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The US Elections, Russia, and the Trial of O.J. Simpson: Uncanny Parallels.

"Who cares whether Vladimir Putin or Mark Furhman are telling the truth? We already have a court of public opinion, where these guys have been convicted. As were Milosevic, Gaddafi, and Assad."

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

Long before the US embarked on its dangerous course of invasion, bombing, and other forms of “liberal interventionism” whole-heartedly embraced by Bill Clinton and perfected by George W. Bush and Barack Obama, there was an infamous case of liberal interventionism on the home front, the 1995 trial of O.J. Simpson, known as “The Trial of the Century.” It’s hardly coincidental that American television recently produced a critically acclaimed mini-series, The People v. O.J. Simson: American Crime Story (part of FX true crime anthology). The filmmakers and their audience clearly felt the need to come to terms with a drama that unfolded a generation ago, but which is still relevant today.

The trial’s notoriety is due to the fact that a seemingly straightforward murder case was transformed into a condemnation of racism, specifically that of the LA police department that gathered the evidence against Simpson. Anger over racism won the day and the charges against Simpson were dropped. The strategy of sidestepping and deflecting the matter at hand for the sake of  defending  human rights was designed by Simpson’s defense team and its star lawyer, Jonny Cochran. It mounted a powerful media campaign that involved bullying the judge and  prosecutors, based on the so-called Fuhrman tapes, made between 1985 and 1994 by a young North Carolina screenwriter named Laura McKinny. She interviewed Mark Furman, the detective on Simpson case, for a screenplay about the police. These tapes became the cornerstone of the defense’s strategy,  claiming that Fuhrman's testimony lacked credibility because of  its sexist and racist attitudes.  

<figcaption>Hypocritical moral outrage trumps facts anyday</figcaption>
Hypocritical moral outrage trumps facts anyday

That was how the prosecution lost a seemingly airtight case against the accused, whose behavior immediately after the crime –in the mind of any objective observer --left very little doubt of his guilt. Mark Fuhrman, the detective whose silly bragging helped O.J. Simpson walk free, commented on the case two decades after the trial. “This is not about me. There will be another O.J., and what we have learned is that political correctness and stupidity trump justice.”

 Fuhrman’s words point to the importance of this trial, that marked a new era in law and politics. It should be known as “The Trial of the XXI century.” Though ostensibly the opposite, on a deeper level it was the continuation of the pernicious tradition of lynching, that allows the crowd to override legality in the name of misguided moral concerns and preoccupations, be it racism in Missouri at the beginning of XX century, or anti-racism in Los Angeles at its end. In one case, innocents were brutally executed by self-righteous mobs, in another, a self-righteous mob, along with crusading lawyers, managed to let a brutal murderer go free. In both cases, the concept of legality became secondary to vague, subjective humanitarian concerns. The anger that should have been directed at the murderer of two people was re-directed against a racist and sexist police; the demagoguery of race relationships turned the cry for racial justice into a shield protecting the murderer. The jury, skillfully selected by the defense, didn’t stand a chance of resisting the high pitch of Johnny Cochran’s and other manipulators’ demagoguery .

Both on the social and political level, the trial revealed the ease with which “liberal interventionism” can trample the truth. It showed that in the skillful hands of demagogues armed with the latest PR methods, anyone can be turned into victim or victimizer. The murderer (O.J. Simpson) was miraculously transformed into a victim, while the victims, along with the police that was supposed to protect them, turned into abusive racists, whose pleas for justice were easily dismissed. What became important was not what O.J. Simpson did, namely, destroying two young lives, but what the racist policeman investigating the case, said.

The success of Mr. Cochran and his so-called dream team delivered a clear message to the world. “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world,” observed Archimedes. In today’s world, the human rights of any underprivileged group are  a lever. Johnny Cochran’s discovery hasn’t been be lost on lawyers turned politicians like Bill and Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama. It was transformed by the State Department and its PR department into the bombing and dismantling of Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, Syria and various other countries, by the deadly combination of human rights rhetoric coupled with greed and imperial overreach. What can be nobler than liberating suffering East European countries from the yoke of Soviet socialism, or the people of Iraq from their tyrannical leader? Let’s take the historic grievances of Ukraine or Eastern Europe and turn them against today’s Russia. Who cares whether Vladimir Putin or Mark Furhman are telling the truth? We already have a court of public opinion, where these guys have been convicted. As were Milosevic, Gaddafi, and Assad.

All it takes is a slick PR dream-team capable of camouflaging violent interference in the affairs of another country into a human rights campaign. We now know that’s exactly what happened with the wars in the former Yugoslavia. A British PR firm alleged the need to bomb the country in a fight against imaginary Serbian atrocities and  concentration camps. Invoking the ghost of the Holocaust – like Cochran invoked the ghost of racism--they made the world say “never again,” and proceed with bombing and killing.

This violent juggernaut, driven by the rhetoric of political correctness and humanitarian concerns proved impossible to stop, paving the way for a specific type of campaign, be it military or political: demonize your enemy by portraying him as racist, sexist, homophobic, backward, a maniac standing in the way of progress, then destroy him. This strategy was articulated loud and clear during the O.J Simpson trial.   

The current presidential race in the US reveals the further development of this strategy that employs the methods of liberal interventionism against both Russia and Trump, accusing both of mutual dependence. The recent campaign against Russia and the threats it poses to other countries, mesh conveniently with accusations of Trump’s sexism, racism and other “deplorable” sins.  The more Russia’s  is denounced in the Western media, the more Trump is blamed for an imaginary connection to Russia. As a defense lawyer appointed to defend the rapist of a twelve-year girl, Hillary Clinton could not possibly have missed Johnnie Cochran’s pyrotechnics. Blaming your opponent for being in bed with a Russian dictator, invoking the McCarthyite claim of protecting the human rights of Americans from agents of foreign influence is by far a more winning strategy than defending the Democrats’ policy of driving the US economy and its foreign policy into the ground.

Johnnie Cochran’s legacy has been acknowledged by recent quotes from his playbook, as the tapes of Trumpish “sexual braggadocio” conveniently emerged shortly before the trial -- sorry, before the election. Why defend what you’ve done, when you can obfuscate, divert attention, and put your opponent on the defensive?   

People are still arguing about Simpson’s guilt, but what is beyond dispute is the message the trial sent all over the US:  the key to everything is not the truth, but rather “public relations,” the ability to argue convincingly in front of the camera. The trial made it obvious that a properly conducted PR campaign can turn any group into pariahs deserving to be bombed:  it really doesn’t matter who belongs to this group: white policemen, Serbs, Syrians, or Trump supporters. However, it’s obvious that this bending of the truth doesn’t really win in the long run. Recent humanitarian interventions leave nothing behind but a trail of destruction, violence, and loss of respect for the law and the press, along with cynicism and misery. Had the politicians enamored of Cochran’s ways ever pondered the outcome of the O.J. Simpson trial, they would have discovered a similar pattern.

Always an actor, Simpson could have played Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov in real life: owning up to what he has done, doing his time, and emerging a new man. But this star of the football field and the screen did not have what it takes. He decided to rewrite the drama of sin and redemption into a classic case of media manipulation, bullshit, propaganda, and the industrialization of suffering. He utilized the years of black anger against the system to his and his lawyers’ benefit. He won the battle but lost the war. If ever there was a Pyrrhic victory, this was it.  

Did black youth regularly shot by racist policemen ever benefit from the fact that one of the L.A. policemen was dismissed as racist and therefore untrustworthy? Did O.J. Simpson himself benefit from this victory? Not really: he took a nosedive and is now serving a thirty-three-year sentence for burglary.

Did the US system of justice win, having revealed itself to be at the whim of populists and demagogues? It’s hardly surprising that the prosecutor in this case, Marcia Clark, gave up practicing law. What’s the point, when the cases are decided not in judicial court, on the basis of evidence, but in the court of public opinion by the power of demagoguery, fear-mongering, and intellectual abuse? Another prosecutor gave up on practicing law and began to teach, while working as a defense attorney.

And what about the “Dream-Team,” or rather the “Nightmare Team”? Shapiro’s twenty-four year old son died of an overdose, grim justice inflicted on the father who let the murderer of a twenty-five year old go scot-free. Another lawyer, Robert Kardashian, the father of the Kardashians of “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” died of cancer at the age of fifty. And the notorious if brilliant demagogue, Johnny Cochran, was stricken with fatal brain cancer at the age of sixty-seven.

Another member of this team from hell, F. Lee Bailey, “was later disbarred in Massachusetts and Florida for misconduct in handling client Claude DuBoc's case. He was denied a law license in Maine in 2014, based on issues of moral character and $2 million in back taxes.” Obviously, the feeling of invulnerability went to the heads of this acrobatic dream-team.

Besides wrecking the lives of its immediate participants, the trial revealed deeper issues and contradictions. Ironically, Americans utilize dubious concepts of collective guilt, when the country prides itself on individualism, attention to individual human rights and responsibility. Together with this fascination for individualism, the country frequently embraces group think and summary executions, as it wages wars on native Indians, black men, white men, communists, Japanese, Russians and so on. This paradox is essential to understanding the persistence of the lynching model applied to legal issues. Rather than concentrating on individual guilt or innocence, it concentrates on group guilt or innocence. If black men are criminals, let’s lynch this one, even if he’s not guilty. If black men are victims of former injustices, let’s free this guy, even if he is guilty as sin.

The manipulation of real suffering for the sake of dubious goals is an industry geared toward exploitation rather than the pursuit of truth, setting a very dangerous precedent. Once the demon is unleashed, anyone can use it, including the most unsavory characters or regimes. Saudi Arabia now heads the UN human rights commission, and would undoubtedly claim that its indiscriminate bombing of Yemen is driven by humanitarian concerns, as does domestic head-chopping or the export of violent religious doctrines. The Washington Post might ask, feigning a naiveté unbecoming of this hundred and forty year old newspaper, “Why is one of the world’s worst human rights offenders leading the U.N. human rights commission?” Because that’s what human rights offenders do after all, courtesy of Johnnie Cochran.

Even when not “exploited” by violent regimes, the idea that noble ends justify any means-- comes with a price tag: cynicism. Colonial robbery, intervention, or cheating was clearly preferable; the subversion of truth to power was unjust, but at least the rules were clear.  Liberal interventionism, on the other hand, subverts truth to lies and bullshit, leaving behind a moral vacuum, chaos, and a shaky system of values, which is disorienting for everyone except the PR firms.

Despite its obvious drawbacks, Western leaders seem glued to this paradigm. The current campaign decrying Aleppo’s humanitarian disaster exploits alleged atrocities of the Syrian government and its Russian allies in order to destabilize the Assad regime and create havoc in countries unwilling to follow orders from Washington or Tel Aviv. It’s becoming more and more evident that emerging countries, be it Russia, China, or Iran, are not going to tolerate that lynching approach to their policies and are willing to put up enough resistance to make its users think twice. They’ve also learned to mount their own counter-offensive, punching holes in the bogus humanitarian campaigns facilitated by the western press, trained by their governments to sing in unison to promote government policies.

Surely, the Russian air defense in Syria defends more than Syrian skies: diplomacy and compromise,  international legality and national sovereignty. And yes, the human rights of people that Western propaganda denigrates as “deplorables”, then bombs.

One hopes the US electorate is able to mount a similar air-defense. Voters burdened with the responsibility of selecting a good  leader, might turn away from the screaming evidence of failed domestic and international policies. They might switch to a totally different agenda, peddled by crooked lawyers and spin masters, sending a message against racism, sexism, or any other ism that Donald Trump is supposed to represent. The mass media well knows how to manipulate passions, prejudices, and fears, yet, one hopes that US voters, like Syrians, will resist the liberal media’s humanitarian assault. If the voters, as opposed to the easily manipulated jury at the O.J. Simpson trial, have learned to tell real culprits from those peddled by corrupt politicians and media, then we could say that maybe Russia did interfere in the US elections.


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