The Casey Anthony Case

Do stories about tot-killing Moms “sell” because Americans have long been fascinated with outlandish criminal behavior?  Or are these biased and sensationalized stories really just anti-feminist morality tales about the alleged dangers posed by “free-spirited” young women so bored and challenged by early motherhood that they’ll kill their own flesh-and-blood just to resume a more unencumbered lifestyle?

Nancy Grace, whose eponymously-titled cable tv show has turned the three-year old Casey Anthony case into a national sensation, has emerged at the head of a veritable media lynch mob intent on bringing child-murderers, especially Moms, to justice.

The 51-year-old former prosecutor – and mother of two – seems to find marriage, the family, and the entire social order threatened by the likes of Anthony, the 25-yeard mother who allegedly drowned her two-year old Caylee in the family swimming pool, then went on a three-day partying binge with her girl-pals.

Grace does sometimes concentrate her righteous indignation ? and notorious sarcasm ? on charming male sociopaths who’ve allegedly murdered their wives and children, men like Scott Peterson  convicted of killing his wife, Laci, and their unborn child in Modesto, California in 2002.   But she seems to reserve a special place in Hell for a woman like Anthony who apparently couldn’t be bothered with the demanding responsibilities of being a mother, even with a husband and devoted family to support her.

“This is the happiest that I have been in a very long time,” Anthony wrote in her diary a day after she allegedly murdered her dsaughter. “I’ve made new friends, and I hope that my happiness will continue to grow.”

Grace’s concern for murdered tots – the tragic element that seems to unite the Peterson and Anthony cases, for example – is certainly understandable.   In fact, ever since 6-year-old Adam Walsh was abducted, sexually abused and decapitated in 1981 – giving rise to shows like “America’s Most Wanted,” hosted by Walsh’s father ? the mass media has devoted itself to child abuse and murder like never before.

Is that really such a  bad thing?

Probably not, but watching Grace engaged in her trademark histrionics – badgering, hectoring, and even ridiculing her interviewees much as bossy, trash-talking conservatives like Sean Hannity do – you begin to wonder:  isn’t all this family and child murder obsession every bit as bizarre ? even pathological – as the cases themselves?

Consider this fact:  for all the depictions of violence in America, the murder rate has been falling consistently for three decades.   In 1976, the homicide offending rates per 100,000 of the population were 16.3 for males and 3.0 for females. By 2005, the most recent year for which data are available, the rates were 11.9 for males and 1.2 for females, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Which means murder, however tragic and worthy of prevention, is
growing ever more rare.

But here’s the rub:   the rate of murder of children, especially by their own parents – known as “filicide,” if the child is 5 or younger – may well be increasing.  Some sources place the rate at one every three days, but others say it’s twice that level, or about 200 cases per year.  And, in fact, though gender-based data are still scarce, the percentage of mothers who are killing their children, as opposed to fathers, is also on the rise, according to experts quoted in news articles in recent years.

So, for all her preachy alarmism, Nancy Grace may be on to something after all.

The motives for maternal murder of a child vary, experts say.  Some attribute it to severe drug abuse and mental illness, which could also include extreme forms of “malignant narcissism” of the kind suspected in the Anthony case.  But there’s also the “revenge” motive? a wife or mother getting even with a spouse or boyfriend who cheats, batters, or neglects his financial and paternal obligations.

A number of high profile cases,  including one in New York city last month in which a mother drove her car into the Hudson River and drowned everyone but her young son who managed to escape through an open car window, are suggestive of this motive.

More broadly, though, family therapists and other experts point to the growing economic and psychological pressure of young women raising children without extended family support while trying to hold down low-paying and stressful jobs.  Many women, they say, can find themselves in over their head, and without the tools to cope.

Some snap at their children, and nothing more.  But others may batter, and in extreme cases, like Anthony’s, or that of other notorious child-killers like Susan Smith and Andrea Yates, they snap to the breaking point.

Anthony may get convicted  – but, in fact, with the physical evidence so flimsy, some legal experts – and not just the babble of talking heads on Nancy Grace’s show – say a jury could still find her not guilty.

Whatever happens, it hardly seems to our advantage to turn Anthony into a poster-child for “unfit” mothers.   If maternal filicide rates are rising ? and apparently they are –  it should be a call to constructive action – not a media execution.

Stewart J. Lawrence is a Washington, DC-based an immigration policy specialist.  He can be reached at stewartlawrence81147@gmail.com

Limited Time Special Offer!
Get CounterPunch Print Edition By Email for Only $25 a Year!

More articles by:

Stewart J. Lawrence can be reached at stewartlawrence81147@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael Duggin
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita