Thursday, July 7, 2011

This Week in National Hysteria

I wanted to steer clear of the Casey Anthony story, I really did.  But good Lord, it seems like that’s all you hear about both online and in person.  People are losing their freakin’ minds over this.

Throughout this entire trial I’ve been asking myself, “Why this one?  Why are we so invested in this one story?”  There are kids that go missing all over the country, all the time.  None of them garner this kind of attention.

Is it because the mother and child are white and attractive?  Is it because the case details are so sordid?  Is it because it started as a big missing person mystery that was all over the news from Day One?

I think it’s a combination of those things in addition to the biggest factor; that being that the trial was on TV, due to Florida state law permitting cameras in the courtroom.  The whole thing has played out in the food courts, company cafeterias and living rooms across the nation.  Cable news is having a veritable Trial Orgy over this tragedy, further fueling our addiction.

This is the ultimate in ‘reality TV.’  Unfortunately, we’re used to reality TV that is practically as scripted as any other TV drama.  (I consider researching various “contestants” and putting those with specific characteristics together in pressure situations in order to gain the desired result, an indirect form of scripting.  It’s the same, really, only this way TV writers aren’t getting paid, probably as payback for going on strike a couple years ago.)  But the trick here is that sometimes, despite what all the telltale signs and “expert” analysis say, we get an unexpected result. 

As I’m sure you know, Casey Anthony was acquitted of murdering her 2-year old daughter Caylee this week and was found guilty only on 4 misdemeanor counts of lying to the police.   Today she was given the maximum sentence of one year for each count, which basically amounts to ‘time served.’  She gets out next Wednesday

Americans are losing their fucking minds over this acquittal.  In the last 2 days, I’ve read about jurors are getting threatened, people asking if the judge can set aside the verdict, people creating hate-filled Casey Anthony Facebook sites with thousands of people “liking” them, and untold ugly interviews with random people on the street.

It’s funny how everyone is an expert now.  Doesn’t matter what the issue is… During the BP oil spill, everyone was chiming in on who was at fault.  Lately, everyone is an expert on the economy, from how to lower the debt, to the effectiveness of the stimulus package.  And this week, everyone is a legal expert.  I mean, we hear the talking heads on TV telling us their expert opinions and lacking much in the way of critical thinking skills, we lap it right up and spit it out at our friends and neighbors.

I want to blame TV for this, but the people on TV are doing what they’re paid to do.  If you think they’re being paid to entertain, educate and enlighten us, you’re wrong.  The only thing they’re paid to do is to keep you watching.  That’s it.  And that goes double for cable because unlike over-the-air networks, neither the FCC nor the government regulates content.  (Hence all the boob action on HBO and Showtime.)  The only regulation on cable content is the free market and fear of public reprisals.  They don’t care how what they say affects you; they just want you to stay tuned after the break.  That’s what’s important: eyeballs on the ads.  If thoughtful, reasonable, educated programming got big ratings, that’s what we’d see.  Sadly, it doesn’t.  Sensationalism and cheap thrills keep us glued to the tube so we remain up to our armpits in sex, blood and trash-TV.

What happened here is that people were robbed of the chance to see the Bad Mother get punished, so naturally they’re pissed.  This country loves punishment, especially when it’s handed out to uppity young women.  (See Lohan, Lindsey, Spears, Brittany and Hilton, Paris.)  People want “justice for Caylee,” but I’m sure that whatever dimension Caylee is in, she is not obsessing about “justice.”  But the ugliness here in this dimension is off the scale. 

It was probably a good idea to keep Ms. Anthony in jail another week, if only so they can choreograph a safe exit.  If they were to have turned her loose right after the hearing, the mob outside, whipped up to a feeding frenzy by vultures like Nancy Grace and her kind, would have torn her apart. 

That’s American as apple pie, isn’t it?  A lynch mob.  People love to proclaim how this is the greatest country on earth because of our freedom and justice and moral values.  But as soon as they get a court decision they don’t like, it goes directly to mob rule.  Trial by pitchfork.  What Constitution?  Reasonable doubt?  Not when it gets in the way of our bloodlust…

Now, I didn’t follow this trial at all, save for the headlines that appeared on my homepage or stuff I overheard on TV when I was doing something else.  But the essentials of the case have been all over the news this week and I’ll tell you something.  I will not fault that jury; they did their job.  They ruled on the facts that were presented, just like they were supposed to.  They didn’t succumb to casting a guilty vote just so that someone could pay and the rest of us could get our pound of flesh.

When you’re considering a possible death sentence, “she probably did it” is just not good enough.  There wasn’t a single shred of evidence that tied Casey Anthony to the killing.

The cover-up?  Oh hell yeah, but she wasn’t being tried on cover-up charges; she was tried for murder.

I don’t think the principals involved had enough collective brainpower to pull off what could have been “the perfect crime.”  And assuming the girl was murdered, it would have been the perfect crime, if only Mommy Dearest had enough sense to not be seen in bars looking like she’s celebrating.  Or come up with some kind of marginally plausible story to explain her daughter’s disappearance… 

I agree that the “swimming accident” story is bogus and completely unbelievable.  But perhaps it was some other accident, like one where the mother wasn’t so uninvolved?  Perhaps she was hung over one morning and Caylee wouldn’t stop squawking, so she put some tape over her mouth.  And maybe the kid had a stuffy nose and suffocated when Mommy fell back to sleep.  It’s feasible that the mother might panic and in a fit of self-preservation, attempt to make it all go away.  To me, I think something like that is more likely than either the prosecution or defense’s stories, but I’ll be the first to admit… I don’t know.  And neither does anyone else unless they were there.

Perhaps she could have been charged with child abuse, or negligent homicide, or what have you, but I don’t see where you convict and sentence someone to death for an accident born out of stupidity.

Like I said, I don’t have the answers.  This story is a tragedy all the way around.  Maybe the American Greek Chorus will get their closure when karma comes around and bites Ms. Anthony in the near future.

I don’t see her living another 5 years.  Face it; her life is over.  She’s a high school dropout with no particularly marketable skills, so with this kind of rep, she’s practically unemployable.  Even Vivid Video pulled their offer to put her in a porno. 

Maybe she’ll take up with some fame-hungry dude that thinks he can “straighten her out” with the back of his hand and before long, she’ll be the one in the trunk of a car.

Personally, I think one of those nuts that thinks killing abortion doctors is a good idea will take a shot at her.  If neither of those happens, I think she’ll be dead from drugs, alcohol or her own hand. 

Either way, Casey Anthony received a life sentence and a death sentence at the same time…

It seems to be the same sentence that little Caylee got as well.  May she rest in peace.


Dazee Dreamer said...

I really like your take on this. I will say tho, after hearing some of the jury, that they were scared. Well, hell, I would be scared too. But you would have seen me hold out for a hung jury. That way, the prosecution could have come up with a better case.

I like your reasoning a ton. It will be interesting to see what road she takes.

Oilfield Trash said...

I agree with you on most of it as well. I have a post coming next week about this very same thing. I just haven't had time to write it.

Justin said...

You pretty much wrote what I'm thinking about this whole thing! It truly is a tragedy what happened, but how does it affect any of our lives?? Our country is on the verge of defaulting it's debt for the first time in history yet the American public is more concerned(obsessed) with this? Great post man, I'm sharing this!

bluzdude said...

I can see why only one juror spoke out after the trial (and one alternate.) I mean, they wanted to come back with a guilty, but the prosecution just didn't prove the case. And that's the rub... they have to PROVE it.

Also, you have to consider the judge's instructions to the jury. I didn't see a record of what he told them, but he basically tells them how to find, based on what they think of the evidence and testimony. So I don't see anywhere that the judge or jury were derelict in their duties. Just one of those things... The prosecution can't just conjure up evidence... (Well, maybe in Texas... sorry Trash.) Perhaps they should have taken the political hit and went for lesser charges, based on what they could prove.

I'm sure you do... I know how you are with crimes against kids.

This is actually a rarity for me... getting a post out while the topic is still hot. Was fortunate that I was fishing for a subject today.

It doesn't affect our lives at all; it just feeds our voyeuristic tendencies and our habit of getting into other people's business.

Meanwhile, the powers that own the media outlets (and the politicians that protect their interests) know that if we're preoccupied with sensationalistic cases like this, we're not watching them as they carve up this country's riches among themselves.

And share away! I'll take all the help I can get!

Christy said...

I've had the same thoughts about it. Without being able to prove how Caylee died, it is almost impossible to prove murder. If they had charged her with something that was regarding the disposal of the body, which they could have, they might have had more time for her.

In the meantime, this is our justice system. I've heard it compared to the O.J. trial. There was some good that came out of that trial though. The Innocence Project has been responsible for the release of over 200 wrongfully convicted people. It was started by Barry Scheck who was on O.J.'s team.

I'm sure something good will come of this.

Marie Nicole said...

What a wonderful analysis of the entire situation and our psyche! If she does do any jail time, I'm comforted in the thought inmates do have a level of conscience and will be so hard on her!

The entire deal, with people's fascination, is just a sad-sad story...

bluzdude said...

Right! Not only don't they know how she died but where she was and who was there. That's a lot of doubt to overcome during trial.

Well, her jail time is just about done. Her time already served was enough to carry out what was the maximum sentence for the crimes for which she was convicted.

She probably ought to hire bodyguards once she gets out though. If she can come up with any cash... I don't think she'll get very far with writing a book or movie... Judge can confiscate the funds to pay for the expenses involved in searching for her daughter.

Cassie said...

I just want to know why if she's claiming to have known she died, even if it WAS by accident, why is she not being tried for THAT? It's still murder. That's what pisses me off.

And that jury should have been hung so that they could come up with a more solid defense. It's asinine.

I, unfortunately, have been following this case since Caylee was still hoped to be alive. So this makes me very sad.

But you're right, Casey is pretty much a goner.

Facie said...

I did not follow the trial to know how the arguments were presented. But my understanding was the prosecution was not able to successful prove she committed murder. Based on the few snippets I read here and there, I probably would have said she was not guilty (which is NOT the same thing as innocent). You can't just vote (or whatever the word is) guilty because you are "pretty sure" she did it; don't you need evidence/the crime to be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt?

I admit that I don't understand all the ins and outs of the legal system. Why did that Richard Poplaski (man in the Burgh who killed three police officers) need to be tried? Everyone knew he killed them so why not just skip to the penalty phase?

I also agree with Cassie. Again, not understanding how all this works, maybe there was no way to try her for just that (or also that), or perhaps her sentencing would have been less anyway. I read last night she is instead getting out on the 17th. I figured it was a rouse so people would not be waiting for her at the jail next week so they could attack her.

Jessica R. said...

My husband was obsessed with this trial to the point that it drove me insane. He watched it and watched it, and he agreed with you. There is no way they could find her guilty because there was no evidence to link her to it.

It's a terrible tragedy, and as a mother especially, it's very upsetting.

That being said, the Facebook reaction was sickening. The same thing that happened when they killed Osama Bin Laden. The death mob mentality makes me want to scream, "educate yourselves!" before you condemn a jury for doing their job.

Judie said...

ABC gave Casey's attornies $300,000 for her defense. That money was all used up before the trial ended. So Casey still owes them. Unfortunately, you can't get blood out of a turnip, and all Casey has in her prison account is $300. Her lawyers got some great advertising, though.

I have never watched reality shows, and this trial was no exception.

Mary Ann said...

AMEN, dear Bluz. Excellent, succinct and apt. You express my sense exactly in saying this woman will endure the consequences of her actions whether she survives them or not. Karma rules.
Blah-Blah BEGONE.

Meanwhile the Great BrainDead will thrash around seeking their next instant titillation as they chomp on the sorry remains of this obscene fiasco.

Kaylee Anthony is free to Be in peace.
Thank you for your thoughts and eloquent post.

bluzdude said...

It’s not murder if it’s an accident… negligent homicide, maybe… I don’t think it’s the jury’s job to manage the prosecution… they just judge what’s presented. I’m sure the prosecution put on the best case they could, given the limits of the evidence.

If you think about it, they were really stuck… This case has so much pre-trial publicity that if they didn’t charge her with the highest crimes, they would have been crucified in the press and media, who had decided long ago that Mommy was guilty. So they shot too high and missed, and we’re all pissed off anyway.

You describe the jury’s role perfectly.

But you can’t just skip the trial because “everyone knows” someone is guilty. Says so right in the Constitution… everyone can have a trial by jury. The defendant can plead guilty, of course, but they don’t usually have much incentive to do so.

But across history, there has been so much that “everyone knows” that turns out to be wrong…

Yes, I saw on the news today that her release date has been pushed again to 7/17; 4 days after her initial date. Judge said it was due to a more accurate recalculation of time served. If they have any illusions of her getting home in one piece, she’d better have an armed escort.

The return of the American Mob Mentality is an alarming trend, especially because the mob is not really thinking, just reacting. People are getting whipped up by media whores, who then fall all over themselves trying to backpedal from the fury that they’ve unleashed. And then move on to the next manufactured outrage.

A turnip seems to be an appropriate comparison, because she seems to have about the same amount of smarts. I’m just wondering why ABC is paying anything… what are they getting in return? Exclusive interviews? Movie of the Week? Talk show host?

She has to find some way to make a living that doesn’t involve this case, lest the judge garner it.

Gina said...

Why am I not surprised that you and I just did similar posts? Great minds and all;) I am sick to death of all the shit talk about the jury (obviously from my post), but I hadn't heard any of the hung jury until reading it here and that makes me sick. People have no idea what goes on in a courtroom or jury deliberation. And the thought of someone pulling that kind of thing is awful. That would only make the problems with our justice system even worse.

The people talking like she'd going to be living the high life now are crazy. She is a pariah and she has killed her child. I don't care what anyone says - her life isn't going to be easy in or out of jail.

bluzdude said...

I'll say again... 5 years, before some life-loving moralist shoots her, or she's dead by her own hand or negligence.

OR, she goes back to school, acquires some marketable skills and finds a way to contribute to society.

But I doubt it.

Unapologetically Mundane said...

Wow, I didn't think about the fact that Casey's probably going to get the justice she may or may not deserve either way thanks to some crazy TV-watcher plotting her death. Like you, I tried not to know anything about the case and was (maybe naively) shocked when it seemed like my entire Twitter and Facebook feed was filled the next day with people who seemed to care one way or the other. But I still watch "Survivor" and "The Real Housewives", so I guess I can't call myself any more discerning than any of those people, right?

bluzdude said...

[nods sadly] Yes, it would be so much easier to be all "More Educated Than Thou" if I didn't spend so much time watching the likes of Survivor, Big Brother or Two and a Half Men.

ettible said...

I mean, "Big Brother" is the only point in living through the months of July and August, but "Two and a Half Men"?!?! I really expected more from you.

bluzdude said...

(I only watch it in syndication... that shouldn't count as points off my IQ. So I have a weakness for dick and fart jokes... I'm a guy. We're programmed to laugh at such things...)

Mrs. Bachelor Girl said...

I like how the same people who are losing their minds over this are the same ones screaming on Fox News about how much they love Amurica and how great Amurica is. Well, guess what, guys? Casey Anthony was acquitted of murder by a jury of her peers in a court of the best criminal justice system in the world. Where's all your flag-waving now that things didn't go your way?

DG said...

I agree with you, Bluz. It's just a terribly sad case all the way around. Casey did not make a terribly sympathetic defendant, but the prosecution must be able to prove the crime. It's up to the DA to charge correctly. Look what happend to, was it the Duke LaCross team? Convicted in the court of public opinion, and then the DA withdrew the charges before prosecution? In my humble opinion, it is the job of the DA to accurately bring charges.

bluzdude said...

Mrs. Bachelor Girl,
That’s one of the points I meant to make in the post, but kind of wandered off. Yes, it is hypocrisy at its finest. They beat their chests about ‘Murican exceptionalism and how much better we are because of our Rule of Law, but as soon as an unpopular decision comes out, the want to chuck the Constitution in favor of mob rule.
Same with the First Amendment. Everybody is for it until it’s applied to speech that’s unpopular, then they want it banned or suppressed.

You are exactly correct, and I know that you know from which you speak. Like I said in an earlier comment, the prosecution had a no-win situation… all of America wanted the highest charges possible, while the evidence suggested otherwise. Then they drew a jury that adhered to the law rather than their emotions.

Sad situation all the way around. Nobody wins with a case like this.

And yes, it was the Duke lacrosse team that was tarred and feathered, with the coach fired, all from a case that was found to have no merit. That’s what the court of public opinion can do and there is no defense for that.

sherry stanfa-stanley said...

I didn't watch a minute of the trial because I refused to glamorize this tragedy or those involved.

Anonymous said...

Hated this story. Hated it. Guilty or innocent, either way, it's depressing. Ignored the trial; ignored the verdict. But here are my two favorite follow-ups to the story:

1) Playboy announces there will be no offer to Casey Anthony. When Hugh Hefner takes the high moral road to avoid you, you're in trouble...

2) Best tweet I saw this week: "If Casey Anthony wants to get Nancy Grace off her ass, she needs to start killing some black babies."

bluzdude said...

I wish I hadn't heard of it either. And I REALLY wish vultures like Nancy Grace would let it go already. She won't be happy until she's wrung every last ounce of angst out of this story.

1) Yeah, Hef steps out... just watch Larry Flynt step in.
2) Ohhhhhhhh, Snap! I second that... great tweet.