Look, I don’t know all the facts about what now former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno heard that dreadful night nine years ago any more than anyone else does. All we know is that he heard something about an ex-assistant’s inappropriate behavior with a minor, and he reported what he’d heard to his superiors. He has now admitted he should have done more at the time, but that did not stop the press from going after his scalp in an all-out effort reminiscent of Watergate. Why the focus on the grandfatherly icon Paterno versus the real culprits, starting with the perpetrator of the crimes?
If someone wants to argue that Paterno is (or at least was) the face of Penn State football, and maybe even the entire university, and therefore had to go given his tepid response to the horrific incident, that’s understandable. But it seems like something else was going on here in this rush to judgment.
It’s ironic that so much outrage, however justified, has come out of this sorry episode. Yes, what ex-assistant coach Jerry Sandusky did, and it seems from what we’ve heard that it’s gone beyond mere allegations, is about as horrible of a crime short of murder as there is. Anything involving the molestation or deliberate harm of a child fits into that category. So, with that in mind, where is the outrage toward an organization such as the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA)? How many people have even heard of them and what their agenda is?
For that matter, why has this laser-like focus on evils deeds and sure and swift justice for the guilty been so absent during the almost three years of this utterly corrupt and inept presidential administration? Just as an example, where’s the outrage about an openly gay man who has expressed support for NAMBLA being appointed by the president as the “safe schools czar?” Surely if Paterno had to go, this guy should be next on the list in a fair and just world. Right?
The answer, I’m afraid, is all too clear. In Paterno-gate, the mainstream media have once again flexed their muscles and knocked a national icon off his perch. They, including their sports brethren, most of whom share similar political philosophies, still have a lot of sway in picking the winners and losers in our society. And they decided that Paterno, an arch-conservative in his coaching philosophy if not political persuasion (he donated to Obama’s 2008 campaign), was an easy target. For years, the rumblings had been that Paterno had coached well beyond his time, and only a recent resurgence of the football program had muted the calls for him to retire—until now. Unfortunately, there are no similar rumblings about the safe-schools czar, Kevin Jennings, who remains along with his boss well-protected by a media machine that refuses to tell us the truth when it collides, as it often does, with their agenda.
If anything hopeful comes out of the sorry episode, maybe it could be the public waking up to what outrage can accomplish when it’s targeted with enough intensity, whether correctly or incorrectly.