We all love a good crucifixion, don’t we? It’s all we can do to stop from gasping and cheering as we look on at the criminals hung before us. Finding satisfaction in watching folks pay their debt to society seems to be part of the human condition, however, the other part of the human condition we often fail to remember is sometimes those debts were never really owed. Sometimes the wrong person is prosecuted, and what’s equally as bad, many times the media convicts a person before they’ve actually been accused of a crime, just as happened this week with Jared Fogle.
Just as Danny Funt mentions in his Columbia Journalism Review article, when the media published this week that Fogle had many instances of contact with children, the underlying connotations are “startlingly presumptive”. They cannot say in so many words that Fogle is a child molester, but they can definitely intimate that idea for the world at large to see and absorb. The story then changes from what is really happening to whatever some large mouthed media guru would like it to be.
Social media was awash with Fogle news stories claiming his affiliation with his accused colleague was more than just business. There were stories claiming he must be guilty of harming children and jokes even surfaced. What my newsfeed lacked were any real intelligent pieces bringing the public back to the realm of reality where a man is still considered innocent until a court of law convicts.
What I saw this week were thousands of people who, up until this week, were average citizens just like myself, but upon reading Fogle’s unfortunate story, attained their PhDs in criminal justice and law with a few clicks of their chosen news carriers and wiki links.
Fogle has not to this day been arrested or indicted, and yet folks sans privy to the minute details of his case hoisted him up on the cross, anxious to drive the last nail home. Jared Fogle became the media’s sacrifice to the world this week simply because the boring truth that his business associate had been in deeply disturbing trouble, but the jury is still out on Fogle just doesn’t garner too many clicks.
Nope. The media wanted another feeding frenzy, and so they ad libbed, dressing their words as a crown of thorns to sit neatly upon Fogle’s head. “Child molester?” “Kill him.” And so they did.
Sadly, we may never hear whether Fogle’s story ends happily. Retractions and apologies don’t make front page news. We will only know the outcome if the media can walk us up onto a sacrificial Hill of Shame when and if Fogle is, in fact, indicted. Until then, the media is happy to spin its own tale of what many will assume to be truth because it was on Facebook, Twitter, or the news.
There is little ethical journalistic reporting anymore. No one wants a feel-good story, or even just the plain old truth. Everyone wants Hollywood, and until we actively call for truth in reporting, we will continue to see humans sacrificed by the media, deserving or not.
Is Fogle guilty? Hell, I don’t know. When Quantico decides to confer with me, I’ll let you all know. Until then, I assume what I know is too little to decide his fate in court, on tv, or on social media.