Where Even O.J. Simpson Can Judge You

This was not an isolated incident. At least once a week, Simpson narrates a video from a golf course or from what looks like an expensive home. Each begins with a catchphrase: “Hey Twitter world, it’s me, yours truly.” Often he talks about sports; sometimes he talks about politics; occasionally the two are threaded together, as when he prefaced a discussion of the Capitol riots with a breakdown of the Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith’s professional prospects. Invariably, replies fall into two categories: supportive messages from people who still believe he did not kill anyone and pointedly ironic references to the murders. (“Thanks for the killer take, Juice.”)

Unbelievably, many of these videos contain glancing allusions to the thing for which he is primarily known. Simpson, who was acquitted of murder charges in his criminal trial in 1995, has maintained his innocence, and on Twitter he does so with unnerving nonchalance. “I’ve been in the legal system,” he says in the Capitol video. “I’ve had some of the best lawyers in the world,” he says, with a knowing chortle, discussing Donald Trump’s second impeachment. Why was he in the legal system? Why did he have those lawyers? Come on, you know why.

Unbelievably, many of these videos contain glancing allusions to the thing for which he is primarily known.

From 2008 to 2017, when Simpson was serving time for kidnapping and armed robbery in a Vegas sports-memorabilia dispute, the new-media industry exploded, and the barriers around celebrities collapsed. Everyone, from ordinary people to the very famous, could bypass media gatekeepers and talk to you directly through a phone app. Simpson’s communicating largely through video follows this trend. It also reminds his audience what he looks and sounds like after all those years spent under suspicion or in prison.

“The creation of a public image — that is, defining what ‘being O.J.’ meant — had been Simpson’s life work,” Jeffrey Toobin wrote in “The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson,” his definitive account of the murder trial. Now that a cross-racial majority of Americans believe he committed a double homicide, the parameters of Simpson’s public image have narrowed drastically. But he regularly uses those criminal allegations as the foundation of a winking performance, a different sort of “being O.J.” This isn’t new: In 2006, he famously tried to publish a book called “If I Did It,” in which he discussed how he would have carried out the murders — you know, if he’d done it. (A bankruptcy court awarded rights to the book to the Goldman family, who promptly subtitled it “Confessions of the Killer.”) Maybe I killed my ex-wife, he is always saying, and maybe I didn’t; either way, I am living my life, and you are among more than 900,000 followers waiting to see what happens next.

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