The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The Case of the Missing Young Blonde

Posted on | April 25, 2011 | 7 Comments

Twenty-year-old Holly Bobo is missing, believed to have been abducted April 13 from her family’s home in rural Decatur County, Tennessee:

Police say they believe the alleged abductor may be from the area and possibly acquainted with Bobo and her family. The kidnapper is described as a white man, about 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing 200 pounds.

Bobo is 5-foot-3 and 110 pounds. She is the cousin of country singer Whitney Duncan. There is an $80,000 reward in the case. Here’s a Fox News report on the latest development in the case:

Of course, this is a terrible ordeal for the Bobo family, their friends and the entire community. From the perspective of media criticism, there is a distinct phenomenon in such cases: Crimes against attractive young women and girls tend to get far more TV coverage than do similar crimes when perpetrated against less attractive victims.

You saw this phenomenon, for example, in the Jon Benet Ramsey case and the Natalee Holloway case. Other than the fact that the victims were young pretty females, how were those crimes different — more unusual or newsworthy — than hundreds of other crimes committed every year? Old people, ugly people, fat people, men and boys: Hundreds of such people fall victim to foul play every year, and yet their fates never become fodder for national TV news in the way that crimes against attractive young females do.

More than anything else, this reflects two basic facts:

  1. Television is a visual medium, which favors very attractive people as subjects.
  2. Female victims naturally evoke more sympathy, because of their presumed greater vulnerability.

Reporting on The Case of the Missing Young Blonde is good for TV ratings and television news is a business — an extremely cynical business, at that. This does not diminish the horror experienced by the friends, families and neighbors of Holly Bobo, but it does explain why her disappearance is treated as national news, while so many other crime victims are never noticed by the networks.


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