Earlier this week our Action News Team linked to a story about about a New York woman who was stabbed to death as her neighbors sat idly by ("Neighbor says they ignored dying woman's screams") and didn't call authorities. Sadly, it brought to mind the story of Kitty Genovese, who was murdered in an eerily similar fashion (with even more neighbors hearing the attack--numbers range from a dozen, all the way up to 38 different residents--but refusing to call for help) in 1964, and whose death is often cited as a perfect example of the bystander effect.
Phil Ochs, one of the truly great songwriters of any generation, and a man permanently shrouded in the mighty shadow of Dylan, wrote about the Genovese case, bystander effect, and the power of apathy in "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends."
"Look outside the window, there's a woman being grabbed
They've dragged her to the bushes and now she's being stabbed
Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain
But Monopoly is so much fun, I'd hate to blow the game
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody outside of a small circle of friends"
Supposedly the song, with its rollicking ragtime piano line and over-the-top corniness, was a near-hit for Ochs but was blacklisted due to its mentioning of drugs ("Smoking marijuana is more fun than drinking beer").
Phil Ochs - "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends"