I’ve touched on some of this before (see #6 in the archives) in relation to religion, but I’m afraid the problem has become more pervasive (and even more insidious) throughout our society. The recent college admission scandal (which I confess I haven’t followed all that closely) brought the general subject to mind, but my concern goes far beyond just that “blip” on the highway of life.
In the past few years, we have seen quite a few people’s lives/careers damaged/destroyed from having been convicted of some “crime” by the jury of public opinion based on accusations made and amplified by “me, tooers of all sorts” on the Internet. In recent days, it’s been famous people who, apparently, cheated, bribed, etc., in order to make sure that their children got into the school of the parent’s choice. Now, I don’t like it, but the reality is that college admissions (and similar sorts of things) really haven’t been played on a level playing field for a VERY long time and at virtually all types of schools. If a parent, grandparent, or some other interested party, is willing to make it clear that their large monetary donation (scholarship, building, whatever) might be conditional on the basis of some specific student being admitted, most colleges can find a way to justify the admission in order to get the “donation.”
Now, what is alleged in the recent case is a bit different in that it seems to involve actual cheating on SAT/ACT tests, bribing coaches to “recruit” students with no discernable athletic records, etc. One can wonder, however, if this is all that different from Admission Committees going out of their way to make sure that “legacy” students (the children/grandchildren of wealthy alumni) are made to have a place at the school, even with less than highly desirable academic credentials. Note the word “alleged” above. It IS important. There have been accusations made, but there have been no trials, no guilty verdicts, no confessions, at least that I know of, except for the man charged with organizing the whole admission fraud operation. Yet people have lost jobs, performer’s shows have lost sponsorships, students have been expelled, all sorts of people have been “convicted” in the court of public opinion, but there hasn’t seemed to be much real proof(I believe that there IS such a thing as “proof”) produced. Whatever happened to “Innocent until proven guilty?”
I won’t go into all of the cases which have bothered me, but one has to think that it’s just possible that a good many public figures should have had the right to expect a bit of skepticism when the allegations started to roll in. From what I’ve seen, many of the alleged “crimes” are questionable behaviors or statements from the past, often in the long past. It makes me wonder why we bother with education since we seem to believe that people don’t grow, change, mature, acquire new information and/or ideas, and change their behavior on the basis of that education?
Doesn’t this picture, which was used to destroy Al Franken as a political figure, seem just a little too obviously staged to be taken all that seriously? It doesn’t look all that believable to me, and it was several years before he ran for the Senate while he was working as a comedic entertainer.
I’d suggest that this picture looks pretty staged to me, although that hasn’t been proven, either. Now the “victim” MAY have been asleep, as she has claimed, but this picture was, rather obviously, taken with a flash, so other people knew it was being taken. Could it be that “the lady doth protest too much?” in order to get her 15 minutes? Franken SHOULD have known better than to do something this stupid, but his conviction by social media and people seeking attention offends me.
If Al Franken, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, or any of the other accused can be proven to be guilty of the accusations made against them, I say “throw the book at them.” However, there is something quite disturbing and un-American about the self-righteous anger and the glee with which we, as a society, have taken to destroying people in the press and on “social media.” Do Ithink that many of the people who have been attacked are likely to be guilty of the charges against them? Yeah, I do! But that’s not proof, nor is it based on more evidence than just what I have seen, or heard, in the media.
The legend of the “casting couch” has been around in the underbelly of Hollywood since the days of the silent movies, and probably predates that in live theatre. Do I know if it was ever used? No, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it had. I have heard stories about cases where students have, apparently, tried to use the “seduction for a higher grade” ploy in schools, but I only heard about them from others, so those stories shouldn’t be considered as evidence.
An accusation (even many accusations) is(are) not a conviction. That was one of the problems in Salem in 1692 and the Congressional investigations of the early 1950’s. There was an assumption of guilt. Our system of justice is based on a presumption of innocence, which we got from English Common law, and which dates back to Roman times. I find it sad that we have come to be quite so quick to rush to judgement without making sure of the facts and the evidence.
I lost an ancestor to what seems to me to have been, largely, this sort of “popular” conviction in Salem in 1692. Yes, Martha Carrier (my ancestor) was actually convicted in a court, but the evidence against her was quite questionable, much of it being “spectral” in nature.(See the records of the Salem Witch Trials for August 2, 1692.) This being the case. I may be somewhat more sensitive to this sort of injustice and, perhaps, more than usually cautious regarding conviction based on personal opinions, rumor, innuendo, etc.
Please Note: I am NOT, defending those who have been accused in recent years, I’m simply pointing out that it seems more than slightly unfair to base actions on the fact that people have made “news” out of their accusations. I think that Martha’s words are worth remembering when she said, “It is false and a shame for you to mind what these say, that are out of their wits!” I suspect that we would have a better society if we exerted just a bit more care before assuming that someone is guilty of something just because they have been accused.
I confess to doubting that this is going to go very far in stopping all injustice, but it might help put a small dent in it.