February 19, 2005

The Smoking Gun has released the grand jury testimony in the Michael Jackson case. Once again, we're looking down the barrel of a "trial of the century." Why are we so intrigued (even if in a train wreck I-can't-stop-looking sort of way) by celebrity/high profile trials? Why do they get so much media coverage? Why do we care?

The twentieth century gave us the Scopes Monkey Trial, the Lindbergh Kidnapping trial, the Nuremberg Trials, the Rodney King Trial (and subsequent riot), and the OJ Simpson trial. It's only 5 years into the 2000s, and we're already getting a new "Trial of the Century." (These are overwhelmingly USian examples, I know. My knowledge base is showing itself. However, I'm sure other monkeys can provide examples from other countries.)

  • Heh. A particularly apt headline from a trial that has failed to earn "trial of the century" status: Crack Smoking Monkeys Hit Blake Trial.
  • /sorry to be all dampening and going off topic... How can any of the trials cited compare to Nuremberg? It seems just...out of it to compare - Nuremberg is/was worlds away - the only comparisons might be the Truth and reconciliation hearings in South Africa, or some of the trials in Belgium on Rwanda. Scopes might approach in terms of its long term cultural influence, perhaps, but the rest all had very limited effect. I hadn't even heard of the Lindenberg trial until recently - it has lost all meaning now.
  • (Not directed at you, really, but at this nonsense "Trial of the Century" statements about minor but well-watched celebrity trials next to the Nuremberg Trials and their long lasting effect on international law.)
  • I think it's probably more about the level of public attention than about the substance or significance of the trial. Why does the public care about celebrity trials? I don't know. They're bored and economically comfortable in their lives; aren't prone to introspection and creativity; need something exciting to talk about at work, school, etc.; no one's bombing them? Not sure.
  • I don't think Michael Jackson did it. I don't even think he's a person. It's so obvious that he's been replaced by a cybernetic android. The whole purpose of the trial is to keep the public convinced MJ is a human being. There's no way a robot would do this stuff, so he has to be human, right? See, that's how they get ya. Heck, the whole dance like a robot craze was started by a glich in MJ's Get Down Engine.
  • Michael Jackson was only following orders.
  • lots of things probably figure into it: the suspense (guilty? innocent? will his nose fall off?), lurid details, chance of rich and powerful star shipped off to prison, blah blah. interesting side note: my ex covered a Dream Factory trip waaaaay back in the early '80s (that's one of those groups that grants wishes of dying kids) where a kid went to disney world and met michael jackson. even back then, jackson had an entourage of boys around ages 11-13. my ex came back saying, there's something not right there.
  • Certainly the drama of a high stakes definitive outcome plays a part, but this is going to be an absolute freak show. It's like a car wreck. You don't really want to look, but how can you not? Especially given all the weird crap MJ has pulled over the years. In some ways, I feel sorry for the guy. He's never had any semblance of a normal life. On the other hand, publicly stating in interviews that he thinks sharing a bed with little boys is just begging for someone to come take a closer look at what you are up to.
  • jb: No, I had the same thought. To get the list above, I just googled "trial of the century" to see what I'd get. Then, I only listed trials I saw in a number of sites. The dichotomy between Nuremberg (and, I think, Scopes) and OJ is indeed very strange. -- I think the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa should definitely have a place on the list.... These trials were *not* widely covered in the US (despite the trendiness of the "Free South Africa!" stance), which would be something else to wonder about.
  • Why do we care? Because I'm really hoping for another album like Thriller.
  • Spooky: Wouldn't that be great? *sigh* I don't know if Jackson did it or not... I'll let the trial hash that out (hopefully). Regardless, though, his career has been in the crapper for a long, long time. Being a celebrity makes you odd (or is it that we made odd people celebrities because they're more... something... than us?)
  • Michael Jackson was only following orders. Sounds about right to me.
  • Why are we so intrigued (even if in a train wreck I-can't-stop-looking sort of way) by celebrity/high profile trials? Why do they get so much media coverage? Why do we care? Who is this "we" you keep referring to? At my house, "we" lose interest in these things after about two days. Then "we" become increasingly annoyed at the continuing noise surrounding them.
  • I was haunted all day yesterday by the idea of Jackson leaning over his sleeping son and saying "Wake up, Prince. You're missing the pussy." Worst image of the month.
  • *shudder*
  • Sacco and Vanzetti have some claim on the trial of the century, but yeah, nothing like Nuremburg.
  • If you're going to use such a limiting term like "trial of the century" then the Nuremburg trials would fail to qualify, since there were multiple trials. You would have to pick just one from the pack. Personally, I feel trying to identify "the trial of the century" to be just about as productive and useful as trying to identify "the trial of the sixty-seven year and nine month period between February 22, 1855 and October 22, 1922."
  • goofyfoot: Sacco and Vanzetti -- good one. I hadn't thought of it. Mr. Kickerbocker, erebus: I agree. I try to avoid these types of trials, and I think the term "trial of the century" is kind of silly (that's why I tried to list a bunch of them...) I'm just interested in why we're so inundated by them. Why the media blanket? Why are they so darn hard to avoid? Or, from monkeys that are interested, why are they so fascinating? I must admit that the circus atmosphere is fun to watch for a little while (though there's a reason the circus only stays in town a week). I will say that the OJ trial got on my nerves from the beginning. One reason could be that the murder happened on my birthday, though as more time passes that gets less weird. Ok, I'm rambling now. I'll stop :)
  • Maybe it's just too much exposure to courtroom dramas; everyone wants to be a backseat juror. :)
  • My mom and I debated that, tracicle. We couldn't decide if courtroom dramas gave us more interest in big trials, or if big trials made courtroom dramas more popular. Then we had another margarita.
  • You might be asking the wrong crowd - I know I tended to try to stay as far away as possible from celebrity trials. A lot of that is that I have no desire to look more at the dark side of humanity. I don't really want to know what Jackson has or has not done - I know it's important that if guilty, he is prevented from doing it again, but at the same time, it is disturbing, and I don't really want to know unless I have to (ie, I am an investigator, juror, judge). It's not because I don't want it to tarnish his name (I'm not a fan, rather apathetic), but because it is disturbing, and I have enough darkness in my life right now.