This is a copy of an article I recently published on the John Marsden defamation tiral and mythological images mobalised in the media coverage of the trial.
Recent scholarship has explored the mythical function of news reporting. A diverse set of studies has shown that when news takes mythic shape it can perform both a community-building cultural role and/or a boundary-setting ideological role.
This article looks at theories of myth and the way it functions in both journalism and law. This mythical understanding is contrasted with the widely held views of journalism and law as truth-seeking and fact-based institutions. The public identity of any plaintiff in a defamation case will necessarily come under challenge. The adversarial system necessitates the construction of competing tales of who that person is and how he or she customarily behaves.
This process seems to have been exacerbated in the case of Sydney solicitor John Marsden, the longest running defamation case in Australian legal history. Powerful archetypal patterns shaped the telling of the Marsden story, which takes it well beyond the realm of the controversial and into the realm of the mythical. Mythical images of hero, villain, martyr and initiate are identified as operating in the Marsden trial and its reporting. But the image of the mercurial Trickster is identified as a key myth in understanding the Marsden story.