Thursday, February 21, 2013

Oscar Pistorius: The exception?

When Adrian Bayley murdered Irish woman Jill Meagher in Melbourne in September 2012, when Ian Huntley murdered two young school girls in Britain, namely Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, in 2002 and when Clive Sharp murdered Catherine Gowing in Wales in October 2012, we did not send well wishes. Why then when a well known sports personality, at the top of his game, kills his young girlfriend, does such a nefarious act prompt messages of well wishes from his fans?
Yes, a sports personality can be someone who develops role model status, who draws in millions of fans, and be chosen for lucrative sponsorship deals – but in the face of criminal activity do we stand by them? Surely not! Two days, after Oscar Pistorius’ killed his girlfriend, his agent Peet Van Zyl detailed the show of support Pistorius was receiving from his global fan base. Support in a time like this is unwarranted. Furthermore, publishing stories that even suggest sponsors are standing by someone who killed their spouse; that this same person will possibly be competing in the World Championships later in the year is unfathomable. It appears the story is not about the death of a 29 year old girl with a life of endless opportunities ahead of her, so unfairly cut short, by the malicious act of one man, no this is the story of a Paralympic athlete who has fallen from grace.
Reeva Skteenkamp’s body was discovered in the home of Pistorius on Valentine’s Day, with four gunshot wounds, she lay in a pool of her own blood. It has been reported that she was shot through the bathroom door from close range. Furthermore, it has been widely reported that a cricket bat is now also a crucial piece of evidence in this murder case. It has been speculated that the bat was used by Pistorius to assault the deceased, or by the deceased to defend herself. Furthermore, it was claimed by a South African newspaper the City Press, that Steenkamp’s skull was partially ‘crushed’.
If there is any veracity in these reports, and if this is the nature of the reports being circulated, why are people empathising with Pistorius? Why are people attempting to rationalise his actions?  Are people, and in particular his fan base, extremely naive, do they not understand the severity of his actions? Why in the face of such a heinous crime, are the media referencing all his merits, and sporting achievements as a Paraolympian, reminding the world of his status in the sporting world?
Those statistics should be deemed redundant in the face of an odious crime. For, they are irrelevant. Surely, quoting his statistics and medal count in a court room will not uphold the name of a killer in the eyes of a jury, nor save him from the prison sentence he rightly deserves. Strip Pistorius of his sports titles, his sports persona, and you are left with an unknown figure, a figure who is accused of killing his girlfriend. If this story was reported as a news report in which an ordinary, unknown South African man killed his girlfriend, the media would be rife with outrage, and the coverage would be given to his unfortunate victim, and a global fan base offering well wishes would be nonexistent, as everyone would see the criminal activity for what it is.
Offering well wishes to a killer at a time like this, is not only insensitive to the family of the deceased, but almost attempts to rationalise his behaviour. We cannot rationalise this behaviour purely because he is a globally renowned Paraolympian. We did not rationalise the actions of Ian Huntley on the basis that at one point in his life he was an excellent school caretaker, no, we did not; and we shan’t do any differently for Pistorius –  Olympic medals do not make you the exception Oscar! 
The Forgotten Irish Graduate, 21st February 2013