In individuals, wallowing is regarded as a character flaw. But when the giant collective does the same thing, it somehow becomes sanctified, imbued with religious fervor. And the flock adores its priests.
The frustration of the powerful but primitive urge to obtain expiation through the ritual sacrifice of a scapegoat is an unholy transgression. Those responsible are infidels, heathens. Like the scapegoat itself, despised for cheating the faithful out of salvation through their rightful slaughter, they are outcasts. Anathema.
Seriously. How else can this phenomenon possibly be interpreted? If this had anything to do with truth or falsehood, evidence, knowledge, crime, punishment, due process, justice – or even such lesser concerns as winning and losing, as if the whole thing were some highly choreographed ego contest – the losing prosecutor wouldn’t be cashing in and the winning side wouldn’t be shunned. But that is what is happening. Even Scott Sternberg in Hollywood can’t unload the hot potato.
So it turns out the Casey Anthony thing is not, after all, about any sort of crime involving the tragedy of a dead toddler; it is a religious devotion. Complete with heretics and excommunications and inquisitions and violence and righteous anger. The money changers must be driven from the temple, as the temple is the house of God, God understood – again primitively – as the supernatural extension of ourselves.
I’m not so much baffled or upset about any of this as I am fascinated.
A commenter here, Noelle, sent me a piece she wrote about the Casey Anthony saga for, I believe, a writing class. It is not an exhaustive or systematic consideration of evidence and doesn’t purport to be. It is more like creative writing and aesthetic expression, and considered in that context it is good work. She thought it would be of value for me to post it here, and perhaps it is, illustrating as it does the abiding emotion that seems to be driving all this. And so I do: