Thursday, February 15, 2007
Posted by Daniel Greenfield 27 Comments
"On the night of April 24, 2005, Christine Kramer - her body etched head to heel with two dozen stab wounds and almost completely drained of blood - summoned her last measure of strength to lift her thin right arm up off the floor of East 84th Street kitchen.
Her right thumb dangling and nearly severed, she pointed at her spouse of 27 years. "He stabbed me in the heart," she murmured to cops. "My husband."
Two days before that she had called her mother to tell her that she had given him divorce papers and that he had gone nuts. "She said, 'He's going to kill me, Mom! He's going to kill me! He's going to kill me!' "
And he did. Yesterday a jury of twelve people (I hesitate to even describe them as people) set her killer, Benjamin Odierno, a multimillionaire real estate tycoon free. He did a jig outside the courthouse, grinning happily. Then he went off to celebrate with his family and friends at Lusardi's.
And he had plenty to grin about. He stabbed his wife twenty-four times, cut himself twice to claim she had attacked and hired a lawyer, Jack Litman, who put his murder victim on trial claiming that she was mentally unstable because she was thrifty with household goods and had loudly argued with him.
That's all it took. With a jury. Now why am I blogging about this on a political blog? Because this case is also the story of why Israel can't seem to get a fair break in the coverage, why American soldiers are turned into villains and terrorists are turned into heroes. Why much of the world and a lot of Americans will claim that it's America that is at fault before and after 9/11.
It's a world where evil emerges grinning, just like Benjamin Odierno, and doing a little jig, while its victims sit in the criminals dock, baffled as to why the world is so unfair, until some of them begin to really believe themselves the guilty ones.
Let's take an analytical look at what Benjamin Odierno did. He set out to prevent a divorce settlement in which his wife would have gotten half his property, by murdering her. It's not an original idea. Plenty of men have done it, but he clearly planned it out.
He didn't merely kill his wife, he created a story... a story in which he was the victim and she was the perpetrator. A story that made him sympathetic and his victim, a crazy unlikeable woman. If you look at the basic facts of the case, a claim of self-defense when stabbing a woman 24 times from head to toe, isn't something that should convince even the worst idiot.
But it convinced 12 jurors. Some of them well educated and successful. It convinced them not because they're mental idiots, but like much of the West these days, because they're 'moral idiots.' Moral idiots are often quite educated. They're not genuinely intelligent, but they have the college education and trappings of intelligence. But they're idiots when it comes to matters of right and wrong.
Like a lot of Westerners today, they were never properly taught right from wrong. Their parents were likely the same products of a culture that had lost all touch with right and wrong. Their professors and teachers certainly were. In college they were taught moral relativism, rather than morality. In popular culture, they were taught that nothing is really wrong, except possibly bigotry and polluting the environment. In this fertile soil of moral idiocy, evil sprouts like weeds, unchecked.
Let's swing back to the Middle-East now. Over centuries Muslim Arabs had conquered and subjugated the Middle East, reduced every other race and religion in the area, to second class citizens. Their response to the Jewish resettlement of Israel was homicidal rage. They set out to kill millions of Jews. Like Benjamin Odierno, they did this with the help of a story, a fictional story of Jews displacing them from their land.
As time went on, the story evolved. A separate Palestinian nationality was manufactured, after Egypt and Jordan lost control over the area to Israel. A people with a passionate desire for their country, even though no such country had ever existed. But the story was developed and told and retold, emphasizing Israeli war crimes. Never mind that these "crimes" would have been a picnic in any of the other Arab states. Never mind that each time the Arabs had begun wars, with the open aim of mass murder.
Like Benjamin Odierno, the Arabs, like all experienced murderers, understood that the truth wouldn't matter. The story mattered. While Israel and its defenders insisted on repeatedly reciting the reality, investigating complaints, trying to argue a middle ground; the Arab propagandists disdained such things. Like Scheherezade, they held their international audience spellbound with their own Arabian Nights, with magic housekeys, tales of oppression and children in staged shots throwing stones at tanks.
The Arab approach was simply to circulate as many stories as possible, certain that some would stick. It was to stay on message, with a simple message. "Israel Stole Our Land. Israel Is Oppressing Us." By doing so they quickly made Israel into the perpetual defendant. The more Israel defended itself, the more the charges gained ground, because the discussion had shifted into a debate over whether Israel was guilty or not.
In "The Manchurian Candidate", Angela Lansbury's character flagrantly had her husband ,the Senator, give out random numbers of Communists in the Defense Department. When he complains, she tells him that "They're not discussing whether there are Communists in the Defense Department. They're discussing how many Communists are there in the Defense Department."
A smart lawyer does not work so much to prove his client innocent, as to shift the blame, on the victim, on the police, on anybody convenient. In the O.J. Simpson case, it was the LAPD who was really at fault. In rape cases, it's the victim who was really responsible. Lines on defense like that were the reason rape shield laws were created. Once the point of contention shifts from "Did he or didn't he do it" to the victim's culpability, the case has mostly been won already.
While Israel's Hasbara focused on dealing with the reality of what was going on, the Arabs spun a legend. Like in Liberty Valance, the legend that was better than the truth, was the one that got printed. Israel's insistence on addressing the situation that was actually going on, rather than simply creating a completely false storyline and peddling it to the exclusion of everything else; doomed its case, just as surely as the prosecution doomed Christine Kramer to not just be a murder victim, but a reviled one.
Let's take a look at the jury again. At the mindless minds of men and women who set a murderer free. You'll find them not just in juries, but answering questions in telephone surveys and voicing their opinions on political issues. They are what happens when the human soul remains unformed and the human character devoid of passionate convictions of right and wrong.
“It was very difficult to side with the prosecution when the majority of the character witnesses called were there for the defense,” said one juror, Randy Levine, 29, associate media director at an advertising firm.
"He didn't mean for this to happen," said juror Mark Flowers of Harlem.
Miri Samuel, another juror, agreed and said it seemed that Mrs. Odierno could have been the instigator of the couple’s fights. “Christine Odierno looked like someone who could possibly start the whole thing, and there was nothing to contradict that,” said Ms. Samuel, a sales representative for Estée Lauder.
Meanwhile, they said, Mr. Odierno came off as kind and grandfatherly.
“He was a simple, decent man who tried to live a simple, happy life,” Ms. Samuel said.
Another juror, Joanne McGrath, assistant dean of admissions at New York University School of Medicine, said Mr. Odierno ultimately saved himself. “Putting him on the stand was a big, big, big factor,” she said, “because he turned out to be a likable guy.”
Note that last part in particular, Benjamin Odierno was a likable guy. Now if Joanne McGrath had any shame at least, she would have at least avoided admitting that she was influenced by how likable a murderer was. But moral shame is an inaccessible concept for moral idiots. If Joanne went out with her slip showing she would be ashamed, but she doesn't even understand that she should feel shame when she informs the New York Times that she freed a man who stabbed his wife 24 times, because she found him likable.
Despite, or maybe she is assistant dean of admissions at New York University School of Medicine, Joanne McGrath is a moral idiot.
Meanwhile Miri Samuel thought Benjamin Odierno reminded her of her grandfather. Hopefully grandpa never decides to stab grandma, because we know for sure who Miri Samuel would side with. And it wouldn't be the woman whose body is lying bloodied and hacked apart on the floor.
As it turns out a lot of reporters had the tendency to call Arafat, grandfatherly. One BBC reporter even wept on television when he was being transported for medical treatment. Despite being a mass murderer, a terrorist who had ordered crimes too horrific for words, Arafat smiled benevolently and asked them how they were doing and invited them for tea. The blood on his hands didn't matter, he was grandfatherly.
Moral idiots do not make decisions based on right and wrong. They have no grasp of right and wrong. They make decisions based on what they are told to believe and their emotional pull to someone. If one side has a better story, they believe that story, because most of them aren't capable of actually discarding lies from the truth and seeing the basic reality of what is going on.
They believe the more appealing side and the Arab side has trotted through bushels of smiling and bloodied kids, for the cameras. It doesn't matter that they murder children, the way some people staple files. It doesn't matter that they themselves murdered some of the children they showed off for the cameras, as happened in Lebanon and with the Mohammed Al-Dura case. This is a degree of complexity beyond the grasp of the modern moral idiot who instinctively grasps for the smiling face and the better story, the one with no grey areas, told with the utter conviction of the professional liar, who has no holes in his story, because the entire story is a lie. The entire story is the hole.
The justice system is an adversarial system, in which both the lawyers and prosecutors are the adversaries of justice. Sometimes justice triumphs over both sides. Rarely.
The international arena is also an adversarial system, glued together by agendas, lies, interests and prejudices. As in the justice system, murder is not murder if you tell a really good story.