Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Quite a few people have objected to what David Brooks published in The New York Times today, which extends his remarks on Meet the Press a couple of days ago about how it's simply abnormal for people to intervene when they see cruelty or brutality -- especially ever since Woodstock turned us all into amoral, decadent savages. I don't want to go over this ground in detail again -- I addressed it yesterday -- but I do want to respond to the opening passage of today's column:

First came the atrocity, then came the vanity. The atrocity is what Jerry Sandusky has been accused of doing at Penn State. The vanity is the outraged reaction of a zillion commentators over the past week, whose indignation is based on the assumption that if they had been in Joe Paterno's shoes, or assistant coach Mike McQueary's shoes, they would have behaved better. They would have taken action and stopped any sexual assaults.

Unfortunately, none of us can safely make that assumption. Over the course of history -- during the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide or the street beatings that happen in American neighborhoods -- the same pattern has emerged. Many people do not intervene. Very often they see but they don't see.

Um, the rise of Hitler and the Rwandan genocide involved masses of people armed with deadly weapons -- and backed by state power. The best-known incident of child rape at Penn State involved, um, one naked guy in a shower. Does Brooks really not see a difference here? Even a beating on a city street by a lone assailant poses a mortal danger to an adult who intervenes, because the perpetrator is clearly willing to engage in a pure act of violence. A child rapist is just trying to evade detection while getting off.

That doesn't mean denial won't kick in, but surely it would be vastly more difficult to stop Hitler than to stop a soaking-wet pervert.


c u n d gulag said...

Yeah, but one thing you can be sure of, and that's that Bobo will be ready to go all Billy Jack in the newsroom on anyone who splits an infinitive!!!

jurassicpork said...

You know, I never thought as a kid coming up in the late 70's that I'd ever see CEO's making 273 times what average laborers made, that I'd need a credit check just to get an interview, that I'd go for over two and a half years between jobs, that NYC would need bulldozers, sonic cannons and helicopters to clean a public park and that book burnings would be carried out by the establishment. Who knew that airheads like Bachmann, Rick Perry and Herman Cain would be serious presidential candidates? No one ever warned me that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid would be on the chopping block. And I never thought I'd live to see my country become an Orwellian fever dream. Yet these past ten years, we've descended further and down a rabbit hole, so deeply that we'd never see even a pinprick of daylight.