Over the last few weeks there has been a lengthy trial for two counts of murder that pitted a disgraced aristocratic South Carolina attorney against the bloviating forces of the state, with the result that the accused was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder with two life sentences. For many viewers of the trial, this seemed to be a bit of a surprise, not least because the prosecution was not able to do some of the basic things that one would expect in a murder trial, like have a good deal of evidence coming from the crime scene, including such things as the murder weapon. There is no doubt that the defendant had been dishonest to police as well as investigators, nor any doubt that he had done some terrible deeds with regards to financial crimes. Yet if there was still room for reasonable doubt for those people who were watching the trial and skeptical that the police investigation and the behavior of the prosecutors had proven the case well enough, it turns out that the jury was in fact convinced of the defendant’s guilt and decided to convict him accordingly, as was their responsibility to do.
Who is equipped to deliver a verdict? In a formal legal verdict in the court, under the jury trial system that we have in the United States, it is a jury of one’s peers that is equipped to deliver a jury, not the jury of observers of the trial. There are, however, a great deal many more informal verdicts that are rendered where ordinary people like ourselves are in fact equipped to deliver a verdict. When we choose not to support certain people or buy from certain companies or support certain institutions because of the conduct of people in them, we are making decisions and passing verdicts on where we want our time and money to go and where we do not want it to go. This determination may be just or unjust, depending on the facts at hand, but we are responsible for what we consume and we have the right to decide if something crosses a line and thus is unworthy of our patronage.
Yet it seems as if many of the people who find themselves rejected by audiences find themselves unable to take a verdict. This should not come as a surprise to us. For many artists, their creations have a high degree of emotional importance to their creators. A book, a film, or an album can be a child to an artist, and may take as long or even far longer to bring into existence than a little one spends in the womb before drawing air into its infant lungs. When people spend months and years working on something, only for it to be rejected in the course of a week or two, it is understandable if people seek to rationalize their behavior and to avoid taking lessons that would be painful but which may be vital to take if we in fact want to become better.
If we are creative people, for example, our primary task is to entertain an audience. A great many people seek art in order to escape the difficulties of life, and so burden art with a particular perspective of life which is not going to be shared by a large portion of one’s potential audience would be unwise if the patronage of that audience is to be obtained. We cannot expect to insult people as well as the opinions, judgments, and perspectives that they have, if we then wish for them to open their wallets and cheer us on. On the contrary, if we bite the hand that feeds, we can expect that those whom we ridicule and attack will find something better to do than to remain our customers and our supporters. And we should expect nothing less.