Saturday, June 21, 2014

The O. J. Simpson Fiasco 

Simpson Murder Scene
It has been 20 years since Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were brutally murdered and the whole O. J. Simpson farce was started. If the coverage of this anniversary is anything to go by it appears that little to nothing has been learned from the media circus that was the O. J. Simpson trial.

To get the most obvious out of the way. It is now as clear as these things can be that O. J. Simpson was in fact guilty, guilty, guilty!! The book that he tried to publish If I Did It,1 is pretty damn close to a full confession and settles the matter more or less conclusively.
However in the celebrations, (right word) of the twentieth anniversary of this event much was forgotten or ignored. For example:
The media reporting of the anniversary did not take advantage of the opportunity afforded to engage in any sort of reflection or self criticism. Instead it just assumed that the story was worth and deserving of the intense to the point of absurd idiocy the coverage it got.
For the bottom line is that the story did not in the slightest deserve the coverage it got. On any rational level the coverage was idiotically excessive. The media referred to it as "The Trial of the Century". Saying or reading that utterly stupid statement should make its patent falseness and dumbness rather obvious.
Really the O. J. Simpson murder case was "The Trial of the Century"?! The empty headed, lighter than air nonsense of asserting that should be at once apparent. As for what was the "Trial of the Century", How about the Nuremburg Trial of 1946, or the Tokyo Trials of 46-48, or the Trial of the Gang of Four in China or Brown v. The Board of Education2 and so on and so forth. The O. J. Simpson Trial was no more the "Trial of the Century" than a theft by a pickpocket was the theft of the century. The media idiots who uttered this idiotic phrase were bull shitters, bull shitting away. 
This was to be blunt a murder trial in which a third rate American celebrity was charged with two murders; on the cosmic scale it is nothing and on a earthy scale it is of meaning only to those immediately concerned. To everyone else it is of very minimal importance or notice.

But of course the 20th anniversary of this event was not the occasion of any media self-criticism or self evaluation. At no time did anyone in the media ever ask the question "Why did we cover this in such depth?", "Did we devote too much time and resources to covering this case?".  These questions were avoided like the plague because to ask them would be to question the basic ethics and motives of the media.

For it is obvious that the purpose of covering the story in such depth was to attract at low cost a huge horde of viewers so that advertising space could be sold and thus huge profits made by the various news outlets. Real news is hard work, and takes time and money. However ersatz, fake news like the Simpson absurdity are cheap and easy and thus can generate huge profits.

Because News is all about making money not telling people about what is going on. Thus News only as an incidental by product occasionally tells people news that is actually germane, most of the time it tells news to generate vast profits for itself and thus make money.

The O. J. Simpson case illustrated quite clearly the fact that the News media is basically a whorish enterprise dedicated to attracting customers not to providing information. It also indicated clearly the astounding laziness of the media.

In the grand scheme of things the murders were pretty prosaic and ho-hum but since they involved a third rate celebrity the media had their excuse to waste everyone's time with hyperbolic nonsense and out and out lies about the importance of the case. Including utter bullshit like it being the "trial of the century".

If the media utterly disgraced itself with its over the top, wildly excessive coverage of the case the actual trial itself was little different.

First the trial was turned into a media circus joke. The Judge's decision to allow the trial to be televised turned the trial into a reality TV farce. Thus we got both the prosecution and defence spending much of their time performing before the cameras and concentrating on how well they looked. Thus was ignored that a trial is for the purpose to determining in this case guilt or innocence not in how the viewers were entertained or impressed .

The ironic result of televising the case was that the O. J. Simpson trial is used has an example of why televising actual trials is NOT a good idea. In fact it as resulted in many judges refusing to allow trials to be televised. Watching footage of the trial is embarrassing, the trial was turned into a bad joke and a piece of performance art and justice was quite forgotten.

In fact this coverage via TV was so disastrous that it effected how the case was argued. Both sides attorneys being much concerned with how they looked on camera.

Another aspect of the case is the fact that the prosecution to a large extent muffed it and muffed it badly. Although the prosecution's lawyers want to blame other causes they muffed it.3

Then there is the issue of Jurors who in post trial statements revealed with quite frightening candour that many of them were bluntly clueless. How such people end up being Jurors is rather alarming. Still considering how the prosecution muffed the case it is not surprising the jury voted to acquit.

After all in all fairness once Fuhrman was revealed to have lied in his testimony about using the n-word all of his testimony was tainted. Which brings in the last issue - Racism.

The Los Angles police department had a long - long history of stupidity and racism which was all to familiar to the local Black community. They were primed to believe the worst about the local police because everyday experience validated it. And bluntly the prosecution did very little to effectively counter act the rather implausible conspiracy frame-up concocted by the defence.4

After all just two years earlier had occurred the infamous Rodney King riots in Los Angles. In this poisonous stew of violence and a police force perceived has racist, with a lot of justification, came the O. J. Simpson trial.

Now O. J. Simpson was at the time basically a "honorary White person", and bluntly the idea that the police would frame him was implausible in the extreme. In fact O. J. got along well with the police. If the police were going to frame a Black person he was not an obvious choice. Further O. J. Simpson had basically left the Black community to live among and hang around rich White people. That did not prevent him from using Black people's experience of racism to help get him off. It was bluntly highly cynical and successful.

The irony of the case after it was over was that O. J. Simpson was thought to have gotten away with murder. Well in a way that is not true. And it is not just the follow up civil trial in which O. J. Simpson forced this time to testify and was caught out by his lies and evasions and found to be responsible for Nicole and Ron's deaths, but that he is perceived by in large to be a guilty murderer and treated as a pariah; and he ended up in jail on a totally unrelated charge. So the notion he got away with it is an exaggeration.

Also the case indicates that societies obsession with celebrity can have pernicious consequences. The very fact O. J. was a celebrity led to  chain of events and set off a pattern of behaviour that resulted in a judicial farce that perverted the course of justice and serves as an outstanding example of how NOT to conduct a trial.

In other words the O. J. Simpson trial and media circus was a fiasco. 
1. The book was basically a cynical attempt to cash in on his own crime by O. J. Simpson. The attempt failed because the book was seized by the Goldman family in satisfaction of their civil claim in the civil suit. See Simpson, O. J., If I Did It, Beaufort Books, New York, 2008.
2. See Wikipedia, Nuremberg Trials Here. For the Tokyo trials see Wikipedia, International Military Tribunal for the Far East Here. For the Gang of Four Trial see Wikipedia, Gang of Four Here. For Brown v. Board of Education see Wikipedia, Brown v. Board of Education Here.

3. Probably the only decent book about the case is Bugliosi, Vincent, Outrage, W. W. Norton and Co., New York, 2008. This book positively tears apart both the prosecution, the defence, the media and the Judge, but is fairly forgiving about the jury although he notes their more than occasional cluelessness. Bugliosi is also very hard, and justifiably so, on the Los Angles Police department.

4. For the total cock-up that was the Prosecution see Bugliosi, chaper 4 - The Trial.

Pierre Cloutier

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