Day 5: Making of a Murderer and the End of the Symbolic Order
I’ve been watching the Making of a Murderer. I’m on Episode 4. If you haven’t started it yet, don’t worry, there are no spoilers here. I think this is an unspoilable series because, well, you know everything when you start watching. Not everything, but the gist, and that’s why you start watching. The gist is that a man in Wisconsin was falsely convicted of sexual assault, spent 18 years in prison, was exonerated on the basis of DNA evidence, and then, was possibly framed by police when he sued the police department for wrongful conviction. It was that last bit that motivated me to watch.
In Episode 3, there is a scene where Dean Strang, a lawyer for the man in question, Steven Avery, argues that the police were driven to plant evidence in Steven Avery’s house because they were being sued by Avery. Jerry Buting, another of Avery’s lawyers, argues that the officers frame Avery, plant his blood in a car and plant a key in his bedroom. Under Sheriff Robert Hermann, Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department responds, “Some of the evidence that was found at the scene, it’s impossible for us to have, to plant that, it’s just, it’s not realistic, it’s impossible, not even–I’m thinking of a word–it’s so farfetched, it’s impractical.”
The argument seemed to be that the frame-up could not be true because it was difficult to believe. I’m only in Episode 4, so I don’t know what to think. I’ve read the special prosecutor’s press releases saying they think the documentary–which was made over ten years–leaves out important information. But at this point in Episode 4, a frame-up seems possible. What is interesting to me is how the notion that something is unbelievable makes it wrong. This would seem to be a reason to commit even more unbelievable injustices, especially if you are in a position of power, because no one would believe you. Yes, I think this means that the trust in the current order of things (the integrity of the symbolic order) has disintegrated to the point that people think this is likely and possible, and in communities where that order is more disintegrated, so-called conspiracy theories abound. But that doesn’t make them wrong.
I have always hated Ockham’s razor. You know, the idea that the simplest answer is probably the right one. I have always found it a bit anti-intellectual. I know this puts me on the side of so many films and television shows where the dullard police sergeant accepts the simple version but the young rookie wants to track down the unexpected truth. This probably makes me subject to the social psychosis that Slavoj Žižek argues follows from the disintegration of the symbolic order–we want not to believe the official story. Not only that, but official declarations of the truth of historical and current events are widely doubted. One response to this situation is to find new ways to re-establish trust in the public order. Another is to consider the capacity of the psychotic (the one who has no place in the symbolic order) to speak the truth. What happens when the farfetched becomes more believable than the official line? What happens when the official line seems farfetched? All of this made me go back and look at Jodi Dean‘s writing on conspiracy theory and think about how revolutionary action always appears farfetched, even psychotic.