Thursday, February 22, 2007

Turn Off the Court TV

Here's a lesson we learned this week: Get the darned cameras out of the court room -- every court room. It is a shame that a camera can turn a judge into a celebrity wannabe, pawing over corpses and crying witnesses to get some TV time him or her self, usually himself.

There is no reason besides the downfall of American civilization for any of us to see court proceedings within even a few months of their taking place, much less moments later on a relentless merry-go-round news cycle. And LIVE? What do you think?

Perhaps for legal and educational purposes, it is good to record legal proceedings, but to air them within, say, a year is of no use and may well be a detriment to justice, to sitting jurors, to potential jurors, and to the audience, otherwise known as the electorate or the American people. By doing so, we further blur the lines between decency and drama, between virtue and voyeurism.

Anna Nicole's post-mortem proceedings have given new meaning to "boob tube." That this has been the biggest story of Valentine's week is yet another dark and dismal irony. By watching, we satirize ourselves.

And I think the coverage is dumbing down the judge, a slouching and gallivanting grandstander, and the nitwit millions duped into thinking that (1), this might be important news and worse, (2) that we have a right to invade the sanctity and privacy of court proceedings, ostensibly meant to protect the innocent at least as much as they are meant to out the guilty. Seeing contemporary coverage tends to turn the audience against the defendant(s), whoever they are -- and to feel they've seen enough and understand enough to offer up an opinion, starkly prejudiced and premature.

And even, horrors, to voice a verdict themselves.

Perhaps not justice denied, but justice reduced to a freak show. What a circus. And you know what they said about the Romans' "bread and circuses...."


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