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.”
( http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-06-12/amanda-knox-tells-her-story/ )
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)