Sunday 9 October 2011

Foxy Knoxy or Inspector Clouseau?

The power of narrative in public opinion has been made very clear by the Knox trial, appeal and acquittal.

On the one hand, the prosecutors invited us to believe in Knox as a sexual predator whose over the top games ended in the death of her flat mate.

On the other hand, the defence put before us a story of police ineptitude, with evidence collected late and without sufficient care, calling into question the DNA samples that provided the link between Knox and the knife.

Which story we find more credible is likely to have a strong influence on how we interpret the evidence: was Knox callous or inconsolable when seen in her lover's arms soon after the body of her flatmate was found?  And so on.

What we tend to find is that once a preferred story is settled on by an individual (you or me) or a group (police, media...) all the evidence in the world can be interpreted to fit that story.

It is no coincidence that Knox's family hired a PR consultant to help them to present a different narrative to the world, particularly the press.  And it's interesting (though sad) to note that a neutral narrative (such as 'she didn't do it, we don't know much else') is much less appealing to the press either than  the Foxy Knoxy narrative, which is sufficiently salacious, or the police ineptitude narrative (particularly foreign police ineptitude!) which eventually won the day.

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