On of the really annoying things about comparative law is the amount of other stuff that gets in the way.
Language and procedure, understandably enough, but patronising and jingoistic attitudes, credulous reporting, spurious claim-making, propagandists blowing their own horn and self-important windbags blowing their own trumpet, co-opting of the media into personal political skirmishes, fuelling moral panics (for various reasons), and more besides, do not help – and perhaps that is the intention.
Take a recent trawl through the Thesis Sea, of theses touching on a relatively recent international case, and the thesis writers have come across all of these things. The foundational concept is language, and how it is used to present reality and reinforce perceived reality.
Here’s a list:
- Bc. Květa Suchá, “Concept of National Identity in News Reporting” (2010, Masaryk University, Faculty of Arts, Department of English and American Studies: English Language and Literature)
- Daniela Oelke, “Visual Document Analysis: Towards a Semantic Analysis of Large Document Collections” (2010, Universitat Konstanz im Fachbereich Informatik und Informationswissenschaft)
- Shelley Dove, “Doubly deviant, doubly damned?: The Response to Violent Female Offenders” (2011, University of Portsmouth, Institute of Criminal Justice Studies)
- Andrew J. Mascelli, “Impact of the Italian Language and Culture on the Amanda Knox Trials” (2013, The Pennsylvania State University Schreyer Honors College – Department of Spanish, Italian And Portuguese)
- Deidre Freyenberger, “Amanda Knox: A Content Analysis of Media Framing in Newspapers Around the World” (2013, East Tennessee State University, Professional Communication)
- Ulrike Tabbert, “Crime through a corpus: The linguistic construction of offenders, victims and crimes in the German and UK press” (2013, University of Huddersfield)
- Rosalind Theresa Waterhouse, “Satanic abuse, false memories, weird beliefs and moral panics: Anatomy of a 24-year investigation” (2014, City University London, Department of Journalism)
- Alexx Bonovich, “Masked Victims: Examining the Violence of Femme Fatales in Contemporary Film Noir Cinema” (2015, DePaul University, Media and Cinema Studies)
- Louise White, “”Labelled a murderer” – A discursive analysis of Amanda Knox’s construction of innocence” (2015, Loughborough University)
- Alisa Narbutas, “Knocking Amanda Knox – How Newspapers put Women on Trial” (2016, Faculty of Journalism & Media Communications, Griffith College Dublin)
- Emily Meredith Bosch, “Alter Egos / Alternative Rhetorics: Belle Knox’s Rhetorical Construction of Pornography and Feminism” (2016, Communication Studies and the Graduate Faculty of the University of Kansas)
- Ella Fegitz, “Post-feminism in Italy and the legacy of Berlusconism: an analysis of media representations of female subjectivity and sexuality in the age of Berlusconi.” (2017, Goldsmiths College, University of London, Media and Communications Department)
- William B. Ollayos, “Women On Trial: Translating Femininity Through Journalism” (2017, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Comparative Literature)
- Bianca Szkuta, “Investigation into the variables affecting DNA transfer in forensic casework” (2017, Deakin University)
- Danielle Lenth, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Justice: A Comparative Legal Study of the Amanda Knox Case” (2014, University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law)
- Bc. Irena Selucká, “Tense Choice in Indirect Speech” (2011, Filozofická fakulta Univerzity Palackého, Katedra anglistiky a amerikanistiky)
Other than the DNA one, they’re all about language.
The one about Berlusconi might require a bit of explanation: he has been waging a long-running campaign against the Italian judiciary, and playing in the political space while owning a large chunk of the media.
Besides the US-sourced generic panic about Satan, there was also a moral panic in Italy at the time relating to foreigners and attacks on local women. And a general-purpose but vaguer panic about students and drugs and morals. The media (mostly male) just lapped it up and outraged all over the place while having an excuse for talking about sex in public (the talk, that is). On top of everything else, some ‘journalists’ had ulterior motives and scores to settle…
Waterhouse uses a phrase, “credulous and uncritical”, which to me seems apt in general, for describing what “reporting” is, in the copy-paste era.
Tabbert finds that reporting on crime uses linguistic features to “pre-convict offenders and to invoke a feeling of insecurity and fear in the public”.
Dove finds “public opinion is struggling to maintain pace [with gender equality]. This appears to be illustrated prominently within the responses to female violent offenders as it appears deeply instilled and pervasive stereotypes remain persistent.” And then that overlaps with noir presentation of narratives, which feed back into expectations and reporting.
As Oelke says, “manually evaluating the available sources is often not feasible”. That is the crux of the matter: who do we trust?
Lawyers, by definition, have to read a lot and know how expensive and time-wasting superficial reading is. Constructing reality through language is what they do as a day job. They may have an answer to the question about trust, if they don’t contribute to the problem.
Pascal, thinking, courtesy of GoogleBooks:
“Talk of humility is a matter of pride for the vainglorious, and of humility for the humble. Likewise, Scepticism and doubt are matters of affirmation for the affirmers. Few people speak humbly of Humility, chastely of Chastity, doubtingly of Doubt. We are but liars, duplicitous and contradictory to ourselves.We hide from ourselves, and we mask ourselves from ourselves.”
On a typographical note, note the daisy ornament marking the paragraph,