Thursday, July 07, 2011

Casey + me = 0

For perhaps the past month, one of my primary commitments has been to ignore the Casey Anthony case.

I read no articles about her. I watched no TV stories about her. The occasional glimpse of a headline was unavoidable, as were tweets and Facebook posts, so I know that she was accused of killing her daughter, and that she was found not guilty. But that's pretty much all I know about the case.

I ignored the case for three reasons:

1) I consider it irrelevant to my life. I could not see how the outcome of the case would have any impact, one way or the other, on my world. I try not to give a lot of attention to things that do not have anything to do with my world.

2) I couldn't do anything about it. I also try to minimize the attention that I give to things that I can't do anything about. I couldn't do anything about Casey Anthony's case.

3) I do not find crime interesting. I acknowledge its existence, and even its prevalence in some environments. I know that crime is often tragic in its effects. But that does not make crime interesting to me. Instead, I tend to find it boring or exasperating: human beings choosing to operate below their potential. I do enough of that on my own, to my own annoyance, so that I do not find it interesting when others do it.

So, every Casey Anthony headline, every Casey Anthony video clip, simply reminded me that I had better things to do with my time and attention (both of which are limited and irreplaceable) than to devote any of either to her case.

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My wife and I were out of town Tuesday, and when the news story about the Casey Anthony verdict came on the hotel TV, a headline scrolling across the bottom of the screen asked, "Why do we care so much?"

My immediate response was, "Who's "we"? I don't." With further thought, I have two more responses: You newspeople care because it's macabre. Audience members who do care, care because you've shoved it at us for the past month.

It has been said that news is not what happens, it's what somebody tells you about what happens. For me, the Casey Anthony case, like many murder cases before it, raises the question, "How do national news outlets decide which events deserve to be national news?"

I don't know. My guess would be that the answer sometimes has more to do with economics than with the question, "What will *help* our audience?" The news business is a business. I get that.

But as businesspeople, the people behind the news would not abundantly supply that for which there was no demand. And I don't get the demand.

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Now, let me step back and recognize that some people seem to be moved by something like compassion for young Caylee Anthony.

But they, like me, could not do a thing for that child. Compasssion without the ability to act is potentially dangerous, because it can train us to feel without acting, and action is the only thing that will affect whatever/whomever we care about. A steady diet of Casey Anthony cases could produce a populace that is both passionate and passive.

I'm afraid to contemplate what kind of government would arise from such a populace.
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