Wednesday, November 15, 2006

If This Doesn't Make Your Blood Boil...

Leave it to the folks at Fox to take reality T.V. to a whole new level, and right in time for the holidays, too. The network plans to air an interview with O.J. Simpson in which he plugs, "If I did It, Here's How It Happened," a book which his publisher calls "his confession." The interview, with Simpson, is scheduled for broadcast only days after Thanksgiving, November 27th, and November 29th, and one day before the release of his book. A Fox spokesperson said that O.J. has approved an "unrestricted" primetime talk with book publisher Judith Regan, a curious term causing one to wonder if other interviews they've broadcast are restricted (AP)

If you're wondering how Simpson gets to talk now; he can stand on top of the Empire State Building with a bullhorn, and scream "I killed Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman," and he can't be prosecuted under double jeopardy; one can't be tried for the same crime twice. While he can't be criminally indicted again for those brutal murders, he doesn't deserve another 15 minutes of infamy, instead he deserves to be as anonymous, repulsive, and inconsequential as dead mouse. Just saying his name, let alone printing ,or broadcasting it, gives him more attention than he deserves. I no longer remember the name of the man who murdered John Lennon; I refuse to. Part of the price one pays for living in civilized society is that one must make an effort not to make a cottage industry of those who commit the most dastardly, and heinous crimes. O.J.'s face belongs in Madame Tussaud's wax museum, and not on the flat screen T.V. in my livingroom.

If it doesn't make your blood boil, too, to learn that Simpson not only got away with murder, but he's defaulted on a $33.5 million judgment in the civil case, you must have ice water running through your veins. Worse still, he may end up keeping profits from the book sales, and subsequent movie deals, despite the best efforts of the victims' families to prevent that from happening. Laurie Levenson, attorney and professor of law at Loyola University, who followed the case closely said "Clever lawyering can get you a long way," and indeed it got Simpson to the golf course in Florida.

As one who believed O.J. was innocent, and staunchly (if stubbornly) defended him, right up until the DNA came back, as well as one who is equally nauseated by wrongful convictions, I must say that any television network, or book publisher, that would stoop to promote, or participate in promoting, something as vile as a murderer who laughs in the face of the criminal justice system deserves to rot in the same cubicle in hell where one might expect to find Mr. Simpson teeing off. The good news about damnation, that is, if it exists, is that it's permanent. The bad news is that damnation appears to be as elusive as salvation.

O.J. Simpson walked not only because he had the best defense team money could buy, but because we have a judicial system that puts the burden of proof on the prosecution, as well as insisting on proving that someone is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. How anyone could reasonably doubt DNA evidence, no matter how it was handled, speaks to what a crappy job the prosecutors did. It wasn't that his defense team succeeded; the prosecution failed.

At the time, I argued that it's better to have one guilty man walk, based on reasonable doubt, if it means that one innocent man won't do jail time, or worse be put to death. Unfortunately, I have come to see that my thinking about our justice system was as naive as my original belief in Simpson's innocence. One guilty man walking doesn't ensure that one innnocent man won't be wrongfully convicted. Unfortunately, many more innocents are in our nation's prisons, or sentenced to die for crimes they didn't commit than guilty walk. Fox's statement, by airing the O.J. interview, is that the Simpson crime somehow transcends good and evil, guilt or innocence; it's all about ratings, and feeding the corporate bottom line, after all, isn't it. Something is seriously wrong with a society when greed has usurped human dignity, and someone like O.J. Simpson gets to thumb his nose at the courts, our criminal justice system, and profit from doing that.

Oh, and lest you think that we, the viewing audience, are somehow immune from the toxicity that presents itself as entertainment, It's time to take a long, hard look at the demographics of those of us Fox hopes to engage, as well as who will be waiting in line to buy "If I Did It" when it goes on sale on November 30th. They are your neighbors, your relatives, your colleagues, friends, and maybe even those who teach your children. They are your priests, and rabbis. Not only is O.J. Simpson blessed, but we are all blessed, that he can speak, write, and tell all, thanks to double jeopardy, and because his speech is protected by the First Amendment. This is something parents, and teachers must make it a point to explain to youngsters who will be puzzled by how deranged a country is that rewards celebrity, even when celebrity kills.

First Amendment, and double jeopardy,aside, the decent thing each and every one of us can do is to not to feed the monster of corporate greed, not tune in to the interview, not buy the book, encourage those near and dear to do the same, and remember only the days when O.J. stood for orange juice.