Criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University questions the value of ABC News’s hiring Utah kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart to weigh in on cases involving missing and abducted children. Writes for for the Boston Globe’s website, “Apparently, the network believes that her harrowing ordeal qualifies her as an expert on the general topic of kidnapping. Her name may be smart, but she is hardly an expert.” He says that in the cases of future abductions, “ She may possibly be introspective about her own reactions to the abduction, but not all victims respond in the same way and not all kidnappings are of the same character.” In fact, most kidnappings are for purposes very different from hers.
Fox says ABC's decision to feature Smart as a kidnapping specialist reflects a common practice in what could be described as the mass media version of “it takes one to know one.” John Walsh made a career by having been the father of a 6-year-old abduction/murder victim. Although his efforts in hosting America's Most Wanted may have contributed to bringing certain criminals to justice, was he really the best person for the job? Fox notes that in addition to victims, murderers, rapists, and other assailants are tv time and print space to “speak not only about why they committed the crime, but why others do so as well. Rarely do they have sufficient awareness and understanding of their own behavior, much less that of others.”