Context, Sophistry and OJ Simpson

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Is anybody else watching “The People v OJ Simpson”? It’s really well done and does a great job of showing how crucial the context was to that circus of a trial. Coming so soon after the Los Angeles riots, it was obvious the trial was going to be hugely influenced by those (then) recent events. What I find fascinating, is how Justice in a court is anything but. It’s about the money, and the power, and who “can tell the better story”. Never mind about evidence, never mind what’s “fair” or “real”, what matters is which side is clever enough to win. The Sophists of Ancient Greece would be proud of their legacy. What did the Sophists do according to Plato? Make a weaker argument overcome a stronger argument by means of clever rhetoric. Aristotle and Plato’s influence have led us to the meaning of Sophistry nowadays: the term has come to signify the deliberate use of fallacious reasoning, intellectual charlatanism and moral unscrupulousness. It is of course a bit of a generalisation and not exactly accurate. Still, it is a fact that tribunals and courts have seen their fair share of “Sophists” over the centuries. 

O.J. should have been convicted, I don’t think there are many people who still doubt he was guilty. Yet, he was acquitted, the trial was a media circus and conducted in a manner that, to this day, is an utter embarrassment. All due to context, the “race card” that played such an important role in both camps, and the fact his lawyers were obviously well-versed in “Sophistry.” Plato would have had a field day with this story if only he’d been able to witness it.

Image credit: Hollywoodreporter.com

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14 thoughts on “Context, Sophistry and OJ Simpson

    1. It is, the acting is good and it’s well edited. It’s on mondays over here, at the same time as The Walking Dead (what a terrible scheduling decision) so I watch TWD and TiVo OJ so I can go from one straight to the other. Monday night is when I do my main TV bingeing 😀

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      1. Yeah, I will, but I’m somehow not able to predict what’s going to happen at the moment. And I’m usually so good at that! But for some reason my INFJ “psychic” sense is failing me 😜
        But it is SO good, SO tense, last night’s episode crossed lines again 😳

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  1. I’m really enjoying the show. Very well done. O.J. surely killed those two people (I’d forgotten that he almost decapitated Nicole), but, what’s also true is the L.A. police were, and still are, extremely racist and bigoted toward blacks. That context made it very easy for Johnny Cochran to convince a mostly black jury that the cops framed O.J. What should have been learned from that trial, is that racism by the police and the court system will eventually be the cause of guilty people going free, and innocent, poor ones, going to prison and being killed for things they didn’t do. In other words, the police should have learned to not be racist a-holes. Has that lesson been learned? No. It’s as bad, if not worse today than ever. Chicago, where I live has some of the worse, if not THE worse, racial problems with its police force in the nation. Simpson walked because of such behavior, and far too many innocent blacks are shot and killed needlessly by police in America almost on a daily basis. So sad that nothing’s changed.

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    1. I know racism is rife among police, not just L.A. either as you say. And it’s not just a US problem, it’s the same in Europe. It’s appalling and disgusting. My problem is that it shouldn’t have influenced the OJ trial, it really shouldn’t have. As I’m watching the TV series, I’m disliking Johnny Cochran more and more…I get where’s he’s coming from, but racism among the police and the appalling treatment of black people in general should have had no bearing on THIS trial. OJ was guilty, the evidence was there, he was black BUT a celebrity, he was treated with kid gloves from the beginning really, due to the fact he was a celebrity, the fact he was black had nothing to do with it. Who else but a celebrity would have been allowed to drive around in a car for hours “escorted” by police when he ran off? Nobody, that’s who. So, the race card was played, but what about the celebrity card? This was a guilty man, end of, nothing but the evidence should have entered into it. Yes, I know my thinking makes me an utopist and really rather naive 😀

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      1. I totally agree. The evidence should have, and always should be, the ONLY thing that matters. O.J.’s celebrity, and his wealth, played a huge part here, too. Could a poor, or even middle class person have paid for that defense team? No. However, when the police behave like racist thugs, it allows guys like Cochran to twist things around and create smoke screens which deflect from the real evidence. The police, if they behaved fairly toward all people, could greatly help to eliminate the race card from the deck, and shit-head murders like Simpson would be found guilty based on the evidence that CLEARLY shows he is. What I’m saying is, don’t give guys like Cochran the opportunity to play a race card. BTW, the actors in this show, particularly the guy playing Cochran, are superb. I feel like I’m watching the real guy. And the dude playing Judge Ito looks like a clone of the real guy. On another note, Walking Dead is having one its best seasons, IMO.

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      2. Love, LOVE your reply! I should do a thorough blog post about this and include it in it – giving you full credit of course 😉 – because I agree 100%
        And yes, the actors are really good. I think Sarah Paulson is outstanding actually, head above the rest for me. The only one I have a problem with is Cuba Gooding Jr. …he’s a good actor but for some reason I can’t “see” him as OJ…don’t ask me why…maybe it’s because the real OJ is so vividly imprinted in my mind…I don’t know… but I’m not buying it.
        As for TWD, yes, it has been such an excellent season, I love how we’re going proper “dark” now, crossing lines and so on. Last night was shocking, the Maggie “rage” was quite something.

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  2. Sarah Paulson is a terrific actress. Her work in American Horror story over the years has been superlative. And I totally agree about Cuba Gooding Jr. Very good actor, but miscast. He’s too “small” for me to believe he’s O.J. O.J. is a big, muscular dude. Cuba’s short and not big enough. I loved the Maggie rage. Good stories to come with this new darker theme for the group.

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  3. I haven’t watched a dang thing! I love movies but miss a lot of tv. I’m boycotting my local cable provider. If only I could do that with my energy provider, lol! INFJ psychic abilities are a powerful thing but UGH why do they have to fail at such a time when they are needed! I’m sure I can figure out how to watch this stuff on my computer. Just need to do it. Great post by the way!

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    1. I’m not that much of a TV watcher myself Dara but occasionally something grabs my attention and this is really rather good. I’m sure you could catch it online, it’s had quite a bit of success so should be easily available 🙂

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