If we are to view the incident of Steve Bartman as an operational failure of the panoptic gaze, then it becomes very tempting to rewind a decade earlier and view another sports story as the zenith of panoptic power and the modern surveillance state, that story of course being the apprehension and murder trial of O.J. Simpson. For one can only feel a deep symmetry between O.J. the football player and O.J. the criminal suspect on the lam: Black man, white extended skin (of Bills uniform or Ford Bronco), overhead camera pictures (from Goodyear blimp or news helicopter), madly dashing for the goal line with defenders in hot pursuit.

Only on L.A.'s Interstate 405 there was no end zone to be found, a fact that escaped O.J. the football player as O.J. on the lam.

Meanwhile, the electronic eye on the scene of his final rushing play quickly drew the cognitive attention of the collective media-sphere. Millions watched, some cheering for the home side, while others lusted for a shoestring tackle.

Surveillance meets spectacle. Reality TV before the genre existed. Or so it would seem at first glance.

In focusing on that indelible retinal afterimage, however, one becomes blind to the truly significant moment of the ensuing O.J. "event": it was to signal America's popular introduction to the world of DNA as forensic archival evidence, or of code as truth. And with the contaminated DNA evidence striking a critical blow to the prosecution's case, it was to introduce the generalized campaign for hygiene that the society of code demands as well.


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