It was widely reported today that Starbucks is raising the price of froo-froo drinks by 15 cents. I don't think this rises to the level of news to be reported alongside accounts of the early prison release of a Libyan mass murderer.
I'm not a big fan of lock 'em up and throw away the key, but doesn't life in prison mean death in prison? Isn't that the point? Would Scottish authorities endorse the release of Charles Manson if he had only a few months to live?
Some perspectives from UK: Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi was wrongfully charged and convicted to assuage outrage in the US. If that were true, it wouldn't be the first time such a thing occurred. But another writer says it's all about the Scottish National Party showing it's independence and disdain for the U.K. government. That sounds plausible, too, but I admit that I don't know enough about Scotland's politics to judge the credibility of the claim. What does not seem plausible to me is that Scottish authorities believed al-Megrahi was guilty of mass murder and their sole reason for releasing him was mercy. I just don't buy it.
So, not surprisingly, Americans are outraged by the release al-Megrahi who is being hailed as a returning hero in Libya--the victim of an alleged frame-up.
The gulf between Libyan and American perception comes as no shock, but cross international border perceptions of innocence and guilt are more interesting when we consider other cases. I'm thinking of Louise Woodward, the English au pair convicted in Massachusetts of involuntary manslaughter in a "shaken baby" case.
The American public largely believed that Woodward was guilty. The British public mostly believed that Woodward was the victim of a grotesque miscarriage of justice. I don't have a position on this case. I know that Woodward took and passed a lie-detector test with flying colors, but I don't have a deep trust of the method. I know that babies sometimes die from being shaken, but we've learned that some parents have been wrongly accused of shaking their babies to death. What is most interesting to me about this case is that there was so much certainty behind the opposing views on opposite sides of pond.
Then there is the case of Amanda Knox, an American student accused as an accomplice in the brutal murder of her flatmate in Perugia, Italy. From what I understand, the Italian public believes, for the most part, that Knox is guilty and that she is quite the monster. In the U.S., Knox is seen as the innocent victim of a corrupt, out-of-control prosecutor.
I suppose that some of the differences in perception could arise from tribal identifications, but what I'm more impressed by is how powerfully the local press influences local perception. But the press isn't entirely accountable either. We all make choices about which press outlets we regard as credible, probably for a variety of conscious and unconscious reasons. I'm sure my friends in the social psychology world have much more to say about this subject than I do.
Well, today I went from Starbucks, to terrorists, to shaken babies and murdered flatmates and finally to the social psychology of the press and public perception. I never know where these posts will lead. I had been mulling over the subject of change and bitterness--something that came up in a post by Cheryl Fuller--but maybe I'll get to that some other time.