In a recent post, I suggested that the New York Times, in an article citing prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib as an example of people commiting evil acts, might have done at least as well to consider the U.N. rape scandal in the Congo. However, I never tried to explain why it hadn't.
Now, Arthur Chrenkoff answers the question of why U.N. officials raping hundreds of young Congolese girls and boys just doesn't seem to be stirring up the sort of white-hot outrage inspired by the Abu Ghraib photos:
A combination of four widely-held beliefs will conspire to keep the fate of Congo and many other places from generating sufficient levels of international outrage:Chrenkoff's last two points, in particular, suggest that those who single out American scandals for criticism are guilty of the common fallacy that Steven Den Beste called "searching under the streetlight":
American misdeeds are the worst in the world;
There are worse misdeeds in the world, but that's to be expected of others, so who cares? now back to American misdeeds;
American misdeeds are the most offensive because America holds itself to a higher moral standard than others;
American misdeeds deserve the most attention because by publicizing them within the Western world, you actually have the greatest chance of effecting change. (This is a sort of backhand, and often unintended, compliment to the strength of the American political system.)
A cop finds a drunk man in a parking lot late at night, searching the ground under the only street light in that parking lot.As Chrenkoff observes, it's easy to find fault with America, because it implicitly claims to be setting an example for the rest of the world to follow. And, because American political institutions are comparatively quick and efficient in responding to problems, criticizing America is likely to yield tangible results.
He asks what the guy is doing, and the drunk replies that he dropped his car keys and is looking for them.
Asked where he was when he dropped the keys, the drunk waves towards a car in the darkness.
Asked why he's searching under the street light, he says that if the keys are actually over in the darkness, he'd never find them anyway.
I'd add two more reasons: Since America is the most powerful nation on earth, even the most trifling allegations made against it draw lots of attention, giving protesters more bang for their buck. And weaker countries are only too eager to undermine America's moral authority by calling attention to its flaws.
For those reasons, even if the worst atrocities are happening somewhere else, critics prefer to search under the bright streetlight or, more accurately, spotlight shining on America.
And rapists prey on African children in the darkness.