I have to admit that the details of the Casey Anthony case are still a mystery to me. I do see headlines occasionally at my Google homepage which mention proceedings in the trial. But when I log into Comcast to check email and see the electronic equivalent of the celebrity magazines at the supermarket checkout, I generally receive the news about Kim Kardashian’s latest revealing outfit or the best smelling actor according to Tom Hanks. All of which is to say that I’ve had a general awareness of the Anthony trial. But I dismissed it as the television news networks’ attempt to generate viewers during a slow news period.
That was the case until this morning when my wife and I had breakfast at the Jackson County Airport. The setting itself was eye-opening since this airport handles no commercial flights. People who own planes use the airport as one of many such places to land or take off, like boat and yacht owners use any harbor throughout the United States. I had never thought much before about private aircraft and personal flights. I must say it was fascinating to see three different planes land, their pilots park next to the terminal, and then meet the other pilots and passengers for a prearranged breakfast for eight. I didn’t know such a world existed.
And I also learned over breakfast that Fox News is devoting untold people-power to the Anthony trial. The volume was low, but the image on the large flat screen television in the restaurant was bright. And during the time it took to consume an omelet, I counted at least seven different talking heads discussing the concluding days of the Anthony trial. I even saw Greta VanSusteren walking outside the prison facility where Casey is an inmate and under constant surveillance for fear of a suicide attempt.
I understand, even without knowing the details, that this is a trial that titillates the prurient. A mother accused of killing her child would be enough for publicity. Throw in the irregularities of the Anthony family and you have a show that combines Jerry Springer and Judge Judy. It would be easy to ridicule the media and the public that consumes such yellow electronic journalism.
But I also have a hunch that Americans are fascinated by this trial because they also love to watch court room dramas and police shows, and because they have a inherent sense of justice. I know that the television executives who allocate resources and assign reporters are likely more interested in ratings, advertising revenue, and job security than they are in the law, merit, and fairness. But most Americans, I suspect, don’t care about the ephemera of television journalism but do care about wrong doers receiving their just desserts, and justice officials meeting out some semblance of due process.
If I didn’t know better, I’d suspect that what makes the Casey Anthony trial tick as a media extravaganza is natural law — that innate light of nature that gives all people a sense of right and wrong, justice and criminality, good and evil. It is not enough to prevent Comcast from teasing its customers with Kim’s latest dress. But it does account for what seems to be an insatiable interest by most Americans (at least) in law, order, and justice — from Nancy Grace to CSI.