Different people celebrate the 4th of July in different ways. Beyond the fireworks, baseball and ritual grilling of meat, I like to celebrate our nation’s independence by binge-watching my favorite TV show, “Law & Order,” the long-running police procedural drama.
The original show ran for 20 years and had several spin-offs. Regrettably, the original and most of its spinoffs have ended. My father was a police officer, so that could account for some of the series’ appeal. For me, Lenny Briscoe, the sardonic New York homicide detective played by Jerry Orbach, made the show worth watching. His wisecracks at crime scenes closed out the first block of every show for a dozen years.
But given my work in utility communications and marketing, I think the show’s frequent reference to the “court of public opinion” is what really resonates with me now. Whether invoked by the police, prosecution or the defense, nary an episode of “Law & Order” went by without some character asking how something would play among the public. Most of the concern about public perceptions took place well before social media grew into the dominant force it is today. Winning in the court of public opinion involved one distinct set of challenges; winning in a court of law a very different set. Very different sets of rules governed each, and, of course, disparate outcomes awaited the loser in each court.