Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Alas Smith and Tones: the ongoing inappropriate reporting of the Pistorius murder tiral

I had really hoped that I wouldn't have to be writing about the appalling highly subjective reporting of the Pistorius murder trial again, however, after reading today's Guardian online (the Observer) article, I felt compelled to boot up the laptop regarding David Smith's latest offering.

Today's choice headline is:


So, the brutal and violent killing of Reeva Steenkamp, which, let us remind ourselves, is why Oscar Pisorius is on trial, has now been reduced to the macho posturing of two men; the 'star', we're told, is currently Prosecutor Gerrie Nell. This is not a talent show, it is a murder trial.  A woman, Reeva Steenkamp, was brutally killed (possibly murdered) as the visual evidence presented by the prosecutor attested. And to further diminish fatal male violence against women, we're told that the trial has spawned 'spoof rap songs and satirical Twitter accounts'. Are we supposed to smile wryly at this poor taste?

In usual Smith form, Reeva Steenkamp's name is missing in its entirety from the headline as well as the sub-one.

Smith refers to Pistorius as 'the world's most famous murder suspect' and lest we forget his Paralympian status:

The Paralympic athlete faces hours, and possibly days, more grilling by state prosecutor Gerrie Nel over the killing of his girlfriend inside a toilet cubicle at his home in Pretoria, South Africa.

Reeva Steenkamp is once again defined solely as her relationship to her killer. It is not until the the third paragraph that Steenkamp's name is even mentioned. This is what this trial is really about; justice for Reeva Steenkamp, not the emotional incontinence and feelings of the accused nor the personalities of the two lawyers. Note how we hardly hear anything about Judge Thokozile Masipa, who is a woman of colour.

In a week where Pistorius has refused to accept any responsibility whatsoever for his actions, he's described as 'emotionally fragile' who, Smith concedes, has 'admitted making mistakes.'  The New Yorker frames this somewhat differently:

Instead, he has come across as a man so fixated on justifying himself that he can’t even hear it when he sounds illogical or cruel. After the shooting in the restaurant, he asked his friend to lie about what happened and take the blame.

Back to the Guardian/Observer, Nel is cast as the villain of the piece as Pistorius increasingly assumes the role of victim.

. . . amid signs that public sympathy is swinging away from him in favour of his chief tormentor.

We're left with the image of a 'tired lonely' looking potential murderer and a 'barking' prosecutor (presumably a reference to Nel's nickname as 'Pitbull'):

Sitting in the witness box, with its six microphones, swivel chair with red-spotted yellow cushion and green bucket lest he throw up again, the one-time Olympic hero often looks like the most tired, lonely man in the world. "My life is on the line," Pistorius whined defensively last week. "Reeva doesn't have a life any more," Nel barked back. "Because of what you've done, she's not alive any more. So please, listen to the questions and give us the truth."

This murder trial it seems, is about the stand off between the two lawyers (one 'urbane' and the other 'pugnacious') described by Smith as 'legal jousting' which, he continues 'can sometimes look like public entertainment.' Really? A classic case of projection here, methinks.  This is not entertainment. This is not The Voice.  It is not, I repeat, a talent show.


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2 thoughts on “Alas Smith and Tones: the ongoing inappropriate reporting of the Pistorius murder tiral

  • Hecuba says:

    Thank you for analysing this piece of sensationalist non-news reporting. Malestream newspapers and media consistently claim they are merely ‘reporting the news’ and are not engaging in creating/writing ‘sensationalist speculative propaganda.’

    Malestream media continues to trivialise male violence against women and girls and the trial of Pistorius is another opportunity for malestream media to twist the facts around so that the male defendant becomes the ‘victim’ and the female victim is non-existent.

    Since when did murder trials become ‘mens’ entertainment?’ When malestream media realised they can increase their profit margins by trivialising the legal process and creating a supposed ‘debate’ between two male lawyers!

  • I agree. The victim, Reeva Steenkamp, has been relegated to a footnote in most of the coverage. Two other things that have sickened me about the case are the atmosphere of an abusive relationship as indicated by the texts ‘Please treat me like a person’ etc and the ‘victim status’ claimed by Pistorius, himself. How many times have we heard this kind of ‘poor me’ posturing from initiators of violence against women? The only thing they are sorry about is being exposed.
    Whether Pistorius deliberately murdered Reeva Steenkamp, we may never know, but what we do know is that he treated her with less respect than she deserved while she was alive.