Propaganda for jurors

The judge came down to the jury assembly room—this is the first time I’ve seen anything like this—to apologize. It seems all the cases for which jurors might be needed had settled at the last minute, so we were to be excused. Which is to say, we hadn’t needed to come in after all. “We try to avoid this,” he said, explaining that “we,” apparently meaning him and the lawyers, all work diligently every afternoon to try to settle cases in time to avoid calling potential jurors in unnecessarily.

He had brought a deputy district attorney and another lawyer along with him, ostensibly to answer any questions we might have. I can only guess that these were the two who might have been tardy in reaching a deal. No one voiced any questions, publicly at least, so I have no idea what sort of questions, if any, anyone might have in such a circumstance.

But none of this transpired before we had been treated to two short cringe-worthy patriotic propaganda videos. Yes, as I had earlier surmised,[1] jurors were to rely on common sense. Well, that and an open mind.

The videos featured glowing testimonials from ex-jurors who would serve again in a heartbeat, who though perhaps nervous about serving for a first time, were eminently satisfied that they had done “justice.”

Obviously, such videos had never been run before a focus group with any social scientists or liberal arts scholars or humanities scholars, let alone human scientists. But first, such a highly qualified focus group should not be required; and second, the critical thinking needed to properly evaluate this propaganda should hardly be rare. Indeed, much of the controversy over putatively worthless degrees has been on this very point, that it is the humanities and other liberal arts that teach such skills. And yet is is equally apparent, given the job prospects for humanities scholars, that in this society, we entirely devalue these same skills.[2]

It seems conservatives find the education that offers such skills threatening.[3] They, at least, have an excuse. Reality itself, never mind its many nuances, is often a threat to their world view. But anyone else who devalues a liberal education ought to be ashamed.

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Juries and injustice: The fools call me in again,” Not Housebroken, April 27, 2015,
  2. [2]William G. Bowen, “Increasing the Value of a Liberal Education,” Atlantic, April 30, 2012,; Peter Conn, “We Need to Acknowledge the Realities of Employment in the Humanities,” Chronicle of Higher Education, April 4, 2010,; Gary Cutting, “Science’s Humanities Gap,” New York Times, September 18, 2013,; Gary Gutting, “The Real Humanities Crisis,” New York Times, November 30, 2013,; Gary Cutting, “Science’s Humanities Gap,” New York Times, September 18, 2013,; Meghan Florian, “Notes From an Employed Philosopher,” Chronicle of Higher Education, April 1, 2013,; Scott Jaschik, “Obama becomes latest politician to criticize a liberal arts discipline,” Inside Higher Ed, January 31, 2014,; Paul Jay, “How Not to Defend the Liberal Arts,” Inside Higher Ed, October 27, 2014,; Elizabeth Segran, “What Can You Do With a Humanities Ph.D., Anyway?” Atlantic, March 31, 2014,; Beckie Supiano, “No Laughing Matter: President’s Quip About Art History Pricks Some Ears,” Chronicle of Higher Education, January 31, 2014,; Jordan Weissmann, “The Unending Horror of the Humanities Job Market, in One Chart,” Slate, July 14, 2010,; Leon Wieseltier, “Crimes Against Humanities: Now science wants to invade the liberal arts. Don’t let it happen,” New Republic, September 3, 2013,
  3. [3]Thom Hartmann, “Why the right hates American history,” Salon, February 26, 2015,; Edwin Lyngar, “The right’s fear of education: What I learned as a (former) conservative military man,” Salon, February 26, 2015,

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