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  1. Illusive Shadows Justice Media And Socially Significant American Ng28518Complete 12222
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  3. Illusive Shadows: Justice, Media, and Socially Significant American Trials

Christmastime in New England. Snow covers the rocky soil the farmers so religiously toil in the springtime. It is a typical Christmas for the people of Salem Village, but for one propitious addition.

Illusive Shadows Justice Media And Socially Significant American Ng28518Complete 12222

The hamlet has a new resident, a reverend hired to minister their spiritual needs. Villagers thank God for that.

Salem has been without a religious leader for nearly two years. Nothing more than a collection of isolated farmhouses, little sets Salem Village apart from other hamlets in Massachusetts Bay Colony. Life outside of Boston is hard and unsure. The rocky New England ground makes farming particularly laborious, and the threat of both Indians and disease provides residents with a constant reminder of their precarious existence.

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Yet the countryside suits the somber Puritans; the rolling hills and cold, meandering waterways enhance its melancholy beauty. A finger of the Woolesfon River, known to locals as Frost Fish River, touches the village boundary line to the southeast where the waterway turns into Frost Fish Brook. And what offers up more high drama, or melodrama, than a highly publicized trial? Most news events enjoy short life spans.

Illusive Shadows: Justice, Media, and Socially Significant American Trials

They happen; they are reported; they are quickly forgotten. As Chiasson and his contributors make clear, a trial often is a lingering, living thing that builds in tension. It is, every once in a long while, a modern Shakespearean drama with a twist: The audience becomes members of the cast because, every once in a long while, society finds itself the defendant.

Trials can have lasting importance beyond how the public perceives them. A trial can have long-reaching significance if it changes the way people think, or how institutions function, or shapes public opinion.


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Ten such American trials covering a span of years are covered here. In each, the sociological underpinnings of events often has greater significance than either the crime or the trial.

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While the book is about ten crimes, the subsequent trials, and the media coverage of each, it is also a book about witchcraft, about religion, slavery, and radicalism. It paints portraits of a racist America, a capitalistic America, an anarchist America. It relates compelling tales of compassion, greed, stupidity, and hate beginning in 17th-century colonial times and ending in present-day America. In many ways, it is the story of America.