Tag Archives: Steven Avery

You’re losing me, online news.

Tommy_Douglas

Here’s to Tommy Douglas, a great Canadian hero. Because of him, Canadians’ taxes actually go to healthcare instead of just meaningless wars.

I no longer get my news anywhere but online, but seriously, these news sites that aggregate news stories need to get away from the click-bait and the ideology-driven model, otherwise they won’t last as long. I have a very rough relationship with The Huffington Post. The Daily Beast and Salon have already lost me. Now and then, Breitbart.com would have a story worth reading, but most of the site is ideologically driven garbage. There were fears in the west that Aljazeera would mostly be pro-Islam, pro-Palestine propaganda, but ironically, they’ve been pretty unbiased with the materials they publish online, definitely better than CNN.com.

Let’s look at Salon.com. Now I consider myself a feminist, but they’re “new feminist” agenda is getting ridiculous. An inordinate amount of stories are bent to become feminist related articles even on issues that aren’t or shouldn’t be seen from a feminist standpoint. Just recently, the singer Kesha accused her long-time producer of sexual harassment. She signed an exclusive contract with him and Sony and is thus obligated to work with him and produce six more albums. Her producer claims the allegations are just a ploy for her to get out of her contract. Now, I would give her the benefit of the doubt if she didn’t deny any rape allegations herself back in 2011. A simple Google search would provide that information, but instead, Salon.com ran article after article of Sony “forcing” the singer to work with her producer.

Kesha filed for an injunction against her producer and Sony, but the judge in the case, not seeing any evidence of sexual abuse, rejected her claim. Unfortunately, the judge inartfully worded the judgment, saying that it was “my instinct to do the commercially reasonable thing.” Instead of saying that, she should’ve said that contracts cannot be annulled based solely on allegations. There was no evidence of sexual misconduct, and the burden of proof for sexual harassment is already lower than most crimes. If the judge allowed the injunction, it would have set the precedent for women to just make allegations in order to get out of what were normally binding agreements.

This was not a feminist issue. It wasn’t people ignoring the pleas of victims of sexual crimes. It was the law acting as it should, basing decisions on evidence and not on ideology. For the media like Salon.com to treat this as an example of miscarriage of justice not only betrays their role as journalists, but it also does a disservice to real feminism. Not to mention, it also tars the name and damages the livelihood of those who are accused of sexual allegations without any solid evidence. This was not the first time Salon.com and other online news outlets did this either. The same thing happened with Mattress Girl.

We really should listen and be more sympathetic to victims of abuse, but our sympathies should not cloud evidence or the lack thereof. Look at the Steven Avery case. He’s not the most sympathetic character if you look at his police record and his past behavior prior to getting incarcerated for rape the first time. But it’s exactly the sympathy for the rape victim and the hatred for Steven Avery that cost him eighteen years of his life the first time around. Forget the evidence. Let’s incarcerate the town villain! Then there’s OJ Simpson, some would argue that the social and political climate at the time convinced some members of the population to be on his side, regardless of the evidence of his guilt. (Of course, truly believing that the accused committed a crime versus believing that the case against the accused was proven beyond any reasonable doubt are two different things.)

But then again, this was Salon.com, the same Web site that argued that Magneto, a Jewish comic book super villain, should be black in order to reflect current racial tensions. Because you know, slow news day, so everyone decides to play lawyer and indict a man for sexual crimes on the press.

 

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Legal Porn (No, not that.)

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The New York Post prints a fair share of dumb articles, but three days ago they published a particularly dumb one which touches on something that I just recently watched, Netflix’s examination of the Steven Avery murder case, Making a Murderer. The headline goes: ‘Why Making a Murderer’ is Better than ‘Serial.’ The article, written by Sara Stewart, talks about both investigative pieces like they are entertainment, which to many they are, and she fails to recognize that it’s this same attitude towards both cases that lead to injustices. The cases began in the media, became legal porn, and many people are already too biased to hear any story that would contradict their biases.

Let me quickly counter Ms. Stewart’s five reasons and why they are at the very least moot and at the worst, serves to further harm the justice process.

1. We don’t know anything about the case (Steven Avery’s) already.
-The reason why people watch a documentary is to hopefully learn something new, not to confirm their biases. I’m hoping this was what both producers of Serial and Making a Murderer were trying to achieve. I believe most people know of Bowe Berghdal mostly through conservative talking points. This makes an examination of his case even more necessary.

2. Its (Making a Murderer’s) subject is more sympathetic.
-This is the type of laziness that leads to so much injustice. Ms. Stewart must not have heard of the Duke Lacrosse case. Rich, white students were accused of drugging and gang raping an African-American woman at a party. And from the very beginning, it was painted as an example of the excesses rich white men get away with and even as a hate crime. Nancy Grace filled hours of show condemning the accused. It was great legal porno. Unfortunately, the sympathetic victim turned out to be a liar.

Being swayed by sympathetic victims is one of the greatest traps people fall into. Ms. Stewart describes Steven Avery as being more sympathetic than Bowe Berghdal. But I would argue that it is exactly this sympathetic bias that got Steven Avery into bigger trouble. Isn’t the zeal for justice for Teresa Halbach a perfect example of the Missing White Woman Syndrome? The volunteers combing an area, the media coverage, the aggressive police action, etc.  It’s like whoever murdered Ms. Halbach took Criminology 101. She’s one of the most sympathetic victims of all.

3. Its (Making a Murderer’s) subject gives firsthand interviews.
-This is just silliness. Comparing the availability of both subjects in wildly different contexts is just dumb. I suppose Sarah Koenig could’ve just gone to Afghanistan to interview Bowe Berghdal while he escaped. Unfortunately we don’t live in such a fantastically ridiculous world.

4. There’s a wealth of archival footage available.
-Ms. Stewart seems to lament that there’s not enough footage of Bowe Berghdal as opposed to the court footage, local news, and police reports that’s available for Steve Avery’s case. I would argue that Ms. Koenig actually took some restraint in not using the wealth of material slamming Bowe Berghdal and essentially convicting him prior to being tried and his reasons for leaving examined.  But doing so would be extremely lazy and basically going through what everyone has already been exposed to. What Ms. Koenig is doing with the “unpopular” Bowe Berghdal might not be as good as “entertainment,” but entertainment is just one part of what Serial is trying to do. It is also trying to inform its audience.

5. It’s (Making a Murderer’s) literally easier to hear.
-Again with apples and oranges. One is a ten-part documentary which most people can and will binge-watch, while the other is an ongoing radio series. It’s the visual media versus the theater of the mind.

I don’t mean to write an examination of a dumb New York Post article, but my frustration from seeing the story is basically the same thing that frustrates me with many legal stories, and it’s something that I admittedly am quite guilty of as well: treating these cases like legal porn. It’s all drama. The characters are just mere characters, not real life people. People opine on whether Casey Anthony, Jodi Arias, or OJ Simpson are guilty or not, but what often gets lost are the web of people they are connected with. Steven Avery is portrayed as some sort of villain in 1985. No one would have guessed that it would later start a domino effect which lands his nephew in prison.  Bowe Berghdal is talked about simply as a deserter… but his issues regarding the military and how it treats its own troops is forgotten entirely. Lots of people become self-satisfied legal experts just watching legal drama on the sidelines, not realizing that it sometimes feeds into the injustice that is fueled by the media (Hello again, Nancy Grace).

Ms. Stewart writes as if she sees both Serial and Making a Murderer as entertainment pieces, which to most of the public they are, like numbers on a Nielsen ratings scale.  They really shouldn’t be, and we should stop talking about them as if they were. These people’s lives are not being ruined by the justice system simply for our entertainment. I would like to think there is more to them than that.

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