"At the heart of both a wrongful conviction and a tabloid article is tunnel vision: the journalist or investigator targets a suspect, draws a conclusion about them, and looks only for evidence to support that conclusion."
The above quote comes from Amanda Knox herself, who is now an advocate for people who have been wrongfully convicted. She, more than nearly anyone else, knows what it is like to be on the receiving end of an excessively gendered witch-hunt upon which she has suffered not only a "trial by media" but also a "trial by internet".
- Prejudiced Prosecution Vs. Sensational Journalism: Who Is The Real Villain In 'Amanda Knox'?
- Nick Pisa: Where Is The Real Villain Of The Amanda Knox Doco Now?
As she mentions in the new Netflix documentary about her trial and wrongful conviction, if you type her name into google, millions of searches come up: at this moment totalling 12,800,000 views. To put this into perspective, that's one million more than Steven Avery, and only four million less than O.J. Simpson. Whatever 'evidence' you wish to find surrounding Knox's guilt exists, ranging from a fair amount of healthy skepticism to outright fabrication. For some internet bloggers, the rush to paint Knox as a liar and a manipulator has turned into a full-time obsession.
The Main Truther Forums
There are several websites — such as themurderofmeredithkercher.com and perugiamurderfile.net — that have been created in order to run through the evidence, to debunk sources such as the Netflix documentary as a hoax, and to paint Amanda Knox as the guilty party.
Nina Burleigh authored 2011's The Fatal Gift of Beauty, which covered the Knox case. She writes in Time Magazine that:
"These sites host extremely active avatars, many proclaiming to be lawyers, forensic experts, criminologists, but who never reveal their true identities."
Furthermore, she wrote to Peter Quenell, moderator of True Justice to fact-check some of his claims, and got a severely strange reply, accusing her:
"of being on the Knox family payroll, informed me that his sources in Perugia had seen me consorting with Amanda’s mother (I had in fact met with her once, in a public place, by then) and eventually started writing about how he was going to “train his scope” on my apartment in Manhattan, and closing emails with “how are the kiddies?”
The Level Of Detail Is Insane
You have to hand it to these people. The level of detail regarding the case is so extensive that it would take a lifetime to read over it all. Books are analysed page by page, documentaries, reconstructions and films are debunked, case files are translated into English, and interviews and articles are collated and put into extremely large databases.
In many ways, these forums do serve a purpose. Reading over them, its safe to say that the Netflix documentary was a simplistic rendering of the events; a piece of entertainment that, although not pro-Knox, sympathised with her, and made Pisa and Mignini out to be idiots. It was biased. This case warrants not only a mere 90 minute documentary, but an TV series to go through all of the evidence, of which there are tens of thousands of legal documents. These websites can be seen to aim to paint a fuller picture of what happened. Yet, it is not just the truth they are fixated on:
Their Obsession With Meredith Kercher Is Creepy
Meredith Kercher's death was a tragedy, and her family deserved justice. There are no two ways about it. But true justice can only be achieved by convicting the right person by weighing up the evidence and making the correct decision. Amanda Knox was vindicated, eventually, by an Italian supreme court, due to a lack of sufficient evidence pinning her to the case. Nevertheless, these "truther" websites are so fixated upon getting justice for Kercher, they rely on emotive arguments about her that are — apologies for being blunt — totally irrelevant to the case.
They are also creepy. Over the years the "Concerning Meredith" section of truejustice.org imagines what Meredith would be like if she was still alive, containing headlines such as "“Happy Day” By Universita per Stranieri Students Meredith Would Surely Have Got Along With" and "In Commemoration Of Meredith On Her 30th: The Great Bach Tocata & Fugue In D Minor". The text beneath the second post writes:
It is one thing for a family member to remember their beloved daughter, but for people who have never met the young girl to assume things about her borders on an unhealthy fixation. This can be contrasted with the depiction of the guilty party:
Slut-Shaming Is Rife
Part of Knox's conviction relied upon a sexist prosecutor who assumed that Knox was guilty because she enjoyed sex and someone covered up Kercher's body with a blanket, which Mignini assumes only a woman would do. Of particular interest to online bloggers is Knox's behaviour after the murder took place. Admittedly, her reaction to her death was weird, yet we all react to trauma in different ways. The death of Kercher wouldn't invalidate her love for Raffaele, who we still see her besotted with in the documentary when she calls a friend.
One blogger, Miss Represented, writes of her subsequent behaviour as what motivated her to change her mind and see Knox as the killer. Referring to the infamous CCTV footage in which she went to buy underwear, she says:
"I see a young couple, kissing and caressing each other and generally acting as if they haven’t a care in the world."
She goes on to speculate that Knox is a sexual sadist:
Now this is simply an inference of intent which cannot be substantiated. Compare this to how the New York Times reports it:
"Locked from her house in the first days after it became a crime scene, Knox went to a store one day with Sollecito to buy emergency underwear."
Knox's so-called drug use, and relatively tame sexual history are discussed in extreme detail, even if they have little bearing upon the case. In this way the internet serves as a severe amplification of what was being reported in the tabloids.
Miss Represented describes her as "a sexually vivacious young woman who quickly began a very intense relationship with a quiet and possibly disturbed young man" before saying that her sexual appetite and newfound intimacy with Sollecito could possibly have led them to kill Kercher:
"it could be suggested that humiliation or a desire to control and inflict suffering was (sic) conscious or unconscious factor."
This is a fallacious argument. Like most twenty year old women, Knox was exploring her sexuality in a very normal way, as can be seen by her memoirs and her friends' description of her. Sollecito was inexperienced. The idea that the two of them wanted to act out some bizarre, murderous sex game is a fantasy on behalf of those writing about her. There is a weird dynamic being played out on the truthers behalf upon which Knox is the American whore and Kercher is the innocent young English woman. Both of these are stereotypical and sexist portrayals of women who had varying levels of sexual experience. The lurid details surrounding the case say volumes more about the public perception of women then it does about Knox's actual guilt.
If these websites were simply a case of presenting the facts in a cohesive way to help the average joe understand what is going on, that would be fine. These facts however, are combined with extensive psychological analysis and character write-ups that border into fiction, and seem to play out the fantasies of the writers more than the facts of the case. Additionally, with the veneer of internet anonymity, who can guess how qualified these writers are? Criticising themuderofmeredithkercher.com, website amandaknoxcase.com writes:
"The fake wiki presents an extreme made up fantasy version of the prosecution’s case"
The truth is, the case had to go all the way to the Italian supreme court in order for justice to finally be served, due to a series of unfortunate events including the way the case was handled, the way Knox responded, and the way the media and public reaction exacerbated the entire situation. The experts, after much legal wrangling, deemed Knox to be finally innocent. Not to say this is the truth, but this is the legal decision by the Italian court, which ruled that the evidence was insufficient. This is all without saying that someone else, Rudy Guede, had already been in prison for several years for the exact same murder. Knox will not be dragged into court again, at least not on charges of committing the murder of Meredith Kercher. She is legally innocent. But on the internet, she will remain guilty forever.