Why is Jerry Sandusky News?

June 19, 2012 | By | 6 Replies More

I was sitting in the barber chair this morning, where they had on some national news show that spent the entire time I was there discussing the ongoing trial of (alleged) pedophile Jerry Sandusky. I’ve been hearing about this on news stations for months. They are spending as long on the nightly news discussing this trial as they do on the collapse of the European economies or the coups in various major oil-producing nations.

I am truly puzzled about the coverage. There are likely several pedophiles on trial any given day. Why are they not newsworthy? Is it because he is a coach? Many of them are. Was it because he was a winning coach?

I just don’t understand why this one (alleged) pedophile is as newsworthy as wars deposing dictators to replace them with democratically elected Islamist regimes. Are both events shaping the course of civilization?

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Category: American Culture, Communication, Current Events, Journalism, Media, Propaganda, Secrecy, The Middle East

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A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

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  1. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    Dan,

    You’re serious, right?

    Of course the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse trial is news, just as the criminal trials of John Edwards, Michael Jackson and O.J. Simpson were news. Just as the criminal trials of the Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse were news. In each of these cases we find people accused of terrible crimes who believed themselves immune to the laws that apply to everyone else because of their a) wealth; b) power; c) connections to the right people; or d) some combination of these variables.

    The Jerry Sandusky case is a riveting news story because of its power to shock and dismay. True, the Sandusky story won’t directly touch my life, but the same can be said 99.9 percent of the stories found in the mainstream media. If the power to affect my life directly were the only criterion guiding my interest, then by that measure, the only news stories I should care about are those about the price of food and gasoline, the future of Medicare and Social Security and the accelerating destruction of the environment because of global warming.

    But the Sandusky story is riveting on its own merits because it lays bare the vile underside of a revered institution and a revered man, and because it offers so many timeless lessons about what happens when our idols turn out to have feet of clay, and when the powerful people who protect these idols misuse their power to victimize the weak.

    For many years, Sandusky was a beloved, legendary figure around Penn State because of his charitable work and, more importantly, because of his close association with Joe Paterno, the most gloriously successful coach in college football history and a man esteemed by millions as the coach who it did right — winning championships while also ensuring that his teams played with integrity and graduated on time. As such, Paterno was worshiped as a veritable demi-god by millions of adoring fans in love with an image no human being could ever attain in real life.

    Today, if we believe the testimony of his accusers, it turns out that Sandusky was a predator of the sickest kind, a monster who cynically exploited his philanthropy and his access to the Paterno and the storied Penn State football program to find his victims and sexually abuse them, and then terrify them into silence.

    What moves the story to an even higher level is how Paterno, in the most favorable interpretation of the evidence, was seemingly oblivious to Sandusky’s depravity, even though it was happening under Paterno’s very nose. But that’s the most charitable interpretation. In all likelihood, Paterno ( who like all very successful college football coach was a control freak who knew everything that was going on everywhere on that campus) knew about Sandusky’s crimes but chose to ignore them because winning football games and raking in money were far more important to him and his cronies than protecting nobody kids from fatherless homes.

    Sandusky is no average accused pedophile, in the same way that Richard Nixon was no average white collar crook. The crimes both men were allegedly involved in speak to the heart of America’s deepest, most powerful fantasies. To wit, we deify our heroes — heroes who personify what we consider our best qualities, especially when it comes to sports and winning. But our heroes, when scrutinized, too often are unmasked as frauds — from the courageous Columbus, who enthusiastically introduced slavery and genocide to the New World; to Andrew Jackson, and his war crimes against Native Americans; to Joe Paterno, the revered JoePa, who wrote off a bunch of boys from unimportant families as part of scheme to preserve the sacred image of himself and his football team.

    In sum, the Jerry Sandusky saga is cautionary tale about dangers that rise up with the collision of arrogance, power and fantasy.

    • Dan Klarmann says:

      So Sandusky was a popular coach of one of the state college football teams. And maybe Penn State is a college that people outside of alumni and the jock demographic may have heard of. I certainly hadn’t.

      My claim is that this coach and open lover of youths (via his charitable work) is in a little different position than being the figurehead top dog of the entire government, or even an elected official. Certainly different than being a priest who is appointed to be an example of moral rectitude.

      I certainly see this as a local interest story, given his pervasive predation in the community. But why is it national news?

  2. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    Seriously, Dan, you were sincere when you wrote:

    I honestly find this statement hard to believe. You’re telling me you had never heard of Penn State, much less knew that it was a football powerhouse led by the late, great Joe Paterno, until the Sandusky scandal hit the media?

    If that’s true, then I can only conclude first, that you have absolutely zero interest in the news, and second, you live in a windowless attic. No wonder you are questioning why the Sandusky trial should be a national story. You’re totally clueless about the media and popular culture.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    Sex certainly sells advertisement for news shows. I wonder how much coverage the Sandusky trial would have gained had it been about betrayal, hypocrisy, breach of fiduciary duty and dishonesty but not about sex. What if it were merely about arson or stealing?

    Simple stories involving celebrities, sex and dishonesty are typically winners in terms of gaining an audience.

    But think of how much coverage the mortgage foreclosure crisis would have had if the story involved amoral female Wall-Street employees who worked each day while topless?

  4. Dan Klarmann says:

    Well, this trial went much faster than O.J. The unsurprising verdict is Guilty, guilty, guilty

    But as Pharyngula says in the link above:

    “…he was just guilty of a poor career choice! Imagine, if he’d been a Catholic priest instead of a football coach, he’d simply be quietly relocated to a new venue, or paid $20,000 for his silence.”

  5. Tim Hogan says:

    Ouch, Dan! OUCH! But, sadly true.

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