A bandwagon of righteousness

Former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss- Kahn leaves New York State Supreme court with his wife Anne Sinclair, Friday, July 1, 2011, in New York. (AP / Louis Lanzano)

Former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss- Kahn leaves New York State Supreme court with his wife Anne Sinclair, Friday, July 1, 2011, in New York. (AP / Louis Lanzano)

There is a phenomenon in media commentary that really annoys me,  “jumping on the bandwagon”.  Jumping on the bandwagon,  is when everyone reporting on an event sees the same causes, effects and long-term outcomes – essentially repeating what the others say only personalizing it with slight twists in language and style.   It probably annoys me because I get sucked into it and find myself doing the same thing; riding along mindlessly repeating another person’s thinking without bothering to think more deeply, look for the contradictions or challenge the basic premise.

The place jumping on the bandwagon is most noticeable to me is sports talk radio; it is game in and of itself there.  The subject of the day is the subject for all of the “hosts” and the trend of the day is one they can all see – today.  None of them saw it yesterday and tomorrow there will be a new trend; that kind of commentary is particularly noticeable during championships.  Which ever team wins one sets a trend clearly visible to the hosts and the commentary almost always revolves around the play of that day and how the rest of series can be predicted from that one day; of course the next day when the other team wins the commentary reverses direction.  A total loss of memory is another characteristic of that kind of analysis; none of them seem to remember what they said or predicted the day before.

The reporting on the stock market is much like sports – everyone jumps on the same bandwagon to explain each market move.  When prices drop one day we are given reasons, such as, unrest in the Middle East, uncertainty over Greece, the price of oil or the value of the dollar.  Tomorrow or next week when stock prices go the opposite direct – something that is certain to happen – those same causes are cited again, but this time with the opposite affect.  The Middle East and Greece have driven prices both up and down now for most of this year.  Memory in market commentary is like sports commentary; no one seems embarrassed when reversing their thinking or contradicting what they said the day before. On the stock market and in sports, no one wins every day and no single losing day or even week defines a team or stock.  But the tendency to jump on the bandwagon and to define a team, a stock or the course of human history by one single event or one single day appears to be almost irresistibly for all of us, not just the talking heads in the media.

Today we had a story a really good opportunity to jump on a new bandwagon;  Dominique Strauss-Kahn was released from house arrest and his bail and bond – totaling $6 million were returned to him.  No one is claiming he is not guilty, except Mr. Strauss-Kahn and his lawyers, but the prosecution is no longer certain it has a good case.  So what is the bandwagon?  There were two, the first occurred when the case first broke: HE IS GUILTY, HE IS A PIG, HE HAS A HISTORY OF WOMANIZING, WHATEVER HAPPENS TO HIM, HE HAS IT COMING!  On and on, it seemed that every person reporting on the story had found another incident, another time when Strauss-Kahn was forcing himself on women, proving that men in power are sexist pigs – and so forth and so on.  Every famous politician in the world who had ever been accused of sexual misconduct was cited as another example of power-men-pigs and further proof and Dominique’s guilt.

Well, today there is a new bandwagon – actually a couple seem to be developing.  HE IS INNOCENT, HE HAS BEEN WRONGED, HIS CAREER WAS DESTROYED, HE DESERVES A SECOND CHANCE!  The story pushed Greece and Libya both off the front page, in France in particular the entire political landscape is being rethought.  The French socialists  appear to be willing to ignore the whole thing and run him against Sarkozy.

Outside of France it is not being analyzed as a political story, but as a major change in law.  Commentators are lining up to predict how this will effect every future potential rape case.  Women will never step forward, criminal justice will be set back 20 years, juries will never trust women and of course rich power men never pay for what they do.  Now, I don’t know what will happen, nor do I know whether he is guilty or not.  But one thing is clear, a hotel maid could accuse a man with a very important position in world affairs of a crime and change the course of his life, possibly destroying his career.  Any thing he said was discounted, his integrity was not questioned, it was totally discounted.  No one bothered to ask any questions about her.  Of course not, she was a victim of a crime, not a criminal – it did not matter if she was wearing skimpy clothing, lied about everything in her life or if she was a nun.  Nor should any of those things matter.

But this is my word of caution; lets stay off of the bandwagon and not condemn her for her previous lies and lets give the justice system a chance to achieve justice.  Just as we should have refrained from condemning him and allowed the justice system to work.  Oh, by the way, Arnie is being divorced, I think the only jury that matters in his case, Maria, has voted and found him guilty as charged.




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