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The O.J. Simpson murder case was a luridly formative / confirmatory event in the development of the iSteve worldview. There was so much to learn from it. So, it’s interesting to see how 21 years later the goodthinkers at Slate are attempting to assimilate such awkward memories into the Narrative.
FX’s mini-series feels as urgent and compelling today as the trial did in 1995.
By Willa Paskin
… As FX’s hugely watchable new miniseries The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story demonstrates, it is the trial of our current century as well. It extends tentacularly into the present moment, when we are once again in the midst of a national reckoning about the intrinsic racism of our police forces, when the NFL is grappling with violence done to and by its players, and when a 24/7 celebrity news culture is dominated by the O.J.-connected Kardashians. Race, sex, violence, fame, football: the live wires of the O.J. trial are still sparking with the same powerful, electrifying charge. The series’ timing is so propitious as to be vertiginous. …
Cochran is a swashbuckling advocate who gets justice in the largest sense—the LAPD was certainly guilty of systemic racism—by aiding a specific injustice and helping a likely murderer go free. Clark and Darden are well-meaning overdogs, ruined by a failure to reckon with the larger backdrop of injustice against which their just cause took place. And then there is O.J., who believing himself to be above the law and race—“I’m not black; I’m O.J.,” he would say—finds himself, like the country that made him, entangled forever with both.
For crimethinkers, however, the O.J. case offered a cornucopia of insights:
- If blacks get themselves all worked up over the putative racist injustices of a particular case, it will probably turn out to be a factual fiasco, just as conspiracy theorists are right a lot less often than conspiracies actually exist.
- One of the more interesting figures in the case was OJ’s attorney Robert Shapiro (played by John Travolta in the show), who by the end, was deeply disturbed that he had facilitated a black man getting away with murdering a Jew with impunity by bringing on Cochran to play what Shapiro called “the race card.” Jewish-black tensions were high in the early 1990s (e.g., the Crown Heights pogrom, the Jewish denunciation of Spike Lee, etc.), but that history has pretty much been shoved down the memory hole.
- As a feminist, civil servant prosecutor Marcia Clark thought that female jurors would side with the murdered woman. As a highly successful racialist lawyer, Johnnie Cochran thought that black jurors would side with the black murderer. So they effectively agreed to pack the jury with black women.
- Black women turned out to be more racist than feminist, just as Cochran assumed.
- Black women feel that white women who steal their men have it coming to them.
- People who can’t get out of jury duty, especially black people who can’t get out of jury duty, aren’t all that bright on average. They are easily bored and baffled by technical testimony, so Cochran’s nursery rhyme was more effective than all the egghead DNA stuff.
- DA Gil Garcetti, the father of the current mayor, pretty much threw the case at the outset by moving the trial from the local courthouse in Santa Monica, where the jury pool would have been mostly bright white liberals, to downtown, which allowed Cochran & Clark to pack the jury with blacks from South-Central.
- The rioters’ threat to the justice system had a lot to do with Garcetti’s decision.
- Career civil servants aren’t as competent as highly paid attorneys who used to be civil servants. The government could have brought back star author and ex-LA prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, but stuck with Clark and Darden.
- The jocksniffing urge among conservative white men does a lot to facilitate black male violence against white women. Nicole Brown Simpson frequently called 911 to report OJ was beating her, but when the LAPD showed up … “Hey, it’s The Juice! Do the Heisman pose, Juice! Can we get a picture with you, Mr. Simpson.” The exception, the one cop who took the female victim’s side, was Mark Fuhrman, but we know how evil he was.
- The Kardashian Klan’s televised antics are an offshoot of the OJ mess. Kris Kardashian Jenner and her daughters figured out the appeal of dangerous black men to lowbrow white and Hispanic women.
- The Caitlyn Jenner whoop-tee-doo of 2015, which the President wanted us to take seriously, has its roots in OJ’s white Bronco run for the Border from Robert Kardashian’s house.
- Rather than a broken man, OJ, currently imprisoned for thuggishness against somebody not wholly undeserving of thuggishness, is more megalomaniacal as ever, telling all the other cons that he’ll marry Kim Kardashian when he gets out of the joint.