McCarthyism Revisited

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

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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