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Anorak | Why Gossiping About Big Crime Stories Matters

Why Gossiping About Big Crime Stories Matters

by | 1st, May 2011

DOES talking about Madeleine McCann and other popular crime stories matter? Josh Rothman takes a look at a new book by Bill James called Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence:

Popular Crime is full of stories like Mary Phagan’s — stories in which sensational crimes are the catalysts of historical change. Popular crime stories (think, in our modern era, of O.J. Simpson, the Menendez brothers, or JonBenet Ramsey) are often, James laments, beneath the notice of “the best people” (“if you go to a party populated by the NPR crowd and you start talking about JonBenet Ramsey, people will look at you as if you’ve forgotten your pants”). But in fact, James argues, popular crimes matter, even if discussing them seems “vulgar.” They crystallize national issues, reveal structural facts about society, and often lead, very directly, to changes in laws and institutions. America’s lawbooks are overflowing with laws passed in direct response to popular and sensational crimes, from Megan’s Law to the Lindbergh Laws; sensational crime stories have changed the ways in which police departments are organized and newspapers are run.

What will be the legacy of the media’s Our Maddie..?



Posted: 1st, May 2011 | In: Madeleine McCann Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink