I am puzzled by the immense media attention on the sad tale of Casey Anthony, the 25-year-old Florida woman who was just found not guilty of killing her 2-year-old daughter Caylee.
There is probably no more horrifying crime than infanticide, the murder of an innocent child – especially when the suspect in such an atrocity is the mother or father.
Such wretched crimes sicken and frighten the public, inflame its indignation and heighten the demand for justice (or, perhaps, more appropriately, revenge).
Nonetheless, I am puzzled by the immense media attention on the sad tale of Casey Anthony, the 25-year-old Florida woman who was just found not guilty of killing her 2-year-old daughter Caylee.
I am not going to address the merits of the case against Casey (since that has been delineated ad nauseam elsewhere) and focus on the public’s fascination with the tragic family saga.
The cynic in me wonders if the media-public’s obsession with the Anthonys has to do with the fact that there are white. Could that be it?
The murder of infants and small children is relatively rare. According to data from the FBI, of the nearly 14,000 U.S. homicide victims from 2009, “only” about 500 were children aged four or below – and a little more than half of those kids were white. (For virtually all other age groups, the number of black murder victims typically equal or exceed the white number).
Still, none of those killings (assuming the majority were investigated by police and subsequent trials convened) generated the type of interest the Anthony case has.
So, what did the Anthony story have the others didn’t?
Casey became a target of wrath because the perception was that she was more interested in partying than taking care of a child (but she is hardly the only negligent parent in the country).
Moreover, the Anthonys seemed to lack two important qualities that tabloid media craves – wealth, celebrity and good looks.
Caylee was indeed a beautiful adorable child (most 2-year-olds are), but her mother is rather plain-looking. Plus, they didn’t appear to be an affluent family, though not exactly poor either.
Of course, the case had other salacious elements to it – namely, the alleged sexual abuse of the child by her grandfather (who denied it).
However, overall, it seems to be an ordinary, mundane (white) American family in which an unspeakable crime has occurred.
The last similar case I can recall was the horrific murder of baby beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey in the mid-1990s. That tale had virtually everything a tawdry tabloid market demanded – a horrifying murder of an innocent child; attractive wealthy parents (including an ex-beauty queen mother and millionaire businessman father); allegations of extreme child abuse; a false confession by a pedophile; as well as the bizarre spectacle of very young girls performing in vulgar beauty contests dressed like Marilyn Monroe.
Oh, and they were white.
The Ramsey saga was a tour-de-force for tabloid (as well as mainstream media).
Getting back to the Anthony trial, would it have generated such an avalanche of interest if the participants were poor blacks? Or rich blacks for that matter?
Moreover, does the media give the public what it wants? Or does media (which is now a 24/7 omnipresent behemoth) set the agenda itself?