Defending If I Did It
Sue me, but I'd like to read O.J.'s confession.
Let me see if I've got this straight.
O.J. Simpson, 11 years after he's acquitted for a double murder that we all know he committed, writes a book that, according to its editor, constitutes a confession to the crime. Its publication, she says, will not enrich Simpson personally. "I contracted through a third party who owns the rights," she writes in a prepared statement, "and I was told the money would go to his children." Even if the deal contains some loophole that allows Simpson to take the reported $3.5 million, Simpson won't be able to keep it, because of an outstanding debt he owes the family of Ronald Goldman—the man Simpson killed along with his estranged wife Nicole—who won a $33.5 million civil judgment against Simpson. News Corp., the parent company of the publishing house that was preparing to distribute Simpson's purported confession, reportedly offered the Goldman family and the family of Nicole Brown Simpson additional "millions" in profits from the book's publication and the planned airing (through its Fox subsidiary) of an interview with Simpson.
Isn't this the point at which we should all shout, "Hallelujah"? Instead, of course, rising public outrage at what is labeled a commercial stunt prompts News Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch, who surely knew about all the various machinations in advance, and has never before shown himself to be burdened with a conscience, to cancel publication, pledge to pulp the books, and pull the plug on the TV interview. Barbara Walters, hardly the queen of good taste, took a pass on an interview, also. Not even the bottom-feeding Phoenix Books, which published Jayson Blair's memoirs, will admit any desire to step into the breach. Various commentators state with much sorrow that the book and maybe even the interview video will doubtless turn up on the Internet, which has no standards and no shame.
At the risk of proving this last point, let me state that those bootleg items can't turn up on the Internet fast enough to suit me. Yes, it's possible that this whole thing is a fraud—that Simpson's hypothetical confession is no such thing, but rather a tease or an evasion. I tend to doubt that, though, if only because the impulse even to tease would go a long way toward constituting a confession. (What innocent man would ever desire to participate in such an exercise? And incidentally, if the book turns out to be a 100 percent total fraud concocted by Simpson and Judith Regan, that's worth finding out, too.) Yes, it's true that if Simpson wanted to confess to the crime at this late date, it would be better if he did so directly to a law enforcement officer or a prosecutor. But that wouldn't spare us an ensuing media circus. Simpson's confession, assuming it is a confession, is news. It may also create an occasion for Simpson to be punished in some way for his awful crime.
Let's be clear. I despise O.J. Simpson as much as the next guy. But I despise him for killing the mother of his children and a perfect stranger in a pathologically jealous rage. I don't despise him for confessing to his crime, if that's what he did, or edging close to doing so. And I do not wish to avert my eyes from whatever it is he has to say for himself at this late date. To understand all is to forgive all, the old saying goes. But I don't want to understand. I just want to know what this son of a bitch has to say for himself. If anyone out there has a copy of this deplorable book, please consider sending it my way.
Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.