Wednesday, March 07, 2007

stupid, lurid,...really, just everything you can't ignore

I suppose there are several reasonably rational explanations for the durability of this pathetic love-sick astronaut story. Is there really something new in this news?
  • Juxtaposition of the modernity of space flight with the primitive passions, the seamy familiarity of domestic violence shot against the exotic backdrop of an orbiting space shuttle.
  • Juxtaposition of the image of uber-competent, quick thinking, steel nerved astronauts with the tale of an unthinking astronut unhinged by affections any high school kid could summon with little help
  • The surprise on the part of some readers that a jilted woman would single-handedly take physical and potentially violent action to bandage her love-wounds...isn't it always the jealous ex-boyfriend or ex-husband that does mayhem when the prop of love is pulled out from under them?
The first two stand on their own merits as observations but in the third, is a small trap. For a twosome in trouble, yes, the stats tell us the male hurts or kills his own partner in the majority of cases. For any one incident, violence by a male is generally far more damaging. The exact ratio, in 2001, was 85 female victims to 15 male victims in every 100 domestic violence cases according to Bureau of Justice Statistics. My speculations on why that is so will not interest anyone but I can't resist pointing out that if you cannot see that your own behavior is the root of a bad relationship, it doesn't matter how much you escalate your attempts to control the other party to the relationship. There is an intriguing omission in this data because it specifies the gender of the victim but not of the perpetrator: if same sex domestic violence data are buried in these figures, you would not know it.

But our soured astronaut was/is in a love triangle. For that more specific motivation, which I will characterize as trying to heal a self inflicted wound by smashing the knife, the statistics tilt slightly toward gender parity. The FBI keeps a separate line for that in its Uniform Crime Report statistics. You have to cross check three different tables in this FBI report to find the info. It may work to hit this link to the cached page where "Romantic triangle" is highlighted. Roughly speaking, the story told is this:
  • The victim is far more likely to be the rival than the significant other of the aggrieved lover [table 2.11]
  • In order of preference: guns, knives and in distant third, blunt instruments [table 2.12, our astronaut packed all three...these astronaut types are well versed in the value of back-up systems]
  • 78 female to 22 male victims out of 100 [table 2.14, for the latest year, less than 100 victims total]
Keep in mind too that the FBI stats report murders. By leaving out non-fatal violence I muddy the comparability of the gender themes and do so in the direction of under-reporting aggressive responses of female partners due to the fact that male violence is generally more often lethal.

Conclusion: This violently jealous astronaut is not so unusual after all.

Advice: If you are fooling around, don't get stupid with your email.

Afterthought: I feel sorry for the woman. The signs are that she feels she has lost everything and is desperate. But really, she should think more deeply: of exactly what is she the victim? Of exactly what is she in control?

Note: since posting, I discover via Pandagon that March 8th is blog-against-sexism day. Amanda tells us where she's coming from [Alpine TX;] and in the comment thread there, many are confessing the roots of their feminism, such as it may be. Here is a bit more of my perspective.


Anonymous said...

Oh, I just want to say that the whole episode is stupid. Not your post, GS, but the whole topic is stupid. Stupid because it's really not important in the big scheme of things. I can't believe that the press, and supposedly the public, care all that much about this story. In fact, I think the real story isn't the love triangle story itself but rather that some parts of society (press, purchasers of trash tabloids, watchers of "Entertainment Tonight") are spending so much time on it! It's the opiate of the masses; it's meant to keep our minds off the really important things.

And we all know statistics can be misleading and skewed, depending on who's got which agendas.
I don't follow this sort of tripe so I don't have anything else constructive to add to your post. Except, maybe to suggest getting a copy of Freakonomics. I myself haven't read it but a friend tells me there's a wealth of information in it about the myths and statistics of crime in America.

And one more thing. Crimes of passion are always going to exist. A sort-of friend of mine shot her husband dead in bed and then killed herself. I have no doubt that it was a crime of passion because she had dogs that she adored and would never have done it without making provisions for them first. They had guns in the house, which made the choice of weapon too easy, and she was frustrated as all hell about not getting the dream house built that she'd been yearning for; she hated kids and he had grandkids by then, from his first wife. You can bet he was wanting to spend time with them. There were all sorts of ways for this successful and talented veterinarian to get what she wanted out of the rest of her life, and she could have, with a bit of a lifestyle change, done it all without him. But she did this instead. Definite crime of passion.

The only real reason this love triangle is so bloody sensational is that it's an astronaut and a woman. Tabloid tripe. We all know that there are some who are very happy to keep the masses doped up on stupid things like this.

GreenSmile said...

Wow. That is a sad story. Statistics just don't tell a story in its tragic and too human details.

I don't think I would mind the papers and TV making a living by mining the pathos in these stories if only they did it in a way that they became teachings. But then, how would they make money if we all started learning from the mistakes of others?

That need for a steady stream of objects for morbid curiosity only accounts for the behavior of the press...which we both seem to find a bit loathsome.

As for the audience/market for this so called news, yeah, what is that fascination? Do they unconsciously fear such runnings amok are within their own potential? Beats me.

Anonymous said...

But then, how would they make money if we all started learning from the mistakes of others?

Well, I would say that humans rarely learn from the mistakes of others when it comes to passion. These types of things have always happened and they will always happen in the future. Hormones is hormones is hormones.

Anonymous said...

An interesting thing happened a couple of weeks ago in the entertainment media.

Late Night's Craig Ferguson, brilliant comedian, did a rather serious opening monologue about how making fun of celebrities' personal tragedies is out of line and that he just wouldn't do it anymore. The cases in point were Britney and Anna Nicole. He explained his own alcohol problems (which he has always openly joked about) and then explained why, starting now, he would not use these people who had such serious problems to his professional advantage. He said it just isn't right.

In the next few days he appeared on one, maybe more, of the morning shows talking about his decision. It was a wonderful decision and it was a wonderful public statement he'd made. But what does it say when such a declaration is so rare that it becomes newsworthy, that it's the exception rather than the norm? We need more good examples like him.

Fat chance. Not when Fox TV, trash that it is, continues to be more popular than PBS. Not when Big Brother continues to be more popular than Pioneer House. Not when John Stossel's stupid segments continue to be more popular than Scientific American Frontiers.

Over the last 15-20 years I've watched as Bravo, which once carried commercial-free dramas and independent movies, turned into the worst commercial-laden crap on cable. I've watched as A&E degraded from a channel that once regularly aired professionally-filmed worldclass stage productions and topnotch series like Lovejoy and All Creatures Great and Small to a channel that shows crap. PZ and his commenters were recently bemoaning the degraded condition of the History Channel. And I've heard more and more people say that with 120 cable channels they still can't find something to watch. The dumbing down of America is in full swing. Ignorance rules. Long live ignorance.

Anonymous said...

Whew. Thanks for providing space for this week's midden :)

GreenSmile said...

Ah! But middens and tells are where archeologists find the truth about dead-and-gone societies that their plaques and monuments and advertisements and sermons have omitted! [Google has not sent me a bill yet...they are still sifting the garbage for ad revenues]

I hope Ferguson sticks by his pledge and I hope the result is that he keeps his audience. I hope a lot.