WHAT A SHOW TRIAL TEACHES THE PUBLIC

(Goebbels vs. Truman Capote)

By William Markiewicz

In "The Show Trial: A Larger Justice?" (NYT July 20) it is argued that political trials should be show trials to teach the public good values. In the same vein, "advocacy journalism" was introduced during the recent Balkan wars. Three elements: engaged trial, engaged journalism and old-time lynching have one thing in common: they try to get the sympathy of the public which is mostly a self-righteous, gullible crowd of political cattle. The method is effective, but what if truth is sacrificed in the process and nobody ever notices? Many will cynically retort: "OK, if nobody notices, everything is all right. Let History continue."

Still, if justice is left to PR experts something valuable may be irreversibly lost. We manipulate everything: genetics, in animal husbandry we substitute artificial reproduction for mating, we intervene in anatomy and physiology to convert animals into living meat factories, but the point may come when we'll destroy the species because we don't know the final consequences. Engaged justice, engaged journalism feed us with politics vs. justice, kitsch and pornography vs. art, superstition vs. morals and philosophy, 'feeling' vs. truth. They treat their public as political cattle and they contribute to keep them as such.

But let's not forget that authentic beauty, equilibrium, feelings, justice still exist. Otherwise Bach, Shakespeare, et al would have needed 'engaged' trials, media, and other PR experts to keep them popular. Truman Capote shows you don't have to be kitschy to be popular. His minimalism beats Goebbel's propaganda, or Christiane Amanpour's "engaged journalism." The Nuremberg trial showed the naked truth through evidence. Witnesses in the Nuremberg trial were mostly more sober than the flamboyant witnesses in the Hague or those presented by "engaged" journalists. In the half silences the truth and its horrors speak most eloquently; writers like Truman Capote know it. The present show trials and show journalism don't match the stern half silences of those who have something to say. Let's keep away from the poisonous clamps of the brainwashers thriving on engaged justice and media.

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