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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Follow Up: Media Also Part of Problem

This article shows that it's not only the "men and women in blue" that have problems dealing with "every-day crimes". It's also part of the media's problems. They don't know how to deal with reporting "regular" country issues. This would tell me that there's an even bigger problem here. This tells me that the country, ITSELF, and the people in it don't know how to deal with the "mundane" that exists outside of terrorism and external existential threats.
Behind the Lines: Press brutality

In a country constantly dealing with wars, terrorism, the Iranian nuclear threat, chronically corrupt ministers and unstable governments, it's seldom that a simple story of crime and law enforcement dominates the headlines for an entire week, eclipsing matters such as the ceasefire in Gaza and the prime minister's new diplomatic initiative. It should not be surprising, then, that the media doesn't really know how to handle the Benny Sela case. READ THE REST...

Instead of dealing with the question of the broader significance of a single serial rapist on the loose, the press has turned the Sela escape into a sensationalist panic-fest.
Opening the daily papers or listening to the ongoing broadcasts, one would think that Sela was the only rapist out there waiting to pounce on his next victim. The cruel fact is, however, that there are hundreds of others lurking in the shadows, and that one more doesn't constitute an automatic rise in the danger level. Nevertheless, short of advocating a nation-wide curfew from dusk to dawn - or keeping the entire female population under lock and key - the press has suggested almost everything.

Broadcasting live from a police station parking lot, Channel 2 anchor Gadi Sukenik provided an unwitting parody of the stern-faced reporters appearing live from the Lebanon border four months ago: full of drama, but with no more added information value than if they had been sitting in their TV studios in the center of the country.

THEN THERE'S the "field day" they're having at the police's expense. Not that the Israel Police deserves any consideration, after its ineptitude in allowing Sela to escape; nor has it been very effective otherwise lately. In other words, that the police is in need of a long overdue shake-up is moot.

But the vicious tone of criticism from the likes of Yediot Aharonot's Buki Naeh - whose relentless attacks on the "boys in blue" reek of settling old accounts - is obscuring the real issue. As is the fact that a policeman can't even stop for a bite to eat without having his photograph appear in the following day's paper to show that he is some lazy Keystone cop with time to waste, while a dangerous fugitive is on the run.
The more that additional details, versions and rumors are published, the more they serve to create an image of a sophisticated felon constantly outwitting the bumbling police. That's the way folk heroes like Jesse James are created.
Lest one imagine that there's no way for a twisted rapist to achieve popularity, all he need do is eavesdrop at the office water cooler or neighborhood coffee shop, where Sela's name is bandied about incessantly with a kind of awe.

For obvious reasons, Sela's victims haven't been giving interviews and volunteering the awful details of his deeds. So, instead, the public has been fed a constant diet of jail-break stories and theories on why the police are still clueless. On Wednesday morning, Army Radio's Razi Barkai referred to him as "Benny" - clearly unaware of how affectionate it sounded. Barkai said this while interviewing Channel 10's Motti Kirshenbaum, and the two were fantasizing about how wonderful it would have been had Sela been captured right at the beginning of their respective shows. "In the end, it will turn out that Sela already promised his exclusive interview to [Channel 2's] Yair Lapid," joked Kirshenbaum.

Just like that, in the space of a week, Benny Sela has gone from being the scum of the earth to a sought-after media star.

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