Wow, it's been a year already? A year ago today, I reported on what has become a memorial day for many Real Life Superheroes- the anniversary of the death of Kitty Genovese, brutally murdered 47 years ago on March 13, 1964, a chilly night in Queens.
Kitty Genovese arrived at the apartment building she lived in after closing the bar she worked at. There she was stalked, stabbed several times, raped, and robbed. What made the story become legendary was, at the time, reports that the attack was witnessed by 38 apathetic people who decided the incident was none of their business.
Many RLSH say it is this sort of apathy they are trying to combat. And so, on March 13 RLSH from coast to coast hit the street to patrol. Some even hand out flyers outlining the incident. Thanatos of Vancouver, for example, drafted this flyer, including the same picture posted here on it:
Catherine Susan Genovese (July 7, 1935 – March 13, 1964), commonly known as Kitty Genovese, was a New York City woman who was stabbed to death near her home in the Kew Gardens section of Queens, New York on March 13, 1964. Genovese was buried in a family grave at Lakeview Cemetery in New Canaan, Connecticut.
The circumstances of her murder and the lack of reaction of numerous neighbors were reported by a newspaper article published two weeks later; the common portrayal of neighbors being fully aware but completely non-responsive has later been criticized as inaccurate. Nonetheless, it prompted investigation into the social psychological phenomenon that has become known as the bystander effect (or "Genovese syndrome") and especially diffusion of responsibility.
Take a good look at her and never forget her and what happened to her.
Not everyone has accepted the idea. Zetaman, of Portland,posted a blog entry titled "Kitty Genovese Day is Incorrect." He points out that later research into the case revealed that the "38" witnesses was a grossly exaggerated figure. In recreating the crime scene it became clear that it was impossible for most of Genovese's neighbors to witness or hear the attack. Many who could faintly hear a yell (windows were closed- it was still cold out) assumed it was bar noise. And since one of the initial stab wounds punctured Genovese's lung, she could not have prolonged cries for help.
Zetaman also points out that the Kitty Genovese and the 38 witnesses story also was featured in Watchmen, an event that helps shape the mindset of Rorschach, one of the main characters and a RLSH favorite.
"The Kitty Genovese murder was a ghastly murder and there is such a thing as the Bystander Effect. But don’t use the murder as an over glorified reason to patrol. There are many other cases that better proves the Bystander Effect. The Watchmen graphic novel is not correct in the exact circumstances of the Kitty Genovese murder. Don’t base reasons to patrol on a work of fiction."
Despite the mythology of the story, or perhaps because of it, many RLSH are on the streets as I type this. They say they are out there in memory of the story of Kitty Genovese. They say they are fighting apathy.
The New York Daily News posted an article looking back at the case HERE.
"Visiting professor" Amazonia was guest on Crossfire the Crusader's RLSH themed blog talk radio show Superhero Academy discussing the case HERE.