Anyone who has spent time poking around on the internet will not be surprised that a story involving sexual assault, Muslims and a blonde reporter who once did part-time work as a swimsuit model unleashed a torrent of venom and vulgarity all over the web.
In the wake of CBS’s report that their reporter Lara Logan had been the victim of a “brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating,” many news consumers reacted with empathy and support — and many others reacted with vitriol and vicious mockery.
Hundreds of comments on this Yahoo News story, for instance, are variations of slurs against Muslims and Arabs, calls to “eradicate” them and assertions that anyone who goes into the presence of a Muslim man deserves to be raped. (Never mind, of course, that we do not know for sure who the attackers are, and never mind that Logan was rescued by an intrepid group of women and members of the Egyptian army, many of whom were no doubt Muslims and/or Arabs.)
Hundreds more commenters crudely speculate about Logan’s body and the details of the attack. They call her “stupid,” “arrogant,” a “tramp,” a “bimbo,” a “professional victim,” and a “liar,” who was “flashing her titties,” and should be “grateful” and “grow up” — along with a laundry list of other invectives, many of them unprintable.
Several say the attack is “karma!” for the presumed advantages she has gained as a reporter with her “super-model looks,” or her just deserts for her presumed liberal politics.
At NPR, the comments got so bad that not only were dozens deleted, one correspondent wrote a post reiterating the comment policy and writing “There’s much we don’t know about what happened. Until we learn more, for example, jumping to conclusions about her attackers adds nothing to the discussion. They’re criminals. Period.” He continues, “Blaming the victim is an old, tired game. Please don’t.”
“It Kinda Warms My Heart”
But the victim-blaming and Muslim-bashing wasn’t a phenomenon only of the nastiest sort of anonymous internet commentators.
Nir Rosen, a left-wing writer and former NYU fellow — who resigned after being widely denounced for his reaction to this story — tweeted that she was “probably groped,” and that the attack was “wrong…but it would have been funny if it happened to Anderson too.” (The last tweet is quoted by several news sources, but has been deleted from Rosen’s twitter feed.) While Rosen didn’t directly blame Logan for the assault, he seemed to suggest that her previous political positions made her less worthy of sympathy and defense, tweeting, “jesus christ, at a moment when she is going to become a martyr and glorified we should at least remember her role as a major war monger.” Rosen has since apologized several times.
A few right-wing pundits seem to agree that the attack on Logan was a just — or at least, inevitable — consequence of holding ideas they find objectionable.
Debbie Schlussel captioned a picture of Logan “Alhamdillullah [praise allah] [sic, she's spelling it wrong], Islam Fan Lara Logan Gets a Taste of Islam.” She writes, “it bothers me not a lick when mainstream media reporters who keep telling us Muslims and Islam are peaceful get a taste of just how ‘peaceful’ Muslims and Islam really are. In fact, it kinda warms my heart.” She’s since updated the post to say those who read that statement as saying she supports sexual violence are “morons.”
At GatewayPundit, Jim Hoft suggests that the attack on Logan was the result of “political correctedness,” writing, “Why did this attractive blonde female reporter wander into Tahrir Square last Friday?…Did she not see the rock throwing? Did she miss the camels?…What was she thinking? Was it her political correctness that about got her killed?”
Logan has “wandered” through many war zones, and I think it’s safe to say she noticed that Egypt was in turmoil. Hoft’s inference, of course, is that by not giving up on the story she is partly to blame for being attacked — and that “political correctedness” in the only conceivable reason a pretty female reporter would want to report on one of the most important stories in the world.
Stand Against the Tide
Many internet writers and media figures have criticized the rampant victim-blaming and Muslim-bashing swirling around the story. Just a few stories critiquing the uproar include “What Not to Say About Lara Logan,” by Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon, “Trigger Warning: The Lara Logan Case on the Net” by Echidne of the Snakes, and “After Lara Logan’s Assault, Media Helpfully Discuss Her Hotness,” at Jezebel. In addition, no matter how vile comment sections on the news stories get, there are always commenters who stand up to those who are making rape jokes and comparing Muslims to insects.
None of the blaming, shaming and attacking happening on the internet around this story is new; the nonsensical arguments, the slurs and the crude jokes are all too frequently employed when it comes to news stories about sexual assault.
However, because the public is paying attention to this story, it’s an opportunity to bring these arguments out into the light and expose their nastiness and their foolishness. If we can make a case for not victim-blaming Lara Logan, and not using an assault on her as an excuse to stigmatize Muslims, then hopefully we can encourage people to question victim-blaming and racist or Muslim-bashing rhetoric in other cases that are less high-profile.
Photo is from Wikimedia Commons.