Friday, November 12, 2004

The Peterson Verdict

After hearing the news that Scott Peterson had been found guilty earlier today, I couldn’t resist the urge the flip on some cable news and watch the commentators spin themselves up with endless replays of old footage and engage in congratulatory back slapping with the likes of Gloria Allred. Perhaps the OJ Simpson case was too long ago, but I was rather caught off guard be the reaction of the crowd outside the courtroom. Upon reflection, though, none of us should be.

That large groups of people, most likely representative of like minded citizens across the country, became so emotionally involved in the outcome of a court case is a unique commentary on the state of affairs in America today. While the Simpson case cut directly to a real or perceived judicial bias shared by a large minority segment of this country; the appeal of this case, beyond a very small segment of society, lacks any compelling interest at all. Sure, from a soap opera-like TV movie of the week perspective, this case had it all. However, the cheering at the verdict and congratulatory treatment of the prosecutor as he left the courthouse was the exact sort of ill timed, ill manner of behavior that has become all too common. From emotionally involved sports fans becoming so involved in the performance of sports teams that they attack people doing a job on the field to the all too familiar invective of our recently completed campaign season, Americans display a curious attachment people they would otherwise not care at all about were it not for TV.

If overexposure to violence on television begets violent behavior in the audience, does overexposure to the pundit’s advocatory hyperbole on television “news” shows cause the average American to react so strongly to events to which they have no discernable connection?


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