Gordon Smith

No Book for You: Michelle Carter Ruling Arrests Media Hype

The ruling in the reprehensible Michelle Carter case has ramifications well outside the courtroom as the precedent may see the end of “tell-all” stories designed for profit.

 

You’re probably familiar with the curious case of Michelle Carter, the young woman who was convicted of manslaughter after pushing her unwell teenage boyfriend to suicide by text message, pleading with him to “get back in” his truck as it filled with poisonous monoxide.

The story set the world on fire with social media users across the globe venting disgust and contempt for the girl, some even decrying her as being the very embodiment of evil. As every new detail seeped out, the rage grew.

 

It was a story that enchanted and enraged users far and wide, coverage of Carter’s trial collecting hundreds of thousands of clicks at a time.

Morbid as it may be, some filmmakers would have been watching with wide eyes, rubbing their palms in glee. But the days of directors dramatizing the darker corners of reality may well be over.

With the presiding judge in the case, Lawrence Moniz, forbidding Carter from “profiting” from the death of Conrad Roy, it could be the end of true-crime films as we know it – and that may mean more than it seems at face value.

No more compelling book series, no over-hyped prime time interview, no high-budget miniseries. Carter, at the end of her debate-sparking 15-month jail term, will not become a front-page exclusive. Nor will her family or friends be free to tell “her side” with a local television personality.

 

While this may at first seem simply like the end of a movie genre, the ruling also puts into focus the difference modern-day connectivity has made in the world of criminal proceedings.

 

While this may at first seem simply like the end of a movie genre, the ruling also puts into focus the difference modern-day connectivity has made in the world of criminal proceedings.

By way of social media, news websites, and media platforms, users now consume every aspect of a crime, following it at every development, at each and every turn.

Where once consumers depended upon “tell-all” stories to fill in the blanks between headlines and the evening bulletin, they now are free to read as much as they please, whenever they please. This evolution of all-access convictions is not without its own issues.

There are questions of how this constant coverage can affect reader impartiality and of what merit to a case public outrage can bring. For that matter, there’s a morally ambiguous market of exploiting emotions for views.

But these are questions that will be asked in the years to come as new cases are given all the more coverage. What we know for sure, is that the internet has changed how we see crime. Whether it’s for better or for worse … the jury is still out.

 

Gordon Smith

Journalist by day, cunning linguist by night. A passion for politics, hypnotically involved in human rights. An Australian born with a Japanese tongue, hoping to hold the bigwigs in government to account.

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