MODERN CRUCIFICTIONS

Two recent, unrelated cases in our American press point out the irresponsibility that pervades our news. They also indicate the high degree of moral sleaze which has become endemic within our country, and demonstrate the public's right to know, an unwritten credo that really states the public is entitled to instant entertainment and titivation. The fact this supposed right transcends protection of its citizens' constitutional liberties is irrelevant. We do not rush, we stampede to prejudge.

The first case to which I refer is a woman's apparently groundless accusation that Erik Williams raped her while Michael Irvin held a gun to her head. The second is publication by the New York Times of an illegally overheard and taped cellular phone call between Newt Gingrich and congressional Republicans.

In the first incident, a Dallas police spokesman reported the incident over TV as though the allegation were verified fact. Williams and Irvin, knowing they were not involved, nevertheless had to endure yellow press articles, harshTV judgments, and guilt by the adverse publicity that has become endemic in our time. I heard people say, and articles were written with much the same position, the two should have immediately been thrown off the team for their conduct. While I am not of the persuasion that Messrs. Irvin and Williams are boy scouts, nevertheless, what was done by the woman was contemptible and wrong. It is certainly punishable under the law, though I find it difficult to honestly feel they were "injured", exept in the strictest legal sense, by the unjustifiable flap. Too much celebrity indictment by quick triggered, irresponsible press now occurs: how to stop it is uncertain. Perhaps a minimal jail sentence would serve as a deterrent. Perhaps repeated mention that, "A man is presumed innocent until proven guilty," one of our basic constitutional rights, would be enough.

I am not trying to make light of the charges. They are serious, but in this case they are untrue. Forcible rape and unwanted sexual attention are far too frequent in our society. The number I recently read was 680,000 rapes in America in one year, and the relatively rare false accusations of rape stem from biblical times. Both, unfortunately, will always be with human beings when they fail to deal successfully with their sexuality. The primate in us all predominates at times. Social class, education, intelligence, and occupation have nothing to do with it. Witness former Senator Packwood: in spite of his stature as a Congressman, his sensitivity to women's economic and political needs, years of maturity, power and position, he thrust himself on women in unwanted circumstances. Abuses take place at all levels, and should be tolerated in none.

The second case involves a married couple who happened to be state level Democrats. While manning a police scanner in Florida, they inadvertently picked up the voice of Newt Gingrich discussing his ethics violation case with Republican congressmen. For reasons good or bad, they made an audio tape of the conversation. One of the stipulations during the investigation by the House Ethics Committee was that Gingrich should not direct his own defense of the charges. The couple who made the tape realized they had material that might be relevant to the matter, disclosed it to a Democratic congressman, and followed his sugggestion to give the tape to Mr. McDermott, the Democratic head of the Ethics Committee. From that point, the content of the tape made its way to the pages of the New York Times.

I recognize the name Gingrich is anathema to our country's liberals, as well as many compassionate conservatives. The problem seems to be not only what Newt has to say, for much of it is logical and realistic, but the way he says it. Even if he is a pussycat underneath, he appears to be callous. By the numbers, he may be one of the most disliked men in this nation. Nevertheless, he, like Erik Williams and Michael Irvin, under the law are entitled to due process. In my opinion, none of them received it.

America's press rationalized treating them otherwise, and it is this rationalization process that bothers me. Along with impulsive prejudgment, there is a large measure of the dictum that the ends justify the means in these kinds of decisions. In the last two decades, our communications technology has improved so greatly that a nation and the entire world can learn instantly of a news event. Quite literally, there is no time to ponder the ethics of withholding or releasing a news item: all decisions must be made quickly and in real time. At the same time, our values have been degraded by the continual tyranny of expediency.

The result is an unprecedented assault on not only our right to privacy, but our rights under the law.

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Sam Orr

World Traveler

and Philanthrope

(Location Unknown)