Monday, July 8, 2013

American Hysterics

American people also have short memories and an insatiable thirst for pop culture criminal courts. Public dialog about these pop-culture criminal courts became a hodgepodge of uniformed people, speculating about things that they clearly do not understand.

Minha Kim of Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul set out to study “whether or not objective reporting actually inhibits political participation.” Seventy students taking a course in news writing were divided into two groups. Half were given a “straight news” article about a 2008 controversy in Korea — the country’s importation of beef from the U.S. despite consumer protests that it wasn’t safe — and half were given an opinionated one.

The students who were politically knowledgeable “were immune to the agitating voice” of the opinionated article, Kim found. But nonobjective stories “exerted profound persuasive impact” on those who were not “sufficiently politically equipped to guide their judgments and actions by self-organized mature knowledge.” Those students were far more likely to attend a protest against the government importing American beef.

In addition, Kim found that the type of media that students consumed influenced their actions.

Traditional media such as newspapers and television did not significantly influence the subjects’ attitude toward the protest. It was the Internet and interpersonal communication that resulted in the subjects’ criticism of the Korean government policy to import U.S. beef. The more frequently subjects used the Internet; the more positive they were toward the protest.

If you accept that discussing political issues is an adequate measure of political engagement, then opinionated journalism was more influential for those who weren’t engaged. More-knowledgeable consumers valued fact-based reporting, whether they decided to go to the protest or not.

Who here remembers who Lizzie Borden was? Think about it before googling her name. She was the O.J. Simpson of the 19th century. The year was 1893. Lizzie Borden was an upper-class American woman accused of murdering her father and step mother with an axe Two days after her parent’s murder, papers began reporting evidence that thirty-three-year-old Lizzie Borden might have had something to do with her parents' murders. There was no evidence against her. A jury of twelve men could not see how a young female could possibly have committed such a heinous crime. The story hit newsstands across the country. Everyone had an opinion. It was a national obsession.

National obsessions used to hit every decade or so. The media choses one case, and sensationalizes it. As our attention span has become much shorter, and our memories much shorter, national obsessions are happening every few months instead of every decade.

I think back in our caveman days, we enjoyed village gossip. Knowing what others were up to was an important part of our ability to survive in a group. We are social animals.  Occasional, sometimes I am told something I wish I never heard. There have been many moments when I wanted to be ignorant. But the lives of other people, their movements, plots, deceptions, and crimes are as meaningful in our lives as any other natural force. Obsession with sensationalized new stories simply takes our natural interest in the lives of others to a larger scale.

From the Minha Kim of Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul study, we conclude most uninformed people are not qualified to form opinions. They uninformed are swayed by the agitated voice in reporting. In short, “rabble rabble (pitch fork) rabble rabble rabble.” For example, one guy on Facebook posted a comment stating that the only objective of the Trayvon Martin case was to prove that a seventeen year old black boy has the right to buy something at the store without being shot and killed.

This case is not about skittles, ice tea or the marijuana in Trayvons system. This case is not about whether or not Zimmerman was right/wrong for following the boy. Last I checked, following someone is not illegal.  (The following does not fit the definition of stalking)

The case is about this: was George Zimmerman defending himself, yes or no. That is it.

Paranoid people speculate that Zimmerman inflicted his own head wounds and broke his own nose. People who make speculations are in no position to provide legal opinions about any proposition.

Public dialog has become a hodgepodge of uniformed people, guessing about things that they clearly do not understand. Seriously, how many of these people have even taken a measly paralegal class at a community college, let alone opened up a copy of a legal dictionary?

Does it matter Zimmerman was following Martin? – No! The behavior was within his rights, and does not qualify as stalking. Following someone is not a criminal offense. It is not even a misdemeanor. It is creepy, and it certainly offended Martin. I would be offended too. But it is not a crime, as such, it is not relevant in the deliberation room.

Trayvoon Martin does not have just cause attacking Zimmerman just because he was following him. I have been followed by men plenty of times. (I am a woman and have a lot more to fear). I have never attacked anyone following me. Men have even followed me off the freeway. Did I attack them? No - I didn't. 

What I find amazing is that people with no legal training get so emotionally offended and caught up in a case spoon fed to them by the media. 

One person wrote, “well, the dispatcher said do not follow him.” That is true. The dispatcher did say that. However, I know of no law that says we have to listen to a dispatcher. Still – no law was broken. Being upset that you are being followed is not cause to attacking someone. As I said before, I am female and I have been followed many, many, many times by men. Never once did I attack someone following me. I am surprised people are unable to see this clear logic. 

My prediction about the George Zimmerman case is that the jury will find reasonable doubt. The injuries he sustained indicate a physical altercation. He will be found not guilty, and we will probably see some riots. Eventually, it will all blow over and everyone will forget about it.

In no time at all, Nancy Grace will be on TV all pissed off that some white woman is missing, and the Martin case will be a distant memory. 

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