Is the Western media obsessed with the victimisation of women?

Madeleine McCann

Martin Bell used to work for the BBC as a correspondent. Then he became a British MP. Now, amongst others things, he writes books and articles and this week he’s launched an attack on the Western media and its enthusiasm for ‘salaciously reported crime and celebrity,’ especially when young women and girls are involved. He’ll be on the show to speak with you later. Here’s a couple of paragraphs outlining his argument…

‘Foreign news is expensive and dangerous. So in many cases newspapers and TV networks have abandoned it, retreating into a comfort zone of celebrity stories, consumer news, sport, health-scares and crime. Especially crime. In the last 10 years or so, a particular category has been climbing up the news agenda to a dominant position. I call these stories “necro-news”.

They are about the victimisation of girls and young women. The death or disappearance of anyone from a toddler to a princess is the signal for a media obsession with these stories to the virtual exclusion of all others. The coverage is mawkish, exploitative and highly speculative.’

Do you share his concern? Or is the media only covering stories in a way that we would like to consume them?

More to the point, what kind of newspapers, websites, radio stations and TV networks do you use? And does their coverage of women and girls who have come to harm affect what you choose?

And not that you ever aren’t, but be honest with us here. Millions of us consume stories such as Britney at the moment to the ongoing search for of Madeleine McCann. Is it because they’re placed in front of us, or because we want this kind of coverage.

Sally Anne BowmanJust today, the front pages of the British papers include the headlines “Maddie case closed” (about Madeleine McCann) and “Sally Anne lover grilled in court” (reporting from the trial of a chef for the 2005 murder of teenage model Sally Anne Bowman).

Another guest for the programme will be Kelvin MacKenzie, the controversial former editor of The Sun newspaper and for some the epitome of tabloid journalism going too far.

Read Martin Bell’s article here.

82 Responses to “Is the Western media obsessed with the victimisation of women?”

  1. 1 Brett
    February 6, 2008 at 13:36

    Interesting article, but Mr. Bell fails to recognize the cultural and generational differences which have aided in this transformation from his ‘real news’ and this ‘info-tainment’ type news. The media is run largely by sponsors and as such is motivated to have the largest mass appeal and viewer base, its a matter of supply and demand. Westerners do not want to hear about the attrocities that their country is involved in around the world, or the attrocities that other countries are involved in when they can turn on the news and get the new gossip on what their favorite or least favorite celebrity is up to. This still allows them to feel in touch with ‘current events’ while not having to deal with the scare of ‘real news’.
    The health scares and small isolated violent acts play directly into this drama culture that the news and culture perpetuates.

    I had mentioned it in a previous comment on the Hunting With Spears blog about westerners isolating and insulating themselves within this ‘bubble’ of surreal info-tainment to escape a larger and scarrier reality.

    It’s a shame, it really is. But as long as advertisers help pay media budgets, and as long as the media are in constant competition to get the most viewers, they will undoubtedly play to the public’s wants as far as ‘news’ goes.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  2. 2 Xie_Ming
    February 6, 2008 at 16:24

    Ross illustrates the problem:

    Suggesting High Heels and Exploding Goats as topics!

    A childish attempt at tabloidism- the purpose being to get more folk into the audience.

    Is that to be the goal of WHYS?

    Please, think again about the stated goals of WHYS!

  3. 3 rosatkins
    February 6, 2008 at 16:42

    Xie Ming, I think you might have been missing my point. I mentioned the high heels because I noticed it was the most read yesterday, and that statistic is controlled by everyone who reads bbcnews.com and not by the BBC. And included the goat story, because we’ve talked about goats as an aside a couple of times over the past few days. Neither were suggestions for the show. I’m not sure goats are going to trump the US elections any time soon. I was only joking…

  4. 4 Will Rhodes
    February 7, 2008 at 02:38

    Martin Bell does have a point, and as he was a member of the reporting team for the BBC – a publicly funded body that does go after viewers as much as any commercial company.

    The sponsors of the TV companies do want their pound of flesh – why wouldn’t they? But it is said in the blogosphere that bloggers are becoming, if not become, the real journos in the world. Why is this said? Basically because bloggers don’t care about sponsorship because they don’t have any – and if they are paid then it is because some company agrees with them rather than they having to fit into a set criteria.

    Corporations are lagging behind – they always will, so if you want real news and opinions, go blog hunting.

  5. 5 ZK
    February 7, 2008 at 12:26

    Kelvin Mackenzie. That’s just low. As a Liverpool fan I refuse to tune in tonight. Have a good programme – but good luck pulling it off with that sleaze on air.

  6. 6 Xie_Ming
    February 7, 2008 at 12:52

    The fact that something is the “most read” does not meet the criteria for WHYS.

    (Read them, we have asked and they have been specified!).

    Again, our BBC youngsters need to ask what they are doing and why.

    If “ratings” is the goal of WHYS, then say so and say good-bye to your development.

  7. 7 Ros Atkins
    February 7, 2008 at 13:12

    Hi, Ros, Martin,

    Nice breakfast at the Chief’s!!

    I reckon that most of the time we become interested in news stories because they’re put in front of us. Sometimes it’s necessary that they SHOULD be put in front of us, to bring the public’s attention to things that shouldn’t be happening. Like the victimisation of women, wherever it may be happening. Other times, like the Britney (who??) stories, I’m sure interest is simply generated by the paparazzi doing what they do, and getting paid for their pictures by whoever pays for them. The only reason I know that something is happening with this person called Britney that everyone else seems to think is “the girl next door”, is because the BBC reports on stories about her from time to time. Would she be in the state she’s in – whatever that happens to be – if it weren’t for all the stories being printed, reported about her?

    But any kind of victimisation needs coverage. REAL happenings need to be heard, so that something can be done about them. Otherwise we wouldn’t know about them.

    Chris in Namibia.

  8. 8 john in Germany
    February 7, 2008 at 13:39

    Hello All
    Glad we’ve got the youngsters, cause non of us started at 50 with a belly full of experience,did we?.

    At the moment we have a political run around, a pensioner was attacked and seriously injured by two non European youths in a train station in Munich. So you can imagine how the medium has reacted.

    State elections in the land Hessen have caused problems.

    1 The incumbent Minister President pushed the right wing thought concerning criminal non Europeans, and turned a good win into a bad draw. <we are still waiting results. The medium reaction was as you all expect.

    The medium gives what the customer wants, If i want trash, i buy trash newspapers, and listen to trash radio.

    John in Germany

  9. February 7, 2008 at 13:48

    Hi dearest Ros and the most marvellous WHYS team ! When the dean of the college of dentistry- Baghdad University Professor Dr.Munthir Murhij was assassinated in Baghdad on Wednesday the 23rd of January 2008, did the media in the US and Europe cover that story ?! Sadly the answer is NO ! I just don’t get it, Iraq is being emptied silently of its BRAINS while the media in the US and Europe are so busy covering the news of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton ! BTW, the WHYS programme in my opinion has really proved to be THE REASONABLE VOICE in the Western media ! The WHYS amazing team to me are the KNIGHTS OF TRUTH ! With my love ! Yours forever…. Lubna !

  10. 10 John in Salem
    February 7, 2008 at 13:50

    So what do you want, Martin? You want we should turn back the clock?
    My first memory of television is seeing President Eisenhower getting on a plane to go somewhere. Was that something that everyone needed to know at the time? Probably not. The network decided it was newsworthy, although any number of other stories would likely have had more relevance to the viewers.
    If Edward R. Morrow were alive today he would not be in the least surprised at the latest trends, nor would he be expecting reporters in war zones to expose themselves when they are being targeted.
    News today has to compete for viewership with psuedo-news and info-tainment but there are still places you can turn to for decent reporting – The Christian Science Monitor, NPR and many more.
    TV and newspapers aren’t the ones who decide what we want to see, they are merely responding to demand. When people start tuning out Dateline’s “To Catch a Predator” it will disappear.
    If we are watching trash it’s because that’s what we’ve asked for.

  11. 11 lydia nayo
    February 7, 2008 at 14:02

    America Eats Its Young, the title of an R&B album from the ’70s by Parliament Funkadelic, seems to be an international phenomenon. Celebrity is an obsession, and I think the obsession is more pronounced during historically vulnerable periods. I wonder if there’d be so much focus on B.Spears and her undeniably sad troubles in a more prosperous time, when US citizens didn’t feel so unhinged by the state of the States (can you spell recession? endless war in the middle east? the international embarrassment of G. Bush’s presidency?)

    B. Spears et al, with their larger than life troubles, are easier to focus on. However, I think the obsession may have some basis in class: my highly educated, upper middle class peers don’t spend much psychic energy on the tribulations of starlets with only a modicum of talent and a penchant for lurid troubles. Maybe the STAR magazine reading population needs the diversion…

  12. 12 keith
    February 7, 2008 at 14:14

    Wow, what a fascinating topic. I certainly agree with Mr. Bell and thanks for addressing it. I am disgusted by the American appetite for celebrity “news” as well as the news concerning the sort of crimes against girls that you mentioned. I am not an anthropologist, psychologist, or sociologist…just a lay observer…but my hunch is that there are several things at work here. For one, our culture is so sex obsessed and youth-worshipping that we place young femininity on some kind of pedestal as ideals of these idols. Maybe we allow young women and girls to symbolically represent the male-dominated sex consuming media culture. This same climate teaches college girls on spring break that showing their bodies to goading girls-gone-wild cameramen is some form of “expressing themselves” as if it is liberating, when truly it is a kind of submission to large scale objectification. I would be dishonest if I didn’t admit a little complicity on my part…for some reason, I glance at the Britney headlines with an odd mixture of compassion, curiosity, and frustration at the ridiculous attention paid. I think this is also a symptom of a culture that lives vicariously…we are bred through marketing and constant barrage of ridiculously unrealistic Barbie styled models and oversexualized young women in the media that we learn that our own lives, bodies, and happenings are not important or interesting or sexy. We live vicarious lives through the exciting and horrifying travails we read about and see on television. And yes, I’m willing to indite folks like the Sun for perpetuating this sickness.

  13. February 7, 2008 at 14:21

    Ros and WHYS,

    Great topic!! It needs to be said and fits in nicely with the election and other topics of the day.

    Yes, there is a huge problem with the majority of US population focused. “News” stories can be classified in two categories. As an editor you can separate them by asking one question. Is there anything that the viewer can do, or at least newly learn, from this story? There are grey areas between, but not as many as one might think.

    If your story is about solid topics such as emerging health studies, global warming debate, elected official platform and policy debate, war zone or genocide footage, or anything that a living, voting, public can have influence on. Celebrity deaths, especially heinous deaths, sports/ media figures getting busted for drugs, or divorce and custody battles in general are not stories. So I guess if it is on Nancy Grace, it is not “news” it is drama.

    Sure you can say, “drug overdose stories expose the danger.” however it is a thin argument and nobody really believes you. reporting on the expense of a politicians haircut or an affair that has no political violations can be said to “expose his character” but that is another thin argument.

    The situation is the result of our success. News Media are driven by advertising dollars. Advertising dollars are spent on a per viewer basis. the more viewers you can memorize with your dancing lights and audio the more advertisers are willing to pay. TV viewership is not made up of people who are studying physics, taking nature walks, reading economic figures, attending religious study groups, or writing a book. TV is viewed by people who have nothing progressive to do with their time. People who spend the most time in front of a TV have a very hard time wrapping their mind around difficult subjects. Most TV views are looking for a status somewhere between sleep and awake. oddly enough that is the same state in which advertising is most effective.

    When people find that their neighbors are hacking each other up, an elected official refuses to relinquish the office, electricity and cable are down (shudder), or there are bombs going off in their grocery store, they will wake up and realize Britney’s baby problems are really of no major concern. Until then Fluff will reign king, and the only thing you will know about a presidential candidate is how much his haircut cost or how many space ships he has seen.

  14. 14 Dee in Chicago
    February 7, 2008 at 14:22

    Yes, the western media have gone way overboard in their manner of reporting. Britney may be a ‘willing’ victim but she is not news. I do believe most of the public would appreciate real, thought-provoking new stories instead of this tabloid fare.

  15. 15 Lindsay Nelson - MS, USA
    February 7, 2008 at 14:29

    It is absolutely true that the Western media preys on issues concerning celebrity and crimes that victimize women and children. Unfortunately, that is what attracts the Western audience. But in doing this, it is causing fear of crime to rise in populations that are less likely to be victimized. Speaking with a friend the other day, she stated that she was buying a GPS unit so when she traveled, especially alone, she wouldn’t get caught in the wrong part of town because “you never know what could happen to a woman alone.” When I told her that the stats tell us the most likely victims of crime, especially violent crime, are young males, she really didn’t believe me. The stats also tell us that the people most likely to fear crime are elderly women, and they are one of those least likely populations to have a crime committed against them. We are doing ourselves a dis-service by creating a perpetual media frenzy that focuses on problems that are, for the most part, unique.

  16. 16 keith
    February 7, 2008 at 14:48


    I’m glad you brought up Nancy Grace, as she sort of typifies what we’re talking about…particularly in the sensationalistic and fear-driven way she reports. I don’t have cable and thankfully had never watched her until recently. In fact, I thought she was a made up character on Saturday Night Live, created by Amy Poehler. I visited my grandmother, who is in her late eighties, recently and got to see life through her eyes in a way. She watches Nancy Grace religiously, and she is also an incredibly fearful person, very negative about society at large. The irrational fear that Dee mentioned is so right on, and I think very much at play here. When I watched Nancy Grace with my grandmother I was nauseated and amazed at how, of all the things going on in our country and in the world, she managed to spend all her time on the scariest, gruesomest murders or what have you…and with an over-the-top “be afraid, be very afraid” tone. I think people who consume a steady diet of this brand of “news” certainly go out into society with a lens that is colored accordingly.

  17. February 7, 2008 at 14:50

    This is interesting to me as I just finished looking at a website of sexual predators. I see that most of them are white males molesting young men. I wonder why men getting sexually abused does not get more attention. I guess it’s because men are supposed to want sex no matter what and men are not supposed to be abused. I’ve had several male partners who were sexually abused and could not face it to heal. This makes them more likely to offend again.
    totally off topic, this makes me wonder why we are afraid to have gays for teachers when the biggest predators are straight white males.

  18. February 7, 2008 at 14:54

    PS I should have said they molest young boys.
    I do not read People magazine. I don’t read about movie stars. They do not interest me, and the more attention I give them. the more I support this kind of drama. I quit after Lady Di died, realizing that I had a part in her death by my curiosity about her.
    I wonder why we can’t focus on people who do good things for the world. Who are your heroes and why? Mine are pretty unfamous–the working poor.

  19. 19 Ros Atkins
    February 7, 2008 at 14:55

    Sadly, Mr. Bell seem to be right, I just need to add that it is not the western media alone, ours in Africa is also guilty. It seems to me that the media is always on the look out for news events relating to women, in the absence of such, they could create a page one story out of a woman’s head-gear, etc.The media is always swift to point out the feminine angle in every story. Sadly, people don’t usually go the extra mile of searching for news they really need, they just settle for what their favourite news company feeds them. So people begin following the “case” of Paris Hilton not really because they need to know how long she will be in prison, but because every ‘sensible’ news house is carrying it.
    Well, sometimes women themselves enjoy being the focus of so much fuss and attention.

    Nengak Daniel, Port Harcourt, Nigera

  20. 20 VictorK
    February 7, 2008 at 14:56

    Possibly, but I’m not sure it matters. Every media outlet in every region of the world is going to have its favourite news items, either in response to consumer demand or as a result of editorial policy. There’s nothing surprising there, surely? The media across the muslim world is obsessed with Israel; in Africa exhortations to ‘nation-building’ is a constant media theme; etc.

    A more interesting question is how news is managed by important media outlets to focus more attention than is really justified on some issues (I think Israel-Palestine is absurdly over-exposed), or to underplay others (e.g. the Democratic Republic of Congo, a far more significant issue than Palestine), or to simply pretend that an important issue is not an issue at all (e.g. the plans by the US and EU to forcibly dismember a sovereign state over the next few months, in violation of all international law; or the relative silence over the genocide in Southern Sudan that has been going on for over a generation and has never in that time attracted very much notice – how many people mistakenly think it all began with Darfur?).

    There’s not much to worry about when the media reports frivolities; it’s when they only report the frivolous and don’t do justice to the issues of substance that we ought to be concerned. This isn’t the case with the Western media, at least not yet, which at least reports what happens across the globe in addition to local stories about girls and women. If there are statistics detailing the proportion of foreign news coverage in the media of different regions of the world I’m sure that the broadcasters and press of the West would rank at the top. So it’s a little unfair – in effect -to single them out in this way to be bashed. In fact, those statistics, which I’m sure must exist, would form a much more interesting debate about the level of awareness by region of what happens across the world, since there are genuinely significant implications for foreign relations and foreign policies. .

  21. 21 steve
    February 7, 2008 at 15:05

    I’ll never forget, several years ago there was a missing girl story. It got tons of media attention. The girl was pretty. I recall there was another girl missing, but she was overweight. I remember her mother pleading for media attention so the story could get out so people could be on the lookout, but barely anyone picked up on it. So if you’re a male, or a female and are overweight, you don’t stand much chance of getting media coverage of your dissapearance.

  22. 22 Shane Morlan - OH, USA
    February 7, 2008 at 15:06

    I am often quite disturbed and even frustrated in the mass decline in Real News. Personally I get my news from a couple different sources including National Public Radio and BBC. I mainly listen to Internet Streams as it seems these are some of the few places left to actually find information about the state of my Nation and the world. I believe that the mainstream media has been carefully reconstructed and politicized by a few powerful men. The people have their own agendas, they carefully design the days news in a way to prevent people from discovering something; what is behind their agenda. The King of Pop News today is Rupert Murdoch. His brand of stories, since the establishment of “Fox News”, are all flash and bang. A mixture of Flashy symbols, bright pictures, ALERTS, and all the opinion of their paid goons to completely hide the facts. I believe this is done to keep people misinformed. To keep people in their homes, off the streets, to prevent a mass uprising against the machine which has taken over our nation. I was born in the last year of the 70s but history has repeated itself many times. A web has been created by the Corporate media that keeps people from rising together, from coming out and protesting the lies and atrocities which have been committed on behalf of and against the will of the citizens of AMERICA. Most people are caught up in this web, not seeing the truth. The media serves another purpose, keeping us divided. “Together we stand, divided we fall” plays an important role in todays politics. Every issue seems to be designed to keep us divided into Democrats or Republicans. We do not agree on anything and nothing positive gets accomplished. Our government has run without care of the people because the reporters do not expose the truth. They take part in covering it up in doing nothing. I sometimes feel helpless. You would thing the sharp rise in poverty and the growing gap in holders of wealth in the Nation would get people together and say enough careless spending on defense and enough cutting of budgets for domestic spending programs and enough pushing the poor further and further into debt while expanding the bank accounts of the wealthy but……. NO, would the media take charge as they did decades ago to expose this plot by our leaders to play the Anti-Robin-Hood ? Ha! Greed and capitalism and consumerism rules all. The people of this country need positive enforcement for change, not this white-wash of flash and bang stories of today’s media. I agree with Martin Bell, except as you can see, I have put many many hours into thinking about the WEB, not just of stories of Women and little girls, which do fill the airways and cables and satellite systems of out televisions, but a broad spectrum of mis-information. My eyes were opened at the beginning of the 2004 election year by a professor of mine in a basic college writing course. One last thing, I wish that the Mainstream would focus on the alarming rate of voter fraud, post the establishment of the Diebold electronic voting machines, which have been proven to be hacked in past elections. Why do so many states still rely on them? hmmmmmmm. Not enough media coverage to outrage the citizens who would surly uprise and demand fair election… Thank You, and sorry for the lengthy response, I just have so much pent up frustration…

  23. 23 steve
    February 7, 2008 at 15:07

    Another byproduct of this attention to females in the news (ie Britney, not missing girl cases) is that girls will see this gets them attention if they do outrageous things. We’ll see girls imitating this behavior because it gets them attention. Given the absolute rock bottom self esteem women have these days, we should be very scared of this happening. Remember, most women base their self esteem off of the attention they get, good or bad. Be very afraid.

  24. 24 keith
    February 7, 2008 at 15:11


    I don’t necessarily disagree with your points, but you could you explain a bit more about why you believe that Israel/Palestine is less important or relevant than the DRC, and what dismantling of a sovereign nation you are referring to? I am just not sure I understand fully. Thanks.

  25. 25 Ros Atkins
    February 7, 2008 at 15:27


    It’s the “damsels in distress” syndrome

    From Little Red Riding Hood to Jean Benet Ramsey we’ve always been overly obsessed with these kinds of stories.

    Honestly, as the father of a 3 year old girl, what could be more frightening?

    It’s a sorry excuse but sadly true.

    Dave, Cleveland

  26. 26 primal convoy
    February 7, 2008 at 16:32

    In Japan recently, a sign showing hairy, semi nude men on a train was removed due to some Japanese women claiming that it was “sexual harrassment”. A recent article in Metropolis magazine (a free mag for foriegners in Japan” ) addressed this.

    NOTE: Im not sure if Im allowed to post links or long quotes, so Im going to post a broken link (so as to not leech bandwidth or hits from the bbc) and Im posting the article in its entirety as perhaps the link, which may or may not be allowed, will be removed. Im sorry if Ive broken any rules and please contact admin who can give me a scolding at my real email address.

    http:// metropolis.co.jp/tokyo/723/ lastword.asp

    ” Language Abuse – By Sarah Noorbakhsh

    By removing an “offensive” poster from its trains, JR East actually does its female riders a disservice

    In early January, JR East made headlines when it agreed to remove posters promoting a 1,000-year-old festival in Iwate Prefecture. The company acted after complaints from female customers, who claimed that looking at the poster gave them an “unpleasant feeling.” The ads, for the Kokumin Temple’s Somin Festival (also dubbed the “naked festival”), showed images of men in loincloths and a man with a beard and a hairy chest.

    While it’s not unimaginable that some women might get an “unpleasant feeling” from seeing mostly naked men flashing their full moons, the complaints in this case were mostly directed at the hairy beast in the poster’s center, who is unabashedly displaying his bushy mane for all to see. How terrible, to have images of an un-manicured, masculine human being littered about train stations! JR quickly took the posters down and, according to the Mainichi Daily News, released this statement: “The pictures showed things that were particularly unpleasant for women, such as chest hair. It was decided that showing them things they didn’t want to see was sexual harassment.”

    Wait, what?

    First, I think it’s appropriate to ask how, in a country where “penis festivals” are popular tourist attractions and ads with bikini-clad models flashing pouty lips and mountains of cleavage can be found decorating the interior of almost any train carriage, something as tame as a bit of chest hair and a beard could be seen as offensive. I can understand how it might not be exactly desirable to see something like this on your way to work in the morning, but I fail to see how body hair could induce “unpleasant feelings”—any more so than a skin-and-bones boy-band member revealing his emaciated physique, or a 14-year-old model in lingerie posing provocatively on the cover of a magazine. Why are these mildly inappropriate and relatively disturbing images more acceptable than an adult male with a beard?

    Even if you concede that images of a hairy man are “offensive,” seeing them on a poster falls far short of any reasonable definition of “sexual harassment.” When I go to 7-Eleven to pick up a carton of milk and am “forced” to edge past the salarymen getting their jollies on at the magazine rack, is this sexual harassment?

    No, sexual harassment is being groped on the train, having co-workers make lewd comments about cleavage or short skirts, and receiving unwanted sexual advances from an authority figure. It’s having someone try to coax inappropriate information, or spew belittling comments of a sexist or sexual nature. For sexual harassment to occur, there needs to be an aggressor, and I just don’t think that a poster of a hairy man, the staff who hung the poster, or any of those who contributed to the making of the poster could quite qualify as playing that malicious role.

    It was childish of those customers to complain about such a trifling matter because they found it merely displeasing. More than that, it’s disgusting for them to pepper their speech with powerful words for the sake of eliciting a reaction. Throwing around terms like “sexual harassment,” especially in such a petty situation, not only devalues the meaning of the term, but also disrespects the countless people who are victims of actual sex crimes.

    By catering to the whims of fussy women who don’t know how to act as adults, and by abusing a term with very serious connotations, JR is inadvertently assisting women in undermining the very systems which were put into place to protect them. Chikan, or being groped by a stranger in public, is a rampant problem in Japan, but there have been many cases where women falsely accuse men of molesting them. As a result, male riders often feel threatened, hesitant to put their hands below waist level lest they accidentally bump into a female commuter and be called out. The term seku hara has also been wielded like a weapon, with women yelling “Fire!” at even the slightest suspicion that they may be a target.

    Because of incidents such as this one, people who intend no harm are forced to tread even more carefully to avoid ruffling fussy female feathers. And as the term “seku hara” gets shoved further into the realm of wasei eigo, the words, and the issue itself, lose gravity and meaning. Women do not realize that, by creating an environment where sexually objectified females are seen as normal, yet healthy adult male bodies are profane and cause “unpleasant feelings,” they are only furthering the belief that women can be violated. And for those who do receive such treatment against their will, it will become increasingly difficult to be taken seriously.

    Sarah Noorbakhsh is a freelance translator, aspiring writer and intern at Metropolis.”

    My apologies for the long post. However, these things can be a bugger to track down sometimes. Hope this is helpful to the discussion.

  27. 27 Anthony
    February 7, 2008 at 16:34

    I think we need to look at the ratios involved. I believe the ratio of women/girls domestically abused, raped, taken advantage of, etc. is much higher than the ratio of men/boys. Because of a woman’s physical make up mental make-up, they are more susceptible to being a victim. It would be more interesting if it was the other way around, but the fact is that this happens more to women/girls.

    -Anthony, Los Angeles, California.

  28. 28 John in Salem
    February 7, 2008 at 16:58

    I would argue that the focus on the victimization of women serves more than our salacious curiosity because there IS an increase of assaults on women in recent years. The flaw is that these stories don’t go far enough.
    Fear is valuable. Fear can save your life. There is a recent book out called “The Gift of Fear”, in which the author makes the case that, more often than not, women who are victimized have unwittingly helped to create the situation by being nice instead of listening to their intuition. They do things against their better judgement because they don’t want to be perceived as rude. You don’t hear too many stories about women who are assaulted because they were being a bitch – they’re usually about the ones who put themselves or their children in vulnerable positions when they knew better.
    I just wish these programs put more stress on the lessons to be learned rather than on portraying the victim as someone who was attacked “out of the blue” which is rarely the case. They have the potential to teach self-assertion as part of a positive self-image, and the fact that they don’t is our own fault because we aren’t asking them to.

  29. 29 viola anderson
    February 7, 2008 at 17:16

    Guess I better go read the goat story and the high heels story so I’ll know what everyone is talking about. When I read, watch or listen to the news, I focus first on international, then national, then local, then special interest news. Sometimes those special interest shows catch my interest big-time, but usually I get fed up with the excessive coverage of celebrity news. I do find that when I get hooked on something like a missing little girl or murdered wives or deaths of princesses, it becomes like an addictive soap opera with just about the same content of “news.” I don’t actually feel the same sort of connection to celebrities which, apparently, so many people do. Also, I figure celebrities and world figures are just people like everyone else, not gods or demi-gods that we need to pay attention to for our survival. Guess that’s not the case for the people who cover the celebrity beat and earn their bread that way. Seriously, I think we humans must have a deep-seated need for gossip, which is what entertainment news is, and in a world in which kin and social connections are more and more difficult to maintain, maybe entertainment journalism fills a void. If that kind of coverage illuminates some aspect of modern day life, maybe it’s useful

  30. 30 VictorK
    February 7, 2008 at 17:33

    Keith: yes, happy to clarify.

    The state due for territorial amputation is Serbia. The US and EU are committed to granting independence to its province of Kossovo, by what right I don’t know. The EU has even attempted to blackmail Serbia with promises to fast-track its EU membership application if it goes along with the plans for Kossovo. The Serbs are not a particularly admirable people, but the principle of national sovereignty is one that ought to be respected and applies even to nations that one doesn’t personally care for.

    In the DR of the Congo at least 3 million (and possibly 4 million) people have lost their lives in the past 10 years or so. During the same period the number of dead in the Israel-Palestine conflict has run into the thousands. Yet which of these conflicts is reported as an earthquake and which is reported as a mild tremor? Similar numbers have been slaughtered in a cold-blooded genocide in the Sudan over the past 30-40 years; yet most people are only aware of the separate and more recent Darfur conflict because so little attention has been given to the much larger Sudanese issue.

    I think that there is a terrible disproportion between the amount of attention that is given to the Palestinian issue and several far more significant issues across the world (Tibet is another, a nation under complete occupation and subject for half a century to deliberate and malicious cultural genocide, as well as a deliberate attempt to overwhelm it as a nation demographically through massive Chinese immigration). But while Palestine has been discussed several times on WHYS, I don’t think that Tibet has even got a look in (apologies to WHYS if I’m wrong).

  31. 31 steve
    February 7, 2008 at 17:39

    Offtopic, but would be a GREAT discussion for WHYS:


    Apparently when in Rome, do as the Romans do, except if you’re in the UK, then you’ll bend over backwards to accomodate. More one way street tolerance. Do you really think IN Saudi Arabia they would do anything like that which the Archbishop of Cantebury is suggesting?

  32. 32 viola anderson
    February 7, 2008 at 17:55

    I think women read stories about women being victimised for clues to help them avoid danger though it is true that concentrating almost exclusively on such stories can get you thinking the world is more dangerous than it actually is. I would point out that a young girl or woman behaving foolishly because she craves attention should elicit at most a chuckle and a tolerant “she’ll grow up” attitude, rather than a censorious one. Personally, I think the human race, along with other earthly creatures is physically most beautiful when it is preening for sexual attention from the opposite sex, so we all need to be tolerant towards our young in this respect. It scares me when I wonder why men would find a story about women and girls being kidnapped, murdered, maimed and tortured extremely interesting until I remember most men will be thinking , “What a shame. Poor girl.” Is the victimisation of women being exploited in the same way that celebrities’ lives are? Quite likely, so as a consumer of news, I have to be aware of this and take it into account.

  33. February 7, 2008 at 18:02


    Martin Bell’s point is well taken, however journalism in the U.S. is like any other money-making endeavor here. Our culture’s obsession with female victimization is so deeply ingrained that I don’t see this type of “news” fading into the background as appropriate for its relevance because of the multi-million dollar industry behind it. Like I said about Spears, there’s just too much money invested in following and hurting beautiful celebrity women. I wish a story had been done, for example, about the Russian woman who was recently killed *before* she’d been killed who was an ex-model who ran a kick-butt, all-female security agency. But no, she only makes the news once she’s been victimized. Funny, isn’t it?

    I think this also, ironically, touches on what I was telling you in email earlier today about how hard it is to get women authors noticed in the horror genre. Men would prefer to see women victimized rather than to read women’s literature that victimizes back in their own way. The role reversal is too perverse and off-putting, I suspect, for many of them to stomach. And not to pick on men because it’s really the readership as a whole that isn’t comfortable with it for just the cultural reasons that Bell touches on.

  34. 34 Casandra in the USA
    February 7, 2008 at 18:05

    I think there is a mutually dependent relationship between the western media and it’s consumers. Our obession with celebrities is sickening and counter-productive. I think the media should take the steps to remove the celebrity trash I.V. from our arms.

  35. 35 George USA
    February 7, 2008 at 18:10

    Why we fight.

    This was a training film in WWII.

    Strategic error- The media is creating conflict focusing on the Muslim role of women.

    Nothing could be worse to list under the column of “Why we fight” than imposing cultural values of “Women’s Liberation” that dictates, not prevention of bad treatment,sexual liberation.

    The demands of Western Media are clear- wearing burka’s is unacceptable for example and just as clear in that demand is women be Westernized, which translates to what Muslims consider immoral women.

    When BBC is afraid to publish remarks about the heart of the issue a full consideration of what is at play is not being made.

    The cold hard fact is Muslims, particularly conservative Muslims, consider Western women to be living an immoral role compared to their own women under their culture.

    The declaration of the West that Muslim culture must be altered drastically is a declaration of war on their values and religious moral rules.

    We have enough to fight a military conflict without making cooperation and peace utterly impossible.

    Tacking Women’s Liberation, onto reasons to fight, provides reason enough in itself to conduct an insurgency.

    That bears repeating-

    Demanding that Muslim women embrace Western women’s dress, role, and implicitly the sexual practices of the west is reason enough for an insurgency.

    Rather than “sell” the war to the US and UK, this only makes successful resolution of the conflict impossible.

    Attacking Muslim culture is self defeating for us.

    This is such a delicate subject the BBC has not placed my remarks on the site, but the conflict is this:

    If BBC and WHY is so touchy on this area they cannot publish it, think how touchy the Muslim men are on the same topic.

    If stating that Women’s sexual liberation is precisely at the heart of imposing Western values on Muslims women is taboo on WHYS how much more taboo must the Muslim Clerks view the very values WHYS believes itself to be protecting.

  36. 36 devadas
    February 7, 2008 at 18:11

    not only the western media the local and regional papers over here in a small town like kannur likes to elaborate on what on is done to women or girls and at the state level its the same less said at the national level .in a way if uniform news are given on all aspects well we can see this as an newspaer or media ethics.but other important things like poverty ,lawlessness etc are given a back seat when the crimes against women are being elaborated .todays discussion on this shows at international level also its the same .top to bottom womens are projected in the name of news for increasing circulation .i kerala in the 90s when uk model pamela anderson came for holidays one particular newspaper malayalamanorama the largest circulating newspaper in india carried all her nude photographs and sea side antics for one whole week on front page and ran a seperate supplement till her return .this is the easy way through sleazy pictures of women papers now increase their sales .same as how diana was made up in the news for circulation .the tabloids made her and killed her too ?
    a national newspaper on newyears day put up a photo of crowds groping two ladies in front of a hotel in bombay and not only at that point they stopped they drew a circle on the back of women were the thugs were groping .is this journalism or someother thingin the name of journalism ?and describing the sordid tales of how rape was done is now the latest passion of newspapers .whose animal instincts are this newspapers satisfying .or have they found out that by this way only they can increase their circulation.
    not only this the discussion must also have included how womens nudity is used for advertisement would have given this discussion a wholesome effect?


  37. 37 John in California
    February 7, 2008 at 18:14

    This seems to me to be a clear result of the media consolidation by coorporations that regard news as just another product instead of a vital public service. Yes, salacious stories will attract viewers and readers, but it seems to me that in the past real news outlets cared enough to leave stories of the crazy ingenues to the tabloids. Claiming that the media is just “giving people what they ” want is a pathetic excuse for the abdication for their responsibility.

  38. 38 George USA
    February 7, 2008 at 18:16

    Muslim Clerics

  39. 39 Fred Greatorex
    February 7, 2008 at 18:17

    the biggest reason that I listen to the news from NPR & BBC is because the US “News Media” can not stop beating the dead horses of “sensational crimes”. I feel all I need is the sound bite that “Celebrity X” has done such again and I feel I could live a completely full and happy life without that. Thanks for this discussion topic, let’s listen to each other and see what we all have to say. Cheers from Portland OR.

  40. 40 John
    February 7, 2008 at 18:19

    We’ve had this discussion before on World Have Your Say, last time with regard to gun crimes in the US. My answer is the same. Newspapers have no need to report on the details of crime, merely that it has happened.
    Anything else is not news, but story telling. If there’s a rapist or gunman on the loose, let me know. If he’s under arrest or dead, it is the business of the legal system, not the papers. To continue reporting on the subject is the lowest form of entertainment. If the media cannot resist tittilation, it needs to be regulated.

  41. 41 aishah jamaludin
    February 7, 2008 at 18:20

    hi i am listening to your radio now all the way from romania. Thanks so much.

  42. 42 Andrew
    February 7, 2008 at 18:20

    Hello my name is Andrew and I am living in Los Angeles California. I think its safe to say that yes the Western media is obsessed with the victimisation of women, but I think you left out one very important point, they are obsessed with the victimisation of “WHITE” women. How many cases of Black, Latin, or any other ethnicity women do you hear about on the news? When a black girl goes missing and winds up dead the media doesn’t say anything on the subject, but a rich white girl goes missing, its ALL over the news.

  43. 43 Steve in the USA
    February 7, 2008 at 18:21

    An american example of where the media covered it because the victim was female, and would have ignored it if the victim had been male, was the “pregnant marine” story that unfolded not too long ago. At first, it was a missing person case, of a pretty woman (the media would have ignored the story had she been male or not attractive). It got dramatic because her mother started saying the daughter was a compulsive liar. But it turns out she was apparently killed by a fellow marine, who is believed to have fled to Mexico. Had a male marine killed another male marine, it would have never made the news. It wouldn’t have been known outside of the corps other than maybe newspaper coverage of the military trial. The real secret of whether the news will cover it is if the victim is female, but she must be attractive, otherwise they cannot have a pretty face to stick up on the screen.

  44. 44 Jeffrey in Portland, Oregon
    February 7, 2008 at 18:22

    The obsession with the persecution of young women in the Western media is endemic of a deeper problem, which is that Western media is complicit in ignoring larger, stickier issues in the world. the Western media is just one arm of the military industrial complex, whose job it is to pacify the population with white noise and a fixation on celebrity. Deep down, people would rather be distracted by Paris Hilton and her driving habits, because it acts as a sedative. Otherwise they might have to think about real issues, like the murder of innocent children abroad in the name of foreign policy.

  45. 45 Chris
    February 7, 2008 at 18:23

    I give the American media no credit what so ever. Most media outlets rely on scare tactics and fear to get ratings and sell papers. If these “News” agencies spent as much time on substantial issues such as politics, government and corporate business tactics, society would be better off and perhaps people would learn something as well.

  46. 46 Laura Hughes
    February 7, 2008 at 18:23

    I agree with one of your callers, in that the middle to upper class, blond hair, blue-eyed young girls receive an astounding amount of coverage compared to other little girls. Many young black girls AND BOYS go missing every week but receive no coverage at all. Why this injustice?

  47. 47 Sokol in Tirana, Albania.
    February 7, 2008 at 18:25

    It s ok to report news, but nowadays it seems as the media make news.

  48. 48 jim
    February 7, 2008 at 18:25

    Unfortunately western media subscribes to the theory that if garbage sells… then sell garbage.

    Look at CNN’s most popular news. Celeberty infotainment will beat the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq every time.

  49. 49 kristin
    February 7, 2008 at 18:27

    I live in the US and they make you feel like you are not in the know unless you know what is happening with Brittney or Paris Hilton. That is where the obsession comes from. It is breaking news when it shouldn’t be. Breaking news should not be so trivial. It should be for the deadly tornado’s or the millions of people dying around the world. Not the break down of troubled celebrities…

  50. 50 Kati
    February 7, 2008 at 18:31

    I do feel as though all of western civilization, the media in particular, has some sort of sick interest in the victimization of women. Law and Order, Special Victims Unit, is a show based on the victimization of women, and I think uses “interest in the law” to flash gory pictures and sexual details about women raped and killed. I think it is weird when people like this show, yet, it is one of the highest rated shows on television in the United States.

  51. 51 Ian
    February 7, 2008 at 18:32

    I think media coverage extends beyond women and girls, but also includes the race factor. The media coverage also extends into popular TV where many of the programmes cover crimes against women and children. What effect does this have on society. I think that because the media covers a disproportionately high amount of these crimes – as opposed to other crimes then the general public thinks they are on the increase and that society is becoming increasingly violent and masogenist. For example the amount of crimes that are reported against children, on the internet, in the media and shows would have you thinking that the world is full of perverts. The trouble is that this trickles down into society. People are afraid to even look at children in case others think that they are a pervert. This also goes for race issues as well. The media reports these, but leaves out the hundreds of crimes that have nothing to do with race. Now we are all racists. It is also the same with crimes against women. Battery and crimes against women may make up a small proportion of violent crimes, but because they make the news in a higher proportion we are lead to think that they are on the rise. I think the underlying demon here is political correctness, the people who follow this doctrine would like to brainwash us into thinking we still live in a racist sexist bigoted society.

  52. 52 Monica
    February 7, 2008 at 18:38

    if the world media concentrated on the real issues, like white collar crime which isn’t as “exciting” but which kills far more people each year, then we’d have real discussions happening in the world. Especially in America, when you turn on the news, you can tell that all they want to do is scare you, and perpetuate racism and fear. You see the black man’s face “wanted” for murder or armed robbery or drug crimes, or whatever street crime you can imagine. And then you let stories like Enron just sort of fade into the background.

    The crooks at the top are who you should be focusing on, but they are too powerful, too rich, too influential in society to target, so you go for the easy target.

    I’m not scared to walk around my city at night, because I know it’s just all a bunch of sensationalized lies and exaggerations made to perpetuate the fear. We also have many sitcoms and prime-time shows which feed into the fear and ignorance that people tend towards. CSI Las Vegas/NY/Miami, Fear Factor, etc.
    It’s a business which feeds off of people’s primitive fears, and perpetuates stereotypes. Ridiculous if you ask me.

    And the paparazzi who’ll go out of their way to show you about your top popstar of the day, it’s just out of hand. But there’s a market for it. It’s the human flaw inherant in all of us.

    In Denmark, they preach that everyone is equal, and yet they gawp at their monarchy and how he married an Australian. We like to put the rich and famous onto pedestals, and then point our fingers at them any time they do anything out of the normal.
    They’re just people, too at the end of the day.

  53. 53 VictorK
    February 7, 2008 at 18:38

    @ Steve: you’re right, the sharia-isation of the UK would be a very good subject to discuss.

    The Archbishop’s comment and attitude embody everything that’s bad about liberalism. Here is a communty that has failed to integrate and whose culture and religion are powerful foces against integraton. So, why not officially endorse that culture and religion and make them enforceable by law in order to…help them integrate??!!??

    A classic liberal stew of wishful thinking, kind but misplaced intentions, inability to foresee consequences, immunity from reality, optimism in the face of facts and probabilities, and self-righteous do-goodery.

  54. 54 Joey
    February 7, 2008 at 18:41

    Is Martin saying, that the news is…anything under the sun?
    How do you manage that?


  55. 55 Douglas in Canada
    February 7, 2008 at 18:43

    Your Sun editor makes a good point. What media executive could turn down a multi-million audience if the story of a young girls’
    disappearance gets him that kind of attention for his advertisers? But this is media led by the mob. We should discourage such reporting just as we do lynching. Corporate media has proven it cannot control itself, and so we need tighter regulation on reporting.


  56. 56 Laura Hughes
    February 7, 2008 at 18:43

    I’m sorry, I totally disagree with your guest. Please do not lump all 20-somethings into the same category. I know many college students in my building who have new york times newspapers sitting outside of their doors everyday. We do read “serious news.” I think there is a fascination with Britney-type stories because we’ve grown up with her on our radar- she’s in our generation and has morphed from a cute blond to a complete wreck. It’s what the business has done to her, and thats interesting in a way for us.
    However, you don’t need to own a house to be concerned, distraught even, over people dying in Kenya and Darfur. You don’t need a couple of kids to worry about the state of low-income families and their personal struggles.

  57. 57 Arthur in Michigan USA
    February 7, 2008 at 18:45

    I agree, there is way too much coverage for crime against a woman or a child. You would think, that in this entire world, there could be more interesting topics. What comes to mind as to the good kind of news program, is the “European Journal” sponsored by Deutsche Wellle Radio/TV, and it appears on nPBS each Sunday at 1300 EST. Maybe the BBC and the US news agaencies could get together and have an hour long poitpurree of a similar nature? Thanks for your news , I watch it and listen to it in place of USA networks!!

  58. 58 Amy in Portland
    February 7, 2008 at 18:46

    The question of media coverage of celebrities and/or brutalization of women and girls vs. the people’s consumption of the stories is kind of like asking “which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

    I think the people want it because the media provides it. The media then provides it because the people want it. It is a vicious circle.

  59. 59 John in Salem
    February 7, 2008 at 18:47

    Ros~ After asking the question about whether or not running the picture of the murdered model is ethical, I think you’d better explain why you did it today.

  60. 60 mcbull
    February 7, 2008 at 18:49

    Your guests are saying that it is the media’s job to provide the stories the readers are interested in. What if the audience is white and middle class and more interested in stories about white middle class women and girls? What is the media responsibility to other demographics of their audience?

  61. 61 Charles from Cleveland
    February 7, 2008 at 18:50

    Is there a connection between media preoccupation with celebrity and deregulation of the media? I think answer is yes.

    FCC regulations allow for media entities to own more media outlets in more types of media (newspapers, television stations, radio stations). Fewer people are deciding what constitutes “news” than ever before. My perception is that there has also been less regulation requiring the coverage of real news.

    The net effect is that we in the US get more coverage of Britney Spears than the War in Iraq, the erosion of constitutional rights (habeas corpus and freedom from illegal wiretaps and torture), or the 935 lies of the Bush administration that lead to the war in Iraq (http://www.publicintegrity.org/WarCard/)

    The result is we are getting dumber. According to the Pew Survey in 2007, 31% of Americans couldn’t name the current vice president. That’s increased from 27% in 1989 (http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=319).

    When will it end?

  62. 62 Anna
    February 7, 2008 at 18:53

    It’s a good idea to look at the entire context of these stories. The media is only reporting a small picture of the phenomena of women in the media and society at large.

  63. 63 andrew
    February 7, 2008 at 18:55

    Its one thing to focus on violent crimes against women and children, its another for news outlets to focus on the private lives of public people. Brittany’s life is hers and hers alone. Its none of my business. There can never be enough coverage of voilence perpetrated against women and children. Its a pervasive problem and must be addressed by the news media. Incidentally, men and boys are for more often the victims violent crime than are women and girls. When an errant bomb is dropped on the wrong target or a terrorist blows up a crowd of people, the press always singles out women and children if they died in the blast but never men. Are we to believe that the lives of innocent men and boys are unimportant?

  64. 64 Eliel in New York
    February 7, 2008 at 18:56

    Even Elizabeth Smart, the cute little blonde girl who was recently kidnapped then found alive was unable to escape Chapelle’s sharp wit, as he made some sound social commentary.
    He compared Smart, who was unable to escape her kidnappers despite being left unguarded only 11 miles from her home, to a black girl in Philadelphia who was kidnapped and, “chewed through her ropes and had them arrested in 45 minutes.”

    True story though.

  65. 65 George USA
    February 7, 2008 at 18:57

    Women’s roles as Muslim emigrants is totally different from Muslim’s women roles in their home country.

    Emigrants can and must embrace the country the emigrate to enough to function.

    The original issue was media focus on Muslim women in their home countries.

    These are two 180 degree opposite topics.

  66. 66 Boris the Brain
    February 7, 2008 at 18:59

    The media is presently trash compared to what quality broadsheets use to be and has one concern to increase sales numbers. This world service programme ( not the first recenly) is just a window for old press “hacks” to justify themselves and their inabily to to go out and do some real journalism. Is the British “Sun” a good example of the media ? God help us if this is so !!
    How many women and girls have been victimised or killed in the middle-east recently ? Did those numbers get covered ?

  67. 67 keith
    February 7, 2008 at 18:59

    Hi, I was just on with Kelvin and Martin, and I felt that Kelvin entirely missed my point. My comment was meant to question applying an amoral capitalistic supply and demand argument to the news media. I was trying to say…could we for one moment assume that just because something is profitable and legal, doesn’t make it beneficial to all. Kelvin rebutted my comment by essentially saying that when the Sun reports a dud (ie. relevant international news) the sales drop. This is in fact part of my point, not an effective rebuttal to my point. I am suggesting that Kelvin, and many others for whom newsmaking is a profitable enterprise, is already too removed from such questions of ethics to even understand a question like the one I posed. Fascinating that he proudly announced having isolated the poverty of my argument, I think was his wording. Ah well.

  68. 68 Bhavna Chaudhri
    February 7, 2008 at 18:59

    I believe the media has the right to convey any news, as long as it is done professionally & in a tasteful manner. The western media has an unhelathy obsession. People have the choice to listen and watch what they want to…
    Personally I do not watch or listen to any celebrity news, it doesn’t interst me…. but if my next door neighbor likes trash news, they are free to listen to that. Trash news is just cheap fodder for people with a low intellect level.

  69. 69 Hardin Rood
    February 7, 2008 at 19:03

    I had been blissfully unaware of this one person out of 6.7 billion on this planet until you chose the story for discussion.

    Individuals are anecdotes, which are compelling, but there are much bigger problems.

    Address those.
    When done,
    and all the bigger problems are solved,
    then join the tabloids.

  70. 70 Joey
    February 7, 2008 at 19:04

    To the American woman guest on the show:

    That was a funny comment about women being a higher class of men or something of the sort.
    Here is a recent story about rich older women wanting to date young pretty men.
    This is the best of your lot, rich, successful, older and wise, and they do just the same thing as men, covet the younger and opposite sex.
    Visit Trafalgar square, it’s glorious…


  71. 71 Sam Mee
    February 7, 2008 at 19:10

    It’s not just an obsession with young girls, celebrity and death, what we see with the majority of the modern media is a complete break down in journalistic quality and a pandering to the lowest common denominator. The Media’s job is not simply to entertain but to inform, it is a vital pillar of a functioning and successful democracy.

    A case in point is ably illustrated by The Sun and its pathetic reporting in the build up to the Iraq war; perhaps if there had been less flag waving and scaremongering and instead professional investigative journalism the British public would have had a better idea of what the Government was up to and we wouldn’t not be in our present predicament.

    Just because it sells does not make it right, and just because people agree to buy it does not mean it should be sold. The Media have an important job to do and at present they are failing the public of all Western democracies. Without an educated and informed public we are only one step away from totalitarian regimes acting without impunity.

  72. 72 George USA
    February 7, 2008 at 19:16

    The victimization of Muslim women in their home countries stories and media focus is what I referred to, not in the UK or USA.

    The salacious stories of the USA are one thing, the media use of the topic victimization of women in Afghanistan and Iraq or other Muslim countries by Muslim men is something obstructing resolving the war (s).

    The media is actually creating conflict beyond the reason for the war.

    If US and UK media wish to produce essentially “snuff film” material that is one thing.

    The topic of victimization of women in Muslim countries over their clothing (in their own countries) is essentially broadening the war and obstructing resolution of the war.

  73. 73 steve
    February 7, 2008 at 19:20

    I think a lot of the stories about women, other than when it’s a kidnapping or a murder, tends to show the non accountability of women. Take your latest female celebrity DWI situation. Her worst fear would be going to jail for a couples days, and be deprived of Evian water. That’s about the only consequence. Do you think Paris Hilton cares about having a criminal record? Of course not, it wouldn’t mean anything to her because she doesn’t have to work a real job. If I got a DWI, my career would end. I would likely lose my law license. So I have to be responsible. If your only consequence of committing a crime is spending a weekend in jail, it means you’ll probably be irresponsible.

    Don’t forget in the past that the media would perpetuate the non accountability of women. Anyone ever read about the Trial of Madame Caillaux (sp?) back in France a bit before ww1? Basically a french politician’s wife shot a journalist who wrote a scathing article about her husband. At the trial, basically her defense, admitting she committed the act, was that she was female, and females were subjected to irresistable impulses, and thus wasn’t responsible for her actions. She was acquitted. So basically she got away with murdering someone because French society didn’t hold women accountable for their actions. We’ll see more of this if we allow slaps on the wrist for even smaller things like DWI. People need to be held accountable for their actions or there will be serious problems.

  74. 74 Chris
    February 7, 2008 at 19:43

    One aspect of this conversation that wasn’t covered is the topic of public health regarding the kind of information that we consume and how it affects our socieity. In a consumer driven economy it has become less and less popular to discuss placing limits on anyone’s ability to publish and consume whatever kind of information they want. In my mind this is the same conundrum that applies to fast food and the obesity epidemic. Just like junk food, media companies are going to engineer and market stories specifically to capture market share and remain competitive in a junk food marketplace. Unless society places limits on the kind of coverage that they deem to be healthy in most public forums, we will continue to feed our brains with junk food to our detriment. So what are the public health issues that apply to salacious media consumption? What is the effect on children who are exposed to certain graphic realities at such young ages? I would agree with your guest who says that there should be places in the public arena where we are intentional about the information that is provided so that we don’t continue to cheapen our intellect by submitting to editors who would drag our minds endlessly through the gutter of human misdeeds. There isn’t a night that I turn on the TV news that some story of sexual predation is not featured. I have, almost entirely, stopped turning it on. I realize that placing limits on media in a free society is a slippery slope, but so is submitting to the “1984” style pointless and demeaning information deluge that we are currently swimming in. If media in a free society has a job informing our democracy, then shouldn’t we set higher standards?

  75. 75 Flo
    February 7, 2008 at 20:12

    I must say I am positively appalled that in all this talking about women and girls being in the media all the time the guests have forgotten that behind the big scoop is actually a human being. Why does it take a young woman from America do remind us that there is (or has been, if you forgive this morbid sense of upholding grammer) personality behind an abused corpse?
    The reason for the predominance of female victims is simply because there ARE more female victims. Searching in my memory I can only think of one female person who has abused a child. In conjuction with her husband, that is.
    Since ancient times it has been women that bear the brunt be it in matrimony, family life or crimes of utmost horror.
    This weakest of all arguments the media gives its audience merely what it asks for only undermines the journalists’ knocking conscience. They have sold their souls for the sake of publishing and they know it, yet they look for some other one to blame.
    If you feed a baby with nothing but double-chocolate muffins it won’t even get the faintest idea of demanding that golden (straight) banana from the fruit basket.
    Hope you get what I mean.
    It is an interdependent process of asking easy-to-swallow stories and spreading them which has, inevitably, increased in intensity with globalization, that Pandora’s box.
    The guest of “The Sun” or whatever yellow press it was, for they are all the same in every country, was a schmock to be benevolent and put it mildly.
    “I am not interested in the conflict in Kenia.”
    What sort of an attitude is that? Shutting out all he doesn’t like so that he only knows what he WANTS to know? Are you sure this man has grown up?
    He seems to be playing the children’s game of covering your face with your hands believing the world has simply vanished because, after all, YOU don’t look at it anymore.
    News need not exclusively have to belong to my special field of interest which happens to be, say, the latest findings on Anglo-Saxon literature. No, the definition of “news” is not “unusual” but, easily enough so, “new”.
    (yes, I know I am clever)
    The point in listening/reading/watching the news is being informed about what is happening at the moment. And that should not be influenced by the whims of editors but reflecting true events. Truth, a hollow word these days in the media.
    Of course, tabloid papers do have a ‘right to exist’ , for the sake of diversity if not for press freedom, but I must protest to what this guest stated rather smugly:
    it is not, and I want to stress that, NOT the younger generation that reads the tabloids. (Here the young guest from America has done quite a poor job to defend us young’uns, I am afraid I must admit.) I don’t read them for one. Nor do my friends, sisters, cousins, not even my parents but, alas, my grandparents. It seems THEY have not yet grown out of a mind that actually consumes such rubbish. Here again the same attitute is evident: give them what they want, don’t challenge them with ‘sophisticated’ language or complicated problems. That people grow with challenges does not seem to occur to the minds of those ‘journalists’ if they deserve this name, which I rather begin to doubt.

    Anyway, I am disappointed that the human story behind the discussion has been lost completely. It is about living beings – girs and women that are being abused, raped, murdered, that disappear. I don’t care whether they have blue eyes or blond hair, as long as people talk about them leading to people discussing the reasons for their fate leading to people ACTING to prevent such crimes.
    With acting I do not mean vigilante-justice but people should get thinking about why I, as a girl, feel interminably safer at 2 in the night in big bustling Berlin than I do in the middle of the day in Texas. (An advice: getting a gun in Germany is probably tougher than catching a glimpse of a glimpse of a glimpse on an ounce of uranium)

    And, unlike the BBC’s usual laudable ethics, I don’t think it appropriate to chip into such a serious conversation with football results, how ever important they might be for afficionadoes. A girl in my neighbourhood has disappeared more than a year ago. Without a trace. The media has dropped her case, so did the poice. Because big boops (literally) fill the pages of the papers.
    Yet I think about her every single day when I pass her street.
    And she had brown hair and brown eyes.

  76. 76 George USA
    February 7, 2008 at 20:17


    The trail of the French woman may have been more- he needed killing.
    The jury agreed and held the journalist responsible for his actions, and acquitted her.

    We have suffered as a nation, and shall, due to premeditated vast crimes affecting us all.
    The minor things people do without intention do not seem to compare in want of accountability.

  77. 77 katja
    February 7, 2008 at 20:25

    1. To say that journalists should “provide people what they want” i.e. more about the murder of a blonde privileged young woman or better yet, girl, and nothing about Kenya “because newspapers are in business to make money” is to expose a bankruptcy of values. Because we have structured capitalism around corporations with no morals except the bottom line and the law, values other than profit are absent. OUr world is poorer for it. If people are not educated in how unrest in Kenya affects real people there, and ultimately can affect the whole world, then they could be reduced to voyeurs glued to their sofas. Is this who you want as your neighbor, your fellow citizen

    2. Here in the United State Carl Rove and others exploited this prurient interest brilliantly in politics. The shock that men might want to marry each other upstages countless acts against the interest of the average American, and reelects a disastrous person. The right went after Bill Clinton over sex — they knew that would play in the media — and the impeachment was because he lied abut that sex. Yet the current president has lied about weapons of mass destruction — most currently, when that he has long known Iran was not making them. He had mired us in a long war, with intentions of expanding it. This has affected all of us, and maimed thousands of young persons. How much more—impact on the average person, how much more need to know — but the media drops it faster if it is not prurient.

    3. If it weren’t for the law, they would be offering sex and drugs, too. There is a lot of money there. They are a business, after all. Pandering is pandering.

    4. An informed citizenry is a foundation of a sound democracy. The media is abdicating their responsibility. Distinguishing from prurient entertainment media and news is important, so that ordinary people won’t pretend to themselves that they are informed just because they have read about the latest murder.

    Yours truly,

    Katja Biesanz, MA

    PS I am grateful to World Have Your Say for bringing under-heard voices from around the world to the rest of us. Thank you.

  78. 78 Shane Morlan Ohio, USA
    February 7, 2008 at 20:47

    News Should Be! News should be; Congress is passing a bill that does …; Hurricane Katrina victims still go without help; Journalism has failed; Voting fraud exposed nation-wide; People march for civil right; People march to bring our jobs back, and so on. I wrote a paper for college during the 2004 election in which i proclaimed, as I still believe today, it is the fault of the media that we live in such a suppressed society in the USA. Politicians claim that we are the greatest nation in the world. Ha, We may have it better than many third world countries but look at the disparity in wealth, look at the rising poor and impoverished classes in this nation and look at the number of people that struggle to survive at minimum wages working several jobs. Our greatest Nation cannot even take care of its own yet we chose to enforce our views, beliefs and democracy on the world. I hate to say it but the US is just a big bully. Global Economics drives the world. No matter what happens, the bottom line is, The top 1% of the wealth holders in the world run the world and anyone who dares to try and stop the machine gets run down and labeled. This is why the media is the key to rebuilding our trampled society. Spread the word so the masses can regain control of our own destiny instead of subduing us with stories of fear, terror and flash and awe!!!

  79. 79 Thomas Murray
    February 7, 2008 at 22:00

    Is the Western media obsessed about the victimization of women?

    I’m not sure we get as much of that here in the states. There’s so much more tragedy here — of just about every kind — that the more salacious news gets lost in the clutter.

    Yes, sadly, we do obsess about our Madeleine McCann stories over here. A six-year old beauty contestant, JonBenet Ramsey, was found slain on Christmas in her Boulder Colorado home on Christmas day about 15 years ago, and it got wall-to-wall coverage on tabloid TV, mostly to the detriment of her relatives. Her killer was never found. Then her mother lost her fight with cancer about 5 years ago. And there are other cases we should obsess about. In 1980, a local 12-year-old, Ann Gottlieb, disappeared from a Louisville mall parking lot. They never found her. To me it was upsetting that never got more press, as it could’ve flushed out her abductor.

    But I pick up the local daily, The Courier-Journal, and it’s got a 90-point gutter-to-gutter headline screaming “Death and devastation / Toll from Tuesday’s storms climbs to 55, including 7 in Kentucky,” so the news is to us what we’re looking for, I guess. Which is why I seldom read the local paper.

    I’m a daily reader of The Los Angeles Times website (it’s got the juiciest celebrity gossip), and The New York Times (there the tabloid stuff goes on page 23), if a copy hasn’t been stolen from one of our 7 local coffee shops. I prefer issues I can address and help improve.

    So I can’t easily relate to Martin Bell’s point. It’s not much of an issue with me.

    Hey! Did anyone hear that Kirsten Dunst has checked herself into rehab?

    And Re: Xie_Ming. I want to hear more about the exploding goats!

    Regards, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

  80. 80 pendkar
    February 8, 2008 at 10:21

    Yesterday, I saw a post by Ros Atkins called ‘Is it the death of news?’ and it referred to the artical by Martin Bell. And it dealt with a worthy issue. today, I see the same posting, but with the title ‘is the media obsessed with the victimization of women.Did I miss something? and just look at the way the posts have gone off tangent.It has finally come down to misogynists raving about ‘lack of accountability of women’. By the way, yes, a lot of women are unaccountable. and it happens because most men are totally lacking in courage and the integrity to demand and expect accountability from these female individuals. Apart from that, how is little Madeline who seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth, or the that murdered model supposed to be accountable for hogging the limelight? The accountability here rests with the media, not the victims. Same with Britney Spears. I dont imagine her being able to trample upon some newspaper or channel because they failed to report shameful episodes in her life. similarly, I cant imagine readers or viewers shunning a newspaper or channel because they left out the latest antics of Britney etc. So, it must be purely an obsession on part of the lazy media.

    Coming to the topic, the issue is not so the excess attention to victimization of female individuals, but the over all trivialization of news. And it has happened because of the increase in the over all volume of news. My newspaper carries a couple of pages of pure trash. But it also carries 2-3 decent editorials and news about the doings of the government, political events and so on. I glance at the trash, and dont feel any compulsion to complain. I can live with it. And by the way, the gossip is not all about women. It is about the men and women in the show business (at least here, in India). Crimes against women are reported as serious news items. They draw in more editorials, but it is only fair considering it is a social problem.

    The problem is more with the TV channels. The 24 hour channels are hopeless. They try to stretch out the barely there content over the whole day. The problem is also with the specialization of the channels – channels devoted to soaps, devoted to news, movies(this works).If a channel were to offer 3 news bulletins each day, 2-3 dramas per week, 2-3 news analyses, they may be worth waiting for and watching.

  81. 81 Ros Atkins
    February 8, 2008 at 11:03

    Keira in the UK
    Your right media is business therefore the news is entertainment. Stories with clear heroes and villians are prioritized. Women will therefore be typical white passive vunerable ‘cinderella’ victims. Media is also ethnocentric because media is made by white middle class men – ‘we’ are not interested in what happens to ‘them’. Not interested in Kenya – outrageous! The media is only interested in encouraging this throw-away consumer culture – its in the interests of its media mogul owners!

  82. 82 Candice Roth
    March 6, 2008 at 16:56

    The media gives the people what they want, within the control of the government, so if people want to her that a woman or girl was a vitim of assult or rape that’s what the media will focus on, and if the people want to hear about the real numbers of deaths in Iraq, the media will give some crap about future buildings being built and what it will do to the tax payers. So what you watch on t.v is what people tune in the most to, and what the government deems sutiable for it’s people to watch.

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