The mass media in general and the tabloid press in particular seem fixated on women and murder. If the victim is young and attractive, the tabloids get over-excited and, if the accused is also young and attractive, it creates a media feeding frenzy.
The recent decision of an Italian court to ‘re-convict’ the American student, Amanda KNOX, along with Raffaele SOLLECITO for the gruesome murder of British student, Meredith KERCHER in Perugia in November, 2007, has given rise to another wave of sexist and misogynistic journalism in both Italy and Britain. Amanda KNOX has been subjected to unprecedented but sustained character assassination for more than six years.
KNOX is habitually portrayed in the media as a femme fatale, as sex obsessed and the motive for murder put forward at the original trial was ‘erotic sexual violence’ possibly connected to Satanism. The overwhelming focus has been on KNOX while both her co-accused, SOLLECITO AND GUEDE, have been virtually ignored by the mass media.
Amanda KNOX has been heavily criticised for her looks, her choice of underwear, her attitudes and her behaviour. Among the less complimentary descriptions of her in the media is ‘attention seeking psychopathic harlot’. One lawyer at the trial described her as ‘a diabolical she-devil, an explosive concentrate of sex, drugs and alcohol’. Even her nickname of ‘Foxy Knoxy’ which she acquired in early childhood on the soccer field has been used to confirm the tabloid presumption that she is sex obsessed.
It may, of course, be the case that is not Amanda KNOX who is sex obsessed but rather the Italian prosecutors and the tabloid press. The public prosecutor asserted in 2008 that ‘the crime was a sexual and sacrificial ritual in accordance with the rules of Halloween’. But, by 2014, the prosecution abandoned this motive and proposed in all seriousness that KNOX had killed KERCHER because of an argument about not flushing the toilet!
Ever since the days of Jack the Ripper, newspaper circulations have been dependent on crime and especially on murders. Where the murder involves, as in the KERCHER case, young, attractive women as victim and as convicted murderer, a major circulation boost is guaranteed. The combination is tabloid heaven and, in the process of exploiting these features of the case, the roles of SOLLECITO and especially Rudy GUEDE, the co-convicted, are virtually ignored.
If the evidence against KNOX is questionable and circumstantial, the evidence against GUEDE is direct, compelling and convincing. He fled the country after the murder and was secretly taped by the police saying that KNOX and SOLLECITO were not involved. Yet his secret trial and ten year shorter sentence have been ignored by the mass media. Rudy GUEDE will be a free man in a few years but because of their continuing obsession with Amanda KNOX, this seems of little interest to the tabloid press. Justice tabloid style and justice Italian style display an unhealthy preoccupation with Amanda KNOX at the expense of a serious analysis of the evidence in the KERCHER murder.