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"...defending their own mental turf and protecting their own threatened egos - just as we all do, to one degree or another."

Hear, hear. A truer statement was never made.

I've been thinking about this, lately, after I came to realize that no-one cares a jot about anything I think at all, just as I don't care a fig what anyone else thinks! All that matters in the end is what we actually do - our deeds are our purest intent; thoughts and the words that express them really don't count for diddly squat!

Hi Michael,

You'll find this review of Doug Preston's e-book interesting:

I do believe you would reach a better audience if you wrote in a more respectful manner.
Thanks for your thoughts tho.

You seem not be aware that Douglas Preston wrote a book about the Amanda Knox case and the Trial By Fury essay is one chapter. He and his coauthor were accused by Prosecutor Mignini of tampering with evidence in the Monster of Florence case (a not unsubstantiated allegation according to two reporters who listened to the wiretaps). Preston's coauthor was thrown in jail for three weeks and now admits that his interest in the Amanda Knox case is "personal", i.e. a desire to get revenge on Mignini. Douglas Preston went nuts and enlisted the help of the Committee to Protect Journalists who have publicly lambasted Mignini as an out of control prosecutor without interviewing anyone but Preston and his friends. The bottom line is that Preston is notorious in this case and hardly one to be lecturing on civility.

Finally these events had an important role in inflaming public opinion against Mignini and the Italian police. But they say infinitely more about Preston than they do about the actual murder case against Amanda Knox, which is based on forensic evidence that I'd not hestitate to take into any court.

Why do so many people who assert Knox is innocent reveal that they only have a superficial understanding of the case against her? if she's guilty of murdering her roommate, I don't think people hating her on the internet would be something to complain about.

"In short, our ego identifies with our intellectual positions, which are further conflated with our physical safety and security. An attack on those positions can pack a devastating one-two punch: our ego is threatened, and our very survival seems to be at stake. We respond accordingly."

As someone who has struggled with my religious identification (or lack of one) my first thought regarding this post is that your insights apply to religion just as much as anything else. Religions actually encourage us to identify with them and stoke the fires of "us vs. them" thinking to the greatest degree possible. Whatever we were prior to our conversion, prior to our identification with the religion, that self is now dead - "ye must be born again."

Considering that most of us are born into various faith backgrounds, and groomed to identify with these traditions, I think a case can be made that the bulk of the world's ego issues stem straight back to the faith of our childhood in which we are encouraged to think of ourselves as a special people set aside from everyone else.

I think a case can be made that most religions can be understood as means of liberating ourselves from our egos and that they have been largely misread and hijacked by hordes of the spiritually unenlightened and used for nefarious purposes. Nonetheless, the fact that becoming even more greatly ensared in the ego is a byproduct of religion is inarguable. As it was once said, "If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!"

"if she's guilty of murdering her roommate, I don't think people hating her on the internet would be something to complain about."

Why should they hate her in such personal terms, and expend thousands of hours on blog posts and comments analyzing every aspect of the case? As Hamlet said, "Who's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba?" There's something more going on than just normal concern for legal justice. People commit murders every day, and almost none of them inspire the kind of widespread hatred directed at Knox.

"You seem not be aware ..." I'm aware of Preston's personal conflict with Mignini, which he discusses in his essay. But my post was about people getting caught up in the case because of ego-identification with one side or the other. Preston has reasons to take the case personally, but the vast majority of bloggers don't.

BTW, I'm sure there are many other factors that play into the vehemence we see on both sides of the Knox case: cultural differences between the US and Italy, the nonstop coverage provided by some cable networks, Knox's cover-girl looks and sexually active lifestyle (a combination that seems to drive some people to fury, even while prompting others to defend her), the echo-chamber nature of Internet forums in which people compete with each other to say the most outrageous things, the group-think that takes hold in almost any organized campaign, etc., etc.

Amanda Knox's very visible public relations operation was in large part responsible for galvanizing the internet debate. Gogerty Marriott controlled the US media through selective leaking and limiting access to journalists with a track record of friendly coverage. Within a week of Amanda Knox's arrest 48 Hours was broadcasting that there had been a miscarriage of justice. The coverage played heavily on American nationalism and portrayal of Amanda Knox as a girl next door honor student with a grieving but determined family.

People who were reading the Italian coverage and that of the few independent English-language journalists watched the case being hijacked and tried to push back online (the only place they could). They were met by Injustice in Perugia, the online affiliate of the Knox public relations campaign.

Then came the feminists who decided that this case was about Knox's looks and her sexuality. Anti-Knox people don't talk about that. Anti-Knox people tend to identify politically with the underdog, and bristle at being labelled misogynistic.

Over the years there has been some uncivil behavior on both sides which has left bitter feelings. (How do you think the people who are mentioned in Douglas Preston's pamphlet feel about it?) There are also people who have become vocal fans of one side or another without a thorough understanding of the evidence. Tribalism is common to all human endeavors in which the right answer is not obvious. And if you don't think those disputes can't get so nasty you haven't been to enough soccer matches.

The topic of this post is an interesting one which we have just scratched the surface. Let's agree that Preston's pamphlet is just a pretense to lash out at his enemies and shouldn't be taken seriously. The idea that egos have had a major role in the prosecution's choices in this case is likewise unsubstantiated. Their conduct has been professional in very difficult circumstances, even if in hindsight we would have done some things differently.

"Then came the feminists who decided that this case was about Knox's looks and her sexuality. Anti-Knox people don't talk about that."

Well, some do. Preston details the results of Google searches for "Amanda Knox" + "slut," and similar terms. It's easy to run such searches yourself. I've done it, and yes, there are many people online who've called her a slut, a whore, even (quaintly enough) a "she-devil."

"And if you don't think those disputes can't get so nasty you haven't been to enough soccer matches."

I've never been to a soccer match, but in my post I mentioned that insulting the local sports team can start a riot. It's just another example of the ego attaching itself to something (in this case, a team) and feeling threatened if that thing is criticized.

Sadly, we all have a tendency to do this, which is why there is so much friction in human relations. We tend to take things personally when, in the vast majority of cases, they are not personal at all. What difference can it possibly make to the average person whether or not a girl he's never met participated in the murder of someone else he's never met? It's only the ego's identification with one side or the other that makes it feel personal.

We would all lead calmer lives (albeit with a lot less drama) if, before getting upset about anything, we stepped back and asked: "Does it affect me in any personal way? And will I even care about this a year from now?"

"Basically, we identify ourselves with our thoughts and opinions. An attack on our opinion then becomes an attack on our very self."
Narcissists are especially liable to react this way.

PS: Robert Anton Wilson wrote about people who have an exaggerated version of this ego-identification. He called it "the Right Man Syndrome."

Edward de Bono wrote a book called I Am Right, You Are Wrong. And the author of Games People Play had one game titled, "I'm OK, You're Not OK."

I have to agree, I can't understand why people are so obsessed with this murder case, and not just obsessed, but vicious about it. I do think too it's about identifying with the ego (very Buddhist).

On the other hand, I never see much about the Connecticut shooter Adam Lanza. While of course it's pretty clear that he is guilty, there are a ton of questions that remain - why didn't his mother lock up those guns, how did he get to them, was he in on psych meds, etc. Everything about that case just seemed to fall off the face of the earth.

What does everyone think of Franek's Kluski's mediumship pictures one with apeman, bird and a person?

this is similar to the responses to the Zimmerman case.Sometime ago Michael I sent you a little ebook entitled the New Atheism as a Cult of Intellect. I doubt you had the time to read it. However,in it I do go onto the issue of psychopathology and certain movements(skeptics New Atheists) and attitudes with corresponding support from studies by sociologist and psychologists of religion.
I too am a skeptic of evolutionary psychology (kin altruism my arse) David Stoves Book, and Berlinki's the Devils Delusion are very funny and spot on.
Anyone who would like to read my book ,I will send it for free as a pdf.
Had to put i on Amazon to placate my wife and all those hours I spent.(Ha Ha)

You're right, Steve; I'm afraid I didn't have time to get your book. There are so many books in my two-be-read file, and so little time…!

I will try to get to it and read it, or at least some of it, when I can. I appreciate your sending it to me. I haven't read the Berlinski book, but who knows, I may end up adding that to my list…

It seems to me Michael this sort of thing's astonishingly common.

The Madeleine McCann seems equally prone to causing enormous polarities of opinion even among members of my own family and again the more appalling the accusation the more likely it is a huge number of people'll instantly buy into it yet in other cases the more the evidence piles up seemingly confirming the guilt of a party somehow that polarity will continue almost as if the evidence either way's irrelevent.

Viz the Jamie Bolger case.

My own daughter's fascinated by this sort of thing and being mischievous at times's attempted to deliberately provoke such responses with little success though quite recently when she happened to defend someone on line over some miniscule matter then in a totally different incident she made what sounded to me like an innocuous crack the next thing she knew she was inundated with hundreds if not thousands of appalling threats and all manner of abuse which surprised her in the light of her previous attempts but fortunately didn't seem to phase her or indeed discourage her.

But it was the failure of her attempts to deliberately provoke a contrived response followed by her inadvertent wholely unintended and completely unexpected success which drove home to me how much of this type of activity seems to be governed by crowd psychology where a riot can break out for a completely unexpected reason in the midst of failed attempts by police or indeed professional protesters to provoke one for seemingly perfectly good reasons.

It reminds me of nothing so much as a phenomenon which seems to be dying out to some degree in football these days but which Liverpool crowds in particular were especially famous for which was the crowd suddenly spontaneously breaking out into a collective song or response to something going on on or off field which'd be so apt even the oppositions fans'd find it absolutely hilarious to the degree they'd applaud.

As a kid in the Sixties/Seventies I always wanted to know who was in charge of thinking up such gags on the spot and how they managed to so quickly spread the word through the crowd what everyone else was to sing or shout but of course this sort would've been responding to something occurring right that very moment meaning there was no time for such organising which suggests to me like the collective mentality which seems to lie behind successful rioting it may well've had a component of telepathy to it.

I must say, I have an interest in this case due to the fact we were in Italy at the time on holiday and drove past Perugio the morning after the murder. It's expected I guess that people will form their own opinions, mine included, particularly here when it involves an American in Italy and differing judiciary laws. And I agree people do form alliances and back their own arguments and opinions to support their egos- and much easier on the internet, rather than face to face.

In this case, I feel the Italian court has failed miserably. Zeroing in too quickly- they have made it hard to back track. Part of the problem is that when a crime occurs in a home situation in which all parties frequent, it is harder to prove. As there is going to be their DNA everywhere and so you have to look to other means to prosecute. A video online showing the police examining the flat indicates police did not change their gloves when handling evidence, so cross contamination was going to occur, and probably how Amanda's DNA was found on Meredith's bra. Once contamination occurs, the case folds. Also the scene of the crime was shown online, and as an American Detective said - there was a large amount of blood. How you could be involved in the crime without getting blood on you anywhere I don't know, as the male who was prosecuted did, and left his bloody footprint as well as his DNA in the toilet. Placing him there at the time of the crime.

And how they concluded that it was a combined effort I don't know. Like the American detective who commented how when he arrives at a crime he carefully looks at the room to form his opinions on how the crime went down- a very important indication to determine cause and the direction of the inquiry. Like him I agree, looking externally at the scene, their is no indication of multiple people involved. He also states she probably got free from him at one stage, and he has pushed her against the wall where she was stabbed, (due to blood spatter there) then dragged to the floor, where she bled profusely and was ultimately found. He also indicated that the bed in the room had been moved by police after the crime, thus the crime scene had been tampered with, friends came in as well to get items from the flat and police were in and out all day without foot covering to prevent contamination. Crazy.

A lawyer interviewed in the States by media commented that if extradition was requested by the Italians it was unlikely the States would agree, and I think the understanding was that the first trial would not have stood up in a court of law in the US, let alone a second.

Amanda's behaviour was questionable I agree, but a close friend commented that she was very naive, and would bring people home that most people would think twice about. She was also interrogated overnight, which would probably break alot of us, as we are all ignorant to police, interrogation processes etc. Just very naive and young.

Just my thoughts like everyone else's. Cheers Lyn.

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