Amanda Knox: The Hot White Defendant

I hadn`t been paying attention to the Amanda Knox brouhaha in Italy, but, yeah, it turns out to be just another example of the Hunt for the Great White Defendant. A black burglar raping and murdering a college girl is depressing, boring and stereotypical, even in Italy, so let`s spice up the crime by making up stories about how the victim`s 20-year-old white Seattleite roommate must have been the Real Killer, as OJ would say. Back in March, commenter nightowl2548 wrote:

Just read up on the Amanda Knox case in Italy and am struck how this is Europe`s version of “The Great White Defendant.” She is obviously innocent, all she did was come home from her boyfriend`s in the morning and had the misfortune to be the first to stumble upon the crime scene. For that the cops interrogated her for 43 hours and demanded she “imagine” how it may have happened. They then announced “case closed” until two weeks later the forensic evidence came back all pointing to a local black burglar. Yet the local cops and tabloids refused to believe it and instead defamed an ordinary college girl out of pure spite and hatefulness towards Americans. To them a granola crunching, pot smoking, hippie Seattle girl is a right wing, rich, spoiled, warmongering, arrogant Bush loving American. Just like a liberal getting caught in a race riot, they hate us all no matter what our politics.

I don`t really like the word “meme,” but it`s important to realize how important it is which memes colonize the hive mind and which don`t. The meme of “The Hunt for the Great White Defendant” was coined by Tom Wolfe in the Great American Novel of the 1980s, The Bonfire of the Vanities, but, as far as I can tell, it disappeared from consciousness until I started using it to describe Dick Wolf`s TV show Law & Order around 2005 or so. I applied it to the Duke Lacrosse rape hoax in 2006, and it kind of, sort of took off from there, but, honestly, there`s probably seldom more than two degrees of separation between anybody who uses it and me. It`s not the kind of thing that, say, the New York Post would use in a headline yet. Basically, 99.9% of Americans, much less Italians, aren`t memetically equipped yet to get the joke.