Social Media, Family Guy Contributed to Steubenville

Two columnists weigh in on rape case
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 20, 2013 1:50 PM CDT
Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond sit in court on March 15 in Steubenville, Ohio.   (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, Pool)

(Newser) – The Steubenville rape case is shocking, but should we really be surprised that none of the teens who witnessed the crime helped the victim? Two columnists today argue that modern culture, from social media to shows like Family Guy, contributed to just such a situation:

  • This is basically a modern-day example of the "bystander effect," writes Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post. Pictures of and tweets about the crime flew through social media, and indeed, social media itself is to blame for the "dispassionate" response of the kids who saw the posts and didn't do anything about them. "With a cellphone in every pocket, it has become second nature for most people to snap a picture or tap the video button at the slightest provocation," while remaining essentially removed from the circumstances, Parker writes. "Over time, might the marginalizing effect of bystander detachment impede any impulse to empathize" or take responsibility?

  • And on social media, jokes about rape are common, as is "making fun of girls perceived as 'sluts,'" writes Susanna Schrobsdorff in Time. Then there are shows like Family Guy, in which "abortion-coat-hanger jokes" are common, female characters suffer constant verbal abuse, and there's "more rape humor than one could tally." It's not fair to blame a TV show for real-life actions, "but if you can laugh at rape on TV, why wouldn’t the real thing be funny if you’re young and drunk and if the developmental maturity to control your impulses is years away?"
Parker's full column here; Schrobsdorff's here. (Read more Steubenville stories.)

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