It is a strange world we live in. How else to explain that – by far – the biggest news story of the weekend was the arrival home to Australia of Schapelle Corby?
For 36 hours there has barely been interest in anything else. Her exit from Bali, her travel plans, her exact whereabouts, how the trip home was funded, her security arrangements have all dominated headlines, news broadcasts, online sites and radio airtime.
Corby, a famously convicted drug smuggler, set up an Instagram account shortly before leaving Indonesia and she had clocked up 147,000 followers at last count. One hundred and forty seven THOUSAND followers.
It is obvious there is public interest in Corby. Her arrest in 2004 over a boogie board filled with cannabis captured Australia’s attention en masse.
Was this young woman innocent, as she said? Had she been framed? Did she knowingly import the drugs?
They are questions that have been analysed ad nauseam in the intervening years.
In 2005 she was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in a prison in Bali. She was granted a 5 year reduction in sentence in May 2012. She released on parole in 2014 after spending 9 years in jail.
She was free to return home to Australia on Saturday. Given the immense public interest in her case and her family it is unsurprising that her return has dominated the news cycle.
And yet, unsurprising as it is, it’s also rattling.
On television earlier today we have heard a few different perspectives from reporters on whether the media circus following Corby’s every move is necessary, desirable or merely idiotic.
But beyond the question of whether there is news value in her return home, and the depth of that interest, there is another question I keep coming back to. The utility of it. Or, more accurately, the futility of it.
Of all the Australians we could pay attention to, be interested in, make time for, is Schapelle Corby deserving? I’m not sure.
Human nature almost unwitting focuses a spotlight on scandal. Car crashes, public disputes, affairs, corporate collapses: when things go wrong our eyes are trained to watch. Often, we can’t look away.
And yet where does that land us? In a world where a person who is arrested and imprisoned is elevated to a person of public interest and influence.
I’m not convinced there’s utility in that for Schapelle and her family, but certainly not for the rest of us. How do we train our eyes to land elsewhere?