South African writer Susan Erasmus might be right in her recent piece,” Why we are so glued to the Oscar trial,” posted on the South African news website “Health 24″ that people are fixated on high-profile trials–particularly those with celebrities and sports heroes as defendants–the way they were public executions in times past.
But Erasmus is way off base when she asserts that the Oscar Pistorius trial in her home country has “grabbed worldwide attention in the same way people were glued to the screen for the O.J. Simpson trial.”
She’s correct about the Simpson trial grabbing worldwide attention. An example is a lawyer in Los Angeles who visited Simpson trial judge Lance Ito after returning from a trip that included Tibet. Even there, she said, all anybody had to say was “the trial” and it was instantly understood the reference was to the Simpson trial.
First, I have a pretty extensive circle of contacts and more than a thousand Facebook friends. None, however, mention the Pistorius trial or post anything about it that shows up on my Timeline.
That is not to say that people in this country and those I know in other countries don’t know about Pistorius, the fatal shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, and I’m sure his trial is being followed by niche audiences, such as sports media, the Olympics community, disabled groups, the legal community and most certainly by South Africans. But it’s not a topic of daily–or even infrequent–conversation in general outside of that country.
I don’t know if any government official has asked the Pistorius judge to suspend the trial on election day as the California secretary of state did Ito, for fear the trial would contribute of a lower-than-normal voter turn out.
And we’ll see if television networks suspend or break into regular programming on Pistorius verdict day anywhere other than South Africa as it they did in the U.S. when the Simpson verdicts came in.
I think “interest in” is a much better assessment of the non-South African public so far as the Pistorius trial is concerned, instead of “glued to.”