I remember, as a kid, watching American mafia movies or courtroom dramas where a lawyer would use the most tenuous little thing, reach for some unreasonable assumptions and dive on seemingly irrelevant tidbits to twist the facts to get his clearly guilty client off the hook:

“So, ‘Grandma Parsons’ do you drink alcohol?”
“Err… well, every Christmas Eve I have a nip of sherry to welcome Santa with the grandchildr…”
“The non-existent Santa?”
“Well, of course but…”
“So are we to believe the witness account of a self-confessed ‘drinker’ with a history of deceit who goes by an assumed name?”


“Tell me, Mr. Smith, did you see the gun in my client’s hand?”

“I saw it fall from his hand, yes”

“but did you see it IN his hand?”

“he’d literally just let go, it was less than an inch beneath his open hand…”

“Just answer the question please!”

“He was the only person there! He was dropping it as I looked!”

“YES or NO, Mr. Smith, was it IN HIS HAND?!”

“…. No”

“No more questions your honour.”

I used to think how silly it all was. That so-called ‘justice’ could be served in this totally unreasonable, warped, unrealistic way. That out here in the real world, that kind of thing wouldn’t last five minutes before common sense prevailed.

The mobster always got off.

Today, this kind of interrogation is what we all do. We’ve stopped just talking and listening to information. Today, we all look for weaknesses, meanings, suggestions and messages in whatever is presented to us so we can mould our responses to meet our personal beliefs, desires and agendas and, ultimately, to WIN.

Today, we’re all mob lawyers.

I have a bunch of mates. We get together and talk about life, kids, sex, football… the usual. There was a time when that would be it. It was relaxing, fun even. These days I have to plan everything I might say, and research it all, to make sure there are no loopholes in my points. I have to watch my every word because I know that they’ll be analyzed and pounced on if the tiniest mistake is discovered. Every point raised, fact mentioned, memory revisited, results in feverish ‘googling’ in a race to disprove and defeat. Conversation has become competition. It's visceral, toxic and tiring. We call it 'banter' but it's really just unconscious bullying. It's that hyena approach, seeking out the weaknesses, looking for a way in. We don’t talk, we joust. Sound familiar? It’s not just them, it’s me too. It’s all of us.

“How’s ‘Stoptober’ going mate?”

“Pretty good, haven’t had a drop.”

“…Well, what about that time I asked you to taste my cocktail to see if it had pernod in it.”

“Yeah but that’s not ‘drinking’ it is?”

“But you did swallow it, so… you know… you said you haven’t had ‘a drop’, not ‘a drink’... just saying.”

I read a tweet the other day from someone who said they had listened to Angela Rippon read the news for decades, and still have no idea what her views are on anything. Politics, morality… no clue.

The news used to be information. Reports about what was happening. Today, most ‘stories’ are what people think about what’s happened… or what people think about what will happen… or, actually, what might happen.
Headlines reach out to our paranoias because they have to keep us interested. There are now a seemingly infinite number of news outlets, YouTube channels, tweets and blogs that are all competing for our eyes and our support. News is 24 hours, spaces need to be filled, so we’ve evolved an addiction to anything we can call news, including our own opinions. We are, after all, fully qualified ‘googlers’, disputers, posters, truth warriors and mob lawyers now, so why not?

"Don’t listen to them! They’re trying to tell you who to listen to!"

In order to keep our attention, the press panders to this. They see that we really only want to learn stuff we believe we already know. We get partisan news, agenda-led news, gossip news, party-political news and more often than not, news that’s really just views. We get ‘echo-chamber’ justification that’s actually just the opinion of people like us… which is nice, but it’s not ‘news’ is it?

The world will end tomorrow!” is news.
The world will end tomorrow, says mad evangelical rapture believer” is not, but it grabs our attention just the same.

This, alas, is the news of today, and it filters into our brains, hungry for validation as fact, as unbiased, simple truth. We’re told that what ‘might’ happen is what will happen (according to somebody). We’re told that if something small, but bad, has been done then surely it must mean that something big and bad is on its way, as if it’s already happened.
Today, it’s not about what something is but what it means.

All we care about is what ‘message’ we can derive from an act instead of the act itself. We’re obsessed with whether things are ‘a good look’ on somebody, or what’s being ‘suggested’ by them, to the point where our job security and chances of promotion rely more on our personal indiscretions and beliefs than how good we are at our jobs.
How can we possibly trust somebody who lied about expenses, or made a sexist joke, to do something totally unrelated, like drive a bus, or lead the country?
We can… or we could, when I was a kid, but not now. Today we get, ‘Once a liar, always a liar!’, ‘If he’ll cheat at cards then he’ll let millions die!’

We judge somebody’s ability to balance the economy on how faithful they are to their wife. You can’t be a footballer, politician or lollipop lady if you haven’t been a perfect human since you were born.

We’ve become the jury, falling for that clever lawyer’s semantics, and we take it out into our everyday lives as though it’s always been the way we digest and discuss and judge things. It hasn’t, but it is now.

We’re all mob lawyers now.