[Reader-list] Media romanticizing rapists

Shuddha shuddha at sarai.net
Fri Jun 25 20:44:40 IST 2004

Dear Nisha,

I agree with you that the 'individualization' (at least on the terms 
that you mention) of a person who has committed a really heinous crime 
is problematic, but I think that if we stop looking at human beings as 
individuals, no matter how unpleasant and hateful they may be to us, we 
run the risk of begining to see them as abstractions - as the 'perverse 
criminal', the 'terrorist', the 'heretic', the 'anti national'.

 In my view the first act of violence begins with this attempt to see 
people as if they were vessels for our anxieties, rather than as flesh 
and blood individuals with their own biographies. To talk about a man's 
last days as he waits for the noose, is not necessarily to romanticize 
him and although I am sure that the media reports that you refer to may 
be quite problematic, I would still hesitate to say that a blanket 
refusal to treat a human being on death row (again, no matter how 
heinous his crime) as an individual human being is something that I 
would be uncomfortable with.

I think that the issue here is fairly stark, and I do not think that it 
is not a question of whether the death penalty should exist or not. We 
all are comfortable with denouncing the death penalty when the person in 
question is obviously innocent, but the problems all arise when the man 
to be hanged is guilty as charged. Does doubt about the death penalty 
necessarily mean that we are condoning the crime, I do not think so.
Let us also be clear that violence against women and children (just as 
it is easy to dismiss, is also very easy to be outraged by, juries in 
the US typically vote to hang people when crimes against children come 
up for trial, and this generally happens because the trial, judges, 
juries and the public are thirsting for a verdict and not patient to go 
through the details of the case - a number of verdicts are reached in 
great hurry, to stoke the passion for retribution, so it cuts both ways, 
just as crimes against women and children can be marginalized, they can 
also become the ritual exorcizer of a society's obsession with its own 



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