Sunday, July 17, 2011

Revolving Door Revolves

Casey Anthony walked free today, having served the sentence imposed upon her by the court.  Of course, there are people from Sarasota to Seattle who feel she somehow avoided the judgement she was due, and champion some poor hero, one lacking in both broad awareness and personal morality, to hunt her down and inflict upon her the physical harm they just know she must have coming.

Now, mind you, I can't speak directly to this issue, as I paid no attention to the events up to and including the trial.  I first became aware of this case when Ms. Anthony's acquittal gave birth to a vast, simultaneous outpouring of bile and hatred.  And once again, I was forced to confront one of the most important facts of American public policy.  You will occasionally hear that Americans are apathetic about their freedoms, but that really isn't the case at all.  Americans, for the most part, HATE their freedoms, are revolted by any manifestation of basic democratic liberty, and regularly state their unequivocal desire to roll back the most fundamental constitutional guarantees.  It is no wonder at all that obscenities like the ironically named Patriot Act and the 4th Amendment shredding Wiretap Bill are passed with minimal objection, that organizations like the ACLU and FEC are so roundly reviled and that calls for vengeance vastly outnumber calls for mercy even in the twentyfirst century.

It is certainly true that the key to empathy is to imagine yourself in the other person's shoes, that it was YOU on trial for your life, and then to imagine the outcome for which you would be so desperately hopeful.  But it really doesn't require empathy, indeed, simple self interest should require the same exercise.  Because if you DID find yourself incarcerated, on trial in a case where you were generally accepted to be guilty, and therefore as evil and inhuman a monster as could be imagined, unfit to be allowed to live among other people ever again, unfit, even, to live at all, your only hope would be within the system - a system so fair, so protective of the rights of the accused, so structured so as to place the burden of proof on your accusers that you might be able to convince a jury of your peers to set you free.  But in general, American people do seem to be inherently optimistic, to the point of irrationality, and widely assume that such things only happen to other, 'bad' people who are obviously guilty and so clearly should be punished.

So the prosecutor was unable to provide sufficient evidence to convince the jury to convict, and they did exactly what they are supposed to do in such cases - a finding of not guilty.  The result of the conviction on lesser charges was a sentence to time served, the appropriate paperwork was processed and today she walks out the door a free woman.  Except, not really.  After years of having her picture splashed across the internet, with a huge population of crazed, understimulated citizens taking up their pitchforks and torches and crying out for her head, she will have to spend many years in hiding, carefully avoiding the kind of public situation that could put her within reach of that most unstable of psychopaths - an American with a feeling of victimization.  I wish her the best, but I wonder if there's much chance that this story ends well.

In the meantime, the prison doors swung open to accept their latest evildoer, that master of ideologically driven tabloid snoopery, Rebekah Brooks, late of the News Corp executive suite.  Just as obviously guilty, but without the baggage that's unavoidable when there's a dead baby in the mix.  This one, however, will have more pre-verdict tempestuousness, with the observers drawn to their chosen side by political ideology, with international intrigue and the personal lives of celebrities and royalty, with money and power, sex and lies, cybercrime and media spin, we'll be watching the evolution of Rebekah's story for years, played out against a backdrop of the shifting media and political fortunes, all as fodder for endless cable news and Internet debate.  Honestly, we're all secretly grateful that as one story ended, this new narrative is at hand to fill our pathetic lives.  It's all we might have asked for...


  1. Now, mind you, I can't speak directly to this issue, as I paid no attention to the events up to and including the trial.

    True for me as well. It just had so much "missing white woman" to it, while important matters (like our Democratic President trying to reach an agreement with the Republicans to begin dismantling the New Deal and/or Great Society) that I was repulsed.

    On that second story, on the other hand...the fellow (and boss) to the right of the lady pictured has had an enormous hand in the damage the right has been able to inflict on this country, thanks to their money more than the appeal of their ideas.

    (A worthwhile video here.)

  2. Boy oh boy it's a good thing the Murdoch shit happened in England where they have diligent journalists who will no doubt uncover the truth.