Johnny-on-the-Spot … by John Foster …
In 1975, Paul Simon’s hit song “Still Crazy After All These Years” contained these lines;
“But I would not be convicted by a jury of my peers. stlll crazy after all these years.”
Nearly 50 years later, I wonder if Paul’s lines still hold water.
I have ranted frequently regarding the impact of instant communication on our society.
I fear it’s been more negative that positive.
For some of you, many of these thoughts have been aired before.
Twenty-four hour news channels by in large are overkill.
As a career news reporter, say what you will but I believe there really isn’t enough “news” to justify constant coverage.
Plus, journalists today mistakenly believe that “new” info is actually “news”.
News organizations are more concerned about having “the latest” regardless of it’s newsworthiness.
The result is much more sensationalism and coverage of events that create a mistaken belief that all “breaking news” is really that important, or even factual.
Because, the quest for “more information” has lead to stories being reported on before facts have been properly screened.
It causes me to wonder if “presumed innocent until proven guilty” is even a reality today.
British barrister Sir William Garrow is credited with that sentiment from a 1791 trial at the Old Bailey.
Garrow insisted that accusers be “robustly tested” in court.
Our legal system’s cardinal principal states “every person accused of a crime is presumed to be innocent unless and until his or her guilt is established beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Now, presumption of innocence is not explicitly stated in the U.S. Constitution but is “inferred” in a number of constitutional amendments, such as the 5th, the 6th and the 14th.
In 1948, the United Nation’s Human Rights Declaration (Article 11) states, “Everyone charged with a penal offense has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
While I’m not always a big fan of U-N actions, this one echoes a concept that we’ve had in America since our early days.
Could it be the U-N says we got that right?
But, with so may connected to several methods of instant communication, “half-baked” ideas and concepts, even news stories are blasted everywhere, many times before verification can be established.
The original “fact checkers” used to be the actual media.
But today, public opinion and trust in “the media” is sagging, at best.
A story gets splashed like spilled paint and days or weeks later, we find (if you look hard enough) that the original thought was a bit off the mark…or, worse yet, totally false.
Combined with a “less-than-discerning” public, this method of being “first” instead of always right fans the flames of distrust and confusion.
It’s time to remember “The 3 Wise Monkeys”.
Not Davey Jones and those guys.
(By the way, did you know The Three Wise Monkeys were in the final scene of that 1968 film, “Planet of the Apes?”)
Those are the monkeys we see in the Japanese pictorial maxim.
The first monkey, “Mizaru”, “Sees No Evil”.
The 2nd, “Kikazaru”, “Hears No Eviol”.
The 3rd, “Awazaru”, “Speaks No Evil”
In some cultures, there’s a 4th money, “Sezaru” who covers his genitals and and says, “Do No Evil” or sometimes holds his nose and states, “”Smell No Evil”.
Recently, I saw a depiction of the new 3 monkeys.
The first, “Hear All Evil”.
Second is “See All Evil”.
Finally, there’s “Post All Evil”.
The 3 Wise Monkeys have become the Three Stooges.
Plus, with cameras everywhere, you’d think the criminal element would be deterred.
Alan Funt made a fortune years ago with “Smile! You’re on Candid Camera!”
But we also know that pictures and videos can be edited almost instantaneously so even what we “see” may not be accurate or factual.
But never mind.
We’re too busy to dig deeper.
We form our opinions on bits and pieces of audio and video and then just shrug our shoulders when we learn later, “Oops! That wasn’t completely truthful.”
My real concern is with so many having access to all this information, can we still find enough unbiased folks to fill juries?
It may wind up that there will only be a handful of Americans who will sit on all the juries of the future.
Why do I see Cheeto dust on their fingers?
So the next time you see or hear about someone who’s been charged with a crime, try to remember the “presumption of innocence”.
I always wonder how a Jack Ruby trial would have played out in the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald.
That “act” was viewed live, by millions on black and white TV in 1963.
But that principal of our legal system, in theory, protects accused individuals from having to prove their innocence.
It’s up to the prosecutor to prove their guilt.
Thank goodness “public opinion” is not “legal opinion”.
Or, am I still crazy after all these years?