“Creating a public image – that is, defining what it meant to be ‘OJ’ – had been Simpson’s lifelong work,” Jeffrey Toobin wrote in “The Run of His Life: The People v. OJ Simpson, ”his definitive account of the murder trial. Now that an interracial majority of Americans believe he committed a double homicide, the parameters of Simpson’s public image have shrunk dramatically. But he regularly uses these criminal allegations as the basis for a flashing performance, another sort of “being JO”. This is nothing new: in 2006 he tried to publish a book called “If I Did It”, in which he discussed how he allegedly committed the murders – you know, if he had. (A bankruptcy court granted the rights to the book to the Goldman family, who quickly captioned it “Confessions of the Killer.”) Maybe I killed my ex-wife, he still says, and maybe I didn’t; anyway, i’m living my life, and you are one of over 900,000 subscribers waiting to see what happens next.
An enduring slogan of the Trump presidency was ‘there’s always a tweet’: the former president had posted so voluminously over the years that no matter what position he took, you could easily find evidence he had. once insisted on the contrary. But criticizing his hypocrisy missed the core emotional logic of the tweet. The point of posting like this isn’t to prove your intellectual consistency; the point is just to post. I believe Simpson, who knew Trump, knows this intuitively, because it so naturally fits the type of fame he spent decades pursuing. He was a football superstar, but instead of falling into retirement, he stubbornly pursued acting and endorsements, making sure he would remain in cultural consciousness as some kind of eternal Hollywood Square. Producing Twitter monologues about golf conditions and climate change isn’t exactly shilling for Hertz, but it keeps your name there. And if Simpson continues, a number of people might forget how he got here in the first place. He will have his detractors, yes, but his supporters too, in the same relaxed way as any modern celebrity – and a modern celebrity is the only thing Simpson is capable of being, at this point.
The point of posting like this isn’t to prove your intellectual consistency. The point is just to post.
One thing that jumps out in the eyes of Toobin’s book today is the author’s obvious contempt for Simpson. References abound to his limited intelligence, his duplicitous nature, his obvious guilt. At the time of the book’s publication in 1996, it was a popular position: that Simpson had clearly done a terrible thing and got away with it. But time cuts off all passions and creates new characters to focus on. Last fall, Toobin accidentally exposed himself during a video call with his co-workers. He was eventually fired by his employer, the New Yorker, and made fun of the entire political spectrum. Even OJ had fun. “Damn it, Jeffrey Toobin,” he says in a short video. “At least Pee-wee Herman was in an X-rated movie theater.” It was extremely cheesy, as the lines say, but just imagine the humiliation of finding yourself in a position where OJ Simpson can go viral by clowning your failures. Some people got mad at him; others said, “Hold on tight, Juice.” Right now, it didn’t matter what he was supposed to do. He was online and reacted to the news like everyone else.
Jeremy Gordon is a Chicago writer whose work appears in The New York Times, Pitchfork, The Nation, and other publications. He last wrote for the magazine about musician Beverly Glenn-Copeland.