In light of the Casey Anthony verdict yesterday, we thought we’d point you to this fantastic interview Chuck Klosterman did with author (and baseball statistician legend) Bill James. James has just finished writing a book – Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence – that explores every aspect of crime and the way it’s covered in the media.
The entire interview is well worth a read, but below are some choice quotes from James.
On why crime stories (like the Anthony trial) capture the public’s attention:
Crimes stories are universally interesting. They reveal a side of people that we’d not otherwise talk about. Crime stories show us the part of people’s lives they try to keep hidden.
On if the capacity to murder someone is present within all of us:
It is not as if we walk through one doorway and decide that murder is acceptable. You have to walk through many doorways. The first doorway leads to a party, where people are doing drugs and having fun. The second doorway leads to more partying. It’s a long, long series of doorways, until you end up in a room where a terrible thing happens. So the question is, ‘How many doorways away are you?’ It’s not a question about a person’s capacity to commit a murder. It’s a question of how many doorways we keep between ourselves and that situation.
On how the media has helped shape what is considered a crime:
I knew a person when I was very young — a person who graduated from high school around the same time I did. … He had been with a woman when he was 18, and they had a son. The boy fell down some steps and died. Most everybody in town thought the child was a victim of abuse and that the man should be prosecuted for murder, but he never was. Now, if that had happened just three years later, he would have been prosecuted — because during those three years, there was a media uproar over child abuse. When I was young, I once had a realization while reading the newspaper about just how many things we now consider murder that were not seen as murder 100 years before. In 1950, if there was a fight in a bar and someone was killed, the police would ask, ‘Was it a fair fight?’ If it was a fair fight, it might be manslaughter, but also might be nothing.