Recently, and for no apparent reason, a man gunned down a random college student in the middle of a crowded rail car in San Francisco.
You know what’s even more unsettling?
There were no Good Samaritans. According to surveillance video, no one responded when the gunman drew his weapon. In fact, no one noticed at all. All of the passengers were so distracted by their smartphones that it took a gunshot to rouse them from their digital torpor.
Not since John Harley and Bibb Latane studied the murder of Kitty Genovese in 1968, coining “the Bystander Effect,” have we seen such an egregious example of the absolute uselessness of eyewitnesses to a crime. In the case of Kitty Genovese, the New York Times reported that 38 people witnessed her attacker assaulting her before any one of them took enough responsibility to call the police. In San Francisco, these eyewitnesses didn’t even get to the point of making a moral decision about whether or not to intervene. Even if they had wanted to save the college student’s life, they weren’t aware enough of what was transpiring around them to recognize that one of their fellow human beings was in life-threatening danger.
Could this be even worse?
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