Sunday, July 10, 2011

Crime and Astonishment

The latest great legal circus has ended, and has left many of us amazed, or so it seems.  "Seems" because appearance is of fundamental importance here, and because what was shock was almost immediately transformed into something else, generally blame. 

Those who felt a conviction was assured blame the prosecutors, or the jurors.  I haven't heard the judge condemned yet, but that will likely happen.  All of the Anthonys, who certainly seem an oddly disturbing family, are blamed.  All perhaps deserve blame.

The trial of Casey Anthony was doomed to be a circus from the start, of course, due in large part to the attention drawn to the case by such as the remarkable Nancy Grace, who was busily milking it for all it was worth for years before it came to trial.  What reputation she has is built on the creation of controversy, but this in itself doesn't make her unusual.  Such aggrandizement and exploitation is what makes the world go 'round, particularly on TV, and particularly in what passes for journalism in these dark times. 

There is always some expert at hand to be pumped by some complaisant anchor or other media minion, of course.  There is nothing wrong with the fact they are consulted and displayed for us like trophies in and of itself.  We should of course treat them with a degree of scepticism, but there is nothing essentially wrong with them, or their role.  There is something very wrong, though, when they come to believe themselves to be something more than what they are, which is at most a part of the show, not the show itself, and a worst a kind of shill for someone, or something, else.

Grace appears to have managed to delude herself to the extent that there is something wrong.  Her opinion regarding what was to occur turned out to be wrong, of course, which is surprising only because she tried so hard to assure that the outcome would meet with her expectation.  Her reaction to the outcome, so shrill, so angrily maudlin, so rife with self-indulgent pathos, was down-right disturbing.  Her self-pitying reaction to criticism being made is merely irritating.

The lesson we should take from this is only indirectly connected to the antics of Grace and other pundits, however.  What this should teach us is that the experts, no matter how loudly and passionately they proclaim and pontificate, often don't know a damn thing about what has and will happen or what is happening.

I think this is particularly true where the law is concerned, and where a trial is at issue.  Any lawyer who has spent time in a courtroom knows that strange things can happen there, especially when a jury is involved.  Any lawyer should know the difference between morality and the law, and justice and the law, and when they profess otherwise it is likely they are being disingenuous or simply are not very good, or experienced, lawyers.

There is something especially reprehensible about a lawyer who is not involved in a case engaging in the kind of posturing engaged in by Grace and others in this instance.  Lawyers are advocates, of course, as part of their profession, but they are advocates for their clients.  That is the nature of the system.  The lawyer who goes out of his/her way to advocate for or against another lawyer's clients in the midst of a trial which could effect life or death, and does so on a global stage, is not a being professional and so is not professional.  Such a lawyer is being unprofessional, almost by definition.

We live in an age where we know something, and are told about it by various people, competent or incompetent, knowledgeable or ignorant, instantly.  We are able to react instantly to what we know about or are told, and being able to react we react.  Our technology and society encourages action without thought.  Worse yet, it encourages reaction without thought.  Instant analysis will generally be inadequate analysis, and instant analysis is what is being provided to us.  We should treat it accordingly.

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