Here’s a crazy, politically incorrect, out-of-left-field thought: maybe she really didn’t do it.
Full disclosure – I did not pay one iota of attention to the Casey Anthony trial. I know that a little girl is dead and her mother was on trial for possibly killing her. I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head how old the kid was, where the family is from, what the father’s involvement was in all of this, the mother’s backstory or mental wellness history, or how old anyone involved is/was. I heard the story mentioned occasionally on the local news between tales of bank robbery, political misconduct, car accidents, and celebrity divorces/drug rehab/sex scandals, but I have enough problems of my own without voluntarily wallowing in the tragic drama of others.
However, apparently while I wasn’t paying attention millions of bored, mindless, easily manipulated sheep became intensely invested in the outcome of this television show. And make no mistake, that’s exactly what it was…a TV show. It wasn’t all that different from any other crappy reality program except for a child really is dead and a woman’s freedom really was on the line. But I wonder how many sheep even remembered those facts while they were caught up in the sensationalism & drama. The combined efforts of producers Mark Burnette, Steven Spielberg, and Dick Wolf couldn’t have dreamed of a more perfect story for the masses to devour. Parts CSI, Law & Order, and Lifetime movie, I am quite sure that a lot of folks have already made a lot of money on this case. Television suits have been salivating for years, waiting for another bonanza like the OJ Simpson fiasco in the mid-1990’s. So many people got famous and made bank on that circus that it almost got lost in the shuffle that two people were brutally murdered.
I despise reality television. Wasn’t television (and other forms of entertainment) invented to help us escape from reality and the daily grind of our boring, exhausting, often meaningless existence?? I watch TV to ESCAPE reality, not dive headfirst into it. I was asked by a friend once if I liked the show House, about an acerbic, curmudgeonly yet brilliant doctor who solves seemingly unsolvable medical mysteries. The irony was that I was asked this question as I myself was laying in a hospital bed. I have never been particularly enamored with medical shows like ER or Grey’s Anatomy specifically because I have spent far too much of my life in hospitals, so even though those shows are fictional they hit a little too close to home. When looking at reality TV I just cannot fathom how people are entertained by something like The Bachelor, where a successful, good-looking person is able to choose from among two dozen other successful, good-looking people and “fall in love” all while a half dozen cameramen capture every intimate moment. I’m no relationship expert, but I am pretty sure that’s not how it really works. Instead of being true reality, shows like The Bachelor, Survivor, The Real World, Temptation Island, The Real Housewives, Jersey Shore, Flavor of Love (because Flavor Flav is such a catch that beautiful women will actually compete to be with him), and Celebrity Rehab are really just excuses for television networks to save a few bucks by not paying talented actors & writers and having low production costs. Immoral attention whores desperate for their 15 minutes of fame aren’t exactly in short supply either, so it’s a perfect marriage of convenience.
And then every once-in-awhile an actual real situation like the Casey Anthony trial comes along, and what happens?? TV execs and their all-too-willing audience somehow manage to cheapen the tragic, sad, enormously senseless death of a child into just another one of their shows. Who will be voted off the island?? Who will get the final rose?? Is Casey Anthony guilty or not?? The outrage expressed by the masses when the defendant was found not guilty was palpable. People became almost as angry as they were a few months ago when talented vixen songstress Pia Toscano was inexplicably eliminated from American Idol. Millions were so frustrated about the verdict that they all decided to turn their porch lights on!! Yeah, that’ll show ‘em.
Because I could not escape the story any longer I did finally do some due diligence and what I stumbled upon was sort of the final clincher of my disgust with this story and peoples’ overwrought Drama Queen reaction to it. Many pundits and “legal experts” were not surprised by the verdict because apparently the prosecution’s case was built largely on circumstantial evidence. There was no motive, no DNA evidence, no official cause of death. While it is undeniable that Casey Anthony’s actions when her child was “missing” were bizarre by the standards of most ordinary folks, being batshit crazy doesn’t always constitute a felony. Did she do it?? I don’t know, and neither do you. But the American justice system provided for a fair trial where well compensated attorneys presented their cases before a jury of Casey Anthony’s peers. That jury found the defendant not guilty. Millions of people are found guilty or not guilty in courtrooms across the country every single day, and no one pays any attention outside the family & friends of those involved. But because Geraldo, Nancy Grace, and countless others decided to exploit this particular trial for ratings now we have the court of public opinion thinking it somehow should have more legitimacy than the judicial branch of the government.
I am not stupid. I am well aware that an opinion is like…well…everybody has one. That’s fine. This is America and free speech is one of the cornerstones of our democracy. But as much as it is your right to cry foul when preconceived notions (fed by an unscrupulous media machine who, it seems, knew damn well they were selling false expectations based on emotion rather than facts) are shattered and the outcome is not what you wanted, it is my right to call BS on your whining & crying about a child you never met and will forget about inside of a month, and also my right to scoff at your meaningless vigils and porch lighting. But in typical 21st American fashion my mocking (of the reaction to the tragedy, not the tragedy itself) was met with even more overreaction. A friend of two decades actually equated me with members of the Westboro Baptist Church (look it up…I can’t do all the heavy lifting). I couldn’t have been cut any deeper if he were wielding a machete.
I could not quite put my finger on exactly what was bothering me about this whole situation until my favorite radio personality, the Godfather of Conservatism and the undisputed King of Talk Rush Limbaugh put it into laser focus. Poor Rush…he’s going to get slaughtered in the “mainstream” press for this, but only because it hits a nerve and is absolutely true. In a nutshell he stated that if Casey Anthony’s daughter would have died in the womb the woman would be a hero to the same libs in the media who are now ready to grab their pitchforks and lynch her in the public square. It occurred to me that maybe that was part of my disgust, the inescapable vibe of disingenuousness surrounding the outcry. I wonder how many of my Facebook “friends” who put their porch lights on have murdered their own progeny under the legal protection of an abortion clinic, or at the very least cast their vote every election day for candidates who support a woman’s right to “choose” (i.e. kill)?? I am also reminded of my father’s advice to me as a child. He used to tell me that people who came up to me and patted me on the head and expressed empathy for “the poor little crippled boy” hadn’t gone more than a few feet as they were exiting the scene before they’d forgotten all about me because they had their own lives and their own issues. Facebook is a great tool to express pithy thoughts and opine on the frivolous news of the day, but as my “Wall” filled up with Casey Anthony related indignation I couldn’t help wondering how much of it was a genuine, Christ centered, heartfelt outpouring of support for a gone-far-too-soon child, or a bunch of folks falling in line with the cool crowd until something else comes along to capture their gnat-like attention spans. Who knows?? I know I am far too cynical for my own good, but life has taught me some harsh lessons that have solidified that skepticism. Your mileage may vary.
A lot of these issues would be solved if cameras were not allowed in courtrooms and talking heads like Greta Van Whatthehellisupwithmyface, Chris Matthews, Rachel “She’s a MAN baby!!” Maddow, and Anderson Cooper didn’t exist. Maybe in addition to being a cynic I am also an old fuddy duddy. I remember being entertained by quality television shows like Cheers, Family Ties, Taxi, Newhart, and Frasier. I even fondly recall not-so-great shows like The Dukes of Hazzard, Dallas, Three’s Company, and Baywatch. When did we become such a voyeuristic society?? When did watching a very real trial concerning a very real tragedy become entertainment??
I cannot wrap my head around the concept, and I have no desire to even try. If it makes the masses feel like they are “doing something” by venting disgust online, wearing ribbons, turning on lights, etc. then that’s okay. Do what you gotta do. When you are done you’ll find me curled up with Ray Bradbury, watching old 80’s movies, or maybe even doing something useful.