***This reflection is about the power of the media. You may or may not agree with my opinion on the cases I mention, but I’m not trying to take a stand on the cases. I believe you are entitled to your opinion. Please read with that in mind.
So, I’ve been debating writing about the Casey Anthony trial because it’s such a hot button issue, but I am relenting and writing due to some internal need to share my thoughts. While I do believe that she probably is guilty, the main thing that bothers me is how this trial became “entertainment” for the country. How can you not call something entertainment when it is showcased on Entertainment Tonight, Extra!, and written about in US Weekly? I guess it all started with O.J., as the news outlets are quick to tell me, but it has really got me thinking about the role that the media plays in shaping the world we live in.
One of the things I found so disturbing about this particular case is how the media covered it from the guilty until proven innocent standpoint. Sure they seemed to do the opposite but it was always with a wink, wink. Let us show you the “evidence” they would say. Well, excuse me but if the true “evidence” was so compelling, shouldn’t the prosecution have been able to convict? It’s not the first time I have seen this happen with our media. I say our media purposefully because we as a people choose what gets airtime or not in this country with what we choose to watch. They blame the “CSI” effect…that a jury has to be shown DNA and that a case has to be tied up with a ribbon on top. Excuse me? Aren’t you the ones that made the CSI effect famous AND since when can you convict for a murder where you can’t concretely identify cause of death?
I think these thoughts started brewing in me with the Anthony Weiner scandal, even though I can take the examples back further. I watched as the coverage built from a small story to one in which the media actually controlled the message telling him to resign. His colleagues, his constituents, many people looked at the mess as a personal one. But the shows mentioned above, along with the mainstream news media refused to drop the issue and when other people in power realized this, they capitulated for fear that they too may face the wrath of “The Media”. So now, an extremely effective and well liked politician’s career is down the drain and the New Yorkers he served are at a loss. His actions were reprehensible – again – it’s not about him. Who gave the media the right to tell him to resign or the power to scare others into making it happen? Was it us? I wanted so badly for him to force their hand, to stand up and just say, “No, I’m not resigning – take whatever steps necessary, but I’ll do my job exactly as I did my job before this scandal.”
Let me stop here to say that whether or not he lied, the severity of his crime or where his “pics” were taken, my issue is with the power of the media in the situation. They called for his dismissal as much as they called for Casey Anthony’s conviction. In Weiner’s case they won, in Casey Anthony’s, though she didn’t get convicted, they created an environment where she will never be safe from psychos that think they know the truth. I know because I have friends out there posting that she will get what’s coming to her – and they are the sane ones who wouldn’t really hurt anyone.
It’s a scary situation when a group can sway public opinion so openly and with little effort or proof. In studying for my Communications degree almost 20 years ago, I remember teachers drilling into me the fact that ethics and responsibility play a vital part in the role of media in our country. I was taught how to write headlines for articles that were neutral and didn’t take sides or influence opinions. I guess the lack of responsibility and neutrality of the “entertainment” news media wouldn’t bother me so much if I could tell a difference between it and outlets that claim to be unbiased real news sources. As it is now, instead of being the integral safeguard of society that protects us from corruption, evil influence, and lies, I truly feel these organizations are at the heart of what’s wrong with the direction our country is headed.