part of our collective memory.

Surely those 35 people deserve at least as much from us.

In the end, it comes down to this - We who know the dead must speak for them. We must refuse 'beautiful, smart, funny'. We must grieve, we must be good to ourselves, and then we must say who our loved ones really are. We need to be more than a society that fetishises the killer and forgets the victim.

We must refuse the script, and speak from our hearts.
crazyjane: (me)
Of course, one had to make one's own amusement. Which one did. Via Twitter, and with the help of [personal profile] lokicarbis.

... I don't think any of this is treasonous.

The Beginning

Well, not actually the beginning, but I couldn't bear to watch the non-stop coverage from the previous day, including the dress rehearsal. I tuned in just in time to see the minor royals being herded into - of all things - maxi taxis for their ride to the Abbey. Classy.

I note the crowd are not exactly lining the streets. Perhaps they shouldn't keep going to the wide shot, so we can enjoy the illusion of crowds of royal well-wishers.

Then again, perhaps they shouldn't keep going to the close-ups. There are far too many American tourists festooned in souvenirs.

And, of course, we have the heart-warming sight of police eyeing off the crowds, armed with the Official Royal Wedding Automatic Rifle. Which will be on sale in all good Texas shops after the show.

The Arrivals

Nice to see the WAGS getting a bit of attention at this Brownlow - oh wait.

The ladies have strategically placed their satellite dishes on their heads to receive the 7PM Project's 'news coverage'

Clarence House informs us that the Royal Divorcees will arrive at the Abbey on their knees to be pelted with wedding cake by the crowd.

And here come Prince Andrew and his daughters. The Unseen Guest at the Wedding, Sarah Ferguson, is reportedly drowning her sorrows in a lot of gin right now. (Mind you, I can't help wondering how wonderfully catty it would be for her to do commentary on this event - because the BBC guy is boring me to tears. Out of solidarity with the Chaser, however, I will not be tuning in to Dame Edna or (god help me) Fitzy and Hughesy.)

Hmm, Princess Beatrice appears to be wearing apricot antlers to complement her outfit.

Or possibly a pretzel. Or a uterus. Or a tribute to the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

And there's Her Nibs, resplendent in bright yellow. English commentator: 'Crowd suddenly realising just who it is in that car'. Oh dear. Captain Obvious has the conn.

Little known #royalwedding facts: the Queen's outfit is dyed with the blood of 1000 canaries.

Dear me, was that a House Cavalryman falling off his horse behind Her Nibs' car? I do believe it was.

How nice. The Archbishop and the Queen have co-ordinated outfits for the occasion. Pay no attention to the death glare Her Nibs is shooting out from under that hat.

Camilla leaves the car to general indifference from the crowd. Charles, meanwhile, channels his Dad with that outfit, while rubbing it in that he will get to be King.

And there's the Royal Snub as Her Nibs and Camilla arrive on the doorstep.

Queen (thinks): One is not impressed that one's hat is smaller than That Woman's. One will have words with one's maids.

A fanfare rings out suddenly, and several rows of elderly dignitaries expire from shock as Her Nibs enters the Abbey.

The Bride Arrives

(via @jenbennet) BREAKING NEWS: Bride wearing white, has bouquet.

Little-known #royalwedding facts: the lace on Kate's dress was sewn at the London School of Needlwork by poor orphan girls in smocks, who are just grateful for a bit of charity from the fine ladies.

I see no golden carriage. They promised us a golden carriage. Overthrow the monarchy!

From the speed of the bridal limo, the wedding's running late.

Inside the limo: Dad, I want to stop at Starbucks on the way there.

At the Abbey doorstep, Kate pauses to give the crowd a good eyeful while flower girls flutter around her, looking entirely unlike bluebirds of happiness. English commentator: 'They're just making sure everything is unsoiled and undamaged'. Oh dear. Where do they find these people?

Kate: 'Hello, peasants'. Kate's Dad: 'Not yet, dear.'

And a million sentimental saps go 'Awwwwwww' as the flower girls enter. Sadly, not one of them throws a tantrum or dumps an entire basket full of rose petals in a heap in front of the bride, creating the potential for the winner of Britain's Funniest Home Videos.

No meringue on that dress. Shame on Kate for not being a carbon copy of Diana. Actually, it looks like something I saw in a shop in Brunswick last week. No, really.

English commentator, gushing: 'I am beside myself, this is such a fashion moment'. I am literally helpless with laughter.

The Ceremony

As the bride begins her walk to the altar, the strains of 'Highway to Hell' ring out.

I wonder if the guests in the arms of the cathedral's cross got cheaper seats, or if they have a Third Umpire-style giant LCD screen with instant replay.

At the altar, Prince Harry looks dishevelled and disreputable after menacing bridesmaid Pippa Middleton in the vestry. He appears to be possessed by the spirit of Prince Hal from Henry IV Part 1. Meanwhile, Wills, having misplaced his mourning coat and cravat, has quickly nipped out to the local costume shop to borrow an outfit from last Christmas' panto production of The Nutcracker.

Twelve ... hours ... later ... (That's one long aisle)

Proof this wedding isn't directed by Disney, despite the inexplicable presence of suspiciously green trees in the Abbey: no bluebirds. The strategic placement of the choirboys behind the red lamps, however, creates the amusing illusion that they are each, in fact, wearing a fez.

Wills appears to be stuck in a giggle loop. It may have something to do with Harry leaning over to whisper, 'Phwoar, you're in tonight, mate!' as Kate sailed up the aisle.

Oh no, apparently he only said, 'She looks beautiful'. Stupid lip-readers. Spoil all my fun.

The congregation launches into 'Guide Me, O Thou Great Reedemer', and there isn't a dry eye in the house.

Her Nibs (thinks): One is unsure if it is a touching tribute or simply bad taste to choose the same hymn as was played at one's daughter-in-law's funeral.

The Archbishop of Canterbury (hereafter known as the Dude in the Frock and Big Hat) sweeps forward to speak in forbiddingly plummy tones about the Dreadful Day of Judgment.

Harry (thinks): Total buzzkill. Why can't we have the guy from The Princess Bride instead?

Sir Elton - the other Queen - is visibly moved. One can hear him composing another mawkish tribute song in his head.

The ring is placed upon Kate's finger - or rather, forcibly rammed onto it. You'd think the Royal Jewellers might have measured it first. Apparently, Wills doesn't get a ring.

I visibly restrain myself from making 'one ring to rule them all' jokes.

Kate (sotto voce): 'If my finger drops off, don't think you're getting any, soldier boy.'

Hm, we appear to have duelling Archbishops. Or Bishops. Whatever. Dudes in frocks.

Little-known #royalwedding facts: In keeping with Prince Charles' 'green' consciousness, the ecclestiastical vestments used today will be recycled to upholster couches for the poor.

And forsooth, the vows are exchanged. It's all very Shakespearian - only without the sudden but inevitable betrayals by the Prince's younger brother (who is speculating on his chance of another quick visit to the vestry with Pippa Middleton), and far too little bloodshed. On long speeches, though, it's right on the money.

'Betwixt' - there's a word you don't hear often enough.

James Middleton - who bears the sad little title of 'Bride's Brother' - ascends to the lectern to read a pithy Bible verse. Apparently, someone forgot to put the box behind the lectern for him to stand on. He's barely visible.

Her Nibs takes the opportunity for a quick Nanna Nap as the Duelling Clergyman vie for the title of 'Most Boring Speaker'. Prince Phillip, an early contender for that honour, is clearly disgruntled.

Meanwhile, Pippa, surrounded by flower girls, appears to be dying for a toilet break.

Even the camera is bored. It's going for a wander. Hey, wait - isn't that the technique they use in filming US football, where they swoop the camera on a wire down the aisle? Classy.

Spotto in the audience: Prime Minister Gillard in yet another white blazer ... Ian Thorpe, who appears to be speculating on whether there's still time to hip-and-shoulder Kate aside and declare his undying love for Wills ... oh look, a Roman Catholic monsignor and an Orthodox priest in the naughty corner behind the ferns. And more fascinators than Oaks Day.

Short guy stuck behind really huge hat: 'Well, I'm having a dandy time.'

New theory on Beatrice's hat: it's actually a magical sigil to enable her to summon the Dread Elder Gods to wreak terrible revenge on Prince Andrew for giving her Sarah Ferguson for a mother.

Exit, Stage Right

That's one smug bride.

Kate (thinks): There are going to be some changes in the Palace now that I'm a Duchess. For a start, those hat of Beatrice's has got to go.

Oh, look, the golden carriage! I take it all back, the monarchy can stay.

And the crowd goes wild as the carriage speeds off through the streets. Meanwhile, back at the Abbey, Her Nibs is wondering who made off with her ride back to the Palace.

Several thousand police to the onlookers: 'Wave those bloody flags, peasants, or we'll 'ave you down the Tanty!'

Back at the Abbey, several guests are killed in the stampede for the Port-a-loos round the back. Eye injuries from dangerously tilted hats figure prominently in the casualty list. At last, the true reason for Beatrice's choice of hat is revealed: it enables her to lower her head and charge like a bull through the crowds of ladies heading for the toilets.

Her Nibs: One is not riding home in an Anglican Popemobile. One wants to know where one's carriage has got to.

Really, should they be playing 'God Save the Queen' as Kate and Wills clop by? It's a tad premature.

The Kiss

Hah. Like I'm going to comment on that.

... And so finally, finally it's over. And, not unlike a Logies awards show, there were a lot of dresses, far too much fatuous commentary and a lot of wondering why events like these can turn fervent feminists and republicans into squeeing fangirls.

I leave you with this, my personal candidate for Best Wedding Moment, which actually took place well after everyone had gone - the Amazing Cartwheeling Verger. It's the sheer shock and outrage from the BBC commentator that makes this particularly special, I think:

crazyjane: (shit_list)
My goodness, it's been a while, hasn't it?

For those who have started reading this journal in relatively recent times, the Shit List is an occasional post where I rant about the things that really, really outrage me. The name comes from a marvellous L7 Song, which I now post for your listening pleasure:

You shall not be amused )

Next up, it's time to take aim at the US Congress.

It's been ten years since the horrifying events of 9/11 - and, being something of an anniversary, it was perhaps inevitable that the events of the original day would enter the headlines fairly quickly. Some kind of tribute, perhaps, or maybe a 'where are they now?' series.

But no. Rather than any such 'human interest' reporting, the issue of healthcare for the 9/11 first responders has popped up - as in, when they might finally going to get some, so that they can pay their skyrocketing health bills.

What's that, you say? These people are heroes? They risked their lives to save as many as they could? Even when there was no hope, they sifted through the ruins looking for something, anything, to lay grieving relatives' minds to rest? They suffered terribly with psychological and physical problems - including cancer from breathing in the vaporised remains of concrete dust, asbestos and who knows what else - because their commitment to their duty outweighted concerns for their own safety? They're not already receiving the best healthcare government money can buy?

No. They're not. Their lives have been used as political footballs for nearly ten years.

So, when a bill designed to finally redress that unbelievable wrong - the Zadroga Bill, named for a first responder who died waiting for healthcare - looked like it might actually pass through both Houses, it seemed too good to be true.

It is.

You see, just as everything looked set to go, Republican Congressman Cliff Stearns from Florida added what he called 'a simple, straightforward amendment'. It imposes a teensy little condition that needs to be fulfilled before the frst responders can get any money at all.

They 'simply' have to agree to let the FBI investigate them, and have it proved to the government's satisfaction that they are not terrorists.

Yeah, you read that fucking right.

The heroes of 9/11 - the people who risked everything to do their jobs - and in many cases, volunteered to help because they were there and couldn't just stand by and watch - should be subjected to an incredible insult like this, just to go with everything they've suffered for the last decade.

Because, apparently, a deep-cover agent for al Qaeda might have been posing as a pretzel salesman on 9/11, and when the planes hit thought, 'Fantastic, I'll just pop on over there and risk my life helping out, because that way my cover will be impeccable and I get the bonus of scamming money from the government. Sweet!'

Bitch. PLEASE.

What's worse, is that this outrageous amendment was then endorsed by the Democrats. It sailed through the House.

What kind of fuckwit thinks like this? Who sits there and wonders if a firefighter who is dying of lung cancer might be a terrorist just waiting to be activated by his 'Islamist masters' - perhaps by suicide-bombing the Chemo Ward at the local hospital? How can someone be so lacking in basic human decency as to deny these people the healthcare they've desperately needed for years, finally hold it out to them - and then snatch it away with pious mouthings about how it 'makes a lot of sense' to insult them so grossly? (And yeah, I'm looking at you, Democratic leader Henry Waxman.)

Aaacchhhhhh. The idiocy is infuriating. Here are Jon Stewart's takes on it - he does the necessary ridicule and outrage at this idea far better than I ever could.

And then there's the Fundie. )

So, that's another Shit List wrapped up. Three continents, three stories to get your blood boiling - but at least there's some light in the last one.

Stay angry, fellow ranters, and remember - if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.
crazyjane: (shit_list)
Things you JUST DON'T DO - blame an 11 year old girl for being threatened, gang-raped and further humiliated by having the video of the rapes spread around via cellphone. Talk about how 'hard' it's going to be for the rapists to continue with their lives or how the basketball team will suffer because two of the eighteen men and boys who raped her were big stars on the team. Talk about how she shouldn't have worn makeup/dressed 'inappropriately'/talked to boys. In short, blame anyone but the rapists.

Things the New York Times DID do - blame an eleven year old girl, etc.

You see, it's all about the community. Woe is them. How will it ever recover from having so many of their men and boys arrested? And what about the poor boys? If they were 'drawn in', how will it affect the rest of their lives?

Oh, and did we mention the girl came from a 'poor' part of town, while at least one of the rapists was the son of a School Board member? As if that little bit of classism wasn't bad enough, US bloggers identified the phrase used in the article - 'the Quarter's - as a racist dogwhistle effectively meaning 'where the poor black trash live'.

Look at what she was wearing. And where was her mother? I mean, really, she was asking for it, wasn't she?

Excuse me. I can't keep writing that sort of disgusting stuff without a nausea/outrage break.

It's despicable. Utterly inexcusable and appalling. The girl was effectively made invisible by the NYT. Never mind that she was kidnapped ... threatened with violence if she didn't comply ... repeatedly raped ... filmed while she was being violated ... and then, when a relative of one of the rapists came home unexpectedly, they took her to another location and raped her again. Then, just to add insult to injury, they shared the videos around the town. It was only when a primary school girl saw one of those videos, and recognised the victim, that anyone contacted the police.

None of that, apparently, is important. The NYT seems more concerned with giving a bunch of rape apologists a free, uncritical platform for their hateful crap than it is with the fact a little girl suffered the most horrific violations imaginable. It's more worried about making sure readers know that a bunch of rapists might have to 'live with' what they've done than pointing out how that little girl's life has effectively been destroyed.

The girl is now in foster care 'for her own protection'. Her family has received death threats originating from within the community, and her parents are reportedly looking into how they can quickly move away from the area. None of that made the NYT, mind you - only independent news was ethical enough to bother following up on the victim. Or maybe they just weren't as lazy as the big paper.

The New York Times should be ashamed of itself. It should apologise unreservedly to the girl and her family - and it should do so on the front page, with a banner headline.

And now The Age has repeated this rubbish. Not even an attempt to show balanced reporting or compassion for the victim. It's not like it would be hard to find a rape counsellor to talk about the long-term effects of violent sexual assault, or even run off a quick op-ed piece about this community's appalling lack of empathy for a violated little girl.

Lazy journalism, perpetuating a culture where a rapist gets more sympathy than a rape victim. The same culture where a girl who comes forward to tell her story of being little more than a plaything for 'elite athletes' gets called a 'skank' and a 'whore', and blamed for ruining those athletes' careers. The same culture that says it's not as 'bad' if a rape victim is a prostitute, because she has to expect it (and that's a quote from a judge).


A girl was RAPED - did everyone in the fucking mainstream media forget that little fact?

It makes me want to go hug my daugters very, very tightly - because they're rapidly becoming young women, growing up into this culture.

August 2017

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