Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Vigilantism, America's next spectator sport

Now that the Jerry Sandusky trial has wound down and America waits for the next high profile case to incite the masses, we can take a moment to look at the stupidity surrounding the Sandusky media swarm.

Someone dressed as the Internet meme known as "Pedobear" garnered media attention outside the courthouse as the trial was conducted inside.

A large number of illiterate internet trolls have spammed hate messages at the Twitter account of Baltimore Ravens broadcaster GERRY Sandusky (no relation). That is Gerry with a G, not a J.

At least Gerry Sandusky can take it in stride:

Speaking of confusion over the name, consider the woes of the resort town Sandusky, Ohio. The resort town has reported that tourism has declined as a result of the Jerry Sandusky Trial. In one instance, the social network site Twitter automatically hashtagged a tweet posted by a Sandusky area spa and redirected people to the Jerry Sandusky trial instead of to links to the resort town. One comedian even exacerbated the problem by creating a phony YouTube commercial using plays on words from the Jerry Sandusky case:

Other recent cases like the Casey Anthony trial had similar stories, like the Oklahoma woman attacked for looking like Casey Anthony. There are reports of white men being beaten by gangs of black men proclaiming they were getting "Justice for Trayvon Martin." But sex crime accusations hold a place of prominence in our culture.

High profile cases are on the news daily, and without a doubt, it is having a negative impact on our society. We live in a culture where vigilante attacks are applauded. Two recent stories have illustrated this point.

The Texas who who beat a man to death he claimed was molesting his daughter was heralded as a hero and not charged with murder. An overwhelming number of people called him a "hero" instead of a killer.

In Washington state, serial killer Patrick Drum is being held without bail after killing two registrants. The prosecutor expressed concerns over online comments approving the vigilante's actions. Later, Drum was allowed in general population, where he attacked a 19 year old in on a failure to register charge. The victim was only age 13 when he was added to the sex offender registry in 2006.

We have turned trials into spectator sports and canonized vigilantes as heroes. Every night, celebrities like Nancy Grace and John Walsh make their living riling up the public and exploiting these high profile cases. We have created the "abuse excuse," allowing people to kill so long as the killer claims abuse.

 How much further do we allow the solemnity of the criminal justice system to degrade into the realm of that other infamous "Jerry," Jerry Springer? Maybe we should just borrow another Roman idea and turn our courtrooms into arenas and replace prosecutors and defense attorneys with gladiators and exotic beasts. We could even hire Gerry Sandusky to do play by play, courtesy of HLN Sports.

Enough with the Bread and Circuses, the reality TV attitudes, and the misguided blind vigilante injustices. It is beyond time to place limits on the registry; the registry needs to be abolished.