Speaking of Ken White Popehat – he has an interesting post on Nancy Grace. (Who? She has a US cable “news” show about The Judgin [to use Peter Cook’s label], which I’ve never seen but have a vague sense of by reputation – which can be summed up with the odious word “feisty.”)
He starts with the enigma of her politics, which combines tropes from all (banal) directions, so what actually is she? None of those, but something they don’t cover.
Nancy Grace’s political bent is quite recognizable to me. She’s not liberal or conservative, and no principled view of gun ownership or race or women’s rights drives her coverage. No, she’s a vigorous statist, at least with respect to criminal justice. Her political viewpoint is perfectly internally consistent. As a statist, purpose of the criminal justice system is to convict and punish to the maximum extent possible people accused by the government. To determine whether someone has committed a brutal and dastardly crime, all you need to know is whether the government has said they did. That’s why defense attorneys are worthy of contempt: they are, by definition, trying to obstruct justice. That’s why she questions and despises constitutional rights: they are mere impediments to the guilty being punished. (That view, no doubt, fueled her penchant for prosecutorial misconduct.) That’s why anyone who might speak in support of a defendant infuriates her: they are objectively pro-crime. That’s why she’s defiant when law enforcement abandons a suspect in favor of a new one: we have always been at war with Eastasia! That’s why she is perplexed and abrasive when actual crime victims don’t act the way she thinks they should; the role of a crime victim is to advance the state’s chosen narrative. That’s how she decides whether she’s an opponent of the abuse of women (as in the Duke Lacrosse case) or a snide opponent of a defense of battered woman’s syndrome (as in the Jodi Arias case): she doesn’t decide, the state does by making its accusation.
Nancy Grace is the clumsy and ill-considered personification of frightened devotion to the will of the state. She’s the mob made one flesh, the embodiment of our fears, our hope that the government will save us, our worry that it might not. The notion that the state can be counted upon to accuse the right person, and that the justice system will punish the guilty and only the guilty, is comforting; the concept that the system is flawed and fallible is terrifying. Due process, like any sort of freedom, is scary and messy. How much more soothing it would be to believe, like Nancy, that the state is right, and that anything or anyone that stands in the state’s way may be righteously denounced.
Nancy Grace exists. This is distasteful and regrettable but inevitable, and should be tagged and filed away with other evidence of our brokenness. Her existence and her viewpoint is not what terrifies me. What frightens and shocks me is how mainstream it is, how it’s simply a slightly less polished version of what we hear from our leaders of the “left” and “right” every day. Once, if someone were described as “liberal” or “conservative,” we could draw some conclusions about their opposition to unrestricted state power, or to vigorous defense of the rights of the accused. Now — particularly after 9/11 — that is not the case. It’s statists all the way down.
I wonder how much of that is 9/11 versus how much of it is the Law and Order franchise – the many tv iterations, not the concept. I suspect the latter has done a lot to nudge people in the direction of statism over the years. (And by “people” I mean “including me” – I certainly don’t think I’m immune to influences like that.)
Read that one first and then his post on Zimmerman, and see what you think.