By Christina Lawson
I was about five-years-old when the Simpson case hit the airwaves and newspapers. I don’t recall ever hearing about why this O.J. Simpson person was so important that his face was plastered all over my news junkie family’s multiple television sets, besides the obvious reasons, of course. All I know is that whenever the channel changed or my mother brought the newspaper home from work, there was Simpson’s face plastered for everyone to see.
I was seven when Diana died. I watched the funeral. I watched the TV specials, one of which introduced me to what remains one of my favorite Eric Clapton songs. And, of course, whenever the television was on, footage of the car crash in Paris was flashing across the screen.
Despite the fact that my memory of the case is hazy, I remember seeing pictures of Monica Lewinsky all over the place and my mother calling her fat after hearing that the blue dress was a size 14.
The common theme amongst the aforementioned “scandals” is the inordinate amount of time the media spent and continue to spend covering them. In 1995, there was wall-to-wall O.J. coverage, all day, every day. Footage from the royal wedding in 1981 resurfaced in 1997, as did private Spencer family home videos. On this side of the pond, every media outlet captured President Clinton’s claims that he had not participated in any improper dealings with Monica Lewinsky.
Were these situations newsworthy? Maybe, given the high-profile individuals involved. But was the extra coverage necessary? At the risk of sounding callous, spouses get killed more often than we realize, car crashes maim or kill people all too frequently, and politicians are capable of having affairs without the voters’ collective knowledge (just take a look at the Kennedys). There really isn’t anything particularly remarkable about any of these occurrences.
Even so, more than ten years after these cases became public, they still remain at the forefront of American dialogue through pop culture. Kanye West has been able to capitalize on the Simpson case by a reference to Simpson’s “Isotoners” in his hit song “Stronger” and Vanity Fair has contended that the former Princess of Wales’ death was actually a hit ordered by Prince Philip (it could have been but, who knows?).
So, what does this mean for Amanda Knox? A circus-like media frenzy descended upon her as soon as speculation regarding her role the in murder of Meredith Kercher surfaced, asking us to pick a side for or against her. The international press has been found guilty of excessive speculation, which has resulted in Knox becoming both she-devil and saint, an American virgin and whore in the public eye. In other words, she’s been subjected to the same misogynistic beauty treatment that famous women dating all the way back to Eve at the time of the Fall have received.
What is so ridiculous about this situation is that members of the media are quick to admit their own collective guilt all for the sake of selling ad space and airtime. CBS News ran an Associated Press piece on September 29 focusing on the beliefs of both the prosecution and the defense that the media have done Knox case more harm than anything else. According to journalism professor Roy Greenslade, an opinion columnist for the London Evening Standard, American journalists in Seattle have turned on their British counterparts for reporting Knox guilty of murder without any factual information to support and British journalists have are charging the Italian media of being purposely prejudicial in their coverage of Knox so as to sully her name.
There’s quite a bit of finger pointing going on here, but no one is really pointing the finger in the right direction: Inward, towards themselves. If the media are so disgruntled with the way the case was handled, each outlet needs to take a look at itself and think about the role that it played in letting Knox walk. Whether you believe either Amanda Knox or her Italian boyfriend killed Meredith Kercher is immaterial, as is the question of Knox’s guilt. There’s only one person who knows for sure what happened and she has been silenced. What we do know is that the media has taken Amanda Knox case and made it a spectacle of grand proportions. She was deserving of a fair trial, no matter the ultimate outcome. The media, whether anti- or pro-Knox, had a hand in the verdict, essentially declaring themselves judge, jury, prosecution, and defense, when they really should have stayed in their proper place, outside the courtroom.