“The bystander effect”: we see this psychological term in news stories even today, and it originated with the murder of 28-year old Catherine “Kitty” Genovese in 1964. Kitty was stabbed to death in an apartment complex in Queens, over half-hour span during which her attacker ran off and returned again three times. It was thought that 38 people had knowledge of the crime as it was happening, but did not report it. A.M. Rosenthal, who covered the story for The New York Times, then wrote a book about the case, examining both the tragedy of Genovese’s murder and what he termed mankind’s “disease of apathy.” In the introduction to the paperback, he writes of “a feeling that the story had turned into a hunt for a target, and the queasy belief that the target was in our own mirrors.”
In 1963, two LAPD officers, Ian Cambell and Karl Hettinger, pulled over a car for a broken tail light in Hollywood. The two passengers were on the run for a string of robberies and took the two officers hostage. Errantly believing their crime was already punishable by death, they took the officers t...
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