I am just pissed off. The violent death of Emily Sander has left the usual wreckage. Her family is devastated. Her friends are bereft. The Kansas towns where she grew up and went to college have been wounded. But in a month or two few of us will remember her name, and we will forget that once again we got a look behind the veneer and saw the true face of our news media; provocateurs who cater to the public’s prurient interests. Without the ennoblement of the Bill of Rights, they (we) would all have been arrested as pornographers long ago. And the truly ironic aspect is that the media have been selling their papers by billing Emily as an “internet porn star”, as if the pittance she made from selling her image and reputation had ever come anywhere near the treasure collected each day by CNN, NBC, FOX, and even the Associated Press, selling Emily’s image and reputation. Her life didn’t make her newsworthy to them. Marketing her self as the “barely legal, Zoey Zane” certainly did not distinguish her significantly from millions of others living a fantasy on the net. Even her brutal murder by itself did not earn her a dubious equation with “man bites dog”. But her life and death and that word “pornography” appearing in the same paragraph is what finally made Emily Sander “worthy” as news.
The word “pornography” was born from an odd root. The ancient Greek sources are “porneia”, meaning fornication, and “graphein” meaning to write. They refer to the advertising signs hung outside the prostitute’s place of business. For three thousand years a “pornographer” was anyone who wrote anything about the lives of prostitutes or their customers. It wasn’t until the Victorian age (about 1850) that the noun “pornographer” evolved into the more specific meaning of “…Someone who presents, shows or sells writing or pictures whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal”. But the last 150 years has failed to inspire a simple accurate definition of what is now considered to be pornographic. In 1964 Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart admitted that the best description he could provide was, “I know it when I see it.” And it is that hazy justification which allows the news media to sell Emily Sander as an “internet porn star” without calling themselves “pornographers”.
Emily was a lovely, vibrant 18 year old woman, discovering her sexuality at a time when the internet and the electronic revolution has given young women more power over their bodies than ever before in history. She wanted to make a profit from that power. And if that was a mistake it was her mistake to make. But Kansas is infamous for its fear of shifting that power away from the old men who have traditionally held it. In a battle reminiscent of the temperance movement, today in Kansas two separate special grand juries are seeking to punish doctors and nurses who perform “legal” abortions. But Emily Sander is and was proof that that cultural war has already been lost.
Emily’s death is no more proof that internet sex sites are dangerous for women than the murder of Stacy Peterson, the missing Chicago cops 4th wife, is proof that being married to a cop is inherently dangerous. These two women (if Stacy Peterson was murdered, as I suspect) were not murdered as punishment for some moral shortcoming, no matter what the implied moral the media wants to tag on their lives. They were murdered by men. And 57% of all women who are murdered are killed by their husbands or ex-husbands or boyfriends. And that puts Emily in the unlucky minority. That should have made her worthy of being a headline; but it didn’t. As the saying goes, sex sells – especially it sells newspapers and cable news time. The slaughter of another young woman by an enraged male ego is simply another “dog bites man” story and not “news worthy”; unless she could be described as an “internet porn star”.
Well, Emily wasn’t much of a “star” until she was murdered by the media. On what was once her web site (ZoeyZane.com) her business partners, RagingBucks, posted the following; “Emily was a solo nude model whose site went live September 25, 2007…the media…sent more traffic to Emily’s adult site in two hours then the site has received in the two months since the site has gone live”. The “Fort Worth Star-Telegram” printed the absurd statistic that 30,000 customers paid $39.95 a month to look at Emily’s nude photos. In fact “RagingBucks” offers access to images of dozens of young women at that price and Emily was merely one of the newest. And in any case, it is also an assertion that any one who has ever been the victim of internet porn pop-ups and seen the prices listed can testify is “not a viable business model”, as 5 minutes of investigation by this main stream media source would have shown.
"RagingBucks has set up a fund for Emily's family and seeded it with $3,000. The least the "Star-Telegram" could do is match that amount, so that Emily might at least be paid symbolically part of the money she made for them. And in what may be the most poignant overlooked element of this story, in “cyber speak” to be “zane” is to be sane and insane at the same time. Who ever picked that “nom de internet” for Emily was prescient.
But what finally, ultimately pisses me off is that if you “Google” the name Emily Sanders you get 1,920,000 references, and almost all of them refer to her at some point as an "internet porn star". But if you Google “Isreal Mireles” you get just 734 hits, and he’s the SOB suspected of killing her. He is still at large with his 16 year old pregnant girl friend. And I hope he gives himself up without hurting anybody else, including himself. Because what the media needs right now is a good salacious murder trial, ala O.J. Don't you think?
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