Posted Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011, at 3:19 PM
The news today on CBS correspondent Lara Logan is that she’s recovering at home from the sexual assault and beating she suffered in Tahrir Square on Friday. Let’s hope she is doing so with the TV and computer turned off, so as to spare her from the reaction to her story.
Today in the Boston Herald , Michael Graham complains that CBS didn’t report news of the attack on Logan until it was pressured to do so, something Jessica Grose wrote about in this space yesterday. The inflammatory headline on the piece? "CBS complicit in news coverup." (Graham might not be responsible for the headline of his piece, but it does sum up his article succinctly.)
Gee, is it hard to see why CBS might have wanted to control the dissemination of the news about Logan? After the news did break, the reaction was so crazed and irrational that Jeff Goldberg at the Atlantic dubbed it the " Lunatic Left-Right Harmonic Rape Convergence Theory ." Aside from the stupid statements by Nir Rosen and his far-right counterpart, Debbie Schlussel, no online comments section was complete without a reader pointing out that rape is what happens to pretty women in war zones.
Graham writes that:
Even CBS’s own statement said Logan was "covering the jubilation" and was attacked "amidst the celebration."
Having 200 "good guys" gang assault a female reporter while screaming "Jew! Jew!" doesn’t fit the narrative. Is that why CBS sat on the story?
Or is it the cultural issue? A rape in a bar is a sex crime. But a pack of political protesters who rape a "Jew" in public is a story about culture.
I don’t disagree with Graham that Logan’s story is newsworthy. I agree that, while, yes, rape happens everywhere, that it’s worthwhile and completely legitimate to ask whether a religion and culture foster attitudes toward women that make such attacks more likely. ( It’s a question I myself asked in a post that Graham linked to and quoted.)
But-and there’s no elegant way to say this-rape is just different . No one said that Anderson Cooper should have stayed out of Egypt because he’s a handsome white guy. And no one will say that Anderson Cooper should stay away from war zones because he got punched in the head in Cairo . However, a former CBS Washington bureau chief, Janet Leissner, has already said that Logan should rethink any trips to future hot spots and that she should "consider … her responsibilities as a mother."
Rape is a hell of a lot different from getting punched in the head. It changes your life. People look at you differently. They treat you differently. In Logan’s case, it can affect her career. Will CBS think twice about sending her to dangerous places now? Will she herself decide that, however old-fashioned the comments by her old boss sound, that maybe she does want to stick closer to home? (A silver lining to this nasty cloud might be that we can have a thorough discussion of the risks female journalists face in war zones-with ideas for how to make it better for them and not having people suggest they get back home and put on their pearls and aprons .)
One of the reasons that Graham wants Logan’s story out there is that it’s another case of Muslim men treating a woman terribly. But let’s stop and think about why we get mad when we hear about 12-year-olds dying in childbirth or women being threatened with stoning or women subjected to honor killings . It’s because we don’t like women being victimized.
Lara Logan might be a news story. But she’s also a victim. Had CBS run with the story while Logan was flying back to the United States, or before she’d been treated or had time to consider what it would mean for the world to know, they’d have been victimizing her further.