Friday, August 18, 2006

Often Wrong, Never In Doubt

When I read about the arrest in the JonBenet Ramsey case, my immediate thought was the potential exoneration of the parents after years of suspicion. The groundless speculation came from many sources, and it shouldn't be forgotten. Some classy past comments from Colorado governor Bill Owens: "If they're innocent, they're sure not acting like they are." And this: "If I could speak to John and Patsy Ramsey, I'd tell them to quit hiding behind their attorneys, quit hiding behind their PR firm, come back to Colorado, work with us to find the killers in this case -- no matter where that trail may lead." Will a public apology be forthcoming?

Of course, Owens is in mediocre company with a slew of opiners and bloggers. Here's La Shawn Barber writing just two months ago, on the same day Patsy Ramsey died of cancer: "As a 'juror' in the court of public opinion, I think JonBenet Ramsey's death was accidental and that Patsy Ramsey killed her." When John Ramsey ran for public office in 2004, Barber wrote: "What about spending his life, the rest of it if necessary, to find his daughter's killer? He and O.J. Simpson could join in the hunt for the elusive killers who brutally murdered their loved ones." Click through for the full dose of shamelessness.

Listen, idle speculation about high-profile crimes is hardly new; it's long been one of this nation's pastimes. What is new is the rise of internet-enabled, peripheral wannabe pundits who, desperate to stand out, trade in agenda-driven hysteria and hate.

On Thursday, the district attorney in Colorado said there is "much more work" to be done and warned the public not to "jump to conclusions." While she was saying that, the Titular Right---unencumbered by intellectual rigor, and barely restrained by legal formalities---was ready to fix punishment ("and soon" he demanded!). What is it about preliminary, inconclusive, or faulty information that gets this bunch all lathered up to invade, bomb, or kill?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife pointed me at the story yesterday while I was at work.

My immediate response: I don't buy it. This guy is lying.

Today, the press is starting to suggest that indeed he is lying. Seriously guys, it's not that hard to reason through this stuff, but even the suggestion of blood in the water gets the right-wing sharks all ramped up.

You'd think that 'Thou shalt not be a skeptic' was the lost 11th commandment or something.

8/18/2006 3:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After five years of the current Oval Office Resident, I have started wearing my tinfoil hat 24/7. My first thought when the brightly-colored Breaking! News!! logos started flashing was: How conveeeenient that all this media attention should be focused on a Missing White Dead Girl on the same day that Dubya and Abu Gonzales get told their warrantless NSA spying is unconstitutional!...

Then I remembered that 87% of my fellow Americans can't tell the Constitution from the Declaration of Independence, and most of them would be actively hostile to any attempts at enlightenment.

But I'm still wondering if the release of the movie "Little Miss Sunshine", which discusses the intersection between kiddy pageants and pedophiles, had something to do with this sad sack suddenly "outing" himself to his email buddy. Or at least with his buddy deciding that he needed to get the police and/or media involved in their discussions... -- Anne Laurie

8/18/2006 7:17 AM  
Blogger zen said...

The saddest bit...

The same day a federal court declares that the president of the United States is breaking the law, and violating multiple parts of the US Constitution—of which he's sworn an oath to uphold—the news media are abuzz with a ten year old murder case. The first story impacts everyone, the second, perhaps a handful.

Your "liberal media" hard at work.

8/18/2006 10:09 AM  
Anonymous N. Mallory said...

You know, I have to admit, the cynic in me thought it was very odd that someone mentioned that they stepped up the arrest of Card; they originally weren't going to arrest him so soon, but supposedly the reason was because he was starting a new teaching job with 2nd graders.

My first thought was "Did Bush push for the arrest sooner?"

Really, I don't honestly think that Bush has his fingers in that many pots, but still, it was a strange coincidence.

8/18/2006 10:18 AM  
Anonymous Jeff in Texas said...

I'm willing to believe (or disbelieve, I guess) just about anything at this point. From hyped terror plots to stale unsolved murders, the media's drive to sell and the administration's drive to distract amount to a dangerous mix for the public.

As for the Ramseys, I have never personally thought they killed their little girl, but I always got the impression that they knew something that they were not telling that would have pointed in the direction of the who or why of their girl getting killed. But even that is wild speculation. I think what you see time and again is that police zero in fairly quickly on a narrative in cases like this, and their work from that point forward is not spent "solving the crime" but rather proving up that narrative. And they are often terribly wrong. And as much as I hate to say it, cooperating with the cops is quite often not in any potential suspect's interests, whether that suspect is innocent or not.

8/18/2006 11:13 AM  
Blogger FRx said...

Not sure any particular bunch has cornered the hateful part of the market on speculating ad nauseum.

Unfortunately the JonBenet case is just the latest example of the entire media in the most general sense of the word.

As I posted on my blog Weds, getting the cable news these days makes you feel like you're on a pogo stick on a treadmill.

Further, it's not just the OJ type episodes. Try watching CNBC in the moments leading up to a rate hike or jobs number.

But as television continues down their greasy slide there are some cable programs and places on the web that are absolutely fabulous.

8/18/2006 1:32 PM  
Anonymous wendy said...

...Like this one, thank God (despite today's post about Jon Benet).

8/18/2006 3:32 PM  
Blogger cotterperson said...

n. mallory,

a strange coincidence indeed!

Thailand, wide-open sex trade, Neal Bush ... surely no connection.

/tin-foil hat

8/19/2006 12:12 PM  
Blogger greenfuzz said...

It's interesting how this was treated in the media, when really important news of a nationwide importance was also breaking. The cease fire in Lebannon, the NSA ruling were so important and we heard so little of it.

I had been influenced by the media coverage of the Ramseys at the time of Jon Benet's death. I thought they were guilty. Then several years ago I saw a documentary by the forensic specialist brought in by the prosecutors office and he pointed to all the evidence of an intruder that was in the house.

He found where the person entered, he found that Jon Benet had been in a suitcase for a while, and the suitcase eventually was used as a step to leave by the same window he entered. Even more amazingly he found that she had stun gun scars on her, and uncovered what brand of stun gun it was by the scars. Of course a stun gun was not found in the house.

The prosecutors tried to stop him from showing this evidence to anyone and went to court to gag him and eventually lost. He always said it was a solvable case. I doubt this is the solution though, I'm willing to bet this guy isn't the one.

8/19/2006 12:18 PM  
Blogger Azael said...

What is it about preliminary, inconclusive, or faulty information that gets this bunch all lathered up to invade, bomb, or kill?

I think that'd be #3 on Eco's Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt

Irrationalism also depends on the cult of action for action's sake.

Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation. Therefore culture is suspect insofar as it is identified with critical attitudes. Distrust of the intellectual world has always been a symptom of Ur-Fascism, from Hermann Goering's fondness for a phrase from a Hanns Johst play ("When I hear the word 'culture' I reach for my gun") to the frequent use of such expressions as "degenerate intellectuals," "eggheads," "effete snobs," and "universities are nests of reds." The official Fascist intellectuals were mainly engaged in attacking modern culture and the liberal intelligentsia for having betrayed traditional values.

8/20/2006 2:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the london show seems to be unravelling. will interesting to see how they keep the show 'on' though..

8/20/2006 11:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back to your first entry, "Where's the line between public vigilance and mob hysteria?".

Really, our media is awful. If a free press exists to keep its citizens informed and educated in a Democracy, they get an "D-". Let the courts deal with it, and let the media actually do some real work and report on things that are life and death, that will make our lives better or worse.

When the Ramsey story is on the news, switch the channel fast, don't buy the magazine, whatever it takes, don't support this junk news.

There may be nuggets of news in this story, but not to any degree that it is being reported, especially given our current world situations.

8/21/2006 10:48 AM  
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