Tag Archives: News

Media And The American Way: Mass Media And The Justice System

“It is so difficult to draw a clear line of separation between the abuse and the wholesome use of the press, that as yet we have found it better to trust the public judgment, rather than the magistrate, with the discrimination between truth and falsehood. And hitherto the public judgment has performed that office with wonderful correctness.” –Thomas Jefferson to M. Pictet

It was a spectacle begging for a stage: A talented former athlete living in upscale urbia, a beautiful estranged girlfriend and her new boyfriend brutally murdered, enough forensic evidence to make any prosecutor giddy and cause any defense to despair and raise their rates.

The bloody details blew across the headlines and TV screens when an absurd and unforgettable low-speed “chase” of the suspect Mr. Simpson by an army of law enforcement on land and in the air. The media hadn’t seemed to care too much prior to the absurdities on that day, with only short and infrequent updates, the juicer, more sensational headlines being reserved to supermarket tabloids. But when the mass media brought the absurd to the front page and the tabloid headline became the Times’ headline, a new market was found, a new popular need was discovered, and the gaudy bloody spectacle previously seen on this scale only in the Roman Coliseum became the new spectator sport of media consumers across America and the world.

Media is a business, they survive by showing consumers what they want to see. When media was more homogeneous in the days before the Internet, they used their hegemony to control what consumers saw and learned about the rest of the world. If the consumer did not want to see what was being shown them on the network news shows, they could switch to Fresh Prince or the Cosby Show. But true information regarding the state of the world was limited to what the network executives decided could or should be shown.

We can’t blame the Simpson frenzy on political correctness. If political correctness had been brought very strongly to bear in the media handling of the case, it would’ve been deemed a non-event, not worthy of our watching, or we would’ve been treated to a never-ending line of sycophantic apologists telling why Mr. Simpson was innocent or not responsible. The first result would’ve been a good thing in that Mr. Simpson and those involved in the case would have more likely received true justice. In the latter case, further disservice and damage would have been done to cause of true equality as many would see the defense of a guilty man as the American Black trying at all costs to protect one of their own from a just punishment. A society deserves and receives respect when they show they can police and control their own, not just protect. The beast we call Political Correctness is one of the last bastions of true Racism in America (Now is not the place for a discussion of Racism, read instead the book Up From Slavery, Booker T. Washington’s autobiography, and see how his views of the process required to bring true equality to the Black American dovetails with the ideas and words of Marting Luther King).

It is the increasingly voyeuristic tendencies and appetites of the American populace that have fed what is now a pervasive coverage of the lives of popular people: the pretty, the rich, the famous, mostly undeserving of any such inspection. These circuses which our courtrooms have become owe much of the impulse of their transformation to the sensational, tabloid-like coverage of the increasingly immoral upper class by the Mass Media.

The victims of this new world are many and unfortunate. First, the victims of the actual crime. As their lives are invaded, what used to be private pains shared usually by at most a community have become very, very public. While this has some good effect in that it serves to draw people together, it causes greater harm in that the community which was actually hurt by the crime is not allowed its own healing. Media has a long memory bred by its never ending thirst for more content, and gives significance to events with little universal significance initially. For years after the fact we hear the familiar phrase on the evening news “X years ago today…” and the key players and experts and totally unrelated persons seeking only “face time” are trotted out again and asked to relive what to them may well have been quite a horror. The community may have gotten over the real hurt and damage, but they are forced to relive and dwell again on possibly heinous wrongs. Or it causes the creation of permanent victims. We do not hear about the survivors of Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi where the storm struck with greater fury and the damage was significantly greater than the damage from the same storm in New Orleans. These people, working quietly and together have rebuilt their lives without the eyes of the entire world staring through the forced perspective of one-eyed monsters on tripods run by the media. With little fanfare and less public complaint they’ve put their lives back together, free of the constant worrying of just how they’d come out of this by talking heads ensconced thousands of miles from the destruction in towers of stone and steel in New York. So private pains become public fare, and people who would move on are held forever in the perpetual glass case of the past.

Another victim of this theatrification of the Justice System are the accused themselves. Public sentiment is aroused by ceaseless coverage which, in its constant search for more content, eagerly grasps any rumor, broadcasting the lies and the truth with equal alacrity. Character assassinations occur daily, without thought to the victims guilt or innocence. Consider the case of the Duke University La Crosse players accused of rape and various other terrible things. The tale of one person was automatically believed and given credence over the lives of several other humans, before the case was even opened. With little or no apparent thought of the possible innocence of the accused, even in the face of several oddities and inconsistencies in the accusers testimony and life, the accused futures have been forever tarnished. Innocence is presumed until guilt is proven is the official policy of our judicial system. But in the court of public opinion it seems the prosecutor, judge and jury are all the same, the decisions are reached quickly, and there is no appeal.

A third group which is wronged by the New American Judicial System is a large one: us. It is ironic that we, the most active participants in the wrong, are also some of its most desperate victims. Initially limited to those with time and the inclination to watch daytime TV talk shows, a fascination with others lives can be unhealthy. Is our own life so hopeless, so featureless and futureless that we must live voyeuristicly and vicariously through others? Everybody, to a greater or lesser extent, lives vicariously at times, and this can be healthy and good. Enjoying others successes and joys, empathizing in their sorrows and struggling alongside in their failures are necessary processes of life in healthy families, communities and societies. But to revel, as in bloodsport, in the sordid details of others lives for no greater purpose than voyeurism is to cheapen both the voyeur and the viewed. This is perhaps but one more example of the problem in America where we know more about the people on the other coast than we know about our own neighbors.

Now we have a constant view into the most intimate details of peoples lives, celebrity lawsuits, scandals, Jacko and OJ. The less celebrity driven and perhaps more pretty-face and loveable-person driven spectacle of Lacey and Connor Petersons murder. Few, if any, doubt OJ’s guilt in his case but through the circus that his trial became a grievous disservice and terrible wrong was done to the victims, Mr. Simpson himself, and the American people, as justice tripped and fell during its act in the main ring of the New American Circus.

Goals Of War

Are we trying to win peoples’ hearts and minds or are we freeing them from terror? Hugh Hewitt at Townhall.com has written regarding the failure of our leaders to lead to victory in the War on Terror.

With my english language news limited to CNN World and BBC World these weeks in Italy, I must report that BBC has much better reporting, better anchors, better stories, and they’re only half as liberal as CNN. However, on both stations, when it comes to reporting on the War on Terror, the tenor, if not the content, is the same. While BBC appears to be loyal to the British troops and portrays them them as people with a valid and important view of the war and its’ aims as well as a heart for the people they’re fighting amongst. To CNN the soldiers are red-neck rowdies intent on blowing things, and people, apart. But if listening only to the tone of the reporting, without understanding words, a listener to either channel would come to think the reporter is some baleful expert, perpetually depressed, with an over-inflated view of their own importance and a severely pessimistic perspective on the course of events.

A theme that is stated and repeated over and over again regardless the surrounding story is that we are not making progress winning the hearts and minds of the people whose homes we are fighting around. Ponder this: Is our goal to foster warm fuzzies with the people over there? “Oh it’s terrible they all died, but at least we’d won their hearts and minds.” Or is it instead to free them from a bondage which they readily admit to suffering and desire to be free of, and to give the whole world freedom from a particularly virulent and vociferous form of terror?

Consider past wars, wars we actually won, as well as the one we lost. World War 2 was fought with untold destruction of land, history, structures, people, and their lives. When great evil is battled, terrible things happen. War, indeed, is hell. There is a price to evil. Innocent people suffer and die and each loss is unspeakably horrible. In World War 2 there were resistance fighters who chose that life of very nearly certain death, living free or dying trying. In this current war it has been said that in countries such as Afghanistan, the people have always sided with whichever side appears to be winning. We cannot expect similar resistance fighters to side with us unless it is clear we are over-running the enemy and defeating them on their ground. Were it not for the global aspirations of the entities inciting terror breeding in these regions, I’d be hard pressed to find a rationale for continuing this war. But the enemy has made it clear their aims, violent and complete subjugation of the entire world to their extreme and evil ideology and theology.

The purpose of war is to destroy, that army which succeeds in first destroying the will of the opposers is the side which wins. Because of this, an idealist is the strongest enemy, as they trust and believe in things beyond the physical and temporal, larger than himself and his enemy. Destroying his hope and vision or destroying him physically is the only way to win against him. We are here embarked on a quest to destroy the spirit, and if necessary the body, of those who have tried, are now trying, and will not cease until they have succeeded in destroying ours. Much good has and will be lost, some wounds will never heal and some wrongs will never be righted. This is the price of freedom. Is it a just price? Perhaps if the price were being extracted from us here safe behind the walls of the seas in America in a more visible way we would value what is being accomplished. But like spoiled children whose parents have paid their way through life, we do not value the end goal and stupidly rail on those who do understand and have paid the price. To quote from that firebrand of our own American Revolution, our own War for Independence, Samuel Adams:

If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.

Romney On Religion

I thought I’d posted this some time ago. Ah well… better late than never.

Very pluralistic, from a Christian perspective there is plenty to find wrong here. I hate the necessity of pragmatism, but from a pragmatic perspective, this was a home run.The Rev. Barry Lynn, ordained minister of the United Church of Christ and chief cook and bottle washer of the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, had a few things to say (I have edited for brevity, read the full comment and others on this here):

I was disappointed in Romney’s statement. The founders of our Constitution meant for religion and government to be completely separate. Romney is wrong when he says we are in danger of taking separation too far or at risk of establishing a religion of secularism. I was particularly outraged that Romney thinks that the Constitution is somehow based on faith and that judges should rule accordingly. That’s a gross misunderstanding of the framework of our constitutional system. I think it is telling that Romney quoted John Adams instead of Thomas Jefferson or James Madison. Jefferson and Madison are the towering figures who gave us religious liberty and church-state separation. I am an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, and I believe in my faith. But I believe just as strongly that non-believers are good Americans too. I wish Romney had said that.

This has also been a rather good opinion day, here are some highlights I found (or Google found for me): Mall Was A Gun-Free-Zone The mall in Omaha Nebraska is a gun-free zone, and yet someone brought a gun in and began killing people. Which part of “breaking the law” is so difficult to understand? When we put up signs that state it is illegal to bring guns in, will the planning killer see those and decide he’d best not? Of course not. Premeditated murder, involving all the thought needed to consider the consequences and ramifications of the heinous act, the time needed to plan and execute, does not respect the law. The killer is breaking every other law, what is one little “No Guns” sign going to do? Stop them? Instead, all we’ve succeeded in doing is disarming every other sane, law abiding person. Making each and every one of them a potential victim. And it’s not been just been in this case. Read the article.