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The Casey Anthony Verdict

July 6, 2011

I don’t really have a lot to say about the Casey Anthony trial or its subsequent verdict. I have a vague understanding of the evidence given and possible lines of thinking for the jury, but that’s about all. My intent for writing this stems not from pleasure or displeasure with its outcome, but more from a general bewilderment of the national reaction towards the case.

I love social media. I am an active Facebook user and have been since the glory days of it being exclusive to .edu registrants. In some ways I have been resistant to their slow expansions, but overall I approve of the way they handle things. I enjoy being able to interact with people I’ve known all over the country and get quick opinions and group discussions going with people I (generally) respect and want to hear from.

On the other hand, the things I love about social media and our fast-paced, interwoven web society are also things that I loathe about it. I think social media has changed the way we react to things at both an emotional and intellectual level. I think it has served to spread the half-cocked opinions and nuanced semi-truths of the cable news charlatans that somehow manage to pass themselves off as trustworthy sources. Time and time again when I read through my Facebook feed and see the emulation and repetition of these talking heads and wonder if we conduct discourse in this manner because we’re following their example, or if they exist in such ubiquity because of the way we choose to conduct discourse.

I’ve been hearing my wife talk about the Casey Anthony trial off and on for the last couple of weeks. We have the most basic cable package that is offered by Time Warner here so we don’t have any of the 24 hour news networks. I get the bulk of my news from the local 10 and 11pm broadcasts or from the front page of Yahoo!. I figured my wife was getting a lot of information from the mom forums she’s involved with and thought this trial was one of those “woman” things that was better suited for a human interest story in Us Magazine and that most people (male or female) would have no idea what was going on. I could not have been more wrong. A little after 2pm today I started seeing comments from several of my friends pop up on Facebook. Some were less direct than others. Most were condemning. I suppose many of these people could have just read about it today, but I still found some of the quotes a bit jading. Here’s a sampling:

“Poor Caylee Anthony, her murdering mom got off, what is our country coming to.”

“rest in paradise caylee marie anthony! i’m so sorry that the person who ended your life is not being brought to justice.”

“i can not believe the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial. what is the country coming to?”

“I convinced Catlee’s [sic] murderer was Casey Anthony. No one knows the truth. But, we will all be judged before the lord, and there is no jury.”

“Who did it then?! Zanny the fake nanny… Ugh. Shocked…..”

Of course, I’m sure the 24hr news outlets will milk this story for another week or two before they find something else to try to distract us with. When I take a moment to reflect, I don’t think the thing that bothers me is what people’s opinions are on the case. I do think its a bit foolhardy to believe that what the pundits on the idiot box tell us is the absolute truth of the situation. Given the various versions of “the facts” I’ve been told about the trial, I’m not sure how many of us common-folk really have a grasp on the situation.

What does bother me, however, is that these people have any opinion on the case. Why are we hearing about it? Is this really worthy of national news? I certainly understand the local outrage. I understand (though I disagree) with the residents of the greater Orlando area who have basically determined to run Casey Anthony out of their town whenever she is eventually released. What I think is tragic about this story is that guilty or not guilty the media has created a situation where Casey Anthony (for better or worse) will not be able to live any sort of normal existence anywhere in the United States (I hesitate to say Canada). Why? Because it was a good story…it was good for ratings.

Casey Anthony was a nobody before this trial. Now she’s being hailed as the second coming of OJ Simpson. Maybe this trial, the forthcoming Lifetime movie and all of the subsequent interviews she will be involved in will make this national exposure of this trial the best thing to ever happen to her. I suppose that could happen…

I don’t say this to undermine the tragedy that is the loss of Caylee Anthony. When she went missing she was about a year older than my daughter is now. I do think children are precious and it is sad that this story will likely not have any sort of conclusion. Still, this story has not affected my life. It hasn’t affected the lives of anyone I know. There’s really no reason for anyone outside of the affected areas to know anything about this story.

Like most things here, this is another collection of shoddily thrown together thought. Every now and again a news story gets me thinking about what we find important and why we think it’s important. I know I’m guilty of reading every single thing I find interesting, but I do think that as part of our thought exercises we need to start making active decisions on what news events are truly major stories and what events are side-bar conversations that will only serve to distract us from more important things…and for some of you, maybe the Casey Anthony verdict was a very important thing.

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