How I Know Casey Anthony Is Guilty

Didn’t Nancy Grace say so again and again?

So the jurors have spoken, and to the horror and revulsion of just about everybody, they found Casey Anthony not guilty of charges that she murdered her two-year-old daughter Caylee. In fact, they found her not guilty of all the charges against her except lying to the police. A woman I know who was following the trial reported the results to me. She was furious—with Anthony, with Caylee’s grandparents, with the American judicial system—for this patent miscarriage of justice. After all, she’d been paying attention right from the start. She’d listened to the pundits, the opinionators, the testimony highlights, the journalists. And anybody with half a brain and two eyes could tell: Casey Anthony was guilty as hell.

The only people who didn’t seem to recognize that were the jurors in the trial.

There’s this phenomenon known as “the illusion of knowledge” that’s been exacerbated by the way we consume information in this digital age. When you hear about something enough, you become certain you understand it. What you hear doesn’t have to be valid or pertinent or even-handed or even lucid; it can be the rabid rantings of Nancy Grace, the least maternal defender of innocent children imaginable. The sheer weight of information—which is different from knowledge—that we’re all subjected to these days affects how, and even whether, we bother to process that information, to apply our reasoning power to it, to question its sources. There simply isn’t time for discerning, winnowing, attempting to uncover the truth; we let the waves of input wash over us while we lie like exhausted beached whales. The tsunami itself serves as proof: If so many people are saying it, it must be true.

That’s why Dominique Strauss-Kahn is guilty of rape, along with the New York City cop who helped that drunken woman home. That’s why Casey Anthony is guilty of murder: I know all about these cases! I’ve been playing along at home! And that’s why even in the face of verdicts to the contrary, we cling to our illusions of knowledge, firm in our conviction that a wrong has been done, rather than awestruck by the workings of our justice system, in which jurors carefully shielded from the onslaught of professional opinion-mongers come to conclusions that are, miraculously, not aligned with those of Nancy Grace.