Friday, July 13, 2012
Digging up the dead to throw more dirt on them
There are no conclusions in the Freeh Report on the Penn State scandal that the media and public didn't already jump to several months ago. Otherwise responsible journalists led the rush to judgement by abandoning their professional code of ethics and declaring Jerry Sandusky guilty of child sex abuse before Sandusky even went to trial, and demonizing the late Joe Paterno for participating in a cover-up that still hadn't been proven.
So, now that Sandusky's in jail for the rest of his life and Paterno's complicity is documented, we're going through the same exercise in holier-than-thou condemnation that we went through before it was actually justified. I guess people wanted to get their shots in on Paterno while he was still alive and weren't going to let a minor detail like due process stand in the way.
What's equal parts fascinating and predictable is that despite being a peripheral figure whose worst crime was exercising poor judgement in an impossible situation that was not of his own making, Paterno has become an even bigger villain than the actual child rapist. We are a celebrity-obsessed culture, and as the highest-profile name in the case, Paterno is the natural magnet for vilification, because if there's one thing our culture enjoys more than building someone up to demigod status, it's tearing them down again, whether it's for their own good or to make us feel better about ourselves. Well, no amount of abasement, mortification or even forgiveness is going to make any difference now, because Joe Paterno is dead, and his reputation and legacy were destroyed before he died.
Apparently, though, there's nothing like pissing on a dead man's grave for that smug feeling of moral superiority.