The Rape of the Mind: Televised Interrogation (Excerpt)

9 Jul

Televised Interrogation

An open official interrogation affects those who watch it—and the fact that they are affected may influence its outcome. Various crime hearings in this country, for instance, were brought before the people by means of television. Citizens sitting comfortably at home far from the scene could see how defense lawyers maneuvered facts or instructed their clients (among whom were wee-known crime bosses) so that they would appear in a favorable light. Even though their actions may have been transparent tricks with the appearance of a fixed wrestling match, the result was that some of the not-so-jovial-looking victims of the criminals were made ridiculous, while the criminals, calm, assured, self-possessed, seemed more admirable. The victims often couldn’t stand being in the limelight; it made them feel ill at ease and embarrassed. The criminals, on the other hand, either denied every accusation in tones of righteous indignation or mad confessions which degenerated into hysterical quests for pity. The magic effect of all the anonymous onlookers—because the witness or defendant imagined their approval or disapproval—influence the outcome of the hearings. All of us who watched them brought our own subjective expectations to bear on these hearings.

 

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