You would think, after a report came out of a horrific public assault against a journalist by a mob, people might be able to set aside their personal and political hobbyhorses for a few hours and not exploit the situation.
You would be wrong. Shortly after the news that Lara Logan was beaten and sexually assaulted in Cairo, Nir Rosen, a reporter and a fellow at New York University [Update: and sometime contributor to TIME and time.com], tweeted that Logan “had to outdo Anderson” [Cooper, who was also attacked in Egypt] and that “at a moment when she is going to become a martyr and glorified we should at least remember her role as a major war monger”—a reference to his criticisms of Logan over her coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan. Rosen resigned from NYU after the obnoxious remarks—which he tried to walk back as a “joke” before apologizing—went viral.
Meanwhile, conservative commentator Debbie Schlussel is unapologetic for taking to her blog to use the attacks to condemn the entirety of Egypt’s protesters—oh, and the whole religion of Islam as well. In an update to her post, she doubled down on the attack: “THIS. IS. ISLAM. Lara Logan was among the chief cheerleaders of this “revolution” by animals. Now she knows what Islamic revolution is really all about.” Even a more measured think piece in Slate shortly after the news broke used the attack to generalize about the treatment of women in the Muslim world—not an illegitimate issue, but an awfully broad one, which the essay could only link to Logan’s attack in the vaguest, well-we-don’t-know-the-reason-but-we-don’t-know-it-wasn’t-the-reason manner.
The situation gets even uglier in the comments sections of various news outlets that have reported on the attack, which have ranged from knee-jerk politics to blaming CBS (or Logan) for sending a woman into the field to attacks on Logan’s personal behavior. I don’t want to make too much of it—it’s not breaking news, or an indictment of the Internet in general, to say that some anonymous losers were a-holes in comments sections—but to take just one example, NPR had to explain why it took down numerous comments in its news story on Logan: “Before you submit a comment, ask yourself this question: If I had to put my real name with this, would I hit ‘publish?'”
Is that really so hard to understand? What we know of the attack against Logan is what CBS announced yesterday, on top of which neither the network nor Logan are commenting further. We don’t know who assaulted Logan, their backgrounds, beliefs, affiliations or motivations, and we may never.
In other words, what happened to Logan was despicable. What it was not was an object lesson proving anyone’s pet take on Egypt, Islam, American policy in the Middle East, the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, the media (pro or con), Logan’s past work or personal character, or the proper place of women pursuing their work in dangerous situations. What we know is this: a woman was beaten and assaulted trying to do her job, and it was indefensible. Until and unless we learn more, everything else is conjecture and opportunism.
You would think people would understand this point of simple decency. You would be wrong.