July 6, 2011

So Casey Anthony was found not guilty?

And here is the deal. I had not heard of the trial until yesterday's verdict. I saw buzz on Facebook and had to google the name. I guess that proves that I don't watch cable news and that the news I read online doesn't cover this kind of story.

But now I am caught up, and my reaction is that our country is seriously messed up. This is the story that captivates the entire nation, while Republicans threatening to crater our economy is simply ignored. I am certainly not saying that the death of this little girl is trivial, because it certainly is not. It is a deeply tragic story. But watching the news last night, I saw a level of obsession with the story, the characters, and the outcome that seemed to belie the context.

So I have multiple objections. The first is the same I felt after the OJ trial when people start slamming the jury. Nancy Grace doesn't get to execute people she thinks are guilty, and the system is set so that it is difficult to convict people. But further, I am always amused (if amusement is the right word--and I don't think it is) when people are so dismissive of a jury verdict like this, but somehow convinced that all the people we execute are dead-bang guilty. If the system is so flawed to let this woman wrongly slide, why are they not skeptical about the people sent to the chair?

And the other is, as always, a sense that the media focuses on the easy, and ignores the difficult. I understand the grief over this little girl, but, as I noted, there are key political issues that go unnoticed. Republicans killing the economy is one, but another and equally vexing one is the budget cuts that will endanger thousands of young girls like Caylee Anthony. How do people express grief over one lost girl, but have no difficulty voting to cut off funding for thousands of kids, some of whom have disabilities or are in foster care?

But the media prefers these stories because they have natural drama, and require almost no intelligence to sell. And the public prefers a story that is simple to those that are tough to understand.

And we are all lessened.

7 comments:

Bob said...

"This is the story that captivates the entire nation, while Republicans threatening to crater our economy is simply ignored."

Let me fix this for you:

This is the story that captivates the main street media, while Republicans threatening to crater our economy is simply ignored.

The media likes to say we are captivated, when it is the networks pushing the story.

Cold In Laramie said...

Streak,

I share many of your comments. I love how everyone "was captivated" by the story, yet I know many people, myself included, who knew little or nothing about the story. The mock horror of the verdict was appalling as well; people who know the story through television and 24-hour news channels suddenly become experts on the story and not the jury, which, you know, spent weeks hearing the arguments of lawyers. Moreover, they decided after 11 hours of deliberations; not really a controversial case.

Part of this is the proliferation of 24-hour news channels, like CNN, FOX, MSNBC, etc. They have to fill space and, more importantly, they have to sell ads. So, "news" becomes something that we "consume" or "purchase," like a t-shirt, automobile, or computer. We look for comfortable brands that appeal to our purchasing prerogatives. And news channels appeal to the lowest common denominator in order to get more eyeballs on the screens and ads. Nothing I say here is new or revolutionary; but I do think I need to read more about the rise of consumer culture and the shift in the nation from a nation that produces things to a nation that consumes things. I think that perhaps disparate items - jobs moving overseas, the current economic recession, and news coverage - are interrelated in complex ways.

However, I think back to some research I did many years ago. I was looking at late nineteenth century newspapers, from New York City and Washington, D.C. I was stunned to read that in nearly every issue in the winter there were stories about unnamed women leaving infants out on the ice to die. As you note, there is a "natural drama" to stories like these. They "sell themselves." Clearly, the intensity with which these stories sell differs, but forms of media have been conducting these practices for a long time.

Smitty said...

How do people express grief over one lost girl, but have no difficulty voting to cut off funding for thousands of kids, some of whom have disabilities or are in foster care?

If I had a dollar for every Facebook post urging me to turn on my porch light in support of Caylee, I'd be rich.

While turning on my porch light last night is about as effective as talking to myself, your other point is well-taken. Why not candlelight vigils for a ruined economy? For the loss of reproductive rights? Supreme Court decisions that imbue corporations with the rights and powers of living, breathing citizens?

Maybe because those are points in which the citizenry doesn't agree, but we can all agree that a dead little girl sucks.

And therein lies the problem: the media is weak-kneed enough to avoid reporting on "divisive" topics, even where one side is blatantly lying, and instead focuses on things people can universally agree with.

And yes, we are weaker as a nation for that.

Streak said...

Heh. We leave our porch light on (cf, btw) all night for safety reasons, so I guess last night we had a vigil for Caylee.

Interesting point, CIL on that transition from producing to consuming. Had thought about that in broader employment sense, but hadn't considered it as a possible connection to this kind of voyeurism.

leighton said...

Mainstream media: far worse than useless.

steves said...

I will admit that I paid little attention. What few details I knew disturbed me enough that I just didn't want to listen to the details of the trial. I was also reminded of the OJ trial in terms of the non-stop coverage. I don't know enough of this jury to render an opinion and I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt until I find out otherwise.

That being said, IMO the OJ jury was stupid. I believe the most well read person on the jury indicated that the racing form was the longest thing he typically read. I am not saying we should abolish the jury system, but anyone that thinks they are wise and always get it right is delusional.

Monk-in-Training said...

But the media prefers these stories because they have natural drama, and require almost no intelligence to sell. And the public prefers a story that is simple to those that are tough to understand.

Unfortunately, in our current media state, it is far easier more interesting to review a starlet's breast implants, or politico's sexual infidelity than it is to detail a nuclear power plant's shoddy construction and lackluster regulatory framework. sigh.