What a fucking waste. I don’t mean the deaths of the parents, or the life sentences of the sons—which, platitudinously, are horrible and tragic—but the fact that we all spent so much time talking and thinking about it in the first place.
Remember how big of a deal this case was in the early 1990s? CNN and CourtTV broadcast the trial every day. The broadsheets published gossip—oops, analysis—with every new development. The tabloids interviewed everyone who had ever met a Menendez. Wikipedia alone lists five books written about the case. The TV movie lives on VHS-ically.
Twenty years later, what are we left with? Two rich kids killed their parents and went to jail. Gee, riveting.
The murders weren’t indicative of any larger trend, or a symptom of a novel strand in American life. They didn’t teach us anything about human nature or public policy or culture or politics. The only thing we learned about was the media, who spent thousands of hours educating us on an event that, at its denouement, left us no better informed about the world we live in.
Looking back, would any member of the media argue that the thousands of hours spent reporting this case was time well spent? For them? For us? Of everything happening in the first half of the 1990s, are we glad that we spent so much time focusing on this blip?
It’s easy to identify a hollow media circus from 20 years’ distance. I wonder how good we are at spotting them close up.