James Beach

Science Fiction, Fantasy, Nonfiction and More


The Steubenville rape case, and the Mass Media’s syndrome of misplaced sympathy

Re: Steubenville – I think I understand a) why so much of the mainstream media was so bizarrely sympathetic with the attackers, and b) why so many in positions of power at the town and the high school itself would probably have allowed the whole thing to slip under the rug. It’s both for the same reason:

Young football players are supposed to be winners. And harsh things just aren’t supposed to happen to winners. Winners are supposed to be a separate class – where everyone wants to be, where everyone can feel insulated from the difficulties of the rest of the world.

There is this just this weird feeling in many societies, but perhaps especially in America, that winners should be treated especially well. They should be given extra leeway, extra benefits of the doubt, and when something harsh happens to a *winner*, that’s an extra tragedy that goes beyond something happening to, say, some probably-a-loser little peasant girl.

That’s why crack users can get years in prison for being caught addicted, while drug money launderers can get bonuses while fines are deducted from their banks’ profits. That’s why stealing $100 can put you in jail, but stealing $1 billion from the economy can get you a corner office. People just aren’t comfortable, somehow, with the idea that perceived winners should be treated just as harshly as anyone else. Or, alternately, that losers should be treated just as well.

And that’s why when the attackers get sentenced, there isn’t a dry eye among nearly anyone in the major media about the horrible effect this will have on *their* lives. How this will hurt their careers. Gee, how they will have to carry the damage of this sentence their whole lives – and on and on – there isn’t enough irony in the *world* to describe the ridiculousness of this position.

I do think this concept is changing, but it’s going to continue to take a lot more work on everyone’s to fix the individual situations, and the overall pattern as well.