For the last several weeks I’ve been really disturbed at the media frenzy and resulting popular obsession with the Casey Anthony case. The problem is, I’m not bothered for the same reason everyone else seems to be.
Lets start with this. As much as possible, I didn’t watch any of the coverage. So any facts that may creep into this are most likely incorrect, and absolutely un-researched. Second, this little girl is without a doubt cute as hell and it is unforgivable that her life ended the way it has. It seems pretty obvious that she was pretty ritualistically abused by a mother who by all accounts seems worthy of a quite violent and abrupt end of her own.
That all being said and agreed to…So what? Why did this case justify the last 6 weeks of wall to wall coverage? Why has this case caused people such extremes of emotion? Why are people so fascinated? Why did seemingly serious news shows and commentators line up to interview seemingly insignificant ‘experts’ one after the other on every minute detail of the day’s proceedings?
The reality of the legal system, and the more realistic reality of life in general, is that these cases happen EVERY DAY. Take a quick stroll through the foster care or adoption systems some time. Chat with any social worker or school councillor. Nothing here is all that original. Even the end game isn’t overly surprising.
Just look in the news today. Guy in Canada was found not responsible for stabbing his 2 kids…and he ADMITTED HE DID IT! He even admitted it was a conscious decision he made to ‘not leave them behind’ during a failed suicide attempt. You want a slam dunk, media friendly, Oprah-licious court case, this is it!
Why are we so fascinated? The only reason this was presented was it worked. If ratings didn’t LEAP when the case hit the news, like most abuse/murder cases, we would never of heard the verdict much less hung on every breath of testimony and the interminable analysis that followed. There was a lot going on while this case droned on. Most of southern europe is on the brink, or over the brink, of economic collapse. There is still a war on…and that other situation in Libya (quasi-war? Pseudo-war? whatever) I’m sure somewhere there is a count of the number of murders, assaults and other various crimes committed, and convictions attained/innocence proven in those cases. And any number of other deals made, deals broken, situations of all kinds ignored and left unreported because we were so focused on this.
As previously stated, I feel for this little girl. The whole situation sucks. from what little bit I have heard it seems obvious this lady thought she was far smarter than her brain could back up. She had NO business raising a kid. She did a piss poor job of it. And, far too soon, she took her irresponsibility too far and her daughter couldn’t rise above the parent’s level of incompetence. And don’t mistake my position as ‘Good, she got off’ THAT is absolutely untrue. I’d gladly fire up Ol’ Sparky myself for this.
People have compared this case to OJ. I don’t see it. Other than the disturbing level of media coverage and the seemingly insane verdicts, they don’t really compare. Think what you want of OJ, there was a level of fame and notoriety there that justified the initial coverage. There was the REALLY bizarre behavior of OJ, a guy people felt they had a grip on previously to maintain interest. There was the relatively quick processing of the case. And, there was the highly contentious racial, political and social undertones surrounding OJ and the California legal system. Toss in the race baiting, on both sides, and you create a perfect storm.
There was no previous fame or notoriety in the Anthony case. There was no racial undertones. There was admittedly some bizarre behavior and statements made, but nothing approaching tomorrows “Maury” show level bizarre. This case took FOREVER to process. So why the fascination?
The fascination is this case was so easy.
It was easy to produce. Court is court, it runs itself. Couple static cameras. Someone to jot down some notes and BOOM, reality TV with production cost of just about $0.
It was easy to get hooked into. Cute little girl. Evil young single mother. Somewhat eccentric family. BOOM, ratings bonanza!
So now we have what we have. An outpouring of Twitter angst. Facebook groups lighting candles for Caylee. The traditional parade of picketers and protesters that congregate whenever a TV camera appears. If you haven’t noticed many of the protesters camp out on the steps of the courthouses…just in case a stray camera wanders by…
At some level, this kind of reporting on a consistent basis cannot be good for us.
I’m not about to present to you that focusing on the macro stories, economic, political, military or whatever is good for your brain. It isn’t. But its reality. it is something people need to have a working knowledge of to function in society. We would be a LOT safer and a lot less easily led into the abyss of financial and social disaster we seem to be careening toward now, if the same level of interest was paid to these macro ideas that we pay to cases like the Anthony trial.
Possibly the more insidious angle of this type of misinformation is the ‘normalization’ it brings to these ‘bizarre’ events. Casey Anthony is an anomaly of motherhood. She is rare, not unheard of, but rare. But, she isn’t nearly as rare as she once was. Feel free to argue all the myriad reasons for that, but you can’t argue its true.
People have always done messed up stuff to each other. People have always done MESSED up stuff to their kids, to other people’s kids. Kids get killed. Kids get abused. Parents have no clue what they are supposed to do. Shit gets out of hand. But, it was always MESSED UP. Now its just programming.
The more we see it, the less messed up it seems. There is a sense of ’Well, we aren’t THAT bad! Look at these guys!’
Slowly, but surely, we trundle off down the road to hell.
Somewhere in this woman’s head, whatever she was doing to her kid didn’t seem that extreme. It got out of hand and her first thought was ‘I can cover this up.’ Know what, somewhere, someone watched this and is saying ‘Hey, I could brew up some of that. I just won’t let it go that far.’
And we go another mile down the road. We may or may not ever hear of the results of these parenting experiments. Not directly. But, the results will be out there walking among us. And their idea of MESSED UP is markedly different from yours.
I’ve taken a few things away from this debacle.
First, there really is a reason the things that are reported to us are reported to us. We aren’t likely to ever know what that reason is. It’s not likely designed to benefit us as its reported. We had best, as a group, be smarter about what we accept as TRUTH and how we process it.
Second, it’s extremely unlikely we, as a group, will ever do this to any real degree. Life is hard. It’s easy to accept things as they are presented. We can even rearrange them a bit to make ourselves believe we are brighter and more capable than those around us. But, at the end of the day, we will still do what is easy more often than what is hard.
Third, if you really feel something for Caylee, or any of the thousands of victims of abuse seen and unseen, don’t light candles on Facebook. Don’t weep to your friends how horrendously unfair the legal system is. Deal with what you can deal with.
If you are doing something messed up, and yes, you know if you are, STOP! I’m not excusing you, but things happen and people change! SO FUCKING DO IT!
If you have kids, hang out with them. Hang out with their friends. Remember, their parents aren’t as enlightened as you. You never know who could use someone to show them ‘normal.’
If you don’t have kids, realize that you gotta live with them too. They are gonna grow up at the same mall, same park, same street corner where you live. teach them to treat people well, and things will get better. Demonstrate to them that people are a threat and to be feared and treated badly and when you least expect it, and can least afford it, they will return the favor.
Kids just absorb what is around them. We all do, really. We are starting to see the results of the first wave of virtually unlimited bandwidth surrounding us. If we don’t figure out how to control the information flying at us, someone else will. We may not like where they lead us.