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Well, they've been found.
August 25, 2002 10:51 PM   Subscribe

Well, they've been found. The remains of Ashley Pond and Miranda Gaddis, the highly-publicized first victims of the "summer of child kidnappings," have been found at the [former] home of the FBI's main "subject of interest."

Damn, damn, damn.
posted by wdpeck (102 comments total)

 
A lot of people, not the least of which the families of the girls, held out hope that they were still alive, somewhere, somehow.

Most of the state of Oregon, and most especially the Oregon City community, are in a state of shock and grief now. One of the local TV reporters who had covered the story from day one, and interviewed the "subject" last month (during which he vehemently protested his innocence, ad threatened to sue the FBI and Oregon City Police for harassment and "defamation"), actually broke down on camera when the first body was found yesterday.

At least they have been found -- the families can start to come to grips with the reality of their deaths, and the "subject" (Ward Weaver, who is in custody for raping his son's girlfriend, and whose father, ironically, is on California's death row for rape and murder) can face the consequences of his vile actions.

Whatever your religious beliefs or practices, a prayer or thought for their families would be in order, I think.
posted by wdpeck at 11:00 PM on August 25, 2002


I'm guessing this will be the last kidnapping the media will tell us to care about since the 9/11 anniversary is around the corner. I'm saving up my prayers and thoughts for instances in my immediate sphere of influence, I spare none for media frenzies.

Yes, I know it is a horrible thing to say. And you might say, "why say it at all then, Mr. Insensitive?" I agree it's a sad story, but no different from opening the newspaper on any day in any city around the world, and only then lives are sometimes reduced to the police blotter section. Excuse me if I have derailed the thread, I've just been overhyped to the point of extreme apathy about this stuff. Say, did they find Jon Benet's killer yet?
posted by Stan Chin at 11:24 PM on August 25, 2002


"I agree it's a sad story, but no different from opening the newspaper on any day in any city around the world, and only then lives are sometimes reduced to the police blotter section. Excuse me if I have derailed the thread, I've just been overhyped to the point of extreme apathy about this stuff."

Be sure to come back and remind us of this when it is your daughter, your wife, your mother, your sister this happens to, okay?

The 'I only care about the people I know' stance is just another form of cowardice, I think.
posted by kristin at 11:29 PM on August 25, 2002


I'm inclined to agree with Stan Chin. Just because something gets hyped country-wide doesn't necessarily make it demand a personal act of grieving. How many cases which you don't know about are you personally grieving over? It frankly seems disingenuous to me, geared to making yourself feel better or superior.
posted by HTuttle at 11:37 PM on August 25, 2002


Be sure to come back and remind us of this when it is your daughter, your wife, your mother, your sister this happens to, okay?

If that happened I'd be devastated, but I'm not going to expect anyone else to care, except those I have made a connection with (friends, family, friends of deceased).

Caring about every wrong in the world is noble, but I feel it would drive me mad. If you have the capability, then I applaud your efforts.

I do not believe sympathy is an inexhaustible resource.
posted by Stan Chin at 11:43 PM on August 25, 2002


I don't have the stats on 'caring about your fellow man' as being an inexhaustible resource, but I do have some anecdotal evidence that selfishness is.
posted by kristin at 11:51 PM on August 25, 2002


the "summer of child kidnappings,"

Is this like the "Summer of the Shark" not too long ago? Kidnapping is wrong, horrible and disgusting, but how many more kidnappings happened this summer over last? How many more kidnappings happened this summer compared to the past decade?

Media outlets feed off each other. Then the people who watch, feed off the information... so the media thinks "Hey, these people really want to know about kidnappings... let's find other stories that we can publicize."

Next thing you know, KHQ6 out of Spokane, WA, will be your "Local Kidnapping Watch Source."

Next breaking news event? Oh yeah, 911. Buh bye kidnappings...
posted by damclean2 at 11:53 PM on August 25, 2002


I didn't find Stan Chin's comment offensive; I agree with him, though I would have stated it differently. I always feel so manipulated when I hear stories about things like this on the news. They only expect us to care some of the time. Kids go missing every day; they only make the news if they're cute or quirky in some way. If they also happen to be rich, then we've got a media feeding frenzy on our hands.

So as far as "when it is your daughter, your wife, your mother, your sister" goes, well, I would ask that for consistency's sake you be sure to shed a tear for each and every one of the thousands of children who go missing every year, and not just the few who make the news. I don't deny the power of individual stories like this one to touch the hearts of the people who follow them. Maybe it's even helpful, bringing the problem to a wider audience and causing us as a society to think more about children's safety. But I still find it depressing that a few children are searched for (and, unfortunately, mourned) by a nation while countless others are never mentioned again by anyone outside of their immediate family.

Personally, I don't have enough moisture in my body to shed a tear for all of them. So, like Stan Chin and others who've chimed in already, I'm afraid I'll have to save my tears for now, with all due apologies to those who were touched personally by these events. If it ever does happen to someone close to me, I'll shed enough for all of us, and not burden you at all.
posted by Acetylene at 11:57 PM on August 25, 2002


Funny. I get little things in my mail every week about little kids being kidnapped. It happens thousands of times a year, many fatally. My question is why the mainstream media has been harping on these so much. I mean, as many kids were abducted last year, and as many will be abducted next year. I'm aware that it's a problem, and I pity the families of EVERY abducted child, but I refuse to cry over this media crap until someone explains why it's news now, and it wasn't news last year.
posted by fnord_prefect at 11:59 PM on August 25, 2002


Nice to see cynicism and venom are alive and well at MeFi.

Well, the "media frenzy" most likely saved the two girls in southern California last month, whose kidnapper was preparing to kill them in the desert, but was instead shot and killed by police. Police who had been pointed in their precise direction by people (amazingly, people to whom the girls were not even related! -- wonder why they would get involved?) who were cognizant enough to have heard the report of the kidnapping on one of the "frenzied" media outlets and act on it.

So, if you're just too snarky or "with it" to "shed a tear" for these girls, perhaps you would at least be so kind as to curb the 'tudes should you ever have the opportunity to save some person's health & life by information you learned through the vile media.

All crimes of this type are repugnant, but I guess I fail to "get it" when those who don't care about particular cases dis those who do care about them. And, you know, I do see shit like this every day at my job -- but I still feel bad for all the victims and their families. Frankly, I would be scared of myself the day I didn't.
posted by wdpeck at 12:13 AM on August 26, 2002


BTW, I put the phrase "summer of child kidnappngs" in quotes precisely because the stats may not necessarily support the claim (just like the "summer of shark attacks" last year). In fact, I think it's a stupid term [as it tends to diminish the true impact of the story, kind of like any news event suddenly being named and branded like a product: "Election 2000" for example].

However, in many people's minds, regardless of the numbers, this is the year it came to the front of their awareness, whatver the reason.
posted by wdpeck at 12:18 AM on August 26, 2002


Kristin and wdpeck, I understand why you believe I take a position of selfishness and cynicism, that's your prerogative. I apologize if you thought I was attacking you or anyone else for caring, I think that's fantastic and indicative of a wonderful heart.

Fnord, I also get those "Have you seen me?" flyers in the mail. Usually my answer is "Nope haven't seen em... Hey, coupons!" I realize why this response would make another person angry at my callous attitude, but oh well. Fortunately I have not personally known anyone who has been involved in a kidnapping trauma, but as soon as I do... I think I'd be more understanding and sympathetic of the pain involved.
posted by Stan Chin at 12:25 AM on August 26, 2002


i'm not numbed to the horror of child murder at all. the fact that the cases just keep on coming frightens me.

stan chin: i pity you. if you are apathetic to child torture, rape and murder, i pity you.

here in belgium the dutroux case still disturbs an entire nation. dutroux was procuring girls for persons unknown, but for people with incredible influence: see here for more.

we have two gorgeous 13 year old girls and i admit that my partner and i are just terrified that something may happen to them. if anything did, i have no idea how/if we would cope. what the victims and their families suffer is beyond our comprehension, but we can offer sympathy and we can watch out for our own and our neighbours children. we can be alert for danger signs.

this may be a better response than stan chin's apathy.

please read the links.
posted by quarsan at 12:37 AM on August 26, 2002


Nice to see cynicism and venom are alive and well at MeFi.

If understanding that the media disproportionately reports events and that it's not news that people do bad things makes me venomous or a cynic, then you can lump me in with that category.

The chances of one of my loved ones being kidnapped is pretty close to the chances of me winning the lottery.

Also, I didn't know either of those children, and speaking frankly I wasn't in distress when they were kidnapped or relieved to see that they were back. If I said so, I'd be lying. I agree with Stan that it's not possible, and surely not even reasonable to really care. If you think that I'm selfish because of that, that's fine. I think your sanctimonious bullshit plays just like the evening news.
posted by eyeballkid at 12:39 AM on August 26, 2002


Pardon. I mean saddened to see them found. I was thinking about the girls kidnapped here near Palmdale.
posted by eyeballkid at 12:40 AM on August 26, 2002


Whatever your stance on the comments, there is practically no denying the media is ravenous for this sort of thing. Frankly, it disturbs me that we've grown into a culture that WAITS on the next "big thing" in the news...

And what disturbs me more is a culture that is driven to action based on the choices of a handful of media executives. Stan's attitude is JUST the sort of reaction being nurtured in most of American's based on an oversaturation of individual issues. I am certainly no Luddite in regards to TV, but IMHO, we need to hold the pirates that hijacked OUR airwaves responsible for the sensationalism they present us.
posted by FilmMaker at 12:41 AM on August 26, 2002


Blast it... I am half asleep... my apologies. The link for my comment above SHOULD have gone HERE.
posted by FilmMaker at 12:43 AM on August 26, 2002


Who says one has to take the weight of the world onto their shoulders to care about other people? My life is hectic, ever-changing, always busy, and generally more sad/unfulfilled/discontent than happy. Watching the news is something I avoid like a plague. Escapism is my middle name. If it's not being thrust in my face, I don't think about it.

But when I do hear about children kidnapped, or people raped, or murdered, it all touches some integral part of me that I like to think of as "humanity." I don't often cry about it at all; sometimes I've used all my tears on myself and the people around me. That doesn't lessen the anger, sadness, and other human emotions that surface when faced with these things.

It is this type of complexity of emotion and comprehension that separates homo sapiens from the lesser species, isn't it?

For whatever their reasons, the media serves to humanize the larger entity of violence and crime that it is so easy to discount, so long as it doesn't touch us. This is not a bad thing. What's ten times as worse is someone who can reach into themselves and come up with little more than nonchalance when it comes to other people in pain.

It's obvious that some men (and women) are islands. Trendily cynical little islands.

We so don't need them, here on the mainland.
posted by precocious at 12:52 AM on August 26, 2002


Here in Britain, the news has been dominated in the last three weeks by the murders of two girls, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

Whilst I have every sympathy with the family, it concerns me that the press have decided we should have a national outpouring of grief. We even had a nation-wide minute's silence on Saturday.

We did not have a minute's silence last year when Sarah Payne was murdered in similar circumstances, and that was a case that the press descended upon. What about all those which the national press has, for the most part, conveniently ignored?

There are fears now that the press intrusion may damage the case, a lynch mob attacked a police van conveying the suspect's girlfriend to court (charged with perverting the course of justice) and even the local clergyman has had to ask for some privacy for the village.

Ultimately, whether talking about this case here, or the "Summer of Kidnappings" in the US, kidnappings/murders only make the headlines if they're going to sell papers or make ratings.
posted by saintsguy at 12:53 AM on August 26, 2002


(...with the families...)
posted by saintsguy at 12:54 AM on August 26, 2002


I don't have the stats on 'caring about your fellow man' as being an inexhaustible resource, but I do have some anecdotal evidence that selfishness is.

no shit. how hard is it to hold out a good thought for a few seconds when you read about someone else's misfortune...? of course you can't shed a tear for every story, everyone reaches their limit from day to day, week to week, etc. you're not required to tear your heart out and eat it for christ's sake. but when you hear a story you can say to yourself "god (or universe or whatever) please let this child come home", and then move away from it back to your own world. if you can't muster that then imo you're defective, and i'm going hold out a good thought for you. you need it.

as for the media frenzy surrounding missing children; good, let them feed on it. i don't give a damn what the media's motives are. so what if it's for ratings, so what if the media gets maudlin about it and suggests nat'l moments of silence etc. i've got my own mind and i'm smart enough to filter out the shit, aren't you...? all that matters is it seems to be working in terms of finding kids and or solving cases.

i suppose i should disclaim that i'm a former "missing child", kidnapped out of my home country. luckily my father, the rcmp, and the nypd were smart enough and fast enough to secure a happy ending without the benefit of this generation's media attn, amber alerts and the like.
posted by t r a c y at 1:04 AM on August 26, 2002


I remember watching the news in beaverton when the coroner pulled up to the tents (used to keep people from seeing what was going on) in that white van.

Then I remembered that my friend bet me 5 bucks ward weaver didnt do it.

Whats the moral to this story? There is none. I won 5 bucks, though.
posted by Keyser Soze at 1:06 AM on August 26, 2002


Trendily cynical little islands

That's almost funny. To accuse someone who can't work up any feeling toward a televised update about a kidnapping that bears no direct relation to their own lives of being cynical is ridiculous.

To also assume that someone who feels that way has no empathy is even more so.

Do I think it's a bad thing? Of course it is. Can I understand what the family is going through? No. I have not children and have never had a loved one vanish. Should I identify the situation as wrong? Yes. Should I devote my time feeling badly about the plight of people that, I repeat, until they appeared on my local news station, I had never heard of? No.

If I was going to give my time to caring about every person that was shot, stabbed, murdered, killed in a car, raped, drowned, over-dosed, abducted, committed suicide, died of an incurable disease that I happened across in the news outlets, I wouldn't have time for anything else and my disposition would never rise above believing that the world is a horrible place. (Which is just what keeps people coming back to the local new broadcasts.)

Saying I did care about those girls would feel cheap considering that I can care while the news is on today, and so can everyone else who points fingers and calls others callous for not caring, but in a few months, I and them, will be watching some other hideous horror unfold and won't even remember these girl's names.

I don't mean to cheapen the families' loss in any way. Their families will remember forever because it is happening to them.
posted by eyeballkid at 1:07 AM on August 26, 2002


Jesus H. Christ, all Stan Chin did was have the honesty to 'fess up to a viewpoint I suspect is rather more prevalent than otherwise. He has been nothing short of gracious, furthermore, in deflecting some fairly low ad-hominem attacks certain of y'all has cast his way.

I sense an invocation of Godwin's Law in the not-too-terribly-distant future.
posted by adamgreenfield at 1:12 AM on August 26, 2002


We need a cable channel devoted solely to child abductions and missing children.

That way those who care, can tune in regularly and those who want news at the macro level can get the information they want from news channels that report news stories that affect a broad cross section of the population.
posted by yertledaturtle at 1:14 AM on August 26, 2002


stance is just another form of cowardice
evidence that selfishness
cynicism and venom
i pity you. if you are apathetic to child torture, rape and murder, i pity you
separates homo sapiens from the lesser species, isn't it?
Trendily cynical little islands

if you can't muster that then imo you're defective

Wow, I think I just unintentionally trolled Metafilter.
posted by Stan Chin at 1:14 AM on August 26, 2002


as for the media frenzy surrounding missing children; good, let them feed on it. i don't give a damn what the media's motives are ..... all that matters is it seems to be working in terms of finding kids and or solving cases.

What if the media attention devoted to one case were spread more equally over 10, 20 or 50 cases? Perhaps they could actually make a difference then...... but would it sell as many papers?
posted by saintsguy at 1:20 AM on August 26, 2002


Jesus H. Christ, all Stan Chin did was have the honesty to 'fess up to a viewpoint I suspect is rather more prevalent than otherwise. He has been nothing short of gracious, furthermore, in deflecting some fairly low ad-hominem attacks certain of y'all has cast his way.

You mean we should be more sensitive towards him?? LOL! Well, I don't think I can muster the fairness required to appreciate his honesty. I have a lot of people in my family and circle of friends which limits the "human resources" I have available for strangers. Doh!
posted by zarah at 1:26 AM on August 26, 2002


Stan Chin,

Although I respect your right to your opinions, may I suggest the following quote:

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

John Donne (Google directory)

You can find the entire quote here.

It only takes a few minutes to read but there are treasures to be found in these words that may benefit you for the rest of your life.

Peace.
posted by cup at 1:26 AM on August 26, 2002


I'd hate to put words in Stan Chins mouth (so to speak) but I dont think he feels nothing for these or any other victims, even if its no more than a second spent in contemplation. He's protesting the vulturous media, feeding off our emotions for their next paycheck, and i dont think anyone can believe that that is bad.
posted by zoid at 1:40 AM on August 26, 2002


It is important to remember that the heavy media coverage of the Holly and Jessica case in Britain was actively managed by the police in the early days of the investigation. Cambridgeshire police simply did not have the manpower to cope with a double kidnapping and so needed the publicity to help find the girls. Given that it was silly season, where nothing news worthy normally happens, the media were more than happy to pounce on the poigniant tale, and provide the police their publicity. The fact that the policy started to backfire and potentially harm the case as mentioned by saintsguy above is something that the police will hopefully learn from.
posted by chill at 1:40 AM on August 26, 2002


24,000 people die needlessly of starvation everyday

Somebody said that one death is a tragedy, a thousand a statistic.
posted by SpaceCadet at 1:45 AM on August 26, 2002


What if the media attention devoted to one case were spread more equally over 10, 20 or 50 cases? Perhaps they could actually make a difference then...... but would it sell as many papers?

maybe, maybe not. the media is a fickle beastie and it's never going to rise above that, plus certain types of people get tired of certain types of stories because it doesn't entertain them. but high profile cases result in tools such as the amber alert system (which will benefit children who may not make the cnn news alert) and it also brings awareness to the community level where people find ways to help themselves (street proofing, neighborhood watch, dumbasses realizing they should lock their doors at night).

there's talk of a 24 hour missing persons channel which would be interesting to see get off the ground.
posted by t r a c y at 1:58 AM on August 26, 2002


Stan, you are such an evil monster. I can't believe you are allowed out in public near children. You are horrible and obviously of a "lesser species".

Obviously you have no soul, no morals, no conscience, and would make a fairly poor tropical island holiday destination, metaphorically insulting, of course.
posted by elphTeq at 2:00 AM on August 26, 2002


I grew up around the area and went to school a couple blocks from where the Oregon City girls were kidnapped from, so I don't have the same distance from the incident as most people here . It's easy for me to see and understand how people could not really care, though. I usually pay little attention to kidnapping stories, because they fall outside my realm of interest, and I've definitely grown sick of the media's hype this summer.
It's not mandatory for anyone to set up tiny shrines in their home or office, or even to shed a single tear, but the case was odd enough to warrant attention, and it seems closure might be appreciated for some. The fact that one girl disappeared 2 months after the other, and from the same location, and that they knew each other, etc... was unusual enough to make it newsworthy.
I don't think it's quite correct to write the frenzy off to the girls being cute, quirky, or rich, because they weren't really any of those. I mean, cute in the way most little girls are, and special in the way all children are special, but they weren't exactly flawless children of highly reputable society figures .
I think there's a whole lot of ugly back story to this case, and it's just starting to come out.
posted by redsparkler at 2:09 AM on August 26, 2002


Stan, you are such an evil monster. I can't believe you are allowed out in public near children. You are horrible and obviously of a "lesser species".

The point you are making can also be depressingly applied to large portions of the public here in Britain (and I suspect the US). For while the extensive media coverage of individual cases like these have little emotional impact on some, it turns others into part of an irrational baying mob. Witness the case in Britain a couple of years ago where a paediatrician was beaten because he was mistaken for a paedophile.
posted by chill at 2:25 AM on August 26, 2002


The only thing cynical and jaded about "The Summer of Child Kidnapping" are news outlets milking the tragedies of a handful of children for ratings during a slow news cycle. Or the sideshow of shark bite victims, or an intern in DC, or suburban school shootings, or the murder of a little girl from Boulder.

All you do-gooders that are shocked, shocked by anyone's hesitancy to weep on command had better well deplore the exploitation of these children by the vile and heartless news-tainment industry. I can guarentee you next summer they will have some other story to fill time between advertisements.

It's that, or steel yourselves for the painful news that you are easily manipulated and emotionally exploited by Tragedy Porn.

cup, here's another quote:

"The fly that sips treacle is lost in the sweets."
-- John Gay, The Beggar's Opera. Act ii. Sc. 2.
posted by raaka at 3:23 AM on August 26, 2002


chill: (quoting from the article...) A female registrar was hounded from her South Wales home because neighbours confused "paediatrician" with "paedophile." --- SHE would appear to be being confused for a HE, as well :)
posted by kaemaril at 3:30 AM on August 26, 2002


Stan, you are such an evil monster. I can't believe you are allowed out in public near children. You are horrible and obviously of a "lesser species".

Elphteq, I hope for your sake that was some kind of irony-laden joke comment. Otherwise, it was WAY out of bounds.

If we banished to Hades everyone who harbored thoughts of ignoring the social contract from time to time, we'd all be playing pinochle down there right now, and you know it.
posted by PrinceValium at 3:43 AM on August 26, 2002


I'm pretty sure he was being sarcastic, PrinceValium. Hence the bit about Stan being a "fairly poor tropical island holiday destination".
posted by web-goddess at 4:14 AM on August 26, 2002


"Is not all life the struggle of experience, naked, unarmed, timid but immortal, against generalised thought?"

Quotes are fun.

And PrinceValium, I'm pretty sure Elphteq was joking (I laughed at the quip about making a poor tropical destination, at any rate). Even if he wasn't joking, however, I always have time for a friendly game of deciding who should be kicked out of the human race. At least until the media gets ahold of it and turns it into a Christmas News Bonanza entitled The winter of kicking people out of the human race for saying insensitive and disagreeable things. Sorry, I always get a kick out of imagining news celebrities saying wild and zany things (this time it was Stone Phillips). Hopefully if they decide to bastardize this cherished passtime, they at least kick out a few people who really deserve it--or maybe some people I like who can form a sort of super-human race that live as a dark sect of humanity shrowded within a great air of mystery on a reasonably large and well-furnished island that was once L.A but split apart from the rest of the continent during an earthquake (isn't that how the movie went?). Maybe they'll kick out Vin Diesel instead of Kurt Russel though: he's way cooler.

/whatever that was.
posted by The God Complex at 4:25 AM on August 26, 2002


Valium: that was pretty obviously sarcasm on the poster's part. Or stupidity so grotesque that you might as well believe it was sarcasm because it isn't good for anything else.

As for the girls, I'm with Stan Chin and then some. I simply do not care about these girls in the least and I'm not afraid to say it. There isn't any one human being on the planet including myself whose kidnapping would stir more than an attempt to change the conversation topic out of me (and in case you have to ask, I'm not here to weep, I'm here to discuss heartlessness) out of honest lack of interest.

You want my pity? Go look at what the people in Jenin had done to their family members. The pictures of the gore filtered out of every major media source are up on rotten.com if you can stomach them. My pity lies with those people and their families - they weren't just killed or kidnapped or something natural. They were brutally slaughtered and have no hope of ever seeing justice at all. That's where my pity goes. To the six million Jews in the Holocaust or the two million German women raped by the Russian counterattack. Not for 'poor little cute kids' who would have just grown up into yet more big boring biomass feeding the monsters of this world, and had a much better time of the lives that they were given than many children around the globe are permitted.

I suspect my opinions won't be very popular, but I'd like those reading them to first consider the following very apt quotation from Josef Stalin: 'a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.' You want inhuman? You want cynical? That said quotation is fact is both and then some. Worry about two kids living here in Epicurean Hedonist Central? To Hell with that, I'd rather save my pity for the 1.5 million people of Sierra Leone who truly deserve it.
posted by Ryvar at 4:29 AM on August 26, 2002


Kudos to Stan for having the guts to express an opinion that he knew he would take a lot of flack for. And to Ryvar as well for a very articulate (and, I believe, accurate) summation.

I don't get those flyers in the mail. I contacted the organization that sends them out and had their delivery to my mailbox stopped.
posted by bingo at 4:36 AM on August 26, 2002


At the risk of sticking my neck out, isn't it just as selfish to worry about child rape/murder/abduction happening to one's family or friends as it is to feel dispassionate over it happening to people unknown? Granted, selfishness can be a defensive tool and therefore not a bad thing, but it is selfishness just the same.

There is no doubt that many people have genuine feelings of grief and loss over people that they don't know, and that is a completely praise-worthy way to be. But for those people who have damned Stan Chin for his position on this subject, don't you feel that you are putting yourselves in a polarized position? On the one hand you feel complete empathy for the grieving families and on the other you are making personal attacks towards a person who may be a very caring and loving individual. All we know of Stan Chin is that he is somewhat (understandably) desensitized to the plight of people who he doesn't know and who are at a great distance to him.

Ryvar, that is a very succinct and apt quote. Good point.
posted by ashbury at 5:00 AM on August 26, 2002


I've come this thread a bit late, but I think it's worth making some observations. Here in Britain, the news has recently been dominated by the kidnapping and murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman. There has been the usual emphasis on a society becoming corrupt. People are asking what sort of a world we live in when children can be abducted. Unfortunately it's not a new thing. On average in the UK, 6 children are kidnapped by strangers and killed. This has been a statistic which has held (I think) for many years. This is nothing new. The emphasis on this case is more to do with the fact that it's summer, and there is little else for the newspapers to report on. We've already had the usual silly season asteroid hitting the earth story.

What scares me is that news like this does nothing except ensure that children are kept locked up at home. In fifty years time when a generation of fat, scared, socially incapable people start keeling over from heart attacks, I think they'll look back at our generation, and ask themselves "what were they thinking". Of course these murders are terrible things, but I don't think the media should be scaring people so much.

I've also had this conversation with a couple of friends. Without exception, they've looked at me as if I was mad, and told me that I'd understand more if I had children of my own. Without exception, the Jessica and Holly news has caused them extreme anguish. Despite protestations to the opposite, this isn't anguish for the kidnapped children, this is a fear for their own children. There was a minutes silence last Saturday. I'm betting that a large percentage of people were praying "Please, God. Don't let this happen to me."

We know that thousands of children die each day from starvation. The difference is that a parent can ensure that their kids don't starve. What they can't stop is this sort of random attack.

These stories aren't about caring for other people. These stories are about caring for our own selfish genes.
posted by seanyboy at 5:14 AM on August 26, 2002


I didn't have my statistics quite right and I couldn't find the a good link before, but here it is. From the BBC...

Yet in Britain today, a child is no more likely to be abducted and killed than 30 years ago, when boys and girls tended to roam with more freedom.



posted by seanyboy at 5:19 AM on August 26, 2002


"there's talk of a 24 hour missing persons channel which would be interesting to see get off the ground."

Then people can have all of their emotional needs met by a television set!

To get all worked up over something that happens far away, to people you don't know, that you can have no effect on seams 'Safe' to me.

"What could I do it was so far away?"

There are things happening in your own city, probably your own block, that you can have an effect on. Instead people are too busy being emotionally drained by things the media tells them is more important, and then have the audacity to condemn others for seeing through the bullshit.

The world outside your door is more important then the one inside your TV.
posted by Mick at 5:55 AM on August 26, 2002


seanyboy, not only have the statistics not changed in recent years but a child is still more likely to be killed by being struck by lightning (apologies though as I cannot find the original source of this statistic).

The media undoubtedly have a role to play in these investigations and the police have acknowledged that they are crucial in the 'golden period' of 24 hours after the kidnapping. After that though, the benefits start to be outweighed by the disadvantages of overwhelming public interest. This manifested itself in Soham through the sheer weight of irrelevant information and false leads from 'do-gooders', many of whom were responding to the the huge offers of rewards from the national press. The repercussions of this and the behaviour of the press in general are already starting to be felt.

Perhaps the sickest element of the above link is the fact that coach-parties have started to take detours to the village to view the flowers, books of condolence etc.

I am also worried about the 'democratisation of grief' apparent in these cases. In the UK it started with Diana, and has been very apparent with this case. It is as if everyone feels they have the right to grieve for the two girls, yet how can they when they never knew them? It is understandable to feel that shiver of dread at it happening to someone you know and love, but why must this be externalised?

I cannot understand why the girls were accorded the privilege of a minutes silence, as mentioned by Saintsguy earlier, a privilege usually only accorded to the millions that died defending their country in the World Wars? And a privilege not granted at all all the innocents around the world still dying from war, famine and disease?

It is very easy to attract censure for voicing these sort of opinions so close to the event, but I think it is necessary if we are to untangle the meanings and implications of what has happened in the UK and, it would appear, in the US over the last few weeks.
posted by barnsoir at 5:58 AM on August 26, 2002


Ryvar,

Not for 'poor little cute kids' who would have just grown up into yet more big boring biomass feeding the monsters of this world,

you don't know that. You don't know that. YOU DON'T KNOW THAT.

Goddamn that's and arrogant and presumptuous thing to say. First of all: You are not all-knowing and all-seeing. You have no idea what the lives of those girls was worth. You are nothing more or less than what they were: a human being. Second, can I casually dismiss the worth of your life if something horrible should happen to you? It's important to be consistent.

Third, about this gem:

Worry about two kids living here in Epicurean Hedonist Central? To Hell with that, I'd rather save my pity for the 1.5 million people of Sierra Leone who truly deserve it.

What you don't see is that both these girls and those people in Sierra Leone died in absolute terror, the victims of random, senseless violence. This is what makes the one as deserving of pity as the other.
posted by thewittyname at 6:18 AM on August 26, 2002


The 'I only care about the people I know' stance is just another form of cowardice, I think.

It's not a stance and it's not a form of cowardice. It's a FEELING. We don't choose to have our feelings; we just HAVE them. Chastising someone for having a feeling is like chastising a black person for his skin color.

When you chastise people for feeling they can't control -- especially after they've been brave enough to admit to these feelings in public -- will likely prompt them to bottle their feelings up in the future. It may make them feel like they are bad people for even having these feelings (again, the way a black person can be made to feel that he's bad for having black skin). And this sort of repression and self-loathing never leads to anything good.

Surely most people (I won't say all people) have suffered a lack of empathy from time to time. If you're honest with yourself, do you really think you're deeply saddened by EVERY human tragedy that you hear about. Even if you are, are you sure all your friends are? Do you blame them for not crying over every problem in the world?

Isn't this more about conversational rules and sensitivity? I don't believe is Jesus and I can't control that disbelief. So I'd get really pissed off at anyone who'd blame me for it. But it would be wildly insensitive for me to shout out my atheism in a church.

So if you feel Stan's comments were out-of-place, why not say so instead of blaming him for feelings he can't control?

And Metafilter is NOT a church. It's a place for open discussion. So we can't really blame Stan for feeling like that this would be a good place to air his feelings.

By the way, every man IS an island to some extent. It's NATURAL (i.e. in the genes) to care more about people who are close to you than people who aren't. There are obvious survival reasons for this. Which isn't to say that we're incapable of caring about strangers. But again, why chastise someone for confessing to a natural feeling?
posted by grumblebee at 6:22 AM on August 26, 2002


And Metafilter is NOT a church. It's a place for open discussion. So we can't really blame Stan for feeling like that this would be a good place to air his feelings.

Amen.
posted by thewittyname at 6:32 AM on August 26, 2002


thewittyname: This is what makes the one as deserving of pity as the other. Yes, one is as deserving of pity as the other. Ryvar's point however is that 2 is probably less deserving of pity when compared to 1.5 million. This is not reflected by the media, and this is not reflected by public concensus. I was a bit perturbed by the anger in Ryvar's piece, but he has a good point.

You have no idea what the lives of those girls was worth. Yeah - like they could have gone on to create a cure for cancer or something. But then, so could anybody. Statistically speaking their lives were probably worth the same as any other person living in the western world.

can I casually dismiss the worth of your life if something horrible should happen to you. An interesting question. If a posting was placed on this board tomorrow saying that Ryvar had been murdered, just how bothered would you be? How bothered would any of us be? I'm trying to work out if I could even be bothered to post a "that's sad" message on metafilter, and to be honest, I don't I could. (No offence Ryvar)
posted by seanyboy at 6:53 AM on August 26, 2002


Not for 'poor little cute kids' who would have just grown up into yet more big boring biomass feeding the monsters of this world, and had a much better time of the lives that they were given than many children around the globe are permitted.

So now we move beyond protestations of indifference to active celebration of child murder. Congratulations, Stan and Ryvar ... it's becoming more difficult for something to elicit genuine disgust on MetaFilter these days, but I think you've accomplished that here.

I had no idea that two ordinary American children who lived in an apartment complex with single mothers away from their sex offender fathers among lots of criminals were so affluent and privileged as to be undeserving of sympathy, simply because they committed the unforgivable offense of receiving disproportionate media coverage. It's a damn shame those kids weren't displaced Palestineans or some other third-world group for whom compassion is still in fashion.

After any child abduction in the U.S., the police could ask for volunteer searchers and get hundreds of people willing to help. The cynicism in this discussion isn't just cheap and easy; it's also absolutely incorrect. As hard as some of you may find it to fathom, most people care more about the human aspects of a tragedy like this than about the fatuous topic of how well the media is covering the story. Even we're not personally victimized.

On some level, I think you share this trait in spite of your carefully constructed pose of disdain. A look through your posting histories here finds plenty of issues you care about that extend beyond your personal involvement. Important stuff like Martha Stewart and Sesame Street.
posted by rcade at 7:03 AM on August 26, 2002


Thewittyname: To your first point I have a two word response. Statistical. Likelihood.

Second, can I casually dismiss the worth of your life if something horrible should happen to you? It's important to be consistent.

Yes, please do. I have to take the bad with the good. You don't know me at all - what right do I have to expect you to care about me?

Please look at my post again:
There isn't any one human being on the planet including myself whose kidnapping would stir more than an attempt to change the conversation topic out of me
This was a statement of fact. Fix the problem or do not - sitting and emoting gets you nowhere. If I'm kidnapped, I don't want other people crying about me or worrying about me - they waste time and it does me absolutely no more or less good. I don't even really want them helping me because they're far more likely than the police to screw up and accidentally get me killed. If I do die, I don't expect or really want anyone else to care, and since I'm already dead, I logically am a little preoccupied with the whole nonexistence thing to notice in the first place. Have a glass of wine and a slice of cake while dancing in the streets in a tutu, it's really all the same to my corpse.

On the flip side of the coin, there is an entire single other human being in this world whose life/death matters to me. If she gets kidnapped - and before you shout I actually *have* been in a remarkably similar situation - I won't worry or cry because there isn't a single thing my doing so would help. This kind of rationality is the cornerstone of our successful relationship, and I'd betray it by falling into the pit of worrying. The one thing I'd want is for her kidnapper to be brought to justice, something that is going to happen in this case and will not happen in the case of Sierra Leone, the Holocaust, or the rape of German women during WWII.

On a sidenote to seanyboy: I apologize for the admitted tinge of anger in my tone on the last post (and perhaps this one) - the kind of hypocrisy displayed when thousands die horribly and nobody blinks while obsessing over a single cute teenybopper recently kidnapped outrages me. It's the kind of thing that just does not make any *sense* and should not exist from any external perspective, yet it does.

rcade: see above. For some reason along with each American consuming over an order of magnitude more resources than their third world counterparts we seem to value their existences roughly along those lines.
posted by Ryvar at 7:11 AM on August 26, 2002


Some people wear their hearts on their sleeve.. Others do not.

Those who do are reacting very emotionally to Stan's and other's comments because that's just the way they are.

All this discussion about feelings is making me feel like this is a sixties love-in / intervention.

Now, as for the girls and the kidnappings.. what are the statistics for kidnappings in the US? That's something I'd be interested in. (since I have kids and maybe seeing the true statistics I could make good decisions on how to properly protect them).

And I'm with Stan on the whole 'world of mourning' thing. I mean, I think it's as much a tragedy as the next person, but I find it weird for someone to break down and cry over it if they aren't somehow directly involved. It's not about having compassion or sympathy. It's about people who get so involved, they actually mourn why they had no relationship to the incident.


It's like September 11th. You have people from outside the area - tourists - who came (and still come) to downtown, and then cried for the people who died there. I mean, I know why *I* cried, had nightmares, and continue to get upset when they show stories about it on the news, or we talk about it among friends out drinking. But I was here.

But I just don't understand why some person from Idaho, or Germany, or Thailand would actually break down and weep. (although for that matter, I don't understand why someone would want to rush right away to a smoking husk of destruction to oogle at it - rubberneckers).

It's like bereavement is becoming a pasttime. People make these memorials all over the place. Flowers and letters on a telephone pole where Johnny wrapped around his muscle car while drinking and drag racing. Candles and flowers at a murder site. I wasn't one much for graveyards in the first place, but now anywhere a person was is becoming like a gravestone. And it isn't for the person who died, but for the people who contribute to the memorial.

It's not natural.. it's not in the genes. It's exploitation.

But anyway.. why it took them so long to figure out it was this guy, and to dig up the concrete is beyond me.
posted by rich at 7:16 AM on August 26, 2002


It's like bereavement is becoming a pasttime.

This also upsets me. I had a cousin standing next to the second building as the plane went in - his place of employment was one of the nearby buildings that toppled down later on, IIRC. Yet quite frankly I didn't even blink an eye over 9/11 in its entirety. Umberto, who I know from elsewhere on the web, once said his first reaction was "Well there go our civil liberties." While I am expressly not speaking for him beyond that, such was the full extent of my own reaction.

Maybe it is simple heartlessness. Maybe it's just a desire to never be emotionally manipulated by outside forces into doing something stupid or wasteful. Whatever the case, there's such a 'made for television' atmosphere that the summer of kidnappings shares with 9/11 that makes it impossible for me to have serious emotional reaction to either.
posted by Ryvar at 7:33 AM on August 26, 2002


how hard is it to hold out a good thought for a few seconds when you read about someone else's misfortune...?

And what purpose does that serve? It doesn't help the dead children. It doesn't help the dead children's families. It doesn't punish the offender. It doesn't help prevent future incidents like this one. It is an absolutely pointless--and artificial--waste of emotion. I submit that it is motivated by the same sort of morbid interest in the troubles of others as rubbernecking at gory accidents on the highway, combined a desire to feel that one is a better person than one really believes one to be. Certainly a part of human nature, but hardly a laudable one.

If someone wants to pretend that they feel better or are a better person for sparing a brief moment "thinking about" crime victims far away and unknown to them, so be it. But don't elevate them to the status of saints for doing so. Me, I prefer to save my emotional reactions for genuine, relevant moments, rather than grieve on command from the ratings-driven media.
posted by rushmc at 7:35 AM on August 26, 2002


On the flip side of the coin, there is an entire single other human being in this world whose life/death matters to me. If she gets kidnapped - and before you shout I actually *have* been in a remarkably similar situation - I won't worry or cry because there isn't a single thing my doing so would help. This kind of rationality is the cornerstone of our successful relationship, and I'd betray it by falling into the pit of worrying.

Could you be any more fascinated with yourself? I find it ironic that we're not supposed to care about murdered children when you clearly believe there's something of interest for us in this misanthropic LiveJournal entry about your girlfriend.
posted by rcade at 7:38 AM on August 26, 2002


It's a damn shame those kids weren't displaced palestinians or some other third-world group for whom compassion is still in fashion.

what's with the whole 'who's suffering more than _x_' angle?

everyone seems to agree that the media's hold on the american consciousness is a 'bad' thing but i can't quite get over the idea that the above statement is a direct result of that same media manipulation we all seem to 'hate'.

hey, suffering and terror is a horrible bag. no one got it worse than the other. the girls who died because of this crazy guy from oregon are in the same boat as someone in jenin, sierra leonne, or 'insert unjust death here'. to think people are sitting here counting the beans to figure out who is suffering more than the next is ridiculous.

if you're sick of the t.v.'s 'summer of kidnappings' turn that shit off. just move on already. turn the shit off, you'll help get the geraldo's of the world off your tube.

posted by oliver_crunk at 7:42 AM on August 26, 2002


It is my nature as the kind of parent I guess I could only be to constantly feel, as someone said "like you have a loaded gun to your head all the time". If something happened to one of my kids, my life would be over.

It means now I have spent twenty-three years as a bodyguard on morning paper routes and still, when you drop them off at school...the uneasy feeling of having left something very valuable behind.
posted by riley370 at 7:53 AM on August 26, 2002


A sincere belief in human rights would not lead someone to rank sufferers on a scale from least privileged to most privileged and exercise a cutoff point beyond which no concern is offered.

One criticism that's made often of Americans is that we are wrong to place American lives above the lives of people in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. However, critics like Ryvar commit the same error in reverse, as if there's some kind of sympathy scale they can bring into balance. A Cantor Fitzgerald stock broker murdered on 9/11 is just as dead as an Iraqi child who died of malnutrition during sanctions. If you believe in universal human rights, both of them matter.
posted by rcade at 7:58 AM on August 26, 2002


so anyway isn't it horrifying that this guy seemingly inherited (allegedly... allegedly) not only his dad's appetite for rape and murder, but also his dad's habit of disposing of the remains beneath new construction at his home? Sources: AP says that Dad's victim was underneath a deck at his house, UPI says it was in his yard "beneath a concrete slab laid over a grave he had had his 10-year-old son, Rodney, dig."

Gruesome business. Suddenly I find myself feeling almost sorry for Ward III, imagining what his family life must've been like.

I also find myself wondering how the fact that this guy's dad was on death row affected the police investigation, if at all, and the suspicions of the families and neighbors involved. Like the "former stepmother" of one of the missing girls, who posted a sign reading "Dig Me Up!" next to Ward III's fresh concrete slab. If the families knew about Ward II (I don't know if they did or not), or if the police did (they would've had to, no?) would it make them focus more on Ward III? Is that fair or unfair, and would it have been more or less so had there been nothing found underneath the cement in Ward III's yard?

Lastly, what about the fucking balls on this guy to go on national teevee and proclaim himself the prime suspect in the killing, then go on to disparage at length the parenting skills of one of the missing girls, then a month later rape his teenage son's girlfriend and confess (to the son? to the girlfriend? not sure) to the killings of the missing girls? Was this a classic case of a bad guy really wanting to be caught and put away?

(am I just not meta enough here? not nearly free enough with the sweeping generalizations about the need of reporters to sell newspapers or about the need of the public to occasionally have some cute, dead white girls over which to grieve, en masse, from a safe distance? I'll get me coat.)
posted by Sapphireblue at 8:02 AM on August 26, 2002


rcade: I find it funny that you EXPRESS YOUR OPINION on how my 'LiveJournal entry' doesn't meet with your approval. Allow me to point out that you would not only be far more mature but you would even fail the hypocrisy test by simply silently snickering to yourself in this case.

Personal banter aside, there was a reason I brought that up. First off, the 'I don't care about ANYONE' line is trite, cliched, and untrue. There's no reason for me to misrepresent, and I have little to gain by coming off as Trent Reznor's latest book on ethics. More importantly, tying to a personal example allows the reader to identify with the writer and more fully understand the ever-important question of *why* they feel the way they do.

Clearly many people did not agree with Stan. In order to defend his point which I happened to agree with, I decided to post because my honest views are a step further from the mainstream than his own. However, in order to come off as anything but a nutjob (and thus hurting his point), I have to present myself as someone capable of feeling and human emotion - the girlfriend tie-in was perfect, and also could be worked into the topic of the moment.

It was not an attempt at giving you all the latest dish from 'Ryvar's Fantastic Blog-on-MeFi!!', but rather an attempt to demonstrate that, yes, I have the normal complement of feelings, I just deal with them in a different way than what appears to be normal around here. Furthermore, it was an attempt to make sure I wasn't cast into the 'Dark-hearted idiot goth' stereotype, because nothing could be further from the truth.
posted by Ryvar at 8:14 AM on August 26, 2002


Certainly a part of human nature, but hardly a laudable one.

Sympathy for the victims of a horrible murder is hardly a laudable part of human nature?

It is an absolutely pointless--and artificial--waste of emotion.

How can a voluntarily given, sincere emotion be "artificial"? Pointless maybe, using your criteria, but if a person truly feels bad for the families of this children, how can it be artificial? Does the media exposure of this crime pollute the sympathy somehow? Can there be no true emotion from strangers over well-publicized tragedies?
posted by thewittyname at 8:16 AM on August 26, 2002


thewittyname: if I'm reading rushmc correctly, the point you're missing is this:

combined a desire to feel that one is a better person than one really believes one to be.

In other words, *in some cases* the person who takes a moment to feel bad about the girls is doing so not for any genuine concern or effect on said girls, but rather to make themselves look like a better person to themselves. "Wasn't it great that I was so upset about their deaths?"

In my own interpretation of rushmc's words, that's not always the case, and it's certainly almost never a conscious phenomenon - we all do things like this to feel better about ourselves subconsciously. It's pretty hard to view that as a laudable part of human nature to the extent that it does happen.
posted by Ryvar at 8:26 AM on August 26, 2002


to constantly feel, as someone said "like you have a loaded gun to your head all the time".

Sounds like a hellish existence.
posted by rushmc at 8:36 AM on August 26, 2002


How can a voluntarily given, sincere emotion be "artificial"?

Because it is not grounded in anything. One has been manipulated into feeling an emotion (or believing oneself to feel it) inappropriately. In writing, this is called sentimentality. Just because humans have known triggers, or ways to shortcut to an emotion, does not mean that the resulting emotion is valid, earned, or appropriate. One can be conditioned to feel sad whenever one sees carrots--is this a valid emotion, to be held equal to the sadness one feels upon the death of a loved one? Apart from the difference in degree (presumably) between the two feelings, there is a difference in authenticity.

Emotions may not be produced rationally, but they surely must be gauged and assessed rationally.
posted by rushmc at 8:42 AM on August 26, 2002


I've been trying to maintain civil throughout this discussion, and for the latter part I've just stayed away completely. But...

On some level, I think you share this trait in spite of your carefully constructed pose of disdain. A look through your posting histories here finds plenty of issues you care about that extend beyond your personal involvement. Important stuff like Martha Stewart and Sesame Street.

rcade: WHAT THE FUCK? You're attacking my posting history of two weeks? And only pointing out one post out of twenty-seven? Is that the best you can come up with? Saying I have created an "active celebration of child murder" is beyond out of line and you know it. Fine, I'll drop my constructed prose of disdain and go with a childish Fuck You.

Nowhere in my responses in this thread did I openly advocate senseless and terrible tragedy. I tried to apologize multiple times for offending others misguided belief that I thought they were naive. I clearly stated that I supported and even admired their genuine sympathy, while all I tried to do was point out my sense of apathy was a serious related issue. I've tried to deflect multiple disguised insults and ad hominems, but congratulations rcade, you've moved the uncaring soulless hell demon that is me to just plain pissed. If that was you intent I applaud you. Now if you excuse me I've got a Rapists, Murderers, and People who Kill Cute Bunnies parade to attend.
posted by Stan Chin at 8:45 AM on August 26, 2002


i say nuke the site from orbit. it's the only way to be sure.
posted by zoopraxiscope at 8:56 AM on August 26, 2002


I'm surprised no one's posted this link yet: Outpourings of grief that hide an inner emptiness:
Sentimentality...is also an evasion of moral responsibility. It allows people to imagine that they are virtuous simply by expressing the emotions that are deemed to be correct in the circumstances, but it demands nothing of them, no sacrifice in the name of duty....
With half this thread having turned into a "I feel terrible about these kidnappings and murders" - "Oh, well, I feel worse about them" exchange (complete with judgements of people as being "defective", "cowardly" and the like if they don't grieve as loudly and as openly as is deemed appropriate), I thought this opinion piece timely.

If the child kidnappings and murders lead to better methods of preventing such tragedies in the future (the AMBER alert being an example), then that's great; I think that we can all agree that these kidnappings are tragic and that it would be wonderful if we could find a way to prevent them in the future. But nowadays the preferred reaction to them resembles a competition over who can feel worse about such tragedies. From the perspective of the kidnapped kids, and kids with the potential to be kidnapped, there's really very little difference between people who feel terrible, and then sit on their asses and do nothing; and people who don't feel so terrible, and then sit on their asses and do nothing.
posted by isomorphisms at 9:00 AM on August 26, 2002


By the way, Stan - I want to apologize if it seems I've co-opted your point and harvested more criticism for you with my own additions. Wasn't my intention - I attempted to make it clear from the very first sentence that I was going a step further than you were but that seems to have been lost admist the smell of nalpalm in the morning.
posted by Ryvar at 9:01 AM on August 26, 2002


Stan: I also avoided posting to this as I didn't want to encourage yet more saints of mefi to descend upon the thread.

I understood your post, and your position, and I agree with you.
posted by a3matrix at 9:10 AM on August 26, 2002


Saying I have created an "active celebration of child murder" is beyond out of line and you know it.

You're conflating what I wrote about Ryvar ("active celebration of child murder") with what I wrote about you ("protestations of indifference"). I found both sentiments pretty disgusting, but the line of people queueing here to register their disinterest in the murders is impressive. Let's never lose sight of the real story here: child murders are boring!

While I can see that your sense of apathy is a serious issue to you, personally I think it's about as scintillating as the continuing saga of Ryvar's love life. Misanthropes may not like people, but it's becoming increasingly clear that they are deeply fond of themselves.
posted by rcade at 9:18 AM on August 26, 2002


Raaaka: "Tragedy Porn."

Yep. That sums it up for me.

Rich: "But I just don't understand why some person from Idaho, or Germany, or Thailand would actually break down and weep. (although for that matter, I don't understand why someone would want to rush right away to a smoking husk of destruction to oogle at it - rubberneckers)."

Tragedy Porn..
posted by umberto at 9:32 AM on August 26, 2002


Rogers, you're being disingenuous and mean to people who are, legitimately, pointing out that child kidnappings are not more common than they used to be. Last year when shark attacks were being overreported, were you going around harranguing people for not caring about child abductions? No?

I think Stan, and mine, and others' level of caring about these crimes has stayed constant: We're upset and saddened that it happens, but not any more than we are by the daily reportage of thousands of other horrible crimes. There's no emotional litmus test that you can fairly apply to other people.

For those who doubt that this is a rise in reporting, please see some of the discussion going on for those of us in the media. One of the people with headline publishing authority on the website I work for was absolutely convinced that child abductions had skyrocketed this year, though I was just as convinced they had not.

The biggest difference I could see between his lifestyle and mine was that he watches television and I don't. I think that explained the difference in perception.
posted by anildash at 9:34 AM on August 26, 2002


Your attitude and incivility here are appalling, rcade. If you spent less time patting yourself on the back for being such a warm and caring individual and more time trying to understand what posters like Stan Chin and Ryvar are actually saying, you might not come across as so impotently reactionary. You have said nothing to attempt to refute the explanations of why it is (a) illogical and (b) useless to be wracked with life-stopping grief over the victims of distant crimes; rather, you have relied on trying to impugn people's characters because they don't express the easy, socially-acceptable warm-and-fuzzy sentiments that you feel they should. How about more debate and less condemnation?
posted by rushmc at 9:34 AM on August 26, 2002


rcade: I think your accusation of Misanthropy is ill-advised. How much do you really care about the deaths of Holly and Jessica? Does this make you a misanthrope? No. It makes you a human being. Like the rest of us, you've probably got room in your head to care properly for about 50-100 people. Everything else is either intellectual hand wringing, or is a pretence to make yourself look nicer. As for an "active celebration of child murder". Every time we drive a car, we actively celebrate the death of a child. Every time we buy a certain t-shirt from a certain company, we actively celebrate a child murder. Every time we cheer our leaders for attacking a country, we actively celebrate a child murder. I'm doing it, you're probably doing it as well. The difference I think, is that people like Ryvar & Stan have the balls to admit to it.
posted by seanyboy at 9:35 AM on August 26, 2002


personal discussions here.

In other news, given the guy's history and family, why did it take 3 or 4 months for them to get warrants to search this guy. I mean, he was able to kill one more kid, and also rape another.

Sheesh. Incompetance, I say. And the father implicated in 26 hitchhicker killings? Wow.
posted by rich at 9:40 AM on August 26, 2002


As a further bit of explanation: I hadn't heard of these two girls, or this case, until today. No, seriously. I knew there had been a large rise in reporting over kidnapping cases, particularly of cute young girls, but I hadn't read any of the stories. Since I didn't hear about this, am I a bad person for not grieving?

And have all of you who are hand-wringing over this grieved as much for the kidnapped children whose cases weren't televised? If not, aren't you just as cruel and heartless as I am?
posted by anildash at 9:49 AM on August 26, 2002


impotently reactionary

have the balls to admit to it

Oh sure, there's NO out-of-line emotional reaction in y'all attacking rcade's manhood, for god's sweet sake, because he is disappointed with the speed and stridency with which so many rushed into this thread to proclaim that they are evolved way past out-of-line emotional reactions. Get a grip, folks, truly.
posted by Sapphireblue at 9:52 AM on August 26, 2002


FYI:

"For just the fourth time in the twenty years since the passage of the Missing Children’s Act in 1982, the number of missing persons reported to the police declined from the previous year. The 2001 reports were down 4.1% from 2000. The total increase since 1982 is 444% (154,341 entries in 1982 vs. 840,279 entries in 2000)."

(from: 2001 Fact Sheet

also: more stats
posted by rich at 10:01 AM on August 26, 2002


so anyway isn't it horrifying that this guy seemingly inherited (allegedly... allegedly) not only his dad's appetite for rape and murder, but also his dad's habit of disposing of the remains beneath new construction at his home?

Not many serial killers had normal childhoods. So while I'm not surprised about the rape/murder similarities, I am somewhat surprised by the body-disposal similarities.

Someone on a mailing list I'm on compared these outpourings of public grief to Munchausen Syndrome, and I think I tend to agree. I feel badly when I hear about things like this, but I also feel that the level of media coverage they receive (since the advent of 24-hour news stations, it seems) is out of proportion. And I think that this elevated level of media coverage directly influences how close to such incidents people feel (I very much doubt that these murders would have garnered more than a passing wince of sympathy from most people had they been covered less fervently). In some sense, it's likely beneficial to us as a society to be affected by individual tragedies, but in another sense, it does seem ironic that most of us only really seem to care about the specific cases that we're spoon fed and told to care about by the media.
posted by biscotti at 10:05 AM on August 26, 2002


How much do you really care about the deaths of Holly and Jessica? Does this make you a misanthrope?

No. Describing two murdered children as "'poor little cute kids' who would have just grown up into yet more big boring biomass feeding the monsters of this world" makes you a misanthrope.

My own emotional response to this story is not particularly laudatory, but I haven't claimed otherwise.

Every time we buy a certain t-shirt from a certain company, we actively celebrate a child murder.

What happens every time we make a point with such strident rhetoric someone laughs out loud?
posted by rcade at 10:26 AM on August 26, 2002


Interesting tidbit:

I was watching the "breaking news" (it interrupted the golf tournament I was watching) right after the first remains were found. The victims' famillies' lawyer came on with a prepared message from them, and the first thing it did was ask people to donate money to their relief fund.

Other than that, I wanted to give props to Stan and those who agree with him (I do.) I wish I'd gotten in on the thread earlier.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 10:42 AM on August 26, 2002


My own emotional response to this story is not particularly laudatory

You have yet to express why you believe that a certain kind of emotional response to the situation is "laudatory." Since this is a presumption obviously not shared by all here, you might wish to clarify this line of thought.
posted by rushmc at 10:57 AM on August 26, 2002


Kids being kidnapped, murdered, and buried under concrete slabs is a Bad Thing. It's equally bad whether it happens in the bright glare of 24/7 news coverage or not.

Kids starving in war zones is also a Bad Thing, no matter who created the war zone and whether the CNN cameras are around to watch or not.

I don't think anyone in this thread is claiming otherwise.

But it's hardly a "celebration of child murder" to note that the media frenzy distorts everything it touches. FBI statistics say violent crime in the US is the lowest it's been in decades, but your local news has on the spot interviews with the families of every single murder victim. Abductions of children are very rare, but the entire country prays for the safe return of a pair of Oregon teenagers. People act based on perception, no matter how much it differs from reality.
posted by kewms at 11:11 AM on August 26, 2002


I think my feelings are already pretty clear, rushmc. An emotional response to a tragedy like this can be useful when it draws a community together to help find the victims and assist in other ways, as often happens. Wdpack is from the community most affected by these abductions; I can understand the strength of his reaction.

For those of us who are more removed from a tragedy, an emotional response isn't particularly useful, but I don't see why it inspires such ire from people who don't share it. The general sentiment is certainly important; the powerful emotional response to child abduction is encouraging numerous communities to start Amber Alerts, programs in which the media interrupts programming to report a new abduction, hoping the heightened level of public interest will lead to the child's rescue during the first 24 hours of a disappearance. Several children have been saved because of these alerts.
posted by rcade at 11:15 AM on August 26, 2002


Lot's of folks have made good points above. I'm not going to really say anything new, but will make one more attempt to explain the views of those of us who agree with Stan to those who don't seem to get what he's actually saying. (Not saying anyone has to agree, it's just hard to have a discussion if you're not speaking the same language.)

When I say I don't have a strong emotional reaction to the latest victim of tragedy presented by the media, it does not mean: that I think it's fine and dandy for that person to suffer/die/whatever, that I think myself superior to those who do care, that the people I care about are somehow more important in a cosmic sense than those I don't know, that I only care about myself.

What it does mean is that I know myself not to be capable of having more than a generalized, intellectual grief for each individual person of the millions of people who suffer and die unfairly every year. (Maybe a god could do so, but I've never met a human who could.) I need some sort of connection before I can do so. When my friends die, I cry. When a friend of a friend dies, I feel sad and try to be supportive. When someone I've never heard of before dies, I say "Sorry to hear that" and carry on with my life. It doesn't mean that my friends are more important than anyone else, it's just a fact about my limitations as a human. When the media picks a handful of the victims of tragedy and runs a boatload of stories on them, I don't feel the connection anymore than I do to the millions of victims who didn't get special coverage. Not that the celebrities don't deserve to be mourned, but they've got others to do that mourning for them. If the media stories make you feel like you've got an emotional connection to the victim, so you mourn, than go ahead. Your emotional reaction is as valid as mine.

Actually, I do feel guilty, not because I don't spend more time mourning people I don't know, but because I don't spend enough time/effort/money actually helping people I don't know. That's something I hope to change about myself as my life goes on.
posted by tdismukes at 11:24 AM on August 26, 2002


but I don't see why it inspires such ire from people who don't share it

I think, sometimes, I end up in a defensive posture, wanting to assert my right to be indifferent, and that such such indifference - in my humble opinion - is less about callousness and more about the abhorence of hypocrisy.
I don't feel indifferent, I'm really saddened, but I don't want to use that to get social mileage or to claim the moral highground for myself. I don't think there's any value in sympathy elicited under duress. There's a small but vocal minority who are continually rounding on others who they see as feeling less distraught than themselves.
It reminds me of the scene in Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange where the young inmates are lined up singing hymns in the prison chapel. The rendition's fairly lacklustre, so the prison warden (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Adolf Hitler) starts yelling stuff like: 'Show some reverence, you bastards!' and 'Sing louder!'
I get cheesed off being told to sing louder.
posted by RokkitNite at 11:32 AM on August 26, 2002


For those of us who are more removed from a tragedy, an emotional response isn't particularly useful, but I don't see why it inspires such ire from people who don't share it.

Perhaps it's not the emotional response that raises our ire; perhaps it is the not so subtle implication that those of us who do not share it are some lesser human beings than you more highly evolved emoters...
posted by JollyWanker at 11:43 AM on August 26, 2002


I also feel that the level of media coverage they receive (since the advent of 24-hour news stations, it seems) is out of proportion.

What's in proportion? How much media is enough?

If the goal is to be sure that anyone who sees an abducted child will know immediately to call the police, flat out saturation is not just a good idea, it's necessary. In an era where someone can easily get several hundred miles away from the site of a kidnapping in less than a day without raising the slightest bit of notice, doesn't the notice need to be pretty much nationwide?

Where do we draw the line? What is the objective standard for the difference between "too much coverage" and enough to bring a child home alive?

Moreover, and far more importantly, why, why, why in hell are we not being damned serious about slamming child predators into jail at the first accusation? Ashley Pond said that Ward Weaver molested her long before he killed her. Why was he given the chance to get to her again, and shut her up on the second go-round? I'm with Erin Runnion, I blame the adults who should be protecting children better than they are -- if there were more proactive policing going on, we wouldn't need all of this media coverage.
posted by Dreama at 11:59 AM on August 26, 2002


Where do we draw the line? What is the objective standard for the difference between "too much coverage" and enough to bring a child home alive?

I didn't explain the comment of mine you quoted clearly: while there's still a chance that the abductee is still alive, I think media saturation is probably good. I was referring more to the fact that the press conference about the identification of the remains last night warranted a "breaking news" interruption of regular programming (which is not to say that a TV show is more important or anything, but it does seem a bit over the top when it used to be the case that only things like attempted presidential assassinations and the like warranted program interruptions, i.e. things that had more wide-reaching implications).

And I'm not clear on what you mean by this: "why in hell are we not being damned serious about slamming child predators into jail at the first accusation?". I assume that you're not saying that we should be locking people up based on accusations, rather than evidence.
posted by biscotti at 12:49 PM on August 26, 2002


If the goal is to be sure that anyone who sees an abducted child will know immediately to call the police, flat out saturation is not just a good idea, it's necessary.

Well, there's always local coverage, but there's only national coverage if the circumstances of the crime are unusual (a witnessed abduction, more than one victim, etc.) and if the victim and the victim's parents are marketable. It's the blonde girls in suburbia that usually make the national news, while a hispanic kid in a poor neighborhood gets ignored (even by the FBI forensics lab). Lets face it, sensational stories draw a bigger audience and TV/print news exists to sell ads.

There was actually an ABC News story a couple of months ago on this very subject, but I can't seem to find it in their Web site's archives.
posted by hyperizer at 2:22 PM on August 26, 2002


I was referring more to the fact that the press conference about the identification of the remains last night warranted a "breaking news" interruption of regular programming

Ah, sorry, biscotti. I get you. For the identification, breaking news seems a bit much. The discovery, yes. The ID, no.

I assume that you're not saying that we should be locking people up based on accusations, rather than evidence.

No, what I mean is that all too often, molesters and predators are given a "pass." They get their first (reporting) victim almost as a freebie with the mealymouth caveat of "no one's ever said that he's done anything like this before, we don't want to act too hastily." Despite statistics that show that molesters are likely to have already victimised a number of kids before anyone ever reports them, law enforcement has a scary history of holding back on arresting or even questioning suspects until there's some completely damning evidence or a subsequent accusation. The passage of time kills these cases more than anything -- lack of a timely investigation and prompt questioning of witnesses and related individuals has been blamed for the lack of compelling "additional" evidence against Alejandro Avila, for just one of many instances. (For the news impaired: He walked on multiple child molest charges, and is now facing trial for raping and murdering 5 year old Samantha Runnion.)

What makes this most distressing is that there is often no physical evidence to be found that will definitively tie the molestor to the victim and his/her injuries, if there are any. With lack of physical evidence, a detailed and timely recount of an attack, from the victim, is the most important starting point for an investigation.

So when a child comes home from a weekend trip and says, clearly and concisely, "Ward Weaver molested me while we were away this weekend." and no one follows up, I have to ask why. I have to ask where the process broke down to not only leave him seemingly facing no scrutiny based upon that accusation, but free to abduct, torture and kill that same child several weeks (months?) later. No one did anything in light of Ashley's accusation, and if they had, there's a strong possibility that two girls would be alive right now.
posted by Dreama at 2:32 PM on August 26, 2002


Sentimentality...is also an evasion of moral responsibility. It allows people to imagine that they are virtuous simply by expressing the emotions that are deemed to be correct in the circumstances, but it demands nothing of them, no sacrifice in the name of duty....

odd how i manage to care about what happens to people i see on the news and also effectively contribute to my community thru' volunteerism, activism, charity, and being an excellent neighbor. i must be some kind of multi-tasking saint. or just one of millions of ordinary folks who do the same. i recall someone mentioning that caring is also a form of selfishness. damn straight it is; when it's active it's the superior version that keeps us from completely choking on our own stupidity and barbarism.

when someone new joins the various social projects i work on, the vast majority of the time they've been moved by something that happened to strangers. they may not have the means to help those at a distance but they're smart enough to know that extending themselves locally is vital and can have a widespread effect.

i'll repeat an earlier post of mine... no one is asking anyone to tear their heart out and eat it. however i do demand that people not be such cold assholes, especially for the sake of striking a pose against the media. if someone doesn't want to meet my demand of not being a cold asshole, no problem, but don't go all cry baby when i can't help but see you as defective. if i could buy you an empathy chip i'd hold a fundraiser on my next free weekend, hehe.
posted by t r a c y at 3:20 PM on August 26, 2002


but don't go all cry baby when i can't help but see you as defective.

I'd think the people who pay for a TV and then pay for cable TV channels to watch on it and then budget out their time so that they can find other people's misery on the news channels and then share in that misery are probably a lot more defective, no? inducing crybaby behavior in themselves, as it were.
posted by anildash at 4:20 PM on August 26, 2002


Just about every high profile abduction case in the U.S. has turned up at least once on MetaFilter. Where do we rank on the "traffic-in-other-people's-misery" scale?
posted by rcade at 4:38 PM on August 26, 2002


Fairly high, I should think. But it's ultimately a site for voyeurs, so that's not too surprising.
posted by rushmc at 4:55 PM on August 26, 2002


...odd how i manage to care about what happens to people i see on the news and also effectively contribute to my community thru' volunteerism, activism, charity, and being an excellent neighbor. i must be some kind of multi-tasking saint....i do demand that people not be such cold assholes...if someone doesn't want to meet my demand of not being a cold asshole, no problem, but don't go all cry baby when i can't help but see you as defective.

So your overflowing concern for others ends when you encounter people who don't share your values? Oh, wait, it doesn't:

imo you're defective, and i'm going hold out a good thought for you. you need it.

Your empathy is so real; your motivations come so clearly from the heart! You've really turned me around here. I'm going to lose a lot of sleep as I ponder the example you've set.
posted by bingo at 7:51 PM on August 26, 2002


t r a c y, it's a lot more worthwhile to argue the points that people actually make.

Neither I, nor the writer of the opinion piece I linked, ever said that expressing grief over the deaths of strangers and actually being a good samaritan/neighbour/volunteer are mutually exclusive. The problem here is the assumption that expressing grief over the deaths of strangers is seen as an indication that one is a good person - and that failing to express grief is perceived as a sign of defectiveness. If a tragedy affecting strangers moved someone to act in some positive way - if they joined a volunteer organization or what have you - then that's wonderful. If all it did was cause them to cry openly in the streets or post in a community weblog about how upset they were, then perhaps the catharsis was valuable, but the acts of crying in the streets and posting in a weblog aren't indications of virtue in the grander scheme of things.

I'm not "going all cry baby" over your perceptions of certain posters (including, I presume, myself) as defective, because I don't put much stock in people who judge people based on their feelings alone. If someone who doesn't cry openly over these deaths, and diverts their energies instead to volunteering at the local orphanage or the soup kitchen, then I'm not about to condemn them for not feeling the right way.
posted by isomorphisms at 8:04 PM on August 26, 2002


If someone who doesn't cry openly over these deaths,

Who said anything about crying openly? Who said anything about crying? Who said that to be a good person, one should feel sadness for all of the ills of the world? Because I didn't. And people repeating that are really only shifting the focus. I can understand, "I avoid the news," or "I flip past sad stories on the news," or even, "I'm not going to let the media influence how I think!" I'm jiggy with all of that, foshizzle.

I don't understand, however, "I don't care about those little kids who were [insert something bad here]. I have no sympathy for them." Uhm, hello? There's a difference between not wanting to be an emotional patsy for the media, and just out and out not caring, not for a second, not for even a thought of, "Oh wow, that's awful, hope they find that kid." True enough, it doesn't help the person(s) any, if you don't even know them. Who says that it has to?

No one is saying that to be a good person, you have to openly show your empathy, or even reveal it to other people. So please, just give it up already. What is being said is that when someone can honesty dredge up not even the most minute amount of sympathetic thought for any kind of human misfortune--well advertised or not, openly or otherwise--that something is wrong.

On a lighter note: find yourself unable to empathize with others? Lying come naturally? Narcissistic? You might be a psycho/sociopath. There's even a lovely test.
posted by precocious at 10:50 PM on August 26, 2002


precocious - This demonstrates what I meant about needing to understand what someone else actually means in order to have a conversation. All the things you say you're "jiggy with" are essentially the point many of us are trying to make - even, I suspect, those who made their point in the most un-politic language. I think Ryvar made his case in the strongest language, but I'd be willing to bet money that if you had been able to go to him and honestly say "You can save these girls' lives with a couple of hours of hard work and inconvenience on your part", he would have jumped at the opportunity. (Feel free to contradict me if I'm wrong, Ryvar.) You seem to be assuming that "don't care" translates into some sort of sociopathic disregard for others rather than "don't have a strong emotional reaction to the plight of a randomly selected individual from all the people I don't know and can't do anything about."

Of course, if we all made sure we understood what the other person really meant, some of these threads might end up being quite a bit shorter.
posted by tdismukes at 9:10 AM on August 27, 2002


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