The Chicago Sun-Times had an editorial yesterday justifying the humiliating "perp walk" of a rumpled and handcuffed Dominique Strauss-Kahn before photographers. The term "perp-walk" refers to the police practice of intentionally parading an arrested suspect through a public place, like a war trophy of a victorious army in primitive times, so that the media may observe and record the event. We discussed "perp walks" in this post earlier in the week.
The Sun-Times concedes: "Even Mother Teresa would have looked guilty doing the perp walk." It also admits that such photos "live on in perpetuity." So how does the newspaper justify the "perp walk"? Here's what the editorial said:
"But the alternative is far worse: a society where government secrets are sanctioned. Suspects are hidden away, courtrooms are closed and, far too often, anything goes. The perp walk protects the public and, ironically enough, the suspect." http://www.suntimes.com/opinions/5453786-474/editorial-perps-and-the-presumption-of-innocence.html
Aside from the fact that no one is talking about closing courtrooms, the perp walk "protects" the suspect? Really?! So Mr. Strauss-Kahn should be thankful he was humiliated for the world's titillation? Come again?
It is ironic that the Sun-Times and others don't see that the rationales they employ to defend the perp walk -- about the dangers of closing courtooms and allowing secret trials -- are even more applicable when the question is whether the accuser's identity should be protected from the prying eyes of the public. Yet those same media outlets steadfastly refuse to report on matters that are of public record and that are news when they shield not just the photos but the very names of rape accusers. The double standards at play are breathtaking.
Again, I can't say it any better than the following quotes.
First, here is what the brilliant Prof. Alan Dershowitz once said:
“People who have gone to the police and publicly invoked the criminal process and accused somebody of a serious crime such as rape must be identified. In this country there is no such thing and should not be such a thing as anonymous accusation. If your name is in court it is a logical extension that it should be printed in the media. How can you publish the name of the presumptively innocent accused but not the name of the accuser?”
Second, here is an excerpt of a piece feminist superstar Naomi Wolf recently wrote:
"Feminists have long argued that rape must be treated like any other crime. But in no other crime are accusers kept behind a wall of anonymity. Treating rape so differently serves only to maintain its mischaracterization as a 'different' kind of crime, loaded with cultural baggage and projections.
"Finally, there is a profound moral issue at stake. Though children’s identities should, of course, be shielded in sex-crime allegations, women are not children. If one makes a serious criminal accusation, one must wish to be treated – and one must treat oneself – as a moral adult.
. . . .
"It is wrong – and sexist – to treat female sex-crime accusers as if they were children, and it is wrong to try anyone, male or female, in the court of public opinion on the basis of anonymous accusations. Anonymity for rape accusers is long overdue for retirement." http://falserapesociety.blogspot.com/2011/01/naomi-wolf-scrap-anonymity-for-rape.html
I typically find Prof. Dershowitz's comments to be compelling; and in this lone instance, I also find Naomi Wolf's compelling.
Transmogrifying women into infants in order to shield their names when they cry rape can't be justified. It certainly can't be justified in light of the rationales posited to justify perp walks.