In April 2008 a story emerged from a small town in Austria that a man named Josef Fritzl had not only imprisoned his daughter in his own home for almost 25 years, but also engaged in incest with her, which led to her bearing his children, all of whom were raised in Fritzls makeshift basement dungeon. His eldest daughter (also mother of the rest of his children) escaped that day in April 2008 and alerted neighbours in the area, who called the police. The ghost of Josef Fritzl and his basement family haunts the mindset of most Austrians. The rest try to erase all memory of such a horrible, unimaginable event. Fritzl himself lived in plain sight for the entire time he had imprisoned his extended family. This begged questions about what exactly Austrian society was, or if Austrian society even existed, since this occurred in a small community where everyone should theoretically be looking out for each other. The focus of all media coverage was on the event, and how it could possibly have happened without anyone finding out for a quarter of a century.
This week a story came out of the USA where it was discovered that a man had held three women in captivity for almost a decade, in a house in a normal suburban housing district in Cleveland, Ohio. One of the women escaped from the house earlier this week and ran to the house next door, where she found her oblivious neighbour Charles Ramsey, who then phoned the police. I know Charles Ramsey’s name because the focus of media coverage of this story was not on the women, or the societal implications of the unlawful imprisonment of women, it was on him: the neighbour who phoned the police. Ramsey was instrumental in ending the whole sage, but this is not why he has been interviewed repeatedly on TV shows all across America, nor why he has become a viral sensation online. Ramsey is a hero, but he is also a poor, straight-talking black man. And this archetype is the lynchpin of local news networks all across America. Continue reading