Guilty by media

I didn’t want to write about politics or current events this morning. Really I didn’t. I had to do my MGC blog post and then I wanted to get straight to the final check of Light Magic before moving on to the next project. Unfortunately, the news for the last few days — who am I kidding? It’s been going on for months — won’t let me. I’ve railed here and elsewhere about how tired I am about the media trying to create news instead of report it. Well, they (along with a certain segment of people) have gone one step further. Now they are declaring people guilty, not based on their guilt or innocence but based on the alleged crime.

The latest stems from the allegations against members of the current Administration of spousal abuse. I want to go on the record right here that I think anyone who abuses a spouse or partner should face the full force and penalty of the law. However, we have a justice system for a reason. That reason has been lost in the wave of outrage left in the #MeToo wake. While I applaud women — and men — stepping forward to confront their abusers, we also have to take a very long and hard look at their allegations. I am sure many, if not most, were abused as they allege. However, I have seen too many instances where abuse allegations were leveled when no abuse took place to believe they have all been abused.

To start, we have to clarify what “abuse” means. It doesn’t mean insulted. It doesn’t mean someone said something you don’t like. It doesn’t mean an accidental touching in a crowded room when someone was bumped into you. Abuse is a crime that requires the mental intent to abuse the victim.

I also have issues with anyone losing a job over an allegation that is years, if not decades old, especially if they haven’t had a chance to defend themselves from the allegation. That’s especially true if there have been no further allegations since then and nothing about the accused’s behavior to indicate he — or she — acted anyway but honorably in the interim.

But that’s not what I’m writing about today. My concern today is how the media has appointed itself the prosecutor and jury of all these allegations. Turn on the national news and you will see extremely slanted reporting, all taking the side of the alleged victim. There are no difficult questions being asked. There is little to no reporting of whether or not criminal charges had been filed or even police reports taken. There is little to no reporting about the other side of the story. Where is the investigation?

There is none because it doesn’t fit the narrative.

It has to stop. If you are reporting about an alleged abuse case, get the facts. Don’t just report one side of the story. Talk to friends and acquaintances of both parties to the alleged crime. Weigh the truthfulness of both sides as well as the reasonableness of what they are saying. Quit rushing to judgment. That is why so many people no longer trust the media. Too often it jumps to conclusions only to have it blow up in their faces later.

On a more practical side, this sort of yellow journalistic approach to the abuse problem — and yes, there is a problem in this country when it comes to spousal and partner abuse — is that it taints the jury pool. Every time the media makes it clear every woman must be believed, it creates a situation where it is more and more difficult for a defendant to have a fair trial. That undermines one of the core values of our country. But that isn’t something the media seems to care about. For them, it is all about headlines and hopefully increasing advertising dollars and viewership points.

Is it worth it?

No, it’s not.

So what is the solution? Very simply, it is by holding the media responsible for its actions. Those who were falsely accused and who the media made targets of need to go after the media outlets. For the rest of us, we let the media know with the one thing that hits them the hardest — our readership. If we quit reading or viewing, we take money out of their pockets. Hit the remote to change the channel, cancel your subscriptions and quit visiting the websites. Until the media returns to some semblance of responsible reporting, it shouldn’t be rewarded for sloppy reporting and irresponsible accusations.

But this also means the legal system has to be better ready and better equipped to go after the real abusers. Juries need to be ready to punish them. Most of all, we can’t devolve into a system where you are presumed guilty until found innocent.

2 Comments

  1. Christopher M. Chupik

    February 13, 2018 at 9:53 am

    This will be abused, if it hasn’t been already. And the worst part is that it could happen to anyone.

    • Yep. We saw the media do this several decades ago with the wave of child abuse allegations against child care givers. If I remember correctly, one of their biggest targets was the McMartin preschool allegations. If I remember correctly, there were more than five years of investigation and trials and no guilty verdicts. But boy did the media have every member of the McMartin family painted with the guilty verdict as not only child abusers but satanists (iirc) even before charges were brought.

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