A show with a tiny audience

A SHOW WITH A TINY AUDIENCE…. The right has plenty of talking points used to attack the decision to bring Khalid Sheik Mohammed to New York for a criminal trial, some more reasonable than others. One of the more common criticisms, however, is one of the worst: KSM might exploit the trial to put on an offensive show.

The concern comes with some variation. I’ve heard conservatives raise the specter of a “show trial,” with KSM making a mockery of the proceedings and the bloodshed of 9/11. Others fear KSM using the courtroom as a platform to spew hate and vile nonsense.

In general, federal judges run a pretty tight ship, and there are mechanisms in place to prevent a circus atmosphere, especially when the charges at hand involve mass murder. But Adam Serwer reminds us of a point that I’d hoped was obvious, but which seems to go largely overlooked.

What the articles on the subject all seem to omit is that there will be no TV cameras in the courtroom for this trial. Khalid Sheik Mohammed’s rants will be available only by transcript. Americans, to the extent they aren’t bored to tears, will get to experience KSM’s pontificating on the evening news through the age-old craft of voice-overs placed over tastefully edited court drawings made mildly more exciting by creative use of keyframes.

Right. If Khalid Sheik Mohammed throws tantrums and goes on insane rants about whatever is on his mind, the only people who’ll see/hear any of this will be those who are literally, physically in the courtroom.

Indeed, when Bush’s Justice Department tried Zacarias Moussaoui in a civilian courtroom not far from the Pentagon, he was not exactly a model of decorum. Remember how embarrassing it was for the United States and our system of justice when the world got to see video of his antics? Probably not — there is no such video, because there are no cameras in federal courts. His rants were easily ignored.

As conservative fears go, this is pretty weak tea.