The eyes of Kitty Genovese have haunted us since the first moment we saw this picture.
On this day in 1964, she was walking home to her New York apartment when a man named Winston Moseley approached her. Less than 100 feet from the apartment she shared with girlfriend Mary Ann Zielonko, he stabbed her twice before running away. Her cries alerted a few neighbors, one of whom shouted for Moseley to leave her alone, but otherwise no help was offered.
Later, Moseley returned in disguise to rape the barely-conscious Genovese and finish her off with another round of stabbings. Afterwards, he stole $49 from her wallet. She was 28.
Genovese's attack has become the hallmark case for bystander's effect, also know as Genovese syndrome. The phenomenon states that the more people who witness an attack, the less likely any one of them are to intervene.
The news of the time reported that Genovese had been attacked in full view of 38 people, but that none had come to her aid or called the police. This story is somewhat exaggerated, as the police were notified at least once that something had happened, and the number of witnesses is much exaggerated.
It's possible that most of her neighbors had no idea what was going on, though one theory is that they did know, but information overload in their daily struggles resulted in being too callous to care.
Regardless, Genovese herself has become a parable, a constant reminder that we must intercede when evil rears its head rather than stand idle and watch someone get murdered. As we said, the eyes in that old photograph have haunted us from the moment we saw them. Today we pay tribute to her with five tunes she inspired.
Andrew Jackson Jihad, "Big Bird": Folk-punk just doesn't get near enough press, in our opinion. This wrenching tune by Andrew Jackson Jihad is a haunting chant to the fear of a world where no one steps in to save us. Genovese is mentioned by name, and the terror of "the mob mentality that makes otherwise normal people go blind."
Mychael Danna, "The Blood of Cu Chulainn": Boondock Saints is one of the greatest action films ever made. Two Irish brothers step up to defend Boston against mobsters in a holy crusade. The film opens with them in church as their monsignor delivers a sermon on Genovese.
"We must all fear evil men," he says, "But there is another evil we must fear most; the indifference of good men." "The Blood of Cu Chulainn" serves as the movie's main theme, and it's impossible to not want to be a hero listening to it.
Flashbulb Memory, "All Them Crazies Out There": Of all the scathing condemnations against the apathy that cost Genovese, her life none is angrier than Flashbulb Memory's. Underneath the vocal-cord-shattering screaming is an eloquent judgment for the willing blind.
Phil Ochs, "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends": Taking another approach is that of Phil Ochs, who penned "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends" only a few years after Genovese's murder. Using an upbeat, light-hearted rhythm and melody, he completely juxtaposes a sequence of horrors while unconcerned bystanders happily tiptoe through the tulips ignoring the tragedies. After all, it's only important to the few people who know the victims.
Simon & Garfunkel, "Sound of Silence": There's been a lot of conjecture about the meaning of one of Simon & Garfunkel's greatest songs, and Genovese's murder is one of the items on the short list of possible inspirations.
Interestingly, the song features heavily in The Watchmen, where it is the soundtrack for the funeral of the Comedian. Another of the vigilantes, Rorschach, was so moved by reading about what happened to Genovese that he became a superhero dedicated to stopping crime using the same brutality that degenerates inflict on victims.
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