The Witness, a new documentary, is seeking to set the record straight, 52 years later, about the murder of Kitty Genovese . The incident gained national attention after a New York Times article erroneously claimed that the residents of the neighborhood, where Genovese lived and was murdered, turned a dead ear to her screams and pleas for help. A whole neighborhood’s apathy towards a person in need caught the attention of the nation and made people question how we got this way.
The problem was none of it was true. People did come to her aid. The accepted version appealing in the New York Times a product of the of an overeager reporter who made a name for himself off of the article. To quote the NPR website, “… the New York Times that attributed her late-night death on a quiet street in Queens to the inaction of 38 witnesses who heard her screams twice (Moseley returned to stab her a second time) and allegedly failed to call the police or rush to her rescue.”o the making. The number of people who actually saw Kitty Genovese being stabbed was grossly over exaggerated by the newspaper. This story boils down to perception and point of view. A reporter wanted to indict a society and his concern for its growing apathy, a girl who was murdered and became defined by that murder, a brother who sought to understand his sister’s senseless murder and why it was co-opted by a reporter, and the murderer who started it all just because he wanted to murder a girl.
It is a twisted and messy indictment of trust of the media and how the truth is sometimes a mere trifle. It also demonstrates that human cruelty can rear its ugly head without warning and for very little reason of any kind.
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