Indicted to the right. Indicted to the left. It was obvious from the start that he was playing Icarus, spewing bluster like any loudmouth fool can do, but with a standing invitation to sit with Rachel and Ari whenever he didn’t have someone more important to hang with. Sure, Mark Geragos tried that before him, albeit with somewhat less noise and more signal, and it failed to land him a prime time special, but the sun was shining on Michael Avenatti. Or at least the Klieg lights.
But Avenatti’s entrance to the studio was paved by Stormy Daniels, who had nothing nice to say about Trump, and so his bluster was not merely welcomed, accepted, but adored. Since then, he hasn’t been particularly useful, given his ridiculously hyperbolic introduction of a false accuser forward against Justice Kavanaugh that undermined the efforts to taint him as a teenage rapist.
Of course, there were also his claims that he was solely responsible for bringing down Trump’s hatchet man, Michael Cohen, even though it turns out that the feds were onto him years before anybody outside of bankruptcy court and the grievance committee knew Avenatti’s name.
It’s not inexpensive to be a star. There are nice suits to be fitted, hotel rooms and limos, dinners at the better restaurants, where important people dine. They don’t come cheap, and the money has to come from somewhere, like client escrow funds. Or Nike, since a star can call a presser to destroy a multi-billion dollar corporation mere moments before its earnings conference call. Or his indictment.
Now, there’s an indictment in New York. An indictment in California. Both bear the name Avenatti. And right-wingers are enjoying their moment of vengeance at the expense of this mouthpiece just as the left-wingers did with Cohen. And Stone. And Manafort. As tests of hypocrisy go, they failed, as they seized upon the “court of public opinion” to vent their fury at this poseur. Curiously, there weren’t many, outside of the most twisted believers, who cared enough for Avenatti to defend him.
To my own dismay, I gave it a half-hearted try.
Much as it pains me to say this, Avenatti is merely accused. He is entitled to due process and the presumption of innocence.
There is no presumption of not being assholish, but assholish is not a crime.
Granted, it wasn’t a full-throated endorsement, but it’s not as if I admire his work. In fairness, he blocked me on twitter, so I assume he doesn’t admire mine either. As one might expect, there were some who pushed back at what they perceived as an overly-lawyerly adherence to the technical legal concept of presumption of innocence.
If an accused person wants to be considered innocent in the court of public opinion, they cooperate with the investigation.
Of course, Chait wasn’t talking about Avenatti, but the harsh rules of the court of public opinion don’t seem to care. We hear, read or imagine accusations and reach our conclusions, after which we fight like hell to prove our beliefs right. But Avenatti, you reply, was like the goofiest extorter ever, and they have him on tape! Do they? Probably. Does he say what’s attributed to him? Probably. Do you know? Unless you’ve heard the tape, you’re believing what someone with a vested interest tells you. Sure, it’s likely correct, but you don’t know. Not for real.
The question is whether you care. After all, there are no rules of life that require you not to indulge in whatever beliefs pop into your head, whether it’s Avenatti’s dirty as sin or Bill Barr is a toadie to Trump to twist Mueller, of the candle and tat fame, into a Trump pretzel to conceal his awfulness from Adam Schiff’s prying eyes.
Is the presumption of innocence just the lawyers’ parlor trick, a wink and nod that not even lawyers believe? Clearly it’s no crime for the court of public opinion to reach its verdict of guilty based on #MeToo, an indictment on the twitters, but is there anything wrong with mass public condemnation becoming the norm? If the lawyers aren’t buying, the pundits sneer at it, the useful idiots have their torches at the ready, is it reasonable to expect jurors to take it seriously?
Or perhaps jurors will be superfluous, since we no longer need conviction after trial to punish the hated, to destroy a life because a social media death-qualified jury knows, for realsies, who’s guilty and who is not. Is the presumption of innocence another archaic legal technicality to mutter in the well but laugh at in real life? Should it be? If so, can it be saved, because it’s not doing well these days.
*Tuesday Talk rules apply.