Caylee Anthony's Useful Idiots
I've said it before, and I'll say it again — to most people and institutions, the purpose of a criminal justice system is not to test the government's accusations, but to deliver a preordained result that matches our expectations and prejudices.
The acquittal of Casey Anthony has produced a torrent of outrage supporting that proposition. The Mommy Mob's reaction illustrates how high-profile cases can drive people to become the useful idiots of the security state and the unwitting shills of the media.
First, take law enforcement and government. Frequent readers know that one of our favorite topics — captured under the tag Think of the Children! — is the way that politicians and nanny-staters manipulate our anxieties about our children to impose increasing restrictions upon our freedom. You'll see new examples every day. Note, for instance, politicians arguing that the existence of a tiny minority of child pornographers justifies tracking the internet use of hundreds of millions of innocent Americans. It's for the chiiiiildrun, they tell us, reasonably confident that our brain will turn off when they say so.
Casey Anthony's acquittal has produced a surge of exactly the sort of mindset that the government craves. That mindset is captured perfectly by one of the most vocal anti-Casey Anthony think-of-the-children folks on Twitter, who (like many of her ilk) is outraged that some people think that the howls for "Caylee's Law" are misguided. She says this:
How can a law that protects children be WRONG? How can it be questionable?
Bingo. That's exactly what law enforcement and the politicians want you to think: if a law is presented as "for the children," it must be beyond question. if you think that it's restricted by subject matter to the Anthony trial, think again. When Kevin Underhill wrote a perfectly reasonable post suggesting that 14-year-olds shouldn't be branded sex offenders for life for sticking their ass into somebody's face, and that the Caylee's-Law mentality is what allows that sort of thing to happen, the usual suspects pounced:
@loweringthebar you've got 2 STOP publishing articles like this on YAHOO goo.gl/eW04T coz I promise u WE WILL #FIGHT4CAYLEE !!!!
You might think that politicians and other state actors hate it when a Casey Anthony gets acquitted. You'd be wrong. The acquittal of someone like Casey Anthony — accused of killing a cute white girl, and worse yet, accused of being a slut and a party girl — is an opportunity for the state to get useful idiots to drive its favorite narratives. Those narratives are "when the government charges you with something, that means you are guilty" and "government witnesses are credible; defense witnesses are not" and "defense lawyers deal in deceit; prosecutors deal in truth" and "a juror's job is to convict the guilty", and so on. Th Mommy Mob is flogging those narratives like crazy. They devote web sites to excoriating the jurors and suggesting that they ought to be prosecuted for some sort of fraud or dereliction of duty. They attack the defense attorneys, suggesting that they ought not be paid and arguing that the State Bar ought to investigate them. They speculate about what citizens might be associated with Casey Anthony and then post contact information for those citizens. They call on their flying monkeys to harass the judiciary. They demand retrial of Casey Anthony based twisted interpretations of the Dual Sovereign Doctrine.
In short, Caylee's ghouls carry the government's water for them. Their messages are clear: jurors, if you fail to convict when the mob thinks you should, you will be identified, reviled, and quite possibly harassed. Judges, if you fail to rule the way the mob wants, the mob will jam your phone lines and deluge you with bizarre emails. Defendants, if your trial ends up in anything but the result the mob demands, expect to be hunted for as long as you occupy the mob's imagination. Defense lawyers, your job is to be hated and to be attacked if you are successful. All of those messages support the security state — the viewpoint that the government knows best and that the government's claims and accusations must be accepted to keep order. The government's labels must be accepted uncritically.
Second, there's the media. The media has made big bucks off of Caylee Anthony's disappearance and death. Nancy Grace and her shouty ilk have discovered a way to monetize the easy outrage of the chronic daytime-TV-watchers and trial-followers, turning frothing hatred of the "tot mom" into advertizing dollars. Though Casey Anthony's acquittal looks, at first blush, like a defeat for those who so smugly proclaimed her guilt on cable, the opposite is true. It's a bonanza. A conviction would have turned off the money-faucet quickly. But an acquittal — that they can milk for months or years, continuing the lucrative circus that was the trial.
The loudest Casey-haters, with an abject and ironic lack of reflection, have now thrown themselves behind a boycott movement, vowing to boycott any entity that pays Casey Anthony to write or talk or appear. A boycott is a perfectly valid First Amendment avenue. But it's astounding to see the mob wield it without apparent shame. If Casey Anthony were like 99 out of 100 accused murderers, her story wouldn't be worth a nickel to any media outlets. But she's not — because the boycott crowd accepted the media narrative about her and followed her as the latest "trial of the century." The madding crowd that now cries "boycott" is the very reason that her story is worth money — because angry people follow her obsessively. That's why calls for boycotts often result in a surge of sales for the communication the boycotters are attacking. It's possible, perhaps even likely, that every angry tweet and blog post by the Boycott-Casey crowd will put money in Casey's pocket. Whether it does or not, the media will continue to make money, as the boycott itself becomes the latest chapter in the lucrative Casey Anthony story. The mob is the media's foil.
Imagine, for a moment, if all of that outrage could he harnessed and directed not against the acquittal of one accused defendant, but against the ruinous war on drugs or police misconduct or any number of other causes that don't amount to being government's fluffer. But the mob, by its nature, is conservative. And useful idiots are, by their nature, only useful to the bad guys.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Follow-Up: U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks Gets Free Speech Right This Time - September 12th, 2014
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- [Rerun from 2011] Ten Things I Want My Kids To Learn From 9/11 - September 11th, 2014
- Yale Might Want To Look Into Some Sort of Basic Civic Literacy Course - September 10th, 2014
- U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks Gets Free Speech Very Wrong - September 6th, 2014