Blame Where It's Not Due


The Wall Street Journal editorial page keeps outdoing itself for sheer sophistry, but today’s op-ed on Joe Paterno sets a new record. How about blaming the Penn State scandal on … the media? In today’s Journal, the editorial writer, after the appropriate clucks, concludes: 
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. We doubt it will happen again. It's also something of a relief that in a culture as libertine as ours at least some behavior—sexual exploitation of children—is still considered deviant.
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. 
So let’s get this straight. “Given the relentless of modern public scrutiny,” it is “a miracle” that Paterno could coach for 46 years “without a notable serious blemish.”
It is? Really? What about the thousands of other coaches whose careers did not include helping to cover up the anal rape of ten-year-olds? And note the sly use of “blemish,” as if this were no big deal measured against Paterno’s other achievements.
And note the line, “We doubt it will happen again,” meaning that scrutiny has made great careers all but impossible. Doesn’t this insult all the people with public careers who carry themselves with dignity?  
Then the writer tries to blame the sick behavior of an assistant coach on “a culture as libertine as ours,” as if the increase in sexual tolerance had anything to do with child abuse and rape. If anything, a healthier and more open attitude toward sexuality has helped bring rape and sexual harassment out of the shadows. Herman Cain, take note.
Finally, consider the line that the events at Penn State “give new license to cynics who want to believe that no one who achieves prominence in public life can be honorable.” Say what? There are plenty of honorable and prominent people in public life. Paterno’s downfall is the sad exception. The writer is projecting his own cynicism onto the Paterno affair.
Basically, the editorial is a grumpy medley of Wall Street Journal prejudices, tacked on to a case where none of them fit. The good news, I supposed, is that the right keeps proffering a bizarre construction of reality that is finally creating a long-overdue backlash.

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