Would you be reading about a shooting in South Africa over your morning cornflakes if the possible shooter was not Oscar Pistorius, one of the biggest names in Paralympics and the Olympics? You think you would, wouldn't you, after all, a murder is a murder, each one deservers as much attention as another. So go on then, how many people were murdered in South Africa that same day? One, maybe two? On a bad day five or six, if there was a bungled bank robbery? Not even close. On average in 2011 / 2012, there were 43 murders a day on average. So what make Oscar's case different?
I am not here to smear Reeva Steenkamp, having watched her on TV when I have been in South Africa she came across as an intelligent, vibrant and charming person. She was a law graduate. In terms of "reality" stars, she seemed a cut above the vapid likes of Amy Childs. Her death is as important as anyone else's, irrespective of the means, or how famous her killer may or may not be. Yet what about the other 42?
Similarly, we can say the same about Sandy Hook or Aurora. Horrendous crimes both. Yet both are a small part of a much bigger picture. In Chicago, gun crime has got so rampant that they have named Joaquin Guzman as public enemy no.1, a title last bestowed to a certain Al Capone. Whilst it is notable that Guzman is in fact the head of the Sinaloa cartel based in Mexico, where he probably resides, it is most notable on the ground where deaths from gun violence in 2012 exceeded those of US troops killed in Afghanistan. Even New York "celebrated" having "only"414 homicides in 2012, a new 'low' for the city. What makes these 400+ (500+ in Chicago's case) remarkable is that these are just for the cities, not Illinois, not New York state. Yes, the cases of Sandy Hook, Aurora et al were despicable and grotesque exclamations of violence, but are these deaths more important than those in Harlem or Englewood?
Simply put, they all matter equally; all life has the same value regardless of anything - not age, creed, colour or occupation. So why do we not hear about it? Simply put, most media, not just newspapers but tv, online (and I include the Huffington Post at times, case in point this non-story) or radio, are over concerned with sensationalism, celebrity, sex or just shock value to remember to exercise the power they have.
Case in point, the various outlets who published tastelessly sexualised images of Ms. Steenkamp mere hours after her murder. Not images of her in a dress or blouse, but pouting in a bikini, writ large across the front of tabloids. Yes, she was a model, and those images are part of her job, but I'm sure dozens of more respectful shots must have been available. Further, the fascination with celebrity extends to the words used to describe her. She is not Reeva Steenkamp the model or personality, but the girlfriend of Oscar Pistorius, as if she was some sort of pet or possession. Sometimes she is not even mentioned by name, just as his girlfriend, stripping her of all identity.
Of course her death deserves notice, but so does the larger issue of South Africa's and the USA's gun epidemic. By moving into broader, proper investigative journalism as still defended by bastions such as the New York Times, the Washington Post or Al-Jazeera, then by shining a light on these issues then perhaps we can start to make a real dent in the bigger issues of our time, not just react to shocking events. Then hopefully we can make Oscar's story a truly exceptional case, rather than just the one examined case of the thousands ignored.