Watching a white Ford Bronco being chased by police for 5 hours is hard to forget. The juice was loose and we were glued to the TV to see what happened. June 17, 1994 was the first car chase I can remember watching on TV and I never thought it would be OJ Simpson. The star of the “Naked Gun” movies was wanted for a double murder and the police were hot on his trail.
The OJ Simpson trial changed the way that the media covered celebrities. OJ Simpson was the first Hollywood star, that everyone liked, who was under the microscope of the legal system. OJ was a sports legend and his roles in movies made people laugh. We loved OJ until the infamous car chase and then we began to see that Hollywood stars could be heinous murderers.
After the OJ Simpson trial, the media began airing every car chase in the United States. Court TV became a popular source to see Hollywood’s finest face justice. The biggest change I have seen in the media since the OJ trial is that people become famous after a crime is committed. OJ’s trial was smothered with attention because he was a star. The media now makes stars out of people who would never become famous without media coverage. The examples of this type of pointless publicity are endless, but a few come to mind like Scott Peterson and Joran van der Sloot. These men were nothing until the media made them stars. They may be hated by most of the world, but they are celebrities nonetheless.
The OJ Simpson case was not a race-related crime. A black man killed two white people. OJ didn’t kill out of racial hatred – he just killed two people. During OJ’s trial, Mark Fuhrman, a former LAPD Detective, was scrutinized for his hateful speech toward blacks. Fuhrman’s words were the only part of OJ’s case that was related to racial bigotry.
Rodney King should get credit for changing the way the media covers race-related crime. Rodney King took part in the LA riots and was subdued by LAPD officers. Force was used and some of the officers were accused of using excessive force as a result of King’s actions. America only watched 19 seconds of the King video, but they didn’t see the rest of the tape and the testimony of the officers involved.
The King incident was the first time that the media openly defended criminal. The police were on trial for mistreating a criminal instead of a criminal being on trial. The media made Rodney King a martyr and a celebrity overnight. King paved the way for people like Ray Lewis and OJ for the second course of crime. The media makes concessions for white criminals too – like Martha Stewart, Lindsey Lohan, and Charlie Sheen.
OJ Simpson was a trailblazer in many ways and we thank him for his car chase into the history books.