It seems that the nation is obsessed by the Casey Anthony murder trial. Hundreds of people queue up overnight for a place in the courtroom. Only the first fifty are allowed in and scuffles sometimes take place. Media channels reporting live present not just the facts but also their opinion on daily courtroom drama, saying, for example, ‘Casey shed crocodile tears today’, or using the dehumanising term ‘Tot Mom.’
The media appears to have convicted Casey of the 2008 murder of her three-year-old daughter, Caylee. Caylee was not reported missing for over a month, during which time Casey lied about her whereabouts to everyone. As the trial progresses, Casey, it seems, is trapped in her own web of lies. But it is also clear that her family dynamics, if not downright dysfunctional, are outright unhealthy. Could the media entertain the thought that they may be looking at a very sick woman, a victim in her own right?
If one reads blogs or comments made by readers and viewers, it looks as if everyone is baying for Casey’s blood; that evil, heartless, and self-centred mother of a dead child. ‘Of course she cries’, says one, ‘she is afraid of getting the death penalty’, or ‘she knows she is never going to be able to party or participate in another hot body contest’. ‘Casey is a liar, a murderer and the absolute scum of this earth’, says another. It is no wonder that few are standing by the slogan ‘Innocent Until Proven Guilty’. People, it seems, feel they are well informed and that only they know best. Casey is judged not just because her alleged crime is morally reprehensible but also because they who judge have lost the ability to be fair and empathetic. They misunderstand their ‘duty’ to uphold ‘Justice’ – one of the pillars of democracy – by literally turning justice blind with their selective perception and hearing.
It is no surprise that many accept this media-centric democracy.
The question becomes: Could we really handle a true democracy if we had one? The bigger question, however, is: Would we even recognize it?
One of the aspects of the media coverage of this case that angers me is that the media probably would not be spending as much time obsessing over it and giving it so much air time if Ms. Anthony were a) black or any other minority, b) not attractive, c) a man. I don’t mean to sound sexist but the media picks stories to emphasize no matter if they are newsworthy or not. They pick them to make money. So the stories lean towards the majority demographic of people who watch the mainstream tv news and read newspapers- white middle-aged males. Another aspect of the case that exasperates but does not suprise me is how the justice system and the media play right into each other’s hands. Approaching the situation from the perspective that Ms. Anthony is a victim, may be a troubled, sick young woman doesn’t sell. It doesn’t make money. The dominant worldview that is going to attract the majority demographic that watches and reads the news is one that supports punitive justice, strict discipline and a clear definition of right versus wrong. Approaching the case from a worldview that emphasizes caring, understanding and carefully evaluates the situation using flexible definitions of acceptable or unacceptable behavior would repel the target demographic. This is not to say it is always and only about money. Worldviews and frames of thinking have a lot to do with it. Profit is a value that falls underneath the umbrella of a specific worldview.