Friday, November 11, 2011

More on the PSU Scandal

A couple of friends have written to ask me to clarify remarks I made in yesterday's post on the Penn State scandal. Specifically, there was concern about what was seen as an attempt by me to justify the failure of Mike McQueary to stop the assault on the boy in the locker room.

I should say first that I didn't try to justify McQueary's failure to act. I tried to explain and understand it. It may be that none of what I said about his possible mental state at the time was the case. He may have known very well what was happening and chose to ignore it and let the boy be raped. The point is that we don't know what he was thinking, and until we do, I think the chorus of condemnation in the media of this man is completely premature and cruel. I believe he should be given the benefit of the doubt until we know more about what happened.

I think those who condemn McQueary for not stopping Sandusky are being judgmental about a situation that probably few, if any of them, have ever been in themselves. I don't even know for sure what McQueary saw. He might've not even realized that he was seeing a child being raped until after he had a chance to reflect on it later. It's easy for people who've never been in a situation so shocking that they were completely disoriented by it to imply that were they in McQueary's shoes they would have taken action. It's easy but it's a claim rather lacking in humility.

There are lots of armchair heroes. We can all agree on what McQueary should have done at the time, and no one thinks he did the right thing at that moment, no one is excusing him, but to condemn him for failing to do what we wish he would have done in a circumstance for which nothing in his life had prepared him strikes me as deeply uncharitable and smacks of moral posturing, as if the critics are using McQueary's failure to assure their audience how righteous and macho they themselves are.

We'd all like to think that if we were faced with such a scenario we'd do the right thing, but none of us knows until we're in that spot - confronted with something so awful that we can't even process it, so foreign that we can't believe what we're seeing - what we would actually do. In such situations people often freeze up, they don't realize what's happening, they're so repelled that they can't think straight, and I think it's shameful that people who've never been confronted with such a horror themselves have been so quick to judge McQueary for failing in his moment of decision. It's like people who've never been in combat condemning those who have been for not behaving more valiantly under fire than perhaps they did.

Of course, having had time to reflect and put it all together, and after seeing that the Athletic Director wasn't going to do anything about Sandusky's crime, McQueary should have gone to the police. That he didn't makes him culpable and complicit, and should have, unless there are other considerations of which I am unaware, cost him his position on the coaching staff.

He Said, She Said

You won't hear this from most major media sources, and I confess I don't know how much weight to place on it, but a lawyer in Atlanta, using voice analysis technology often used by police departments to tell whether people are lying, has concluded that Herman Cain is telling the truth about his encounter with Sharon Bialek. In fact, it turns out that, according to the analysis, she herself appears to be the one prevaricating about what happened in their much celebrated meeting:
Private investigator TJ Ward said presidential hopeful Herman Cain was not lying at a news conference on Tuesday in Phoenix.

Cain denied making any sexual actions towards Sharon Bialek and vowed to take a polygraph test if necessary to prove his innocence.

Cain has not taken a polygraph but Ward said he does have software that does something better. Ward said the $15,000 software can detect lies in people's voices.

CBS Atlanta's Mike Paluska played Cain's speech for Ward into the software and watched as it analyzed Cain's every word.

If he is hiding something this thing would have spiked way down here," said Ward. "He is being truthful, totally truthful. He is a man with integrity and he talked directly about not knowing any incident he is accused of."

The software analyzes the stress level and other factors in your voice. During the speech, when Cain denied the claims, the lie detector read "low risk." According to Ward, that means Cain is telling the truth.
There's more at the link, including a video of the analysis of Cain's speech in which he claims innocence.