It seems entirely fitting that OJ Simpson should reappear at this surreal juncture in American life because many of the trends that culminated in the election of Donald J Trump can be traced back to his arrest and trial.
Consider first of all the impact on the US media of that slow-motion car chase, as “The Juice” headed down the 405 freeway in the back of his white Ford Bronco pursued by a small armada of police cars and a squadron of news helicopters. With viewers glued to their televisions that day, Domino’s recorded a record spike in pizza deliveries.
It was the moment arguably that real-time, rolling news truly came of age.
That chase and the gavel-to-gavel coverage of the 1995 trial on CNN and Court TV demonstrated a voracious appetite for cable news. The OJ “trial of the century”, with its blend of tabloid sensationalism and serious analysis, established the formula for ratings success.
In last year’s presidential election, the media fixation with Donald Trump demonstrated how that recipe still works now. His candidacy could almost have been tailor made to fit the requirements of real-time cable news and Twitter, its digital equivalent.
In ratings terms, his road to the White House became the political equivalent of that freeway chase, an improbable journey we couldn’t take our eyes off partly because we were fascinated to learn how it would end. Donald Trump exploited this. The billionaire reality TV star, sensing immediately his media pulling power, became the ringmaster of an OJ-style circus. (BBC)