That's why the O.J. jury, after hearing seemingly irrefutable but confusing DNA evidence, stuck to the simple yet overpowering idea that Mark Fuhrman was a racist cop who could have tampered with the evidence. The more the prosecution piled up pages of testimony the more the jury believed it was tainted. Nothing else mattered.
The problem for the O.J. jury, and for the rest of us, is that "We are strangling ourselves with a cord of unnecessary words, too many statistics, and meaningless jargon," Jack Trout writes in his new book. The jury turned off when they made up their minds Fuhrman's racism made all the other evidence irrelevant, and that's how other people's minds work, too.
"In an overcommunicated environment, people are selective as to the information they will accept. It's a self-defense mechanism against sheer volume," Jack says.
And if we hear or read things that don't support preexisting attitudes, there's a good chance it won't get through. What chance did the prosecution have once the jury heard that Mark Fuhrman took the fifth (as it no doubt did), especially to the question of whether he planted evidence?
Jack also makes the point that emotions play a big part in memory. "You can see or hear something once, and it can last not just minutes but a lifetime. There are times when memories are so intertwined with emotions that information is stored that we never intended to store."
The most familiar example, of course, is JFK's assassination. But I would wager that none of us will ever forget watching O.J.'s white Bronco, from high overhead, knife through L.A. expressway traffic. Nor will we have any trouble remembering where we were when the O.J. "not guilty" verdict was rendered.
Whether we like it or not, the race card-or as defense attorneys preferred, the credibility card-was a simple message, well told. The prosecution might have made the error of data overload.
That's a trap that's easy to fall into. Jack says some big companies like Digital Equipment, GM, IBM and Sears are getting too much information.
"It's becoming apparent that a multibillion-dollar computer investment hasn't helped these companies to think very clearly. Quite to the contrary, I'm beginning to suspect that the more information these computers spit out, the more people get confused by it," Jack states. He quotes the chairman of GE, Jack Welch, as telling the Harvard Business Review: "Insecure managers create complexity.....Real managers don't need clutter."
Jack advises companies to get back to basics, to have a "simple, differentiating idea to drive your company or your brand."
"If it doesn't fit, you must acquit" was the defense's brilliant theme. What could be more effective in driving the O.J. brand to freedom?