Where were you on John Mark Day?
I was actually in the same spot and doing the same thing on both occasions: working on my computer and taking a brief break to do a quick check of the latest news. When I first read that someone had been arrested in the case, my initial feelings all crowded next to the largest and most central emotion amongst them: disbelief. I could barely wrap my head around the idea that - after 10 years - JonBenet's elusive killer had finally been apprehended. Caught. Brought to justice. As my brain kneaded the news over and over again in my mind, the apparent truth finally started to tumble in. It wasn't long afterward that the floodgates opened, and a sea of roughshod thoughts rushed in: Who was he? What did he look like? How do they know it was him? And finally: There will at last be justice for the Ramseys, and that cloud of suspicion will finally be replaced by a silver lining. As these thoughts rushed unhindered in my mind, I couldn't help but feel a certain subsequent contempt for the media. How often had we been told by the wise punditocracy that suspicion had settled on John and Patsy Ramsey and from there had never taken flight? How many times had the media circus asked the parents snarky questions - their voices tinged with condescending disbelief? And now, how glorious would it be if they had been wrong all along? Oh, it was all just so irresistibly juicy. In short, I exulted in the news of the arrest - if for no other reason than to see the reporteratti proved wrong.
And then came the press conference. You know. The long-awaited, much ballyhooed press conference in which the media speculated that Mary Lacy - the Boulder D.A. - would answer many of the questions that they had been asking since John Mark Day. When I first turned it on, I was looking forward to a few answers, myself. I knew, of course, that the D.A. wouldn't be able to reveal too much about the case, but I was hoping she'd at least be able to toss us a few scrappy tidbits. What was some of the evidence against the accused? How certain was she that she had her man? That kind of thing. Needless to say, I was sorely disappointed at what subsequently transpired that morning. Frankly, to this day I'm not sure what it was called, but I know that "press conference" was definitely not the correct term. As I watched, my reaction ran the gamut from curious, to frustrated, to exasperated, to yelling at the TV. The lion's share of the event saw Mary Lacy congratulating (figuratively) Tom, Dick, Harry, Aunt Gertrude, and every other individual who had had anything whatsoever to do with apprehending John Mark Karr (and it seemed to me that "anything whatsoever" included breathing in the same air that had been at one time utilized by those working on the case). My exasperation was palpable. Why in the world hadn't they just held a nice private conference call to thank all of the players involved? Or a departmental awards ceremony? Anything other than a media-frenzied press conference. It only got worse. After the thank-fest, the floor was opened up for questions. And there were precious few answers. Large percentages of the queries were not answered for fear of jeopardizing the case, and I myself wound up scratching my head as a result. Why had they called a press conference? The only rationale I could fathom was the thank-fest, and - as I mentioned - that could have been done behind closed doors. And that was when I began to get a sense that things were not quite what they should be.
As the days went on, I watched the ensuing media circus spin itself into a rabid frenzy. Most of the pundits were doubtful about the guilt of the accused, but that didn't stop the questions from being asked, the speculation from being dribbled from the collective foaming maw, or the audience (myself included) from watching the entire spectacle.
And so we come to today. As before, I read about the news before actually watching or listening to it, and I was genuinely curious to hear what would be said in response. When I finally got to my car, I turned on my XM and listened attentively to the analysis. Within minutes, I was thunderstruck. One after the other, the pundits marveled at the media circus that had consumed so many since the original announcement. And one after another, the pundits seemed to lay blame at Ms. Lacy's feet for actually revving up the frenzy, and in the end committing the sin of rendering it unjustified. I marveled as I heard commentary of this type from one individual in particular - the same individual who I had heard pontificating when the circus was in full swing. Now, suddenly, this man was playing an outsider - a wounded news consumer whose delicate sensibilities had been offended by the overt blood lust of the media hounds. As I listened, I couldn't help, now, but yell at the radio. "Why is it that the media is the only institution that is granted full immunity in our society?" I fumed. Freedom of the press is one thing, but freedom to destroy anyone and anything at will is quite another. What other collective enjoys the privilege of yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater, reports on the subsequent chaos, and then shakes its hair-sprayed head at the irresponsibility of those who yelled 'fire' in the first place? What other collective can do all this while divorcing itself completely from the situation and looking with wide-eyed innocence at the chaos that it has wreaked? I know one thing. It must be good work if you can get it.
As I thought about the practically world-wide frenzy that had been wrought over the past couple of weeks - about how an apparently innocent (at least of this crime) man can be subjected to such intense, searing scrutiny - I wondered: How many other times has the unimportant been reported out of proportion? Any how many times has the important gone unnoticed and unheralded? If freedom of the press renders our media unquestioned and above reproach, are we not elevating them to a level unsurpassed by any other national institution? And does that not give anyone but me a less than warm, fuzzy feeling?
Anyway, that's how I see the whole thing. Funny how one's thoughts can begin from an initial topic of interest and then take a detour to explore one or two dark corners behind the glittering backdrop. So what are your impressions of the John Mark Karr case? Send us your thoughts. We'll keep you posted.