What's Wrong With 'Those Crazy Kids'
Plus: Don't mess with justice
Published October 28, 1999 in Scope

What's wrong with Those Crazy Rockdale Kids? (by Jeff Diehl)

I think that, while he makes an interesting and compelling argument, Jeff Diehl ignores many basic truths about American society that would strongly impact his claims.

See also...
... in the Scope section
... from October 28, 1999

Jeff criticized [Frontline] for shamelessly capitalizing on an undeniably "sensationalist" topic while ostensibly hiding behind the smokescreen of concern for the public morality. And rightly so -- I strongly share his views that what passes for "decency" in this country is, more often than not, negative and dangerous repression cloaked as "the common good."

However, I disagree with his finger-pointing at the media, attacking them for their hypocrisy. I would argue that aggressive morality is just as much a "sensationalist" issue as any steamy sex scandal. It's what people want to hear, it's what gets them all worked up. Besides, sin is only sin (and therefore exciting) if there exists a standard "good" from which it deviates. Thus, in presenting the sinful story along with its moral message, the journalists at Frontline commit no heinous hypocrisy or contradiction. Morality and depravity go hand in hand. It's called thinking in binaries, and it's the way the American psyche operates.

I also take issue with Jeff's attempt to attach some blame to the journalists for the shooting at Conyers High. Doesn't it seem a bit excessive to attack the media for not anticipating such a random and horrible act of violence? Sure, there exists a possibility that the shooting was triggered by an attention-starved adolescent who saw an opportunity for on-screen fame, but what solution would he suggest? Shall we limit journalistic freedom to prevent such "possibilities"? Or should we just lock up any angry teen who expresses remotely violent urges, as many school and law officials are now suggesting? For someone who obviously considers himself a free-thinking liberal, I find it disturbing that the author so freely treads on the sacred territory of free speech and civil liberty.

Alexa Jeffress
San Francisco

Defending juries against Cruel and Unusual Justice (by Ken Layne)

I just read the article with interest.

However, I wanted to say that I don't think the author did the cause any favors with one of his comments. Referring to the jury system as a group of 12 people "too stupid to get out of jury duty" is not only going for the easy cliché, but is also inaccurate.

Great strides have been taken in recent years to make leaving jury duty very difficult. You may even remember the case where a nursing woman had trouble being excused from jury duty.

Although it may sound corny, many people take jury duty as seriously as they do voting. I teach my children and students that along with all of our great freedoms, there are responsibilities. Although it may have its faults, mocking the institutions that actually provide more fairness than most other countries smacks of condescension and not of reporting.

When someone uses such blatant generalities as you did with the jury system, I look at their other words and research with great skepticism.

Jill Floyd