Monday, March 03, 2014

Nicholas Lemann on Kitty Genovese

More than a year ago, I blogged about A.M. Rosenthal's role in distorting the facts of the Kitty Genovese murder and the impact of that distortion on accounts of the killing over the last fifty years. Nicholas Lemann of The New Yorker has written an article that further fleshes out the story. Money quote:
Rosenthal’s convictions about the crime were so powerful that he was impervious to the details of what actually happened.
And at the end of Lemann's article:
The real Kitty Genovese syndrome has to do with our susceptibility to narratives that echo our preconceptions and anxieties. So the lesson of the story isn’t that journalists should trust their gut, the way Abe Rosenthal did. Better to use your head.  


OTOH said...

Being an old geezer, I remember the wide-spread social self-flagellation about that murder. Or rather, it turns out, social self-flagellation about Rosenthal's own demons.

But, at the time, it was all about how depraved we were as a society. And we ate it up, and I think that was because of all sorts of displaced social guilt. We WANTED to feel guilty and depraved and alienated from others.

But the weirdly corrosive nature of the media was part of it, too. Unfortunately, newspapers are made to be bought (or they were, at the time of that murder), and those sales are boosted by sensationalism. That equation doesn't lend itself to sober reporting.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Yeah. I'd be interested in reading the two books Lemann discusses - in my copious free time...