The O. J. Simpson Trials: Rhetoric, Media, and the Law

By Janice Schuetz; Lin S. Lilley | Go to book overview

2
The Media Spectacle and the
O. J. Simpson Case

Diane Furno-Lamude

TELELITIGATION BOTH CREATES AND IS CREATED BY the media spectacle. The media reputation of O. J. Simpson in combination with the events surrounding his arrest contributed to the telelitigation of the trials. The spectacle also created the telelitigation by setting the agenda, combining news with entertainment, and fostering media access and competition. Examining this case as a media spectacle illuminates the characteristics of sensational trials as well as highlights what drew the media to the Simpson cases.

The power of the media is well documented. Maxwell McCombs ( 1994) emphasizes, "Not only do the news media largely determine our awareness of the world at large, supplying the major elements for our pictures of the world, they also influence the prominence of those elements of the picture!" (p. 4). One way the media influences is through the spectacle. The dictionary definition of a spectacle is "a public show or exhibition on a grand scale"; it is also a pair of spectacles, that is, "something through which one views things, or something that influences, colors, or biases one's views or ideas." Metaphorically, the O. J. Simpson trial may be equated with a spectacle, and media coverage of the trial, to a pair of spectacles through which the public sees, interprets, and translates information presented as news.

The purpose of this chapter is to develop a model for analyzing the media spectacle as it applies to the O. J. Simpson criminal trial. To accomplish this goal, the chapter (1) defines media spectacles, (2) investigates the texts, such as the Bronco chase, that shaped the spectacle, (3) describes the components of the spectacle and develops a theoretical

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