Thinking, fast and slow; or, Nancy Grace and Dan Abrams

fast and slow thinking


In his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” Daniel Kahneman posits that we humans, as mammals/primates, have two different decision-making systems in our brains. There’s a “fast” system, which does quick evaluations on the basis of likelihood and present evidence, and makes a quick decision. There is also a “slow” system, which takes time and evaluates more carefully.




The “fast” system is useful for emergencies. The “slow” system is useful for – well, just about everything except emergencies.




Sadly, most of us use the “fast” system for everything, which means that – for us – the obvious reason seems always to be the right reason. Even more sadly, we rationalize these “fast” decisions: we take our quickly-drawn conclusions and try to justify them mock-logically.



Sometimes it works. Sometimes it’s just silly.




Which brings me to Dan Abrams and Nancy Grace.




For whatever reason, ABC’s “Good Morning America” often uses these two as tandem commentators on court cases in the news. Dan is reasoned and careful and takes the law into account. Nancy, on the other hand, always knows immediately who’s to blame and mocks Dan for not following her lead.




See? Dan is slow-thinking. Nancy is fast-thinking.




It’s sickening to watch, sometimes. Dan is reasoning through a case, and Nancy will accuse him of “sitting in his ivory tower.” Obviously (for Nancy), the guiltiest-looking person in the room must be the perpetrator. Right?




No, Nancy. Not right. Lots of innocent people are in jail right now because of thinking like yours.




Nancy used to be a real court prosecutor. Now she’s just an imaginary prosecutor, allowed by ABC to pontificate on cases about which she (and the rest of us) know next to nothing. I’m glad she’s not in the real legal system. She’d do a lot of harm there. I’m sorry, however, that ABC gives her a platform on “Good Morning America” to hold forth on these “he looks guilty, so he must be guilty” views. I’m sure there are viewers who consider her an authority, and think: if Nancy Grace says/believes it, it must be true!




But it ain’t.




She’s a dimwit in love with her own opinions who has forgotten how the law works. She wants opinion to be law.




That’s a creepy thought.




“Good Morning America” really shouldn’t give her this kind of exposure. Except, I’m sure, that she’s good for ratings, because fast-thinking quick-judging viewers like to hear her expound on her ill-judged beliefs, which agree with their own.







Missing children, Nancy Grace, and Dan Abrams


Partner and I get up at 7:00 am or a little after. We have slightly different routines. I go into the living room, read my email and drink my coffee; he stays in the bedroom, reads his email, watches “Good Morning America,” and drinks his coffee.



Naturally I can hear most of the dialogue.



At 7:30am, “Good Morning America” almost invariably features a story about a missing child.  The child is almost always white, by the way. They usually have the irrational Nancy Grace and the mostly-imperturbable Dan Abrams doing Point Counterpoint on the subject.



Naturally there’s no real information.  Nancy always assumes the worst, and declares it, and announces that anyone who disagrees with her is a fool and an ivory-tower intellectual and a goddamned liberal.



Dan Abrams usually points out, mildly, that all the facts aren’t in, and more work needs to be done on the case.



Nancy explodes, calls Dan an ivory-tower intellectual and a goddamned liberal, and wants to know why more isn’t being done to bring this case to its (obvious) conclusion.



Some thoughts:



        I wonder how many missing children there are in the USA today. 

        I wonder how many of them are non-white. 

        I wonder why we so seldom hear about the non-white missing children on “Good Morning America,” and I wonder if it’s because they’re just not considered to be so angelically adorable.

        I wonder that they pair the astonishingly illogical Nancy Grace with the perfectly reasonable Dan Abrams, and allow her to snarl at him idiotically, just for the sake of TV entertainment.

        I wonder what percentage of these poor children are ever located.



And finally: I wonder that the TV doesn’t actually explode with the whole idiotic illogicality of the thing.


The Casey Anthony verdict: or, What will Nancy Grace do in her spare time now?


I didn’t really pay attention to the Casey Anthony case from the beginning. I overheard bits and pieces on the TV: child found dead, mother didn’t report her missing, grandma called 911 to report (frantically) that her granddaughter was missing and her daughter’s car smelled like a dead body.



Then the trial erupted.



Partner watches “Good Morning America” most workday mornings, and I overhear it from the next room. During the trial, they had the most peculiar commentary, coming from their very reliable legal reporter Dan Abrams, who was teamed with Nancy Grace.



Nancy Grace?



I only really knew her from Joel McHale’s takedowns of her on “The Soup.” She is an attack dog. She believes in “victims’ rights.” (Or so she says.)



She is incredibly self-righteous, and thinks of herself as a human lie-detector. And her philosophy seems to be: if someone looks guilty, he/she is guilty.



Well, obviously, right?



Well, um, no.



Nancy dubbed Casey “Totmom.” She decided early on that Casey Anthony killed her daughter. She shouts down – no, screams down – anyone who disagrees with her.



Her GMA appearances with Dan Abrams were painful. When he tried to make points about the law, or about how the case was being presented, she brayed him into silence. She often plays the cornpone card – for example: “Well, maybe you folks up on Park Avenue in your fancy cars can live with that . . ”



Oh, Nancy. You have a TV show. Maybe you were cornpone once, but you’re not anymore. You should know better than saying something as stupid as that.



And, frankly, Casey Anthony is probably guilty. She certainly knows more than she’s telling. And I would guess that there are others – either in the Anthony family or elsewhere – who know all about it too.



But they’re not talking.



And the evidence in the case was all circumstantial. The child died – horribly – but until someone confesses, we’ll never know what happened to that poor little girl.



But Nancy knows.



And now Nancy is mad



She’s mad at the “kooky” jury, which found – in record time! – that the evidence was insufficient to put Casey to death for a capital crime.



She’s mad at – are you ready? – the media!, for making the legal process so much more complex than it needs to be. (I mean, really: reasonable doubt?)



One after another, legal authorities (even my boyfriend Harvey Levin!) are coming forward to talk about the case. With few exceptions, they praise the members of the jury, who listened to the testimony, looked at the evidence, and listened to the judge’s instructions, and for once – and in very speedy fashion – followed them. They found Casey Anthony guilty of the crimes she was indisputably guilty of (such as lying to the police), and found that there was reasonable doubt that she’d committed murder.



As – let’s face it – they really had to do.  Because there was no concrete evidence.



According to Nancy, on the night of the verdict: “Somewhere out there, the devil is dancing tonight.”



Please go read Nancy’s Wikipedia entry. It will entrance you, as it did me.



Oh, Nancy: go to hell.  The devil needs a dancing partner.



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