In a column that manages to be sensationalistic, disjointed and incoherent, Frank Bruni discovers the shocking information that there seems to be a double-standard for women and men when it comes to sexual activity.

He writes about the Amanda Knox case and how her perceived licentiousness led to worldwide fascination and a murder conviction. Not like anyone hasn’t written about this before, but whatever. However, Bruni doesn’t have much to say about details of Knox’s case, such as Knox’s “confession” made after hours of coercion. In that statement, she named a popular club owner as a co-conspirator, even though it turned out he couldn’t possibly have been involved. It should have been obvious the confession was false because it didn’t fit the the facts, but as with many such cases – the Central Park Five, and Marty Tankleff, to name two, once someone admits to something, that’s very powerful. We are only now beginning to understand that false confession is a real thing, and that young people who have little experience with the criminal justice system are the most vulnerable.

In Knox’s case, the police made an early assumption of guilt, and they stuck to their guns even when it became more and more obvious that the murderer, Rudy Guede, had acted alone, raping and killing the victim after breaking in when no one else was home. Knox’s sexuality and foreignness  might have set things in motion, but ultimately the case was what typically happens when cops rush to judgement and a vulnerable suspect confesses.

Bruni doesn’t write about that. Instead he quotes from a 2011 article in a British tabloid about where Knox stored her vibrator, and then states: “We’ll never know what happened on the night … Meredith Kercher was killed.”

No, Frank, the reality is we have a pretty good idea of what happened based on  DNA,  timelines, witness statements, etc.  Knox and her boyfriend were not there. Knox came back the next day and it took her a while to figure out something was wrong. When she did, she called her boyfriend, and he called his sister a police officer before finally calling the police.

Bruni ignores Knox’s exoneration because it’s not the point he’s trying to make, even though it actually is. It was her behavior that led to the rush to judgement, and her sexuality became part of the theory of the crime. The “evidence” was made to fit the theory.

He goes on to write about the Jody Arias case. But other than “sex sells”, the two cases have nothing in common. Knox was absolved on appeal because the court found no credible evidence against her and the theory that she, Guede and her boyfriend had conspired was not probable.  Now they’re going after her again, based on nothing. In contrast, Arias really killed someone. She tried to cover it up, was caught, and made a convoluted claim of self-defense, which defies both common sense and the EVIDENCE. A jury is currently deliberating. Arias’ attractiveness and the salacious details of the case may sell papers, but they are not why she was arrested, or why she is likely to be convicted. She’s likely to be convicted because there’s a plethora of evidence that she’s guilty.

But instead of writing about any of that Bruni draws a false comparison between Knox and Arias and states,  “Similar questions can be asked…” Really?

Bruni then moves from murder to scandal and politics, writing, “I’ve heard quite a bit lately about David Petraeus’ road to redemption, less about Paula Broadwell’s.” Well, yeah. Petraeus was the director of the CIA, and Broadwell an unemployed graduate student. If there was more attention being paid to her, wouldn’t that strengthen Bruni’s point? If he has one?

He then goes on to make the claim that if Anthony Weiner had been “Antonia” she couldn’t possibly make a political come back, and he also wonders about the political fates of “Marcia Sanford,” “Newtina Gingrich,” and “Wilhelmina Clinton.”

I get it. he wants to write a column about the existing double-standard for politicians and other public figures, and because it’s so obvious and dull,  he needs to come up with an angle, so he sexes it up with Amanda Knox and Jody Arias.

He’s writing about how Knox’s sexuality was exploited by the media and then he exploits Knox’s sexuality to write his column.  Maybe he’s not so dumb after all.

(If you liked this post, feel free to look around, or check out my fiction.)

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7 Comments on Is Dumb Contagious? Bruni now Competing with Friedman and Douthat for Worst NY Times Column

  1. Doug Bremner says:

    Great article. There’s actually a whole science behind the psychological phenomena that leads to distortions of memory and hence false confessions, but no one ever seems to want to talk about that (see link above).

  2. Craig says:

    Going to read the link right now. I always thought the reason that so many people thought Knox was guilty was basically George W. Bush. Yes, really, she became a symbol in Europe of every cliche of the spoiled, ugly American (have no idea if she was or wasn’t) and of course the arrogance of the W. years.

  3. Noel says:

    Excellent article Marion! This whole case was a farse from the beginning.
    Italy continues to look foolish by not affirming the aquittals. Italian justice at its finest!

  4. chaim says:

    @Noel

    As an American this surprised me. Perhaps I was naive but I just assumed that Italy, being in the EU, would have a better justice system. It appears to be in many ways, so “American.” I can imagine a prosecution like that in the US heartland, say Texas or Oklahoma.

    Do Italian prosecutors wear Stetsons?

    • Marion says:

      Really? I can imagine a prosecution like this in ANYWHERE. See the Central Park Five (also Marty Tankleff, West Memphis Three, etc. etc. etc.)