November 10, 2011

PSU - Stopping to Think

This Penn State controversy surrounding Jerry Sandusky's several witnessed rapes of young boys is naturally inspiring a lot of emotion at the moment. Sandusky ought to rot in prison forever, and he likely will. No controversy there. But the student body of State College was literally in riot over the firing of Joe Paterno, and there have been volleys of accusations zipping back and forth across the internet yesterday and today, talking about this move by the Penn State board in particular.

The majority outside of Penn State see the riot as a moronic appeal to save a man complicit in child rape, a team's fans all crying "but- but... Football!" and wanting to remain in a fantasy world of meaningless gladiatorial conflict.

The majority inside Penn State that aren't dumb rioting students claim that Joe Paterno has been scapegoated in an attempt to save face for the university, dismissing an innocent man who did the right thing.

Well, let me preface this by saying that more information will come out and make this opinion dated, and I have no way of predicting what that might be. Maybe it will come out that Sandusky was running a private child prostitution ring, maybe new evidence will tie Paterno more clearly into an active cover-up scandal, who knows what might happen. But as the scandal exists now, with all the information I have at the moment, I don't see why Paterno is losing his job.

I don't really think it's a bad move by Penn State, just firing everybody nearby until they know that no one in their football program harbors child molestation willingly, I sympathize with that strategy. But the current story seems to be the following:

1. Sandusky is seen raping a ten year-old in the shower by a grad assistant.

2. That assistant tells Paterno that Sandusky was inappropriately touching a boy in the shower. This is the important part, because the grad assistant did not call the police or a real university official with the story, and he also seems to have lowered the charge from rape to molestation, I guess because he was embarrassed to say what was really happening.

3. Paterno tells the athletic director that Sandusky was fooling around in the shower with a kid. The accusation is again lowered mentally at this stage from molestation to vague cringe-worthiness. Naturally, since Paterno didn't actually witness the rape, he probably reported it dutifully but didn't try especially hard to incriminate his long-time comrade Sandusky.

4. Nothing happened. The athletic director was apparently not impressed enough by whatever Paterno said to tackle the allegations beyond apparently restricting Sandusky from bringing children on campus, even though Sandusky reportedly brought a victim to the preseason practices a few years later.

It's unclear to me if Paterno ever knew about Sandusky's previous half-admitted molestation charge in 1998. That 1998 charge, by the way, was successfully reported to the police, and Sandusky openly admitted he "maybe" inappropriately touched a child, and no charges were brought then either. So it seems like besides Sandusky, literally everyone else involved in this case is slightly at fault for not making a serious effort to bring him down.

Victim - The victim apparently didn't tell anyone what happened, but that's normal for a confused and terrified victim of rape or molestation, can't blame him.

Witness - The witness should have called the police. Instead, he is now the wide receivers coach at Penn State and is keeping his job. He saw the rape, and reportedly the only person he told was Joe Paterno. Why would you even tell Paterno? He didn't see anything happen and you expect him to do all the legwork of bringing down his former defensive coordinator? It's like seeing Jeffrey Dahmer eat somebody then only telling Dahmer's grandmother what happened. It is the witness' responsibility to call the police in this scenario. The only good explanations for why he only told Paterno are one, that he is too wimpy and afraid to actually accuse anybody of anything, or two, that he thought the rape needed covering up.

Paterno - Paterno heard some politely-worded allegations of molestation, then he reported them in even more politely-worded and vague allegations to a superior. Not the effort he should have gone through, but I hardly think this is clear evidence of a cover up.

It's a terrible thing that this was allowed to happen multiple times, but so far as I can tell, it's only angry mob mentality that really makes Paterno seem like a guilty party in this tragedy. I don't mind him being fired, because he's hardly short on funds and it's time for him to retire anyway, but it annoys the hell out of me that even a man writing a biography on Paterno is being metaphorically lynched right now just for saying that Paterno wasn't really that guilty here. Groupthink is always dangerous, and we need to examine this with a calm mind if we possibly can.