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March 13, 2007

How Did This Get Published?

This isn't an ideological thing. Just curious as to what exactly Newsweek found compelling or interesting in this piece comparing real-life criminal forensics to the forensics seen on TV crime shows like CSI.

We know we're in trouble early. The sub-hed:

America loves its crime dramas. But as our reporter found out, the reality of crime-scene investigation is often more gross than sexy.

Um, anyone watching CSI knows full well that forensics is much more gross than sexy. CSI, in particular, likes to feature a I-can't-believe-they're-showing-that-on-TV gross-out once every three or four episodes. Stuff you actually wince at.

Here's what she "learned" at a conference of forensics scientists. Tell me -- did you not know any of this?

On day 1, I learned that arterial spray is a complete misnomer unless you call what comes out of a fire hydrant spray. Day 2 brought hard proof in black and white of what a bullet actually does to the human head. I guess the reason we only see the entry wound on TV is because a big bullet takes most of the head with it on its way out.

How could she not have known that about exit wounds? Did she miss that whole "Kennedy Assassination" thing that was all the rage 30 years ago?

Now I sort of think this whole "Gee I was so naive but here's what I learned" framing device is just that, a device, an artifice, a lie used to give the story some sort of hook. Because I can't imagine anyone who's ever seen a crime show or read a true-crime book being surprised by any of this. And this woman claims to be a fan of the genre.

But even if we excuse that artistic license (or is it journalistic license? And are journalists supposed to have artistic license at all?), the simple fact is that this report tells us nothing we didn't already know. The fact is, the woman cadged travel expenses for this conference and one way or another she was going to get a story out of it-- and Newsweek thought so too.

What else could explain this?

Which bring me to my next point: forensic science is well, science. I went to the session on “Bones, Bugs, Trace and More” and could only understand every third word. At a minimum, you need a biology or chemistry degree, and every member of the Young Forensic Science Forum that I met was well on his or her way to an M.S. or an M.D. And it turns out; young CSIs populated the majority of the volunteer ranks.

I'd drop in a "to be fair" part here and note that she does mention that, for example, fingerprints are fairly rare -- but anyone who watches these shows knows that. Almost anyone in America who reads true-crime books or detective novels knows they're rare and that the conditions have to be just right to leave a liftable print.

And she makes much of the fact that DNA comparison tests are expensive and time-consuming-- well, yes, I knew both. Where is the actual news here? She devotes an entire paragraph to informing us that forensics science includes science.

A couple of other things are just laughable -- like telling us CSI labs don't have those super-duper miracle computers that plot out for you -- with 3-D models of the city -- precisely where a murder might have taken place if you just take the time to enter in the sort of mud that was found on the victim's shoe and what type of pollen was found trapped in his lapel. Everyone I know, certainly, giggles like crazy when the Super Duper Miracle Computer, better than even the Batman's Bat-Computer, makes its appearance. Honestly, dear, you're not telling anyone who watches these shows anything they don't know.

Well, maybe you're providing some information for those who watch CSI: Miami. They're retards.

Kind of a pointless post, I guess. Except to note, once again: The media 1) is stupid or 2) thinks you're stupid or most likely 3) is stupid and thinks you're even stupider than they.



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posted by Ace at 03:07 PM

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