Mercury Rising

Having been revealed to the world as the hack and media whorethat I am, I’d like to take this opportunity to dispel a couple ofmyths.

Myth: As a hack and media whore, I have the power to see throughwalls.

Truth: As a hack and media whore, I do have the power to seethrough windows.

Myth: As a hack and media whore I transcribe all of my painfullynarcissistic thoughts to an online diary or blog.

Fact: As a hack and media whore I record all of my painfullynarcissistic thoughts onto friends’ answering machines or the wallsof public urinals.

Myth: As a hack and media whore I can smell the aroma ofopportunity everywhere I go.

Truth: As a hack and media whore I can smell the aroma of otherhacks and media whores everywhere I go. For instance, every time Ipassed by a Portland Mercury newspaper box last week, theurine-like stench of Marjorie Skinner’s insipid and irresponsiblefeature article “Kidnapped” nearly knocked me off my feet.

Granted, no one has ever accused The Mercury of being a reliablenews source. It’s an entertaining paper, and if you’re looking forsomeone to espouse the poignant qualities of a certain Isaac Brock,or the profound irony of a “Mr. T and Friends” cartoon marathon,The Mercury is the best place to go.

But if you’re looking for balanced and responsible featurejournalism, you know better than to depend on the people whobrought you articles like “The Five Types of Portlander,” (wait,they’re all white – you mean there are no minorities in Portland?)and “Room 19 – A Night Inside The Joyce” (Katia Dunn tries to spenda night in a “shady” downtown hotel but all the poor people scareher away).

Marjorie Skinner, however, has taken shoddy journalism to wholenew level. Her article, in which she recounts the details of her”kidnapping,” is one of the most negligent pieces I have everread.

Ms. Skinner gives a detailed account of her harrowingexperience, having hired a man off the Internet to kidnap her. Shedetails everything about the “frightening experience,” from havingdrinks with her abductor, to what he ordered at a fast food drivethrough, to his future business prospects and recent relationshiptrauma.

She tells the terrible experience of being able to take breaksfrom her kidnapping to look at photos of puppies, and how the wholeterrible experience climaxed when, “we lounged around drinkingabsinthe and looking at books.” A completely different scenario,I’m sure, from the one presented by the kidnapping victims ofRichard Coym or Tadd Joseph Bazant. Most kidnapping victims don’thave the opportunity to set guidelines about safe-words or setlimits to the extent of abuse they receive: “mild physical abuse isokay, like slapping or hair pulling – but no spanking.”

Each year women are the victims of more than 4.5 million violentcrimes, including approximately 500,000 rapes and other sexualassaults. To arrogantly write an article, essentially belittling aterrifying and dangerous experience, is inexcusable. Ms. Skinner’sarticle reeks of privileged irony; her desire to emulate thecutting edge sexual play of “bored, wealthy clients,” in New York,her reference to her undergraduate thesis, and her network offriends and co-workers who protect her from any harm. She is aboutas far away from real danger and violence as possible.

Kidnapping and sexual assault are real and prominentdangers to women from all walks of life and in a city with anabnormally high quotient of sex workers, those at the greatest riskof assault, it amazes me Ms. Skinner could so brazenly ignore thereality of her “role play” situation. Among prostitutes, upwards of50 percent interviewed for a study by the Illinois CoalitionAgainst Sexual Assault (ICASA) were at some point kidnapped byeither a stranger or their pimp, 82 percent were physically abusedand 68 percent were forcibly raped. A far cry from the auspiciouscondo and SUV experience of Ms. Skinner’s “kidnapping”.

Besides that, to put herself at the mercy of a nearly unknownman is just stupid. Of the approximately 132,000 women report thatthey have been victims of rape or attempted rape, and more thanhalf of them knew their attackers. Her “kidnapper” admitted thathis motivation for the kidnapping is a sexual one, and despite hisupstanding behavior, Ms. Skinner could have found herself in anunalterable situation.

Ironically, the most enlightened passage from Ms. Skinner’sarticle is actually a quote from her kidnapper, “The fear ofabduction is something most Americans experience daily, and themedia tends to foster that fear.

News reports focus on missing children and violence againstwomen, television crime dramas use the same issues for plotscenarios – even our milk cartons remind us of those who haveactually fallen victim to abduction. With so much pent-up fear oversomething, it’s no wonder some people would eventually have aninterest in facing that fear.

Facing a fear is an admirable thing, if it is done with theintention of alleviating the power that fear holds over you. Thegoal should be to find a way of preventing these crimes before theyhappen, not voyeuristically recreating them for the masochisticpleasure of cocktail-sipping, privileged, detached, andovereducated upper class.