If you really want to dehumanise someone you take their name away. I know Amanda Knox once called herself 'Foxy Knoxy' online but I doubt that's the name she goes by or went by in everyday life. Yet that's what the press have chosen to call her - is it a humiliating term or just tabloid shorthand? What of the other people convicted of Meredith Kercher (and yes, there was another defendant at the recent trial, although you'd hardly know about it from a lot of the coverage - he's that guy in the glasses you see so briefly on screen in news reports it's almost like a subliminal cut, before seeing about half an hour of Amanda Knox walking down corridors and standing in front of photographers), Rudy Guede and Raffaele Sollecito? Have their identities been reduced to jocular nicknames? Or have their identities, and their role in the crime, been obliterated in the clamour to get more and more photos of Knox into the papers?
I said the other day (and found myself agreeing with Barbara Ellen in the Observer at the weekend) that there was something troubling about the way in which this whole case had become a big spotlight on a photogenic suspect rather than about the woman who had died such a horrifying death. While the Mail roared about FOXY, other newspapers took a slightly different tack, and you might be surprised by which ones decided to focus on the British victim's death and family's pain (after all, any other murder trial in Italy wouldn't have received as much coverage - the media's justification for covering it in such detail in the first place was that Kercher was a Brit) rather than the American suspect's conviction:
but then even when the Mirror tried to do that they couldn't resist getting in a bit of 'Foxy Knoxy' action:
and others just didn't bother at all:
Strange how someone can become a 'cold-eyed murderer' overnight, but that's how these things work. Had the jury recorded a different verdict, an entirely different photo will have been used; an entirely different story would have appeared; the 'cold-eyed murderer' may have become the victim herself, victim of the justice system, perhaps, or in one of those jaw-dropping moments of startling hypocrisy, 'the media' may have been blamed for having whipped up all the attention about her.
It may be entirely coincidental that Amanda Knox has been so dehumanised into 'Foxy Knoxy', and that she's a woman. It may be. But I do wonder whether it's not something that happens more often. In 'Welcome to the 1970s!' the other day I looked at the rather shabby (and not at all funny, the 450th time you've seen it in print) use of the word 'birdie' to describe the women who have claimed to have had affairs with Tiger Woods.
A 'new birdie'. She has no name to speak of, none that need trouble us on the front page of a newspaper anyway. She is just the 'new birdie'. But at least she's not a number:
I think that's about as dehumanising as you can get, really. 'Birdies' and 'Foxy' - it's as if newspapers never moved into the 21st century at all. And when you see them both on a front page
it does start to look a bit shabby, a bit outdated, a bit hackneyed and clumsy. Foxy Knoxy and the birdies - that's what our national press thinks we deserve. That's the level they're aiming at. Not so much lowest common denominator but lowest of the low.
Further reading: Left Outside - Amanda Knox
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