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  • FTC

Morally Indefensible

Updated: Nov 23, 2022

(Podcast available on FX)

FTC Rating: 2 out of 5

The wife and two daughters of a military doctor are found slain in their home in 1970. Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald is convicted of the crime although he continues to maintain his innocence, blaming the deaths on four intruders inspired by Charles Manson. In an attempt to clear his name, he provided incredible access to his life and defense to reporter Joe McGinniss, trusting him to write the “real” story. The resulting book “Fatal Vision” is a smash hit, selling over one million copies and inspiring another book “The Journalist and the Murderer” by Janet Malcolm in which she accuses McGinniss of misleading MacDonald, questioning the reporter’s methods and journalistic integrity. Did Joe McGinniss hoodwink Jeffrey MacDonald by pretending to be his friend or did he simply use a tactic to reaffirm the conclusions of twelve jury members who ultimately found the disgraced doctor guilty?

A note on why this review is included on FTC’s page despite the low rating.

The subject matter and cast of characters featured in this podcast are incredibly intriguing. My expectations were high after episode one but unfortunately it failed to deliver more than the Coles Notes on the case, the trials, and the relationship between McGinniss and MacDonald. Listeners do not have a good sense of the evidence against MacDonald and why the alternative theory of the crime was discredited. Episodes are short, approximately 30 minutes, bloated with ads and unnecessary sound effects. The structure is fragmented, the timeline awkward, and producers included clips that did little to progress or enrich the story. However, I cannot stop thinking amount this case and it did inspire me to pick up the books “Fatal Vision” and “The Journalist and the Murderer” which I am extremely excited to start and hopefully review soon for FTC readers.

Final Thought: I hope this review will inspire others to listen to the podcast and share their opinions on the FTC page.

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