The issue in the United States of how bystanders react — or do not react — to a crime that has unfolded before them has now emerged in Italy, on a somewhat smaller scale in an incident that seems right out of The Godfather, The Sopranos or GoodFellas.
Italian police have released this video of an authentic mafia hit. And it’s double deja vu: its a scene seemingly copied from Hollywood (when it’s the opposite) — and the issue of bystanders’ behavior.
The issue of what bystanders do if they see a crime unfolding or after a crime has emerged bigtime in the Richmond High School rape case, where some 20 teenagers stood by and watched for more than 2 hours as a teenage girl was gang raped — a case that also entailed several other issues including media reaction. Here’s a CNN report on that as well:
In the case of the mafia hit, it’ll be argued that the bystanders didn’t react due to the shock of the event, fear of the mafia and fear of becoming involved and themselves being targets.
But in the case of the Richmond High rape other factors — which will be analyzed by experts and pundits for some time to come — were also at work.
Indeed: in the case of the Richmond High School event, it could be argued that if Hollywood had put a scene like that in a movie, indicating a rape had gone on for more than 2 hours while more than 20 teens stood by and watched and even took picture and filmed it, critics would pan the movie for putting a scene in there that was both gratuitous and totally unbelievable. Once again the bar on even reprehensible behavior — bystanders or witnesses doing nothing — has been lowered.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.