By now you’ve heard there have been convictions in the Steubenville case, and that a Grand Jury will investigate whether others should be charged with taking part in the assaults or, at least, failing to stop them.
My understanding is that most of the evidence presented at trial was in the form of texts and videos of the incident, and were it not for social media the assaults possibly would not have come to light at all. Further, it’s widely believed that local authorities were dragging their feet about charging anyone until the hacker group Anonymous got involved, drawing the attention of national media.
Naturally, there are some who are angry about this. For example: Although they don’t come straight out and say the two defendants should not have been convicted. Robert Stacey McCain and Lee Stranahan of Breitbart, for example, both are outraged at the “lynch mob” and “media malpractice” surrounding the case.
Media malpractice? Both bloggers accuse media of getting facts wrong, although what facts they got wrong are not explained. Media did report on accusations of foot-dragging because of small-town “jock” culture. Whether the fact the boys were stars of the football team is central to the foot-dragging I do not know. I do know that there is a nearly universal tendency to exonerate well-liked boys and blame the victim for what was done to her. People want to believe that rapists are sinister sorts with the word EVIL carved into their foreheads, not popular guys who everyone in town knows and who are perfectly “normal” fellows in most contexts. Faced with the reality of a victim, and evidence, however, there is a nearly universal tendency to want to believe the victim is at fault.
There’s been a lot of criticism aimed at CNN, and Candy Crowley in particular, for expressing sorrow that the convicted young men will have those convictions hanging over their heads for the rest of their lives. I agree with Steve M that CNN wanted to use its dramatic video of remorse theater, and Crowley was merely creating a context. But I also think sympathy with the convicted boys is based on the fact that neither appear to be the personification of evil that a rapist is supposed to be, at least in the public’s imagination.
Because most real-world rapes don’t fit people’s ideas of what rape is supposed to be, the number of arrests, much less convictions, remains shockingly small. What made the Steubenville case unusual was that so much evidence was uploaded to social media for all to see, which got Anonymous involved.
Breitbart’s Stranahan reports that many people in Steubenville were terrorized by people in Guy Fawkes masks. If that did happen it was unfortunate. There’s no question that Anonymous executed a public shaming of Steubenville and the accused rapists, and that’s a dangerous thing to do.
On the other hand, McCain and Stranahan both are in denial about the enabling culture that protects rapists. The convicted boys did what they did in the belief they would get away with it Text messages sent by one said that one of his coaches would “take care of” any blame for the incident. There were witnesses who could have stopped the assaults, but did not. And there’s been plenty of victim shaming. Which is, apparently, OK with some people. It’s just the perpetrator shaming that’s not allowed.
Of course, if the victim had been armed as Wayne LaPierre says she should be, and she had shot and killed the assailants — she’d be facing murder charges now. And the poor unfortunate boys would be dead. There are worse things than shaming.