Each high-profile court case in America provides a stage for the media and public to act out their stance on justice. This time, the noteworthy performances were the cheers on Twitter and the angry reaction from many toward CNN’s own reaction to the verdict.
Knowing the outline of the case, there seemed little doubt that these guys were guilty. I think most people watching felt the same. But when the verdict was announced, I saw no reason to cheer.
A lot of people did, though. And they did for two reasons: 1. punishment is necessary in America for the righteous to be vindicated. 2. Many attached this case to other social issues such as athletes not being above the law and women’s rights.
People and media revealed the extent of this attachment by cheering the punishment and by refusing any empathy for the perpetrators. In fact, those who did were attacked.
CNN’s journalists expressed considerable, honest concern for the boys after the reporter on the scene was moved by the tears and sorrow from the perpetrators. But doing so kicked a hornet’s nest all the way from the New Yorker to Jezebel to Gawker to the Huffington Post to Slate.
I watched the footage of CNN’s coverage on yet another site that was lambasting it. I watched it expecting the hosts to fawn over these guys in some melo-dramatic soap-opera-ish fashion. But all it was, was two women showing concern. How could you not? The boy’s formerly-jailed father announced his failure as a dad and for the first time said to his son that he loved him. This same boy broke down in court when apologizing.
But there’s little room for this when such gripping issues are seen to be in the balance. And when justice got it right, the Tweets took off:
“Too much sympathy in court being shown for these disgusting little rapists. It is not a tragedy when a rapist is found guilty.#Steubenville“
“When I was in college guys used to joke ‘passed out equals consent’ and it made my stomach turn. So glad for the Steubenville verdict.”
“There are a lot of tears in the courtroom. Wonder where the tears were for the victim that night? #Steubenville“
“CONGRATULATIONS, JANE DOE! Justice in Steubenville is in your favor! Next stop: civil court!”
“Solidarity w/ Jane Doe. Happy for verdict, but it doesn’t stop today. She has to live with this when media coverage stops. #steubenville“
“Don’t feel sorry rapists: Stop airing the men crying. Those were adult actions, they should’ve been tried as adults.”
“‘Those poor boys’ lives are ruined!’ — exactly what you should not be thinking after the#steubenville guilty verdict.”
All this hate toward these two guys–all the intolerance for any concern for them–is fear concerning America’s past of seeing jocks get away with crime and discrimination against women. This makes sympathy for the perpetrator translate into being in favor of letting athletes get away with whatever they want, and is seen a fight against women’s rights.
Some might say I just don’t fully appreciate the long and arduous uphill climb for equal rights. But I don’t think that appreciation for justice means taking pleasure in another’s harm. And I know in my heart that it’s the admirable thing to feel for even those who do bad things. In this court case, though, that capacity has been shut off. It’s ironic that in a case where two boys violated a girl’s humanity, so many are out there to take away theirs.
to new plateaus,