As usual, Norm Pattis weighs in thoughtfully.
Criminal trials are not sporting events, with one “team” up against another to see who “wins”, with congratulations all around at the end for a game well played, as if this was all just another football contest in a different form and venue. Somebody should explain this to Linda Kelly. One wonders if Penn State’s sports culture isn’t just as twisted and disproportionately influential in the Sandusky trial as it apparently was in the Sandusky episode to begin with: both are just branches of the same poisoned tree.
People feel good about the verdict. They shouldn’t. If it’s correct, it’s nothing to feel good about. If it’s not correct it’s abominable. Of course the chances that it’s not correct seem slim indeed, but then we should remember the day care sex abuse hysteria; the McCarthy era; the Salem witch trials.
Collective madness often surfaces in high profile criminal trials. Like Norm Pattis, I marvel at it. The spectators become a mob with an insatiable desire for expiation through the drama that unfolds before it, which in reality isn’t so much drama but rather highly orchestrated spectacle. At first they’re just entertained and indulge their morbid curiosity, but in this or that case the whole thing gets out of hand. Why it happens in one case and not another is a mystery to those who deal in the morbid and the profane and the criminal on a daily basis.
I’m completely unimpressed, really. I hear the designated pundits blather on about evil this and evil that, congratulating each other in the crassest mutual admiration society fashion, and of course lauding the “courage” of the “victims”.
But not one of the Sandusky victims has endured even a tiny fraction of the horror visited upon Sephora Davis. Not one. Yet Jeffrey Toobin has nothing to say about that. Nor does Bob Costas. Nor does Linda Kelly, or her New York counterpart Eric Schneiderman. When it comes to courage and fortitude, there is no comparison between Sephora Davis and any of Jerry Sandusky’s victims. Her very existence makes their ordeals seem a trifle. It makes the moralistic Sandusky preaching by state officials and media mavens into grotesque, self-congratulatory puffery; false piety over anointed “victims”; self serving posturing and pandering.
Oh my goodness gracious! How do the powerful get away with all the abuse for so long? Why are people afraid to come forward?
Please stop. Before I gag.
Monsters, indeed. Read this. And this. And this. These questions are stupid, and in this context pretentious and self-serving drivel. The powerful can get away with things: this is one of the things it means to be powerful. And the vast majority of the time the rest of us go along, at least by looking the other way. Is Jerry Sandusky’s wife in the cross-hairs? Maybe, but then the mob hasn’t been screaming for her head on a platter, probably because it’s not so easy to distinguish her from ourselves.
We’re all Jerry Sandusky’s wife in some respects. But talk about an inconvenient truth.
We would still prefer to think about the Nittany-Lions’ win-loss/bowl record without the distraction. Indeed, to many this is the point of the whole trial-conviction thing. Even now, people in the Penn State “community” are breathing a sigh of relief, now that they have their villain all boxed up in a neat little package – but not one single difficult question has been so much as asked, let alone answered. We get to move on in our self-satisfied way, convinced that `monsters` and `demons` are an external threat.
But in our heart of hearts, we know different. The reality is not so easy.
Speaking of easy: it`s easy to climb up on your moral high horse when the braying mob is behind you. I sometimes think that is the worst tendency of prosecutors, the quality most likely to produce abuse and atrocity of the official kind. One sign that prosecutors have at least succumbed to that tendency (if not indulged it) is when a criminal trial takes on a circus like atmosphere, devoid of the solemnity and seriousness that should be present.
Circumspection is not easy. In the wake of the Sandusky trial maybe we should take a stab at it for a change.