McCarthyism Revisited

NW Buckeye's picture
June 4, 2011 at 5:28p

Few people reading this blog remember the era of McCarthyism.  Heck, I was a mere child when that nonsense was going on.  But, I do remember the stories of innocent people being railroaded by over zealous patriots in pursuit of an ideal society.  In the original context McCarthyism referred to making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence.  It is now used more generally to describe reckless, unsubstantiated accusations.  These accusations generally stem from some initial act of wrong doing by one party.  The tendency is for the general public, and sometimes politicians and/or the media to jump on the lynch wagon and accuse anyone remotely connected with the original wrong doing of being complicit in schemes that don't even exist. 

Fast forward to 2011.  You would think that our esteemed media members would have learned a lesson from the 1950's.  One of the basic standards in our legal system is that an individual is innocent until proven guilty through due process.  Due process means a hearing of some sort in front of a governing body or judge and jury.  Many individuals in the public eye are no longer afforded that luxury thanks to an over eager media system.  Often, they are accused, tried and convicted in the public eye with evidence that is at best circumstantial, introduced by over zealous reporters. 

Yes, I am speaking of the situation with Jim Tressel and The Ohio State University.  It seems that every hack with a pen is thinking of new ways to bring down everyone associated with Tressel.  Guilt by association – yes, that's the ticket.  Jim Tressel committed an NCAA violation.  That one violation cost him his job because of public opinion.  And, now everything he has done in the past is under scrutiny, and he is being accused by the media and many bloggers of some grandiose scheme during the course of his career as a coach. 

Think about that for a minute.  Jim Tressel is accused by many of being a sleazy, scheming cheat who would stop at nothing to field a winning team.  Really?  Just the mere suggestion brings to mind the seasoned mafia dons who are so calculated in everything.  Law enforcement can't touch them because they take care of every little detail so as not to be caught. 

This is where it gets interesting – I am going to try to apply common sense to the sequence of events. (I must add that I do not have a clue what went on in Jim's mind, but it is easy to take a look at this and suppose what I would have done if I were a mastermind cheat.)

So here we have Jim Tressel who gains knowledge that several of his players may have been involved in selling/pawning/trading memorabilia.  So he immediately implements a cover up!  OK, mafia don, put yourself in Jim's shoes.  Lets see, this information you just received is sent to you because of a FEDERAL INVESTIGATION – which means the facts will surface – there is little doubt of that.  What do you do?  If, indeed, Jim Tressel were the mastermind schemer that the esteemed Dohrmann professes there is no way there would be any paper or email trail of these notifications.  Yet, at the end of the process, there it is.  Does this really look like the work of a seasoned cover up artist?  Oops, maybe to much common sense here. 

Take a look at the accusation of Jim Tressel doing anything possible to field his best players and win.  Really??  How many times during his OSU tenure were players disciplined for “violations of team rules” and missed playing time.  Mo C was bounced from the team for his non compliance in academic issues.  Duran Carter (yes, the son of a Buckeye Legend) was not eligible to play in the Rose Bowl and eventually dismissed from the team.  Ray Small was in and out the the dog house so many times they had to install a revolving door just for him.  Beanie Wells was held out of his first USC game because he did not practice that week due to injury (this despite trainers and docs giving the go ahead for participation).  The list goes on.  Yet, we are led to believe by the esteemed media that Jim Tressel would do anything just to have his best players on the field. 

The accusations just do not make sense. 

So, where do I get to the McCarthyism comparison?  Well, here goes.  Jim was indeed guilty of violating an NCAA rule – once.  Despite being investigated for all of the old garbage brought up by Dohrmann, there was never any instance or evidence that he was complicit in any other incident.  But all the national media was calling for his head.  And, this influenced Les Wexner to pressure tOSU, and Jim was told to resign.  Did anyone in the media pan the SI piece?  Some said it was just a rehash of old stuff, but no one stepped up to the plate and called it what it was.  Even our local paper – The Dispatch  - had Ken Gordon calling it a good piece of journalism.  This is how McCarthyism started.  No one close to Senator McCarthy stepped up and called bullshit on his actions.  They all just sat back and said “Wow, I hope he doesn't accuse me of anything.”  As a result, the public began to believe his crap, and many an innocent citizen paid the price.  Well, now there seems to be a similar witch hunt going on.  It even started before the Dohrmann story.  Jill Riepenhoff and Mike Wagner of The Dispatch published an expose of players and car dealers that was filled with innuendo and accusations but only told half the story.  They even admitted to rushing to publish the piece because they could not wait for the BMV to provide accurate information.  The original story accused Thad Gibson of paying $0 for a car.  A retraction was printed less than a half week later and buried in the middle of the paper.  Yet, Ken Gordon, when confronted by 11W blogger Pam, said that he would not call out any of his colleagues for shoddy journalism, it just wasn't going to happen.  There have been many other reports, both written and broadcast that just do not tell the whole story.   And, we even have Johnny on 11W defending many of these hack jobs as good journalism.  Yes, McCarthyism at it's finest.  Don't criticize a colleague, they could come after you next. 

For what it is worth, I am not a journalist (obviously).  But, I did learn in Journalism 101 that a good investigative story digs into depth and tells both sides of the story (this piece is not an investigative story – it is my own opinion).  Both the Dohrmann piece and the Riepenhoff piece would not have received passing marks in my class.  I just don't understand how any responsible journalist could defend these pieces as “good” journalism.  And, the net result was a swaying of public opinion enough to bring about the resignation of one of the best coaches college football has ever experienced.  And, now there are many calling for the heads of Gene Smith and Gordon Gee and demanding that the tOSU dismiss any players associated this whole fiasco.  When will this McCarthyism witch hunt end? 

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AngelHeartsBuckeyes's picture

When the whole Tressel thing broke in March I was saying similar things--if Jim was trying to cover things up he was doing a very bad job.

I still don't fault him for withholding the info, up to and including signing that Sept letter with the NCAA. I do however believe he was wrong to not come out with the info that he knew in December when the federal investigation was closed.

Maybe if the NCAA hadn't made themselves look like Keystone cops on the Cam Newton debacle, maybe Jim would not have been quick to think he could have gotten away with it.

I do still scratch my head in wonder at why he just didn't suspend the players the first two games. M
ind boggling.

Buckeye born and bred. Buckeye til I'm dead.

OHIOinME's picture

I was thinking similar stuff, I just didn't label it McCarthyism.  It has been kind of reminiscent of it, though not on the grand scale that it took place in the 1950's, but does that matter for Jim Tressel and his team?  I have been thinking how  could "respected" media types, SI, ESPN and their writers throw accusations or insinuations of breaking rules, calling for head to roll, people to be fired and tar and feathered and not have any valid or physical proof.  Doing this while knowing that it would promote their name, it would cause school and NCAA investigations and the public and other lazy media types would witch hunt.  I can't believe I saw Andy Staples on CNN (I believe CNN owns SI) and hearing him call out BuckeyeNation as dogmatic followers of Jim Tressel and that Jim Tressel is a fake, a fraud, he basically said he was a scheeming cheat.  I heard Dohrmann on podcasts say the something with satisfaction in his voice.  SI and CNN had this conversation on cable news because of the Dohrmann SI story, which was Freshman quality in my opinion.  It was porn for the lazy minded and character assissins. 

Some people praised it, gave Dohrmann interviews like he was an expert on tOSU football program.  Like you mentioned NW Buckeye, others were more hesitant to call it bush league, in fact, few to none actually did come out and say it.  It was an already told story rehashing only a few bad deeds, then Dohrmann tried to prove a trend of corruption by the coach and the program though speculation.  For good measure, he threw in a higher violation number that was previously made known and added names of current buckeyes with no actual proof.  It was all water cooler rumors, or I guess more acurately tattoo parlor rumors.  Dohramnn and SI were both waiving a loaded weapon around with no regard who it was pointed at.   Even if another active player is found to have sold stuff, Dohrmann didn't know this by fact.  SI or Dohrmann could have handled this with more investigation, more professionlism, with tact.  Instead they chose to throw proud the children of proud families under the bus to character assissnate Jim Tressel, his life work and his program.  Like a positive side of Tressel doesn't exist and BuckeyeNation was all fooled by the devil.  Plan and simple, it was irresponsible journalism.

I think we call all agree JT did wrong per NCAA rules.  I think we all can agree that there is more to JT than a relatively small percent of his athletes breaking NCAA rules.  I think anyone who follows the football program knows that Tressel, like most coaches, likes to handle as much player issues as he can and keep it inside the program.  Like mentioned above, Tressel has held out individuals that were game changing players because of injury or breaking "team rules", knowing it could cost the win.  I'm not sure why the media, especially the local type, can say Jim Tressel is now disgraced.  What kind of simple-mindedness does one must have to see a man; with more good than bad, influencing more people's lifes to the positive than most others, that have 95% of people he knows talk of all the good he has done versus bad decisions he has made, and then come to the conclusion to say Tressel is disgraced and then virtually tar and feather him.  Folks, you don't have to be perfect to be a good person. 

Joke of the day:

A young man is walking through a small village one day and decides to stop by a bar and have a beer. He walks into a bar, and sees a grizzled old man, crying into his beer. Curious, the young man sits down and says, "Hey old timer, why the long face?"

The old man looks at him and points out the window, "See that dock out there? I built that dock with my own two hands, plank by plank, nail by nail, but do they call me McGregor the dockbuilder? No, no."

The old man continued, "And see that ship out there? I've been fishing these waters for my village for 35 years! But do they call me McGregor the fisherman? No, no."

The old man continued, "And see all the crops in the farms out there? I planted and have been farming those crops for my village for nearly 45 years! But do they call me McGregor the farmer? No, no."

The old man starts to cry again, "But you screw one goat..." 


NW Buckeye's picture

Thanks for your comments.  Both my wife and I concur, and we both enjoyed reading your take. 

buckeyedude's picture

LOL. That's perfect.



buckfan77's picture

Sorry NW Buckeye Smith doesn't get a pass in my book. In fact, I hold him more accountable for what has happened with the media than JT. I agree JT committed NCAA violations and the surrounding media sh*tsstorm cost him his job and not the actual violations (ie McCarthyism). However, starting with the press conference in March Smith has been either incompetent or worse negligent in how he handled this. This gave the media an opportunity to say whatever they wanted. For that reason firing Smith isn't McCarthyism it's holding him accountable for being bad at an important part of his job.