The Nightmare Of The West Memphis Three

877 words - 4 pages

In his article, “The Nightmare of the West Memphis Three”, Rich explores how the people of Memphis drew horrific conclusions about people based on the lifestyle they chose to practice. The article highlights the trials and tribulations faced by the accused three young teenagers. Rich does this by citing the popular documentary series “Paradise Lost” which is an in depth analysis into the lives of the accused, the victims’ families and members of the community. This paper outlines how the belief system of that time superseded the inconclusive evidence, which ultimately led to an unfair trial. By “othering” and “marginalizing” those three teens, the society and police created a scenario that aligned with their belief system at the time. Lastly, this paper highlights the influence of the media and celebrity in changing the course for these boys.
The satanic cult panic in part contributed to the conviction of Misskelley, Echols and Baldwin. Baldwin himself describes this assumption; “I can see where they might think I was in a cult,” he said, in that 1993 interview, “because I wear Metallica T-shirts.” (Rich, 2013). The article goes on to explain that the crime happened at the end of the five-year satanic panic period that had plagued American popular culture. These boys did not dress like other teens; they did not listen to the same music. Metal music especially music from bands like Metallica were frowned upon because of their expletive lyrics. When the public established that the boys were different from them, they developed stories that would align with their beliefs. The article establishes that after several weeks of investigation and no clear leads, “rumors of satanic involvement assumed greater urgency” (Rich, 2013) By doing this West Memphis ostracized and marginalized the boys. Like Bertillion’s exhibit and anthropometry measurements, (LaFleur, November 25 2013) people used so-called “facts” to make assumptions that were questionable. It went even further when classmates began to testify that they heard them boasting of the killings and saw them with the boys on the night of their murder.
Another crucial point mentioned in the article is the power of perception and how media can often times influence perception. “One of the most powerful lessons of these films is how easily our opinions about a crime can be influenced by the manner in which information is presented to us” (Rich, 2013). An example used is that of Hobbs. Rich mentions that throughout the first film Hobbs appeared “dazed” and “ruined” over the death of his son. When they show the same footage in the third film, he looks like a man who is trying to hide...

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