The Brutal Truth About Penn State
Charles P. Pierce:
“There is something to be said, however, for looking at how it happened. Which is not the same thing as trying to figure out how it “could” have happened. The wonder is that it doesn’t happen more often.”
…It happens because institutions lie. And today, our major institutions lie because of a culture in which loyalty to “the company,” and protection of “the brand” — that noxious business-school shibboleth that turns employees into brainlocked elements of sales and marketing campaigns — trumps conventional morality, traditional ethics, civil liberties, and even adherence to the rule of law. It is better to protect “the brand” than it is to protect free speech, the right to privacy, or even to protect children.
If Mike McQueary had seen a child being raped in a boardroom or a storeroom, he wouldn’t have been any more likely to have stopped it, or to have called the cops, than he was as a graduate assistant football coach at Penn State. With unemployment edging toward double digits, and only about 10 percent of the workforce unionized, every American who works for a major company knows the penalty for exercising his personal freedom, or his personal morality, at the expense of “the company.” Independent thought is discouraged. Independent action is usually crushed. Nobody wants to damage the brand. Your supervisor might find out, and his primary loyalty is to the company. Which is why he got promoted to be your supervisor in the first place.
Further, the institutions of college athletics exist primarily as unreality fueled by deceit. The unreality is that universities should be in the business of providing large spectacles of mass entertainment. The fundamental absurdity of that notion requires the promulgation of the various deceits necessary to carry it out. The “student-athlete,” just to name one. “Amateurism,” just to name another. Of course, people involved in Penn State football allegedly deceived people when it became plain that children had been raped within the program’s facilities by one of the program’s employees. It was simply one more lie to maintain the preposterously lucrative unreality of college athletics. And to think, the players at Ohio State became pariahs because of tattoos and memorabilia sales.
By an order of magnitude, the Penn State child-raping scandal is miles beyond anything that ever happened with the Ohio State football team over the past five years, miles beyond anything that happened with the SMU football team in the 1980s, and miles beyond anything that happened with the point-shaving scandals in college basketball. It is not a failure of our institutions so much as it is a window into what they have become — soulless, profit-driven monsters, Darwinian predators with precious little humanity left in them. Penn State is only the most recent example. Too much of this country is too big to fail.