Perception-Shaping Words

“Innocent until proven guilty” has become such a quaint saying, at least as far as some cases appear in the media.

The following blurb — “The Olympic sprinter was afraid of intruders, thought his girlfriend was in bed next to him and thought he fired on a burglar who was hiding in the bathroom. Pistorius’ defense escapes being rational — but he could also escape a murder rap.” — ran beneath the New York Daily News headline “Oscar Pistorius’ bail hearing already mirroring the spectacle that was the O.J. Simpson trial”

Both the headline and the blurb hum with opinion-shaping references and terms.

Just coupling Oscar Pistorius’s name with O.J. Simpson relative to the murder charges lodges against them automatically casts the pall of suspicion and sense of injustice embraced by many that marked and still dog Simpson and his acquittal.

Then the overall suggestion that Pistorius’s story of how he came to shoot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp is implausible implants subliminal if not overt doubt  on that story.

And there are buzz phrases such as “Pistorius’s defense escapes being rationale” and “…also could escape a murder rap”.  Those assertions pretty much nail Pistorius’s guilt, at least so far as the headline and blurb writers are concerned, wouldn’t you say?

So just what does “innocent until proven guilty” really mean? Or has it become meaningless?

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