Monday, November 23, 2009

Idiot Loyalty, Meredith Vieira, and Amanda Knox

This morning, on the Today Show, a ridiculous account of the Amanda Knox trial in Italy. Knox is accused of tormenting a roommate and slashing her neck after a foiled attempt at starting a drugged-up sex game.

The varnish runs thick as Knox gets painted as a victim of a corrupt foreign government. It’s a hideously skewed slant by reporter Meredith Vieira, including a hocus-pocus of commentary and visuals. A snake-oil salesman pitching his Kickapoo Indian Cough Syrup would be proud.

Knox’s defense attorney gets a sympathetic interview. The prosecution gets no air time at all. Instead, the American author of a book called, “The Monster of Florence” suggests that the prosecutor is tyrannical, belligerent, and incompetent.

DNA evidence against Knox gets dissed by the defense lawyer, who claims a bunglefuck by Italian forensics. No rebuttal allowed. Telling details are strangely absent from the Today Show segment, even though they are juicy and scandalous, something TV shows generally gravitate to like flies on a pachyderm’s dump.

Vieira excludes important points: trouble with the alibi, reasons to suspect that a break-in was faked, and also Knox’s disturbing behavior, including bouts of nonchalance, like making out with her boyfriend in public the day after the murder, and blaming someone else for the crime, one Patrick Lumumba, a black man, who spent two weeks in jail.

Lumumba is now suing Knox for defamation of character. Knox showed no remorse when questioned about it at trial:

“Did you ever apologize to Patrick?” Pacelli [lawyer for Lumumba] asked. “No,” said Knox, passing up what seemed like a good opportunity to make the apology in front of the court.

“Did you ever offer compensation to Patrick?” asked Pacelli. “Who, me?” she laughed. “No.”

( )

My point here is not to argue for Knox’s guilt, but rather to underscore how unprofessional Vieira’s coverage was. The media version of a drumhead acquittal. Crazy Italians unfairly accusing cute white sweetness.

Why such absurd spin? A large part of it can be explained by a term that I hereby coin: idiot loyalty. The basic idea is that you are loyal to members of your own in-group, defending them vigorously, no matter the evidence that they have done something despicable.

In the Knox case, we have the idiot loyalty of nationalism. How dare those foreigners accuse a US citizen? And not just any US citizen: a nubile paragon of apple pie. She’s beautiful. She’s wholesome. The kind of girl our soldiers keep in their hearts and loins when they occupy other countries and kill their folks.

“U.S.” might as well be synonymous with “us” as in “us versus them enemies of ours.”

Back to Knox. Vieira might as well have said, “How dare those foreigners accuse one of us!”

Idiot loyalty. It manifests in other contexts too, such as the corporate boardroom or the battalion on the battlefield. Anyone remember the cover up after the Mai Lai massacre?

Idiot loyalty occurs in families too, where it is perhaps forgivable in doses. Love for your child is more sincere and deep than love for your CEO, your sergeant, or some anonymous fellow American you don’t even know. This might not be idiot loyalty all but rather an overriding force of healing love.

But if the crime is heinous or the consanguineous bond remote, forget it. Too often a drunk Mr. Jones mows down someone else’s child, only to have it covered up by the Jones household. The family forms a shoulder-to-shoulder wall of deception, a tight team defense while the mother of the slain weeps at the coroner's office.

Speaking of which, a good breeding ground for idiot loyalty is football or some other violent sport, where you root for the home side regardless of their sportsmanship. Perhaps this is okay, because no crime is involved on the field, unless you count the stick jabs frequent in hockey.

We could call the limited fanaticism, the sort that enthralls sports fans, “football-think.” When ruddy throngs take football-think out of the arena and use it in everyday life, trouble emerges. Then you get idiot loyalty: corporate obeisance, brute patriotism, or blind protection of your ‘buddies’, whoever they might be (police officers, frat chums, etc). You get the denial of monstrous wrongs because no wrong can be done by our side.

That’s idiot loyalty in a nutshell, and it doesn’t even have a figleaf of justice.

When idiot loyalty leaps into the mainstream media, it becomes a fulcrum for fascism and mass control. No American overseas can do wrong because, gosh golly darn, America is always right.

The loss of objectivity in journalism is sad, but especially when the root is idiot loyalty, and the robotic outrage it implies.


The latest New York Times piece, by Rachel Donadio, validates some of my key points. Here are two excerpts:

"In the press, Ms. Knox is often portrayed as an innocent girl unwittingly caught up in the Kafkesque Italian justice system. But even one of her lawyers, Carlo Dalla Vedova, said that he believed the trial was fair. He added that he “disagreed” with news media coverage that depicted it otherwise."

"The case the prosecutors have presented is largely circumstantial, though even some American legal experts say it could be strong even in an American courtroom."

("U.S. Student Delivers Appeal at End of Italian Trial," Dec. 4)


  1. I'm sorry...I got distracted in the middle of your rant (which I found truly compelling despite not having followed this story.) Did you say she blamed Lumumba? Is this story even weirder than we think???

  2. Welcome aboard and much thanks for bringing this up. Amanda Knox blamed a “Patrick Lumumba,” who was put in jail for two weeks and is now suing her for defamation of character; but as far as I know he is no relation to Patrice Lumumba, who, as you reference, was an assassinated leftist government leader. His assassination, notoriously, was probably perpetrated by or with the assistance of the CIA.

    The CIA has done lots of horrible things, but I think they are in the clear on Amanda Knox.

    Whenever the CIA comes up, I like to mention two great books on the Agency’s atrocities: “Killing Hope” by William Blum and the recent “Legacy of Ashes,” by Tim Weiner.

  3. Hear, hear (on pretty much all points)!

  4. Thanks for this information. See you again. amanda knox

  5. Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito repeatedly told the police a pack of lies in the days after Meredith's murder.

    On 5 November 2007, Knox and Sollecito were confronted with proof that they had lied and were given another opportunity to tell the truth. However, they both chose to tell the police even more lies.

    Sollecito's new alibi was shattered by computer forensic evidence and his mobile phone records.

    Knox accused an innocent man, Diya Lumumba, of murdering Meredith despite knowing full well that he was completely innocent. She didn't recant her false and malicious allegation against Lumumba the whole time he was in prison.

    Knox's account of what happened on 2 November 2007 is contradicted by her mobile phone records.

    Rudy Guede's bloody footprints lead straight out of Meredith's room and out of the house. He didn't lock Meredith's door, remove his trainers, go into Filomena's room or the bathroom that Meredith and Knox shared.

    Rudy Guede didn't scale the vertical wall outside Filomena's room or gain access through the window. The break-in was clearly staged. This indicates that somebody who lived at the cottage was trying to deflect attention away from themselves and give the impression that a stranger had broken in and killed Meredith.

    Guede had no reason to stage the break-in and there was no physical evidence that he went into Filomena's room.

    The scientific police found a mixture of Amanda Knox's DNA and Meredith's blood on the floor.

    There was no physical evidence that Rudy Guede went into the blood-spattered bathroom. However, the scientific police found proof that Knox and Sollecito tracked Meredith's blood into this bathroom.

    Amanda Knox’s DNA was found mingled with Meredith’s blood in three different places in the bathroom: on the ledge of the basin, on the bidet, and on a box of Q Tips cotton swabs.

    Sollecito left a visible bloody footprint on the blue bathmat.

    Amanda Knox left a bloody shoeprint on the pillow under Meredith's body.

    Knox's and Sollecito's bare bloody footprints were revealed by luminol in the hallway. Knox’s DNA and Meredith’s DNA was found mixed together in one of the bloody footprints.

    An abundant amount of Raffaele Sollecito's DNA was found on Meredith's bra clasp. Sollecito must have applied considerable pressure to the clasp in order to have left so much DNA. The hooks on the clasp were damaged which confirms that Sollecito had gripped them tightly.

    Amanda Knox's DNA was found on the handle of the double DNA knife and Meredith's DNA was found lodged in a tiny groove on the blade. Sollecito knew that Meredith's DNA was on the blade which is why he twice lied about accidentally pricking her hand whilst cooking.

    The defence experts were unable to prove that there had been any contamination. Alberto Intini, head of the Italian police forensic science unit, pointed out that unless contamination has been proved, it does not exist.

    Amanda Knox voluntarily admitted that she involved in Meredith's murder in her handwritten note to the police on 6 November 2007. She stated on at least four separate occasions that she was at the cottage when Meredith was killed. She also claimed that Sollecito was at the cottage.

  6. The English translation of Judge Massei's sentencing report can be downloaded from here: