Trial by media

This week in 1982, an unforgettable trial was underway in Australia, gripping the nation and much of the world.

Lindy Chamberlain was accused of slitting her nine-week-old baby daughter’s throat at a campsite at Ayers Rock, now Uluru. She claimed that the baby was snatched and killed by a dingo. At the coroner’s inquest, this claim was accepted and the police were chastised for their handling of the case. Further pathologist investigations, however, prompted a second inquest, doubting that the wounds, indicated by bloodstains on the baby’s clothing, could have been caused by a dingo, whose jaws were not considered strong enough to be able to carry a baby.

The second inquest was very different to the first. The pathologist maintained that the bleeding pattern on the baby’s clothing indicated death caused by a circumferential wound to the neck. Baby Azaria’s body was never found, but because “significant” traces of foetal blood had been found in the family’s car, coupled with the fact that there was little blood at the crime scene and the supposition that a dingo would have caused greater disturbance inside the tent from which the baby was allegedly snatched, and because the fragments of clothing recovered did not show dingo saliva or hairs and appeared to have been cut with scissors to make it look like a dingo attack, there would be a sensational murder trial to come.

Following the seven-week trial and six-and-a-half hours of deliberation by the jury, Lindy was found guilty of murder in Melbourne in October 1982 and sentenced to life in prison with hard labour; her husband found guilty of being an accessory to murder, for which he received a three-year suspended sentence.

The verdict was met with applause when announced across Australia – a nationally popular decision by a vengeful public, it seemed. Appeals against Lindy’s sentence were rejected.

The death of a tourist at Ayers Rock in 1986 uncovered more of the baby’s bloodstained clothing near a dingo’s lair, partially buried. Upon this chance discovery, Lindy was immediately released from prison and a Royal Commission in 1987, Australia’s first, which allows for thorough investigation of all evidence ruled that she would not have been convicted had this new evidence been available at her trial.

The Chamberlains were pardoned in 1988 and their criminal convictions quashed at appeal. Four years later, they were compensated for unlawful imprisonment.

A third inquest into the baby’s death, in 1995, ruled that the cause of death could not be determined.

You might care to watch this 60 Minutes interview with Lindy and her husband upon her release from prison.

The case inspired the 1988 film, A Cry in the Dark, starring Meryl Streep and Sam Neill, which was based on the book Evil Angels by John Bryson, a former lawyer, published in 1985.

This was a case of trial by media, prejudice and grave judicial and police failings. The furore generated by press coverage dictated the outcome of the trial. There was selective leaking of information to journalists throughout. Forensic evidence was kept secret from the Chamberlain’s defence and first heard from the witness box. As author John Bryson, writing 25 years on, put it, journalists “reported news for the side which fed it to them because the other side knew nothing” and all the while, the public lapped it up, deciding Lindy Chamberlain guilty or not guilty, but mostly guilty, before a court of law had even scrutinised all the evidence.

The police denied the probability that a dingo could have been capable of snatching a tiny baby from its cot from the outset. Yet a nine-year-old boy was mauled to death by two dingoes on Fraser Island in 2001. In April this year, a three-year-old girl was attacked by dingoes. Azaria’s father, Michael Chamberlain, has been calling for a fourth and final inquest into his daughter’s death citing these tragic statistics as evidence, his ex-wife demanding that there be a change on their daughter’s death certificate and another chance at closure.

Newspapers claimed at the time that there had been lots of blood in the family’s car, but the stains turned out to be milkshake and paint emulsion. Lindy insisted that photographs of her were manipulated “to make them look more sinister.” She was also judged on the basis of her religious beliefs. A Seventh Day Adventist, it was claimed that the little-known church believed in ritual child sacrifice. The name Azaria, it was even put forth, meant ‘Sacrifice in the Wilderness’. And because Lindy did not behave in a manner you would perhaps assume typical of a grieving mother (i.e. hysterical), her guilt was assumed and accusations of evil stuck. Once an idea has been planted, so difficult can it be to purge it from the public’s opinion.

The lack of tears in public and the suspicion that their absence aroused brought Kate McCann to mind, another seemingly cold and detached mother accused by the public of behaving irresponsibly and thus guilty of her child’s fate.

Such bigotry shamed Australia in the 1980s, as it ought to shame us all to this day.

Although exonerated by law, gossip persists. On the thirtieth anniversary of Azaria’s disappearance last year, an open letter written by Lindy was published on her website. In part, it read:

Come on Australia. Surely you cannot be proud of the fact that you can let yourself be duped again and again and come back for more of the same. We used to be a proud nation who saw through corruption and were willing to give a fair go. How many times do you have to be hoodwinked and led along by the nose before you demand something better from our courts, police force, politicians and media? There are good, honest, truthful people in all these fields. We need to support them in their struggle to clean up their profession and stand for truth and justice. Hitler got as far as he did because good people didn’t wake up to the importance of the small details that did not look threatening on their own, until the avalanche engulfed all and it was too late to fix.

Painful as it may be at times we need to stand up and be counted. Change starts with the individual, the family, the local community, the town, the state, the country. It is not easy to decide not to let the small things slip, or give in to the bully because of the pain or embarrassment it may cause us, but if you don’t do it you may as well die now. Grow a backbone before the world turns on you. Give up the desire for gossip and sensationalism. Use your brains for something useful. You may surprise yourself what you can achieve.

It could be addressed to every nation and every one of us, could it not?

I don’t know about you, but I personally find Lindy Chamberlain’s website to be in bad taste (as I did the news that Azaria’s brother used the family car that had played a key role in his mother’s trial to deliver his wife-to-be to their wedding). That is to say that it is not something I would imagine myself doing – building a website – were I in her unenviable position, having spent a lifetime under scrutiny, wrongfully imprisoned, vilified by many and in spite of being exonerated, still not quite entirely innocent in everybody’s eyes. Her desperation to conclusively prove her innocence must be unimaginable and all-encompassing. Who am I, who is anyone, to tell this woman how she ought to portray herself to an at first unforgiving, now embarrassed yet still in certain quarters doubting public?

It goes without saying that how we imagine ourselves to behave is not guaranteed to be anything like how we might actually find ourselves behaving when under extreme pressure in exceptional circumstances.

Fallacious gossip fascinated the public during Lindy Chamberlain’s ordeal and it always will fascinate us. Two examples from the UK: one, the eccentric landlord whom the press declared the prime suspect in a murder investigation and subsequently splashed over every front page. How we all raised an eyebrow at the photographs of the wild haired, oddball loner as fresh revelations about his eccentricity and sexuality became common knowledge. It turned out that the poor sod had nothing whatsoever to do with the crime and somebody else will stand trial for murder next month. The once prime suspect has since received “substantial” damages for defamation from eight newspapers and, not surprisingly, has felt the need to start afresh somewhere new.

Secondly and more recently, the nurse who spent more than six weeks in custody after several hospital patients died from suspected contamination of saline drips. She also considers suing. Photos found on Facebook showing her larking around and clubbing fuelled our mistrust of young healthcare professionals. Is this really the kind of wild, irresponsible thing we want treating the sick and elderly? How I cringe at the lazy journalism demonstrated by the daily, it would appear, scouring of Facebook and Twitter in search of tit-for-tat that can fill column inches with minimum effort. Publishing photographs and personal details of innocent people, and peddling innuendo, is something else. Lives ruined, whispers never far from ear shot, the abuse they and their families must have been subjected to. Yet we buy these newspapers, we fund the hounding of innocent people in search of speculation. It’s not always truth we seek, it’s salacious scandal.

Innocent until proven guilty, they say. The presumption of innocence until guilt is proved beyond all reasonable doubt is the accused’s fundamental legal right in a democracy. I feel so sorry for the eccentric landlord and bubbly nurse, and desperately sorry for poor Lindy Chamberlain. How quickly and callously a vengeful public can condemn an innocent person with no thought for the consequences.

Another, final thing. How thoughtlessly parodied the dingo case has become in modern culture. Along with the thoroughly insensitive ‘Don’t drink the Kool-Aid’ metaphor (well, only 900 or so died at Jonestown), how very amusing to joke about dingoes taking babies. It really makes my sides ache, I don’t think.

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour’s official blog, The Blog (‘Features’ previously being its rather naff title), affectionately – or lazily – shortened to ‘FEd’.

65 thoughts on “Trial by media”

  1. Hey Fed,

    Both of these trials were coloured at the time by the reaction of the mothers. While you are right to say that they were tried by media, I thought both mothers didn’t help their cause any by their initial reactions. I remember when I was in London for DG’s Remember That Night, I watched a BBC show on the McCann kidnap and I really thought they had done it. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be stoic even if you feel like it.

    Cheers, Howard

    1. The way the McCanns have been treated by the (British) media is interesting. I’ve always felt that, were they not well-to-do, educated professionals (both doctors), and had they left their children alone in favour of an evening downing cheap lager at a Karaoke night instead of dining at a tapas bar, their parenting skills would likely have been subjected to much more criticism.

      Regardless, all that matters is that a child is still missing and the relentless guilt and regret they must feel is far greater than anything the media can throw at them.

      I’d rather be spared stories such as this, though.

  2. Innocent until proven guilty, they say.

    The presumption of innocence should be a basic principle of justice everywhere around the world. A fundamental right. It is in Europe. I think.

    Funny (maybe not) how the meaning of “Innocent until proven guilty” seems to vary according to some other nations and to see the role of the media and their influence on people.

    Don’t want to offend anyone (I know I’ll be shot down, I don’t care.), but I’m thinking of the ‘Dominique Strauss Kahn case’ in the US.

    Accused of sexual assault with no proof, arrested, he was shown handcuffed on TV to the entire world, escorted by NY police officers. Shocking. Innocent until proven guilty. Really???

    Then put to jail. All that with tons of paparazzi, press and TV coverage. All the American people blaming him and supporting the ‘poor’ maid.

    Then, reversal of the situation, the maid would have lied. Now the media, therefore the American opinion, are demolishing the maid. Still tons of paparazzi and all that.

    No trial. but suddenly all the rape charges are dropped and the IMF chief is free.

    Sorry, but what a farce!

    I don’t know if he was innocent or guilty – I would throw him into Room 101 if he was found guilty – but, what I know for sure, is that now his life is forever destroyed.

    1. Parading the would-be suspect in handcuffs is called the “perp walk” Michèle and in my view is despicable! Before the media had even gotten involved (other than a photographer or two), the so-called “perp” had already been declared “guilty” and had to fight to prove his innocence.

      Personally I think there was something much, much larger afoot here having to do with international politics. But boy, was that some juicy, ‘filthy’ stuff for us all to focus on to add some spice to our oh so mundane lives! I suppose, at the time, it sure as heck beat keeping abreast of Lindsay Lohan and her exploits and wondering whether the end of the world was nigh! 😕

    2. Thanks. I suppose that ‘perp’ is short for ‘perpetrator’?

      Yes, I (we) have since learned that the “perp-walk” is a common custom in the US, especially in New York City and that people in the US don’t see it as ‘shocking’. It is shocking here, it’s illegal even. Some cultural differences between the US and France, I guess…

      I still think that it’s a form of public humiliation that violates the suspect’s (did I really say ‘suspect’? shame on me!) right to privacy and is prejudicial to the presumption of innocence. It just appears to me as media spectacle/circus and even voyeurism.

    3. For me, the sad thing is that when someone says the “perp walk” is a common custom in the US and that it’s not considered shocking here, that my first response is to ask, “Does that mean it would be shocking elsewhere?” Because the more I think about it all, the more it becomes clear that it SHOULD be shocking. That it IS a miscarriage of justice, every time, because it clouds public opinion.

  3. FEd, you’ve been very serious lately, I’m not complaining and I think it’s great that you can bring some of the bad side of mankind out for discussion, but can you, I or others change mankind?

    Lindy Chamberlain. I remember it well, the rumors, TV and newspapers. You are very correct, this was trial by media and possibly more than just media. I never thought she had anything to do with Azaria’s disappearance and death. But let there be no doubt that more Australians thought she did than didn’t. I got sick of arguing about it and in reality how could I have I known what happened? I always believed her and when they found the missing piece of clothing they released her from prison the NEXT day.

    Madeleine, why does this still happen?

    Have you been following the Daniel Morcombe case? Pedophiles need to be treated for what they are, very, very dangerous. Daniel’s parents have been on an 8 year hell ride. The police had their suspects, all pedophiles, some just released from prison. At the inquest these pedophiles had their identity protected. So not only are they released from prison back into our community they also have their identity protected as well. Who protects the kids?

    Someone has been arrested a couple of months ago, over 7 years too late, but better late than never. Since the arrest they have found some remains so hopefully Daniel’s parents will get to have a funeral at the end of this year.

    I hope Madeleine’s parents have a better out come. I can’t think of anything worse than not knowing what happened to my child.

    To switch subjects, what a day. I have the Pink Floyd song “Time” etched in my mind, especially the verse “Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time”. So I’m off to find the time to give this great LP another spin and I’m looking forward to the new release which should be due any day now.

    Cheers to all,

    1. In response to Snow’s first question (can you or I really change mankind?), I’d like to say that one person acting alone has a limited capacity to make change. One person who can successfully lead others has a far greater reach. One person working with others for a cause that he believes in? It adds power to the cause and helps bring change. One person can bring awareness to a cause and that can bring people together to make change. Change does not come from one person acting alone, but from a group working together, although one person can bring people together into a group or add to what an existing group is doing. THAT is where the power to make change is!

    2. How great the national motto of Belgium is: “L’union fait la force”, that is “Unity makes strength”.

  4. It seems that wherever you live, work or play. People gossip about anything, with or without a care for a person’s feelings.

    To be despised in public view with no proof but idle gossip will always continue. That will never change.

    Reminds me of a game played where a person whispers to another, a certain phrase. The same phrase after 20 people listening ,changes drastically because word for word, it becomes muddled and reinterpreted. Idle Gossip!

  5. One of the larger cities in the area where I currently live is Albany, NY. About 6 or 7 years ago in that city, two men were arrested there on charges of terrorism. One of them was the owner of a popular pizza joint and also the Iman of a small storefront mosque. The second man was an employee of the first. They were accused of attempting to sell a new type of handheld weapon (new to to this country) that could shoot down our military planes. At a time when America’s war on Islam had reached fever pitch (this was just a few years after 9/11) the rush to judgement was very intense. They should be murdered in the most embarrassing, painful way! We should declare war on their country! It was just awful.

    The more we learned about this case, the more awful it became. Awful in a very different way. These men were essentially framed by CIA agents posing as people who wanted to market this weapon in America, people who just needed a little help to get started. These agents approached the Iman and his friend with a plan that would make them wealthy. All they had to do was invest some money and help distribute the weapons here in the US. The men vehemently refused to take part in it, at first, but were somehow persuaded to go along.

    Oh, and those handheld weapons? They never existed.

    As we learned more, it increasingly looked like a case of an overeager CIA wanting to “get it right” in the wake of their failure on 9/11, setting up innocent men to do it. For me, this was far from the worst part of the story. For me, the worst part was how we had rushed to judge these men just on the basis of news stories. No trial evidence, nothing. It was just, “Retalliation, Revenge, Retribution.” Scary. Scary how people can be manipulated through their fear into such harsh judgement without actual proof of guilt, just on the basis of media reports. I remember chatting with people about it, trying to remind them that we had not seen any evidence and therefore we could be unfairly wishing serious harm to innocent people. They wouldn’t even consider that viewpoint, such was their feverish anger. And this anger was not just directed at the two men in question, but at all Muslims. Some people actually seemed to believe that the Islamic faith was all about killing Americans. We needed to firebomb the Middle-East and kick some Islamic you-know-what. It was incomprehensible to me how so much anger could be accompanied by such little thought.

    The case went to trial, but by then the people of Albany had largely forgotten about this case. The two men were convicted on minor charges (they did, after all, take the bait in this “sting” operation). I remember reading about it, far from the front of that morning’s newspaper. And although I had been right — that we as a community had rushed to judgement on innocent people — it still chilled me. Our own Federal government, framing its own citizens, and American people forgetting all about due process of law as they fearfully condemn anyone the media tells them to fearfully condemn.

    The CIA agents who had framed these men? No consequences whatsoever, as far as I am aware.

    It scares me. Because if this can happen to an Iman and a pizza joint staffer, it can happen to you and me. Anyone who happens to be in the wrong place is at risk when the CIA starts looking to frame another innocent person. The rush to judgement is severe and extreme. And if all Muslims can be so easily typecast, so can any of us.

    We trust the media implicitly in this country, easily going along with whatever obvious lie they tell us and allowing our emotions to replace rationality. We also say we don’t trust the government, but really, we do. If they tell us that all Islamic people always want to kill all Americans (which is a stupid notion) we’ll believe them. It makes me sick to think how easily we are manipulated.

    What chance does a thinking person have in such a thoughtless world?

    1. The framing of citizens by the Federal government is quite common place and indeed terrifying.

      I do, however, feel it necessary to clarify something — there is no American war on Islam … I believe the correct phraseology is war on “radical fundamentalism” and “radical fundamentalism” is at war with any ideology that differs from said view. There is radical fundamentalism in ALL ideology and philosophy and could be religious in nature or not.

      We have to be careful not to perpetuate misinformation in our own communication. And we don’t always get it wrong — sometimes we do have to stand up and defend ourselves and tout when we get it right.

      I think the collective we have lost our balance and perspective — criticism, blame and lack of accountability is now the trend du jour and how easy it is to just ‘pass the buck’. The “they” say that ‘perception is reality’ — we have to remember to dig more deeply as it is not always the case.

    2. I apologize for potentially confusing the terms “Islam” and “Muslim.” I know the terms are not interchangeable, but am not clear on the differences between them. Maybe someone can teach me about this.

      Anyway, the question about whether America’s battle is against “Terrorists,” “Islam,” “Islamic Extremists” or “Extremists” — by which I mean, who are “we” fighting? — depends largely on who you ask.

      In the years following 9/11, I was a teacher for adults who had never graduated from high school. Many of my students were Islamic (roughly half of those students were from Iraq and Afghanistan) and they felt strongly that they were under attack. It was a scary time for them, a time when they were afraid to walk around their own city wearing their head scarves and skullcaps. One man would wear a fedora over his skullcap, which made him feel ashamed but which he felt he needed to do to protect himself. These people were Islamic, not terrorists or extremists. But they did not feel safe.

      I taught all subjects, but my social studies lessons about America’s freedom of religion kind-of fell on deaf ears. Even if our government was officially waging a “war” on the extremists and terrorists, the war on the streets was definitely a war against people practising a religion.

      I had a greeting for every student, every morning. I made a point of telling each person, “You are welcomed and you are safe here.” One woman told me that she never heard kind words like that, except in my classroom.

    3. Indeed, today guilty until proven innocent still happens – see here.

      I think this past 9/11 date sank our nation to a new low of terrorism paranoia! 🙁 This is the saddest story I’ve read in a long time.

      I’ve seen firsthand how the media can blow things to such a fever pitch for the sake of the almighty dollar, that innocent people get caught.

      One of the 9/11 terrorist flight trainers was from MN, as well as the famed FBI whistle blower, Coleen Rowley, who alerted other Federal agencies, but was ignored or forgotten by them. So there were incidents of this sort that later happened in Minneapolis, including a giant hoax (Jam, raspberry I think, smeared in a suitcase, supposedly a bioterrorism attempt), which closed down the Science Museum of Minnesota in what was called then the largest hoax in the history of MN (we didn’t see anything suspicious but my husband and I were unsuspectingly caught up in this one, apparently in the same exhibit! 8| Catalhoyouk-as the suitcase, although it was later traced to a disgruntled ethnic Somali-American SMM employee). Security closed the exhibit hall and we were left with unanswered questions as we left for home.

      At the time, anthrax was the latest bioweapon fear together with the blunt and shameful tool of racial profiling that was being used all over the country, including Minneapolis. I always wondered if harassment or prejudice provided fuel for the hoax. The museum was shut down for days while museum filters were removed and tested … we contacted the police but we had nothing to report, and we had little direction from them. But as for the papers and local news, they immediately leapt upon the anthrax angle, scaring everyone including us, as we waited for the next 2 days to see which one of us would drop dead first!!! 8| :))

      Please don’t ban me from the forum, Fed, it’s only a touch of anthrax!! :)) Now how about that hug?

  6. F’ed,

    I think you’ve summed it all up rather well. I think that this issue is actually quite uncontentious in that it’s difficult to formulate an alternative philosophy. That being the case it’s rather strange that in practice it happens the way it does. I guess that’s the price we pay for freedom of speech … a large amount of distasteful, misguided, wrong-headed, prurient, invasive babble. Still, when you think about it, that’s exactly what we would get if we didn’t have freedom of speech .. it would just come from our old and dear friend Big Brother instead.

    On additional point, related to the Kate McCann point. Am I alone in finding it distasteful when part of the news cycle these days is almost immediate “comment” from the families, bereaved or frantic with worry, in cases of this sort? I accept that they are often part of a Police awareness drive, but if it were me it would be the last thing I would want to be subjected to.

    Of course, in the absence of good taste or even judgement, it is very difficult to legislate against this sort of reporting. Crimes, trials and the behaviour of accused and victim have always been subject to the spotlight. Before the media it was local gossip, attitudes of neighbours and employers, and in an age when people lived in smaller, closed communities, such inspection would be just as invasive, damaging and prejudicial.

    It would be virtually impossible for trials to be conducted without any publicity … crimes will be reported and I don’t suppose we would thank the Authorities and Press for withholding information about crime (imagine the uproar if a serial killer / rapist was on the loose and the public not informed or indeed MP’s expenses fraud kept quiet until trials were concluded) and so we must rely on the juries’ ability to weigh evidence and take account of the trial process. As for the public at large, one can only hope that people will read all news and information with a sceptical eye. Frankly the entire existence of the tabloid press in its current form suggests that people are happy to be fed rubbish, so there is little hope for optimism on that score, but there is information and counterpoint out there and as we all know you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink (apparently, although I myself do not have a horse, nor have I ever attempted to slate the thirst of anyone else’s so I remain open to the possibility that in fact a horse led to water will drink like a well-behaved horse should).

    We do have a duty to ourselves to be watchful. Lindy’s open letter makes important points about how easily standards can be corrupted and eroded. I’ll confess to being one of those people who sat on the couch and thought that that poor landlord looked “just the sort”. Let’s hope everyone (else) who condemns somebody only to be proved wrong learns from it and acts accordingly.

    1. I’ll confess to being one of those people who sat on the couch and thought that that poor landlord looked “just the sort”.

      So will I.

    2. It would be virtually impossible for trials to be conducted without any publicity

      They can manage it in Family Courts and remember all the kerfuffle about gagging orders a few months back? If we’re making confessions, I had a good laugh at a few of those.

  7. Interesting, Fed. However, in my mind – being a part of the media world – it’s often too easy just to blame the media.

    1. “The media” are many things. Only a small part are “the sensation media” as well call it here. If people didn’t buy/read those, the problem was more or less solved.

    2. You must differ between someone being “judged” by the media – and the law. The media can’t send Mrs. Chamberlain to prison. I trust the legal-system to be independent and fair. However, the media often “judge” on moral. Like when a famous politician here accused parents in general for sending their kids to private schools and not supporting the public schools – then it was revealed by media, that she had sent her own daughter to private school. That’s not against the law off course, but what a moral…Now, the woman probably felt trialled by the media the following days…

    3. I think media act different in different countries. We have rules – ethics for the press – ex: never mention when cause of death is suicide – respect peoples right to privacy – victims of crimes or accidents must be protected, etc. (ethic code of conduct). As long as those rules are followed, we must look at ourselves – the public.

    Today is election day in Denmark. This evening we may get the first female prime minister ever. Recently I read what is the most googled word together with her name… what can it be…? The word is “nude”. COME ON! Now, that’s the way tabloid papers sell.

  8. Innocent until proven guilty, they say. The presumption of innocence until guilt is proved beyond all reasonable doubt is the accused’s fundamental legal right in a democracy.

    No presumption of innocence can be guaranteed, in my opinion, when mass media are allowed to know, (mis)interpret and make public every single detail of criminal investigations, insisting, as it often happens, on the sickest, most violent or controversial ones.

    Crimes shouldn’t be used as a way to entertain or to distract the people from what would be actually important for them to know (the kind of information the media often try to hide, I mean).
    I’m not saying the crime news should be completely left out, just that there should be a more serious and respectful way to present them to the audience.

    And apart from the public opinion, which is obviously influenced, what about those who have to judge? Even if, while working, (I hope) most of them try to be impartial, they are human beings as everyone else and may be, both consciously and unconsciously, influenced.

    I think you might have heard about this trial.

    Its true and false details have been all made public, filling our TV news and newspapers for months, but nothing seems clear, yet.

    1. That’s another really good example.

      What makes this case all the more fascinating, I think, is the reaction from the US since “Foxy Knoxy” was arrested, let alone convicted: Fury in Italy as America ‘questions Foxy Knoxy verdict’. Aside from criticising the Italian legal system and media, there has always been the assumption from some US patriots that the whole affair is somehow an anti-American conspiracy. Yes, we’ve all read about the promiscuous behaviour and drug-taking favoured by Ms Knox, but I don’t know if we should be surprised by just how supportive of her the coverage was in the US and how very anti-Italian it became. (But then, such a backlash was entirely predictable, sadly. Remember ‘freedom fries’?)

      Of course, there was a (typically tasteless, in my opinion) film hastily made about the case…

    2. I think that US reaction was completely unjustified.

      Honestly, I just can’t see how Italian magistrates, media or public opinion could be accused of having anti-American feelings, when it seems to me the opposite is true. Even the governments here (and not only here), have always shown subjection and compliance towards the US, feeling indebted to them, which is, in my view, the reason why the US sometimes behave on the international scene as if they had the world in their hands.

      Thinking about it, their behaviour is not even so strange, as they just do what the other countries allow (and sometimes clearly or implicitly ask, I have to say) them to do.

      What I actually don’t understand is why Amanda Knox, being guilty or not, should have been treated as if she were a saint, when she clearly wasn’t, as you recall, or how she could become a myth for so many people, in and outside the US.

      Speaking of bad taste, the news our media constantly gave us about her receiving fans’ letters in prison were even more inopportune than Lindy Chamberlain’s website, in my opinion, as they only contribute to overturn and waste people’s values. I do believe it has much to do with your previous post about respectable society.

      By the way, I think your last topics form a perfect thread. I’m enjoying that very much.

      1. Thanks very much for that, Alessandra.

        If I can throw one name into this mixture: Gary McKinnon. I think his protracted struggle proves that other countries do whatever the US government tells them to do, so I found Hilary Clinton’s public interference in the trial of Amanda Knox quite disgusting. It seems that Knox being an American citizen mattered much more in and to the US than everything a foreign court has since judged, rightly or wrongly, her to be: a sadistic, callous murderer and bare-faced liar.

        I wonder if attitudes towards her would be different were she black, poor and less attractive.

        The bias in this piece from the New York Times, to give just one example (entitled ‘An Innocent Abroad’), supports my original claim. Fortunately, the first comment in response to it says what you might be thinking yourself. The second, however…

    3. Here is today’s news about Amanda Knox.

      “In Rome, politicians close to Silvio Berlusconi are keenly linking Knox’s situation with the Italian prime minister’s to show they are both victims of a corrupt Italian legal system.”

      It really sickens me to see everything happening here converted into a political issue and used as a pretext to discredit the legal system in order to find a way out for someone who would only deserve to be jailed.

      I hope you’ll believe me if I say that it makes me feel ashamed of being Italian.

      Speaking of trials by media, our Prime Minister’s ones would be enough to fill our newspapers for years.

    4. If I can throw one name into this mixture: Gary McKinnon. I think his protracted struggle proves that other countries do whatever the US government tells them to do.

      I agree. By now, all his legal troubles seems to be more a demonstration of US’ political strength than a way to reach the truth or to punish him for what he actually did. If it wasn’t so, not only the illegal actions in itself, but the harmlessness of his intentions, not to mention the Asperger’s syndrome, should have been considered.

      As for Amanda Knox, thanks for the link. After reading both the article and the comments, I still believe she’s anything, but “Angel Face”. I don’t think she would have been treated with all that respect, if she had been, as you say, black, poor (actually, they say her family was without money, but, honestly, I doubt it), or less attractive.

      On a lighter note, I can see the blog has its usual shape again and the nice small faces are back. 🙂

    5. The media would rather take sides in a story like Amanda Knox. It’s politically safer, and sells more advertising, than stories such as what the Extremist Right are doing to this country.

  9. Likewise… Three years on, remembering Richard and really glad that we happened to be at the O2 on May 12 when David and Nick joined Roger on stage… Thank you.

    Best wishes

  10. I believe the government is secretly in charge of the media, and we are told exactly what they want us to believe, when we watch the “news”. Most people don’t know what is really going on behind the scenes, because if they did, they would be considered a “threat”.

    A wise man once wrote “Mother should I trust the government?”. We all know the correct answer to that question.

    1. Amedeo

      Exciting as it might seem to be living in an Orwellian conspiracy, I would rest easy. I haven’t seen a Government yet that has the competence to be secretly in charge of anything.

  11. having been in the states for three years now, i would say to new york dan: don’t believe anything the media says over here, it’s ether what the right want to say or what the left want to say. there are very few unbiased stories in the media, they always have to spin it to show the other side in a bad light.

    don’t feel bad, the british press are just as bad (or even worse).

    1. You’re quite right, Tony. Hacking a dead girl’s mobile phone and deleting messages days after her disappearance in order to free up space is about as low as it can get, you’d like to think.

  12. On a side note that perhaps pertains more to the last entry.

    I saw a show on US TV called Frontline where the espionage and tracking of American citizens by the government has exploded since 9/11. On a lot of Police cars there are mounted cameras that take pictures of passing car licence plates. This info is put into a database for tracking purposes… supposedly to support the war on terror. I think, and this will be controversial, that the US Government has been waiting for something like 9/11 in order to implement Carte Blanche surveillance on its citizens. The level of this is quite frightening and it has nothing to do with terrorism. Nothing like this has been seen in the past either.

    Cheers, Howard

  13. Two examples of the power of the media in convicting but with different results in the court of law – O.J. Simpson and the more recent Casey Anthony.

    I think that most would agree that the evidence that was presented in the media was certainly overwhelming enough for the court of public opinion to convict each of them with murder. However in the legal courts it was not enough to convict beyond a reasonable doubt.

    What is interesting is that although I think the public is still split on whether OJ did it or not, the public has still convicted Casey Anthony as guilty. So much so that she is in hiding due to overall public hatred and threats to her own life.



  14. Fed,

    Difficult topic to respond to, especially without having some in depth knowledge of the case and the evidence.

    What I can comment on is the media feeding frenzy. I think somewhere down in human evolution, we must be a bit hard wired for instant gratification. Perhaps it’s a critical component of why there’s 6 billion or so of us buggers right now. The thing is we need to learn how to gently put some of this aside. Maybe sharing a lunch with it every now and then can be a good thing, but not inviting it to diner every night. The damn thing can grow to be quite large.



  15. Bye bye Richard. We all miss you a lot.

    I hope so much a different dimension of life. It would be a pity to miss you so much for ever.


  16. Hi FEd

    I wish you hadn’t referred to the possibly eccentric man in (what I saw as) a patronising and derogatory way as a ‘poor sod’. I still think eccentricity is something to be supported and celebrated rather than put down.

    I agree, however, with what you said about that poor nurse. The public are often forced to have a lot of faith in nurses so if people start dying unexpectedly in their care this immediately raises alarm. Hospitals, however, are complex places with many people having access to the vulnerable and so it can easily be difficult find a suspect. In this case (and I might be wrong because I’m a terrible judge of character) I think the police and hospital managers were desperate to quickly find someone to blame, to try allay public anxiety and this unfortunate nurse fitted the bill. What a tragedy.

    I found this subject on the blog very worrying. I just don’t know who or what to believe anymore. Most people seem to put their own spin on things including me or they don’t remember things very well from the past. On the other hand most people seen to like stories, especially if they support their own point of view. As someone once said, ‘A story must move, misfortune is motion and contentment is inertia’.

    Can’t stop playing ‘Metallic Spheres’. I really like the acoustic bits. Hope this doesn’t put DG off working with the Orb again.

    1. You misinterpreted. There’s nothing at all wrong with eccentricity. I consider him a “poor sod” only because he unfortunately found himself exposed by every newspaper in the land and consequently ended up feeling driven from an area he had long ago made his home.

    2. Hi FEd, I probably misunderstood the friendly context you were writing in.

      Sorry a seemingly insignificant rant compared to some of the issues raised by other contributors to the blog.

      We have juggernauts rolling down the narrow service road behind our property making deliveries to two small but nationally known supermarkets. These lorries have ripped down the fences behind peoples meagre gardens, crushed cars, smashed down lamposts and occasionally get stuck trying madly to over take one another. We have unsuccessfully complained to the local council on many occasions.

      In spite of all this if we allow so much as a leaf of foliage to encroach over our fence into the service road we immediately receive letters from the council threatening us with the full force of law (whatever that is).

      I can, therefore, sympathise with DG having to suffer from these mini tyrants in relation to his ‘beach hut’. The first thing the Daily Mail said in their article about the hut was the value of DG’s property. Just another example of the politics of hyper materialistic envy. Personally I like the shades of yellow and red used in the painting hut of the hut (plus the clean lines) and hope the residents of Brighton emulate DG’s contribution to the local environment.

      1. Well said, Lola. I hate petty council bureaucrats. I’m sure we could manage perfectly well without them. (Can’t they be cut to save money? Not literally, I hasten to add. Then again… Maybe a few well-aimed slaps would be sufficient – and rather satisfying – for the really, really annoying ones who seem to get great pleasure from causing maximum needless and pointless frustration.)

    3. Could simply apply leeches Fed, Lola, no cuts required. :))

      I’ll bet you it was the paparazzi who put in the complaint. . . anything to milk a story. . . a bit more. . .


  17. What a cheek these councils have, it’s David’s hut and he should be able to keep it as long as he wishes. It is probably older than the councillors that are giving him the grief. It may well be a piece of English history to us, but they don’t care, official madness, too much power has been given to these bureaucratic pigs in office who think they are above everybody and everything backed up by the bureaucrats in GERMANY who missed the hut 68 years ago!!!

    I hate them as well David, don’t just give in to them.

    I have had a similar encounter with these animals and also will not back down, similar hut, built in the thirties, beach front, looking tired, loved by the visitors, photographed and drawn by artists, but the council want it gone. Added to this they do not want it replaced by anything similar, a plain new house designed by a two year old is OK with them but anything with a bit of imagination is out of the question.

    Hang on Dave, fight them all the way please, give us genuine ENGLISH a bit of hope to keep a little of our ENGLISH history here before we are taken over completely and disappear into the dust.

    Good luck David.

    Another David. Also a Grumpy old man!

    1. F’ed, can we look forward to an in depth discussion on UK Planning law? What with the antics at Dale Farm and now the Shed Police at Brighton I feel that the best minds of the Blog / Irregulars are needed to shed (sorry) some light on this issue.

  18. I don’t know if you heard something about them, but I just remembered about two more trials by media which were both very famous here: the “Cogne case” (Caso Cogne) and the “Beasts of Satan” (Bestie di Satana).

    Even though I’ve never been a big crime news fan, I found the second case interesting, as the alleged and later confirmed murderers were young members of a heavy metal band, involved in some kind of wicked cult.

    As it was obvious, both the media and the Vatican (when it’s not the same thing, at least…) repeatedly expressed their concern about the spread of heavy metal among the youth, being it, in their opinion, necessarily connected to violence and to the cult of Satan.

    That was, for me, just another annoying example of their false moralism and paternalism, which surely didn’t help either to educate anyone, or to make the relationships between parents and sons/daughters easier.

    1. I’d only heard of the second example, which was particularly horrific as I recall one of the victims was buried alive.

      I have to admit to being hooked on cases of true crime. Give me fact over fiction any day; it’s much more disturbing and therefore uncomfortably intriguing.

      How convenient that music could be blamed, along with video games and horror films, for the breakdown of traditional family values.

    2. I had not heard about the Beasts Of Satan till I read it here. Scary stuff overall. It is quite amazing as to how far people will go and how they feel that their is nothing wrong with their actions.

      I have never subscribed to the theory that music made me do it. To me the fact is that if you are going down that road (i.e. it’s OK to take a life), there is something wrong with you in the first place. And pegging your actions to music is just a scapegoat.

      I think that Charles Manson proved that the best. He was convinced that the Beatles sent him a message and that is what prompted his actions. If music made him do it, then how come none of the other millions of folks who have listened to the White Album did not get the same message? Just proves that something was screwed up with him in the first place and if you ever read anything about him, you would know that he was not raised in a traditional family unit and was in trouble with the law at a very early age. Bottom line is that he never had any upbringing or discipline for his actions. (And FEd, if you are interested in true crime, you should read the book Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi.)

      Anyway, I use that example because death metal particularly has a stigma just because the song topics are so controversial.



  19. I wonder if these lovely emoticons murdered the previous ones and buried them alive.

    Anyway, innocent until proven guilty, eh?

    Guilty of making the Features Editor work on a Sunday, though… :!

  20. Sorry FEd, I’m very off topic, but I have a great news about my life.

    Well, I’m very happy to say to you that finally I move to London!!

    So, I wish to share my joy with you and my friend bloggers. 🙂

    Bye, Hydrea

    1. Thanks FEd!

      You are very kind. 🙂

      Well, I leave my beautiful country that’s Italy. I leave my home, my habits but I’ll never forget my friends.


    2. This is a compliment to you, Hydrea but a pleasant shock to me: All this time I thought you were British! :))

      The warmest and the best of wishes in your new life!

      I know you and your new country will fit you like a glove! Congratulations!

  21. I’ve given up on the legal system as well as the press. It you have enough money, you never go to jail for anything here in California anymore (the only exception I’ve seen to this in recent years has been Phil Spector). The Public prosecutors are so backlogged with cases that pretty much the only thing they now investigate and take to court are really violent crimes. Things like elder abuse, or fraud, embezzelment etc., are rampant in California, and it’s a free for all, because unless the victim has enough money to take the criminal to court for a prolonged trial–which no one does (trials easily cost 90,000 bucks or more, the lawyers fees are so high)–the criminal get away with their evil.

    And don’t get me started on the press. The press is now owned and controlled by the big corporations and banks. Little entertaining crimes make the front pages, but things like the 2008 global financial meltdown are no longer investigated by first rate investigative journalists or explained, which is amazing since the 2008 meltdown was the biggest, most expensive financial fraud in the history of the world, and literally millions of people will die because of it (billions of aid money, government money that formerly went to the poor literally vanished overnight–and will never be replaced). No discussion. No prosecution. No jail time for the rich financiers that pulled it off. It’s all amazing.

    Eight more days until the Dark Side of the Moon Immersion Box set comes out!!

  22. P.S. The Prog Rock issue with Pink Floyd on the cover and the “Meddle” article became available in California this weekend. What a great album.

    By the way, have you folks noticed how smokin’ hot the live version of Echoes is on the Gdansk CD? I particularly love the very ending. The magical delicate, wistful, melodic interplay between David and Richard is beyond gorgeous. And they gave it time to breathe. They didn’t rush it. It goes on and on and on. It floors me every time I hear it. It’s the magic of a couple of nightbirds on a branch outside your window discussing the end of a particularly lovely day on a warm evening. It is just plain gorgeous. That one makes me miss Richard Wright terribly. David and Richard just had this fabulous chemistry. Good God, what a wonderful pairing by the fates.

  23. Ex-MP Charged Over Expenses Sobs In Court

    Awwwww, she reminds me of my granny. . . except my granny never robbed anyone. A wolf in granny clothing if ever we saw one.

    I just tried her because of what I read in the media, oops.

    I honestly don’t know what to say about trial by media Fed. We all want to know that criminals have been caught and punished, gives us a feeling of safety and fair play and that the laws of the land will be enforced.

    We get that from what we see in the media.

    It’s a double edged sword though because people who are eventually completely exonerated of wrongdoing are left with mud sticking.


  24. I wonder whether ‘Trial by Media’ isn’t perhaps led by the ‘Court of Public Opinion’ or vice versa. It would appear to me that the two are inextricably linked and have a sort of ‘symbiotic’ relationship. Although the relationship can be parasitic at times and can lead to the ‘death’ of one or the other, generally the two cannot live without each other.

    The lines have become so blurred and we no longer know what’s legitimate or newsworthy. The ‘innocent’ are often ‘guilty’ and the ‘guilty’ are often ‘innocent’ and everyone has an opinion about or interpretation of it. Sadly, very few of us know the facts.

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