Throughout the semester, I will be providing supplemental material for group members who would like extra context for the events that occur in Fatal Vision.
We will be consulting two additional texts: The Journalist and the Murderer by columnist Janet Malcolm and A Wilderness of Error by famed documentary filmmaker and former private investigator Errol Morris, as well as other video clips and newspaper articles that give context to Fatal Vision.
The Journalist and the Murderer concerns itself not with the ‘whodunit’ that permeates Fatal Vision, but the ethics surrounding author Joe McGinniss’ portrayal (and betrayal) of Jeff MacDonald. Originally published in The New Yorker magazine as a series of articles, Malcolm uses MacDonald v McGinniss to examine the problematic, parasitic nature of the journalist/subject relationship. To whom does the journalist owe their allegiance? The subject, whose friendship only exists as a way to extract information? Or the publisher, whose desire to print compelling journalism directly influences your professional and personal livelihood? How much influence should the subject have over editorial content, and what are the ethical and constitutional implications of such privilege? Is there a meaningful difference between a “lie” and an “untruth”?
A Wilderness of Error, on the other hand, very much concerns itself with ‘whodunit.’ Errol Morris, famous in part due to his masterful exoneration of Randall Dale Adams in The Thin Blue Line, hopes to do the same for MacDonald, even if he was thirty years too late. Published in 2012, Morris reexamines the case depicted in Fatal Vision and comes to the conclusion MacDonald hoped that McGinniss would have reached in the 1980s: MacDonald did not do what the U.S Army and Justice Department said he had done on the night of February 17, 1970.
You are welcome to read – or not read – whatever I write in this blog. I’ll try to keep the posts short (1000 words seems like a good length, but brevity is hard).
My email is email@example.com if you have any questions.