Monica Lewinsky is adding her voice to the chorus of commentators discussing the impact the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial is having on society and culture.
Uniquely qualified to examine how this “tawdry” trial is playing out in the public eye, Lewinsky, 48, penned an op-ed about the legal proceedings for Vanity Fair, titled, “Monica Lewinsky’s Verdict on the Johnny Depp–Amber Heard Trial: We Are All Guilty.” Lewinsky is a contributing editor for the magazine.
Declaring, that “Courtroom porn and social media have turned innocent bystanders into a mass of mudslingers,” Lewinsky focuses her gaze on the role the public has played as it has consumed coverage of the trial.
The TV personality and activist says she herself has only followed the defamation trial in “bits and bytes” in an attempt to avoid exposing herself unnecessarily to triggering moments. “Don’t know what I’m talking about? Google: 1998,” she quips.
Like many, Lewinsky has primarily been seeing the trial play out through a series of clips and memes that she believes has made general consumption of news about the case (largely through social media) “biased, curated, and cursory.”
By interacting with a trial she describes as a “pure car wreck” — one that is “accessible, tawdry, and immediately gratifying” — Lewinsky argues the end result is that, “We dispense with critical thinking and substitute the cheap thrill.”
“Such scattershot consumption hasn’t allowed for real comprehension,” she adds. “Instead, we experience only apprehension, knee-jerk outrage, and titillation. It’s like going to the opera and reading a couple of translated supertitles but not understanding Italian. And despite whatever else this is, it is a soap opera.”
“This legal spectacle would be sad enough if it just impacted the personal lives of Depp, Heard, and their loved ones,” Lewinsky continues. “It would be sad enough even if we just considered how it has impacted domestic violence survivors or those who have sought strength in the #MeToo movement. However, it’s the larger implications for our culture that concern me the most: the ways we have stoked the flames of misogyny and, separately, the celebrity circus.”
The end result for the public, Lewinsky says, is that we “devalue our dignity and humanity.”
“I’m certainly not here to tell you not to watch the verdict or not to have an opinion,” she insists. “But what is too much? What is defined as ‘too far’?”
“As we have watched this story unfold, what does our opinion entitle us to?” she asks. “Does it entitle us to say whom we ‘believe’? To restate the cherry-picked facts we’ve glommed on to that have led us, as virtual jurors, to ‘just feel it in our bones’?”
Perhaps most significantly, she asks, “Does it entitle us to be cruel?”
“No matter whom the jury’s verdict favours — be it defendant Heard or plaintiff Depp — we are guilty,” she concludes.