I haven’t been following the Michael Jackson trial but this wonderfully wacky piece by Terry Eagleton made me wonder if I should have been. Sample:
Courtrooms, like novels, blur the distinction between fact and fiction. They are self-enclosed spheres in which what matters is not so much what actually took place in the real world, but how it gets presented to the jury. The jury judge not on the facts, but between rival versions of them. Since postmodernists believe that there are no facts in any case, just interpretations, law courts neatly exemplify their view of the world. Another thing which blurs the distinction between fact and fiction is Michael Jackson himself. There is a double unreality about staging the fiction of a criminal trial around a figure who has been assembled by cosmetic surgeons. Jackson’s freakish body represents the struggle of fantasy against reality, the pyrrhic victory of culture over biology. Quite a few young people are not even aware that he is black. If postmodern theory won’t acknowledge that there is any such thing as raw nature, neither will this decaying infant.
This is bullshit of the very highest order. And it reminds me of a lovely story Frank Kermode once told me. He was on a British Council lecture tour in China, speaking to university students about Shakespeare. In one institution, he was heard in respectful silence. At the end, his host encouraged the students to ask the great man some questions. Eventually, a shy student put up her hand. “Do you know Telly Eagleton?”, she said. This was the only question he was asked!