Friday, November 11, 2011

Wall Street Journal Editorial Take Tragedy at Penn State and Makes It a Partisan Issue

Incredible:  Opinion Writers Make a Horrific Situation Even Worse

[Follow Up:  The Dismal Plitical Economist would normally put this at the end, but this is important.  After reading the post below, check back and read this section.  It will make you feel better.

In its “Notable and Quotable” on its editorial page the Wall Street Journal prints this

Peter Wehner writing Nov. 10 at Commentary's Contentions blog:

A firestorm has engulfed what was once a great university—and in the process it has destroyed the reputation of a great coach. . . . The firing of [Joe] Paterno, who has more victories than any coach in major college football history, has caused outrage among students at Penn State.

For those whose sympathies fall mostly with Paterno, I would simply say to them: Read [the] sickening, 23-page Grand Jury report which documents, in clinically gruesome detail, the [alleged] wicked acts of [Jerry] Sandusky, as well as the extraordinary irresponsibility of top officials at Penn State, including "Joe Pa." It will transform one's initial sense of deep sadness to one of burning rage.

So maybe some decent rational person is at least partly in command of the Journal’s editorial section.]

The events unfolding at Penn State University are largely outside the purview of The Dismal Political Economist.  There is certainly enough being written on the situation, so much so that the world does not need further commentary from this Forum.  But one aspect of it does require comment, namely an editorial in the Wall Street Journal concerning Penn State Football coach Joe Paterno. 

Mr. Paterno was the first person notified of an instance of assault on a child in the Penn State facilities by a retired Assistant Coach who had been granted unlimited access to Penn State athletic facilities.  Mr. Paterno informed his supervisor, and then dismissed the issue entirely.  For this lack of concern about the victim and about other potential incidents Mr. Paterno was appropriately and immediately fired from his position.

For the editors of the Wall Street Journal, the horrible occurrence was a chance to condemn someone else.  The Journal rightly condemns Mr. Paterno’s failure to take action, but then says

This is not to endorse all the media moralizing, which revels in schadenfreude that another man of great reputation has been revealed to be flawed. We live in a culture that worships celebrity but seems not to want heroes, or even figures of respect.

And in a typical display of editorial cowardice does not name anyone or any media that has engaged in activity the editorial condemns.  Now The Dismal Political Economist has not read everything written on the subject, but he has read a tremendous amount and nowhere does he find the “media moralizing” or the “schadenfreude” that the Journal has found.  There has been only great sadness and outrage.  If the WSJ opinion writers have someone in mind, even minimal journalistic ethics requires them to say who or what they are talking about.

As for Mr. Paterno, the Journal opinion says this

Mr. Paterno has done enormous good across six decades at Penn State, especially for young people, and that legacy should not be forgotten amid the denunciations. Given the relentlessness of modern public scrutiny, and the thousands of young men who have traveled through the Penn State football program, it's something of a miracle that Mr. Paterno could coach for 46 years without a previous notable blemish.

Look, Mr. Paterno has not been a contributor to society, he has been a football coach.  He has not cured a disease, has not been a humanitarian, has not contributed anything to civilization except to entertain it.  His failure to follow up on an assault on a child is not a “notable blemish”.  That’s like talking about John Wilkes Booth’s great career as an actor, and then describing that incident with President Lincoln as a “notable blemish”.

If it turns out there is a hero in this case it may be Pennsylvania Republican Governor John Corbett, who as Attorney General pursued this case and is the major person responsible for justice, finally, finally being done.  And no, WSJ Editors, there are millions of men and women who coach and do other things for 40 to 50 years without a "notable blemish".  That is not a "miracle" it is the lives of decency.

The Journal ends its opinion piece not with a call for Penn State to locate the victims and try to provide them with counseling and other remedial help, but with this

The events at Penn State are indeed a tragedy, and doubly so because they give new license to cynics who want Americans to believe that no one who achieves prominence in public life can be honorable.

This leaves one to wonder if whether or not there is anyone at the Journal who reviews editorials before they are published, and can say when something like this is written “No, we are not printing this drivel, this trivialization, this outright fraud”.  Apparently not.

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