Thursday, February 17, 2011

On dangerous places and bad things

Okay, so I debated over posting about the attack on Lara Logan, if only because she's asked for privacy and even mentioning her on a blog kind of feels like violating that. But a strange and awful phenomenon has arisen that I want to address before letting it go.

Journalism is important. Sometimes it's done better than others, and sometimes things waving the Journalism flag are really closer to commentary or outright shilling. But journalism, at its best, shines that disinfecting light in places that need it. The first thing Mubarak did when the protests broke out was to cut off phone and Internet access, and why? Because it's easier to do horrible things to people if there's no one there to watch, and it's easier to pull one over on the rest of the world if they don't know what you've done. Whoever controls the flow of information controls the situation. Anyone from a citizen with a cell phone to a journalist with a camera crew can have a part in reopening that communication.

Was this a very dangerous assignment? Absolutely. But so was Logan's time in Afghanistan, and so was her time embedded with the U.S. military. She's a war correspondent--CBS's chief foreign affairs correspondent, in fact, so the idea that they'd rather send in an intern rather than a seasoned reporter who happens to be blonde and attractive is laughable. She wasn't walking down a dark alley with money taped to her back--she was on the job, a job that happens to be a lot more dangerous than most. That generally attracts admiration, although I suppose when you're an attractive blonde who's just been gang-raped it's easier to criticize.

Logan and her team knew how dangerous the situation was when she went in that night. She'd recently returned to Egypt after being detained and harassed by the police; she said she felt she hadn't done her job because the story hadn't been told, and she was going back in. She informed the embassy that she was coming back in. She had a crew with several men and a trained security detail. She was well aware of the culture and the current atmosphere in Egypt--she's been reporting from the front lines in the Middle East for much of the past decade. She was dressed modestly. That she was blonde and attractive, she couldn't really do anything about. Like a soldier or a firefighter, she saw a dangerous situation, and she prepared herself as best she could and waded in, because she felt it was important.

What was done to her was horrible because it was horrible. It's horrible that situations like this frequently turn into mobs. It's horrible that people are targeted in the course of doing important work. It's particularly horrible that women are more frequently subject to that particular kind of violation--whether in Cairo or in New York--ostensibly for a variety of reasons but ultimately Because They Can. And it's horrible that Logan is now under attack again, by media and commentators and everyday schmucks I won't link to, for whatever perceived sins she's committed--for being attractive, for entering a dangerous situation, for knowing the culture better from the ground than we can from our sofas.

Even if she'd been attacked in D.C. for nothing more than looking pretty and going to a bar at night, she would deserve nothing but our sympathy and prayers. But she was attacked in the process of doing something brave and important. And she deserves our sympathy, our prayers, our respect, and our gratitude. And her privacy, which is why I'm going to leave off now with only hopes for her full recovery.

No comments: