WYSO

Shades Of O.J. Case In Casey Anthony Verdict?

Originally published on July 6, 2011 12:44 pm
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MICHEL MARTIN, Host:

There's also the dramatic turnaround in a sexual assault case against former International Monetary Fund director Dominique Strauss-Kahn. That's been a central preoccupation of two countries. And we'll also talk about why America's largest medical association has taken a stand against Photoshopping or altering the pictures that appear in magazines.

MARTIN: And we're also joined by Anita Malik. She's the founder and former editor-in-chief of East/West Magazine. That's a lifestyle publication aimed at Asian-American women and she's also the founder of BrideRush.com, a wedding planning site. Welcome everybody. Thanks so much for joining us.

MELISSA HARRIS: Thanks.

ANITA MALIK: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So I'm just interested in your take on this. You've been overseas as well and you follow these issues closely. What do you make of this?

HARRIS: The same thing happened very similarly around the Duke Lacrosse case, where you had again, young men of privileged, accused of sexual assault. And then the young woman who did the accusing, her identity comes out. And so over and over again, as we see this happen, I think, we have to start asking about the ways in which we are making judgments and how all of this then impacts sexual assault victims or those who might choose never to speak out, in part because this has become such a common way that these stories seem to go.

MARTIN: You know, Eleanor, isn't it also the case that this is something that African-Americans in this country complain about, too, the rush to judgment. You know, the perp walk and things of that - that people who have not been convicted of any crime displayed before the public. This is something that I've written about. It happens, frankly, more often to poor people and minorities than it tends to happen to wealthy white people. That's a documented fact. But, Eleanor, isn't that something that the French are very upset about?

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Oh, yeah. They were so shocked to see Dominique Strauss-Kahn unshaven, haggard looking and just paraded in handcuffs with, you know, police around him because here in Paris, if you're not convicted, you cannot be shown in handcuffs because of the presumption of innocence, which we supposedly have, too. But I have to say, maybe I've been living here too long, but it was kind of shocking. And it really did condemn him - he was convicted there in the eyes of the world before, you know, anything even went to trial, people were very critical about that.

MARTIN: Yeah, but some French media also named the accuser, which is something that American media don't do in sexual assault cases. What was the justification for that? I mean, this is before questions about her credibility were raised. What's the justification for that?

BEARDSLEY: But, yeah, you're right. They have named her and maybe - but maybe because she's not here. But that didn't seem to shock anybody. No, in fact, I mean, I had seen her house so many times 'cause the French press and media was just all over her, her building where she lived, place where she used to work in a restaurant. So, yeah, you saw it all - all that from here.

MARTIN: One of the things that was interesting to me is that in the wake of these allegations, there are French women who came forward, a young French journalist, in fact, came forward, whose mother is a prominent sort of Socialist politician, saying that Dominique Strauss-Kahn had attempted to rape her. That she fought him off and that she did not come forward with these allegations because she was concerned for her career.

BEARDSLEY: And, you know, now there's this new case by this French woman. She's not, you know, a foreigner and this is in France, so we're going to see how that's, you know, what people think about it as that evolves.

MARTIN: Anita, what do you say? You were telling us earlier that you think the real story's getting lost in cases like this. What do you mean by that?

MALIK: And to me that's the real concern in this and I think it's definitely media driven, sadly to say. But I think a lot of it is things we pick up. The New York Post example is a huge red flag to me. I think it was anonymous sources. To me this is not a story of national security that we need to be relying so heavily on, on anonymous sources. And are we just attacking the victim and creating more of a back and forth, who has a worse track record? And going further away from the real issue here.

MARTIN: This case has dominated cable news coverage. She was convicted to lying to police about her daughter's disappearance, but she was acquitted on the much more serious murder charges. This is one of the prosecutors, Jeff Ashton, talking with "The Today Show" this morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV PROGRAM, "THE TODAY SHOW")

JEFF ASHTON: I think I mouthed the word wow about five times. We were all that shocked. I mean, you pour your three years of your life into a case - as a prosecutor, you know, you don't take a case unless you believe in it. We have great respect for the jury system and the rule of law. And you can't do what we do and not respect jury's verdicts.

MARTIN: I'm interested in your reaction to this, Melissa Harris-Perry, because one of the things that you've written a lot about is the criminal justice system. One of the things I'm fascinated by is now, are people going to be criticizing this jury the way they criticize the jury in the O.J. case for acquitting him? Saying, oh, these people are stupid, how could they and so forth. So far, I don't hear people criticizing the jury.

HARRIS: I think it's very painful, because there is a dead child, a young child whose image we have all seen so much now, that we take on a kind of empathetic and sympathetic role towards her. But it doesn't seem to be the wrong verdict, kind of clearly the wrong verdict based on the evidence presented.

MARTIN: One doctor associated with the policy talked about an image where a model's waist was so altered in Photoshop that it appeared that it was slimmer than her head. And Anita, one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you about this is that you founded a lifestyle magazine, a lot of fashion. Were most of the ads Photoshopped? And did you every worry that you were kind of promoting just an impossible beauty ideal that could actually be dangerous?

MALIK: You know, I think with advertising, it's a tricky thing for publishers to work with. You know, that funds your business, and you're looking to find out what you can do to protect your consumer at the same time. And for us, thankfully, because we did focus on image market of Asian-Americans, we didn't have too much of that high-gloss fashion in our advertisements. It was more consumer products, such as cars and things like that.

MARTIN: But when you do significantly alter to an unrealistic body image, I think that's where the problem is. And that's what, you know - I applaud the AMA for their statement. I think now it does need to go further. I think advertising agencies and industry associations, as well as publishers. They didn't address publishers, but I think that we have a huge responsibility to the consumer. If we're altering images, it's the same thing as altering somebody's quote, in my opinion. And so that's really not a journalistic-editorial approach to things.

MARTIN: Eleanor, you live in a land of fashion, and I'm really - wasn't it that the World Health Organization a couple of years ago actually talked about this as well, that they were worried that the models on the runways were becoming so thin?

BEARDSLEY: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, super thin.

MARTIN: And is there a similar conversation in France - which is of course is a center of fashion - around this...

BEARDSLEY: And, you know, nobody's talking about it. It's not a general public conversation. I've only heard it brought up a few times. You know, feminist groups make complaints or this and that. So it's a huge issue and I don't think - yeah, I think the French are a little bit behind on that, as they were about the sexual harassment stuff. So I think it's - you definitely feel it here, but it's a bad message to - you know, telling all these young women, the only thing that matters is how you look, and you have to look perfect. And people don't look like the way they're making these pictures look and, no, it's not really talked about here like that I feel that it should be. But I'm always irritated by this.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: You tell them, Eleanor. Maybe they'll listen to this and wise up at some point. Professor Perry, you know, you are around young people a lot because, obviously, you're a college professor. And I'm wondering if you think that young women - I'm sure they think that maybe they're too smart to be affected by these kinds of images, but do you think that they are? Do you think that this kind of guideline by the AMA is meaningful and important?

HARRIS: So it's only to say that, look, these are - the images I'm talking about right now aren't touched-up images. They are just what we're even putting a camera lens on. And I do think that there are incredible messages, really, since the mid-century that encourage us to believe that in addition to having it all - a career, a family and everything else - you also have to have a perfect size, whatever, body.

MARTIN: Well...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: I couldn't meet that standard.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Ladies, I thank you all so much for joining us.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you.

HARRIS: Thanks.

MALIK: Great to be with you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.