Appearance – nothing else – was enough to jail the cardinal

Millions upon millions of dollars have been lost to scammers because of appearance. Phone calls allegedly from the tax department and Microsoft Windows have netted heaps of money because they sounded convincing. Emails appearing to be from the major banks, cleverly composed and photoshopped, have also netted millions. Scammers, con artists, imposters, swindlers and the like succeed because they appear convincing.

Conning the innocent, the gullible and the bigoted will always provide a rich field for the petty crook and the malevolent political operator at the highest level. Keith Windschuttle, in his most recent piece (see previous post), quoted senior Crown prosecutor Christopher Boyce’s self-described reaction to the courtroom performance of Cardinal Pell’s accuser, the choirboy with the chocolate drop eyes. Boyce told the court:

The responses that you see there, not only that you read there, but did you see there — and the manner in which they’re delivered; at the end of those, one puts down one’s pen and stares blankly at the screen and is moved. At that point, in my respectful submission, any prima facie at least, any doubt that one might have had about the account, prima facie, is removed.

Is he serious? Is he fair dinkum – in the Aussie way? Of course , he’s not. It’s all theatre. Deceitful theatre. He is out to manipulate the feelings of those who, in this case, are willing to be manipulated. A nice effective con.

You can be sure the last thing Crown Prosecutor Christopher Boyce would do in his private life is accept people merely on appearance when much is personally at stake.

I am reminded of the Seinfeld episode when Jerry asks George (Costanza) how he could live with himself after George barrelled his way through a kids party to escape a fire. George answered: ‘It’s not easy.’

One might wonder how easy it is for Chief Justice Anne Ferguson. One might ask whether she was serious when she said (also quoted in Windschuttle’s piece) of the choirboy’s performance:

Both the content of the answers, and the manner of their delivery, were said to be such as to eliminate any doubt a juror might have had.  In our view, this was a very significant part of [the choirboy’s] evidence.  It was rightly characterised as compelling, both because of the clarity and cogency of what [the choirboy] said and because of the complete absence of any indication of contrivance in the emotion which [the choirboy] conveyed when giving his answers.

I am reminded of those occasions when John McEnroe screamed at the court empire out of frustration: ‘You can’t be serious!’ The empires had better grounds for retort than the majority with their purple prose.

No unbiased person of normal intelligence trusts a person on mere appearance when much is personally at stake.