Friday, March 4, 2016

"And when you gaze long into an abyss...

the abyss also gazes into you."

Who is Rod Dreher describing here?

__  Donald Trump

__  Rod Dreher

__  Both

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Actual Journalism vs. Spotlight

When I heard the title of the movie which lionized those oh-so-heroic reporters who covered the Boston Catholic abuse crisis back in the early 2000's, I thought it was perfect. Sunlight, Bryce's and Brandeis's "best disinfectant", illuminates half the globe at once — everyday. And we're talking about the actual globe we live on, not the Boston newspaper. But a spotlight only illuminates one particular thing at a time, leaving everything else in darkness. There is a searching quality about it; usually the spotlight adjusts a bit to focus on its target and moves along with it whether the target is a tap-dancer or a pop diva. The spotlight is unconcerned with anything else which may be going on in the theater or outside it.

So one might be led to think that the famous Spotlight division at the Boston Globe after which the film is named was shining light on the crime of child abuse. But they were actually shining light on a very particular subset of those crimes: only those in which the perpetrator was a Catholic priest. Just like the spotlight in a 1970's theater might have been indifferent that an aging Fred Astaire was enjoying the show in seat D5 and only interested in shining on a less talented dancer on stage, so this team was unconcerned that there was and still is child abuse going on in public schools, Hollywood talent scout offices and non-Catholic religious communities—that is, anywhere else.

But we've detailed all this before. There are several books about it (like this one), but most of it falls on deaf ears even though it's worthy to bring up again. My friend Jonathan Carpenter writes me in an email today:

Guess who watched "Spotlight" on his way home from Italy?

Did anyone ever ask Dreher or his Media buddies why they missed the terror Jerry Sandusky did at Penn State? How about the abuse of kids that went on in Hollywood during that time and still goes on? It is because it is easier for him and his friends to make it seem as if it is only a Catholic problem; when it is a human problem.

I agree heartily with Jonathan who, I confess, is more tireless than I. It's probably the military training, or maybe I've lapsed into an accepting sanguinity about the whole matter. People believe what they wish to believe.

But once someone knows the truth about a matter, they really have no right to opinions which deny it. Stated differently, when you learn something is full of lies, you should discard it as worthless. That is why I'm advising everyone read this article about the veracity of the Spotlight movie in its entirety. It is written by JoAnn Wypijewsky, a person who identifies with the political and cultural left and has no particular love for the Catholic hierarchy in Boston. It is meticulously researched and formidably executed. It is itself a spotlight on distortions, lies and obscuring the whole truth about characters and events. It is published in Counter Punch; it is a knock-out punch. The article is long, but I'll excerpt some of it in an attempt to entice you to read the whole thing.

I was in Boston in the Spring of 2002 reporting on the priest scandal, and because I know some of what is untrue, I don’t believe the personal injury lawyers or the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team or the Catholic “faithful” who became harpies outside Boston churches, carrying signs with images of Satan, hurling invective at congregants who’d just attended Mass, and at least once – this in my presence – spitting in the face of a person who dared dispute them.

I don’t believe the prosecutors who pursued tainted cases or the therapists who revived junk science or the juries that sided with them or the judges who failed to act justly or the people who made money off any of this.

And I am astonished (though I suppose I shouldn’t be) that, across the past few months, ever since Spotlight hit theaters, otherwise serious left-of-center people have peppered their party conversation with effusions that the film reflects a heroic journalism, the kind we all need more of.

Although I never had my face spit in, I have had people tell me directly that I don't care about the victims of abuse because I'm not more angry, and that I should support that ridiculous "Crimes Against Humanity" brief filed in the UN court against the Vatican if I really cared about The Children.

Both men were called monsters. Both men were offered plea deals by their respective prosecutors that, had they actually committed the crimes, would be an affront to justice and proportion. Shanley was offered time served – the seven months he’d been jailed while awaiting trial – plus two and a half years’ house arrest if only he’d say he was guilty of raping a child on Sunday mornings between Masses. MacRae was offered three years in prison, later reduced to two, if only he’d say he was guilty of cruelly molesting a teenager. Both men refused and went to their fates abandoned by church hierarchy.

“Can you imagine”, Shanley said to me after his conviction in 2005, “here I am, the worst monster, a danger to children everywhere, and they offer me time served? … But for refusing to lie, I got twelve to fifteen years.”

I have never denied that some priests did horrible things to children, but I have always thought the details smelled fishy. I remember hearing a local talk radio broadcast in Cleveland where the talkers were livid that a case against a priest had been thrown out of court for lack of evidence. Wypijewski confirms this phenomenon as abeing not just local, but Globe-al:

Besides normalizing the presumption of guilt, the Globe’s courtroom of panic made a high and punishing principle out of cheap popular opinion: Well, maybe he didn’t do this, but he had to have done something! Where there’s smoke, there’s fire! Where the victim has to be believed, it doesn’t much matter if one person is telling the truth and one person is a money-grubber (or, to put the kindest interpretation on it, just looking for a simple explanation for all the troubles of his or her life). It doesn’t much matter who is in the dock or behind bars for what because, after all, statutes of limitations are limiting, and the notion that guilt might go unpunished is intolerable. Someone must pay. The church must pay. Priests must pay, because even if they didn’t do something, they said something; or they said nothing but they should have spoken; they knew nothing but they should have known; they should have acted. We “thought they were God”, and we must have our pound of flesh.

I hope you have gone over to read this article in full by now. After all, it is much shorter, cheaper and less boring than watching a movie where Mark Ruffalo doesn't get to suck face with Scarlett Johansson or turn into a green monster. But I'll understand if you are busy at the moment. Here's one more excerpt which deals with the real issue for all the scumbags who rode this train of deception:

It’s unseemly to mention money. We are asked to believe that the ATM that is the Catholic Church, password VICTIM, could not possibly be an inducement to any of the thousands of accusers who have lined up since the “Spotlight” team’s first breathy reports – as if the usual reflexes of American money-grubbing are inoperative in this one area of life, and the people who, for instance, clambered for cash to ease the pain and suffering of having seen a priest naked in the YMCA really are salt of the earth.

The church was known to have begun making settlements with accusers by the early 1990s. Some, perhaps many, were legitimate, but as a closet culture, an institution scandalized by scandal, the church is also particularly vulnerable to extortion. Spotlight does not reflect that reality, just as the Globe did not seriously explore it. Every financial settlement in the film is proof of beastliness.

It was in the early 1990s also that a drug addict and criminal named Thomas Grover said he had been molested as a 15-year-old by MacRae. The first assault, he said, occurred during a counseling session in the early 1980s. He returned for counseling three more times because, he said, after each bout with the priest he suffered total amnesia, his memory erased until one day years later he remembered all. Grover eventually collected $200,000 from the church.

Under pressure from the Globe, MacLeish and others, the church paid Shanley’s accuser, a military malcontent named Paul Busa, $500,000; it defrocked Shanley, presumed guilty on every front, and it did all of this before the trial had even begun. Let that sink in, too.

Oh, what the heck. Just one more:

Gregory Ford had been Boston’s favorite victim, the ultimate proof of Shanley’s monstrosity, from the time MacLeish introduced him to the world during that PowerPoint presentation in April of 2002. I won’t relate the young man’s sad and tortured tale here except to say that his claim of recovered memory (which Busa copied in all important respects) did not ring alarm bells with those noble reporters or their editors. When it was pointed out that Ford’s own mother was the catechism teacher at the time he claimed his agony of weekly rape began, the family, the lawyers, the press, the prosecution, simply amended the start date. When the prosecution dropped Ford from its child rape case against Shanley because at various times Ford had also said he was raped by his father, a neighbor, a relative, our noble reporters did not review their past unskeptical reports and say, “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.” Likewise when the two other men were dropped from the case, and Busa was left standing alone, the press, like the prosecution, pretended it didn’t matter. Against the advice of its legal counsel, the church had settled the civil suit MacLeish had brought on behalf of all four men. Ford faded away, with a check for more than $1.4 million. At the time of Shanley’s trial, broadcast live on TV and covered by media across the country, it was as if Ford had never existed, but he and the others are counted among Shanley’s victims.

Emphases mine. So the story was changed as needed. And lies were told under oath. For money. Please read this article. It's all you need to know about this Hollywood confabulation.

(H/T MediaReport)