Watch: CNN sympathises with convicted rapists in USA


8:20 am - March 18th 2013

by Sunny Hundal    


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Yesterday afternoon, the long running saga of the Steubenville Rape Case, involving 16 year old high school football stars, came to an end. They were found guilty.

What’s stunning is how some in the media reported the case, particularly CNN.

Just after the news broke the main CNN report focused extensively on how the boys reacted and how their lives had been ruined, rather than on the victims themselves.

They’re not defending the convicted rapists but they almost certainly showed a lot of sympathy for them.

There has been a consistent theme in this trial of media reports trying to generate sympathy for the men involved, because of their successful football background.

Here’s the video.

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Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Yeah, we’ll the girl was drunk, so she was asking for it etc etc

Sympathy because of their footballing activities, or sympathy because they’re children who’ve destroyed their lives by doing something astonishingly stupid, in the same way we’d have for any juvenile offender?

What is it about the involvement of genitalia which makes people who’re normally sane and evidence-based about crime, punishment, potential for reform of juveniles, and the brutality and ineffectiveness of prison, turn into Peter Hitchens and demand we reinstate crucifixion?

@john b

I think it’s more to do with the fact that the victim was completely ignored in the reporting. You also have to compare it to how most other crimes are reported in which the media try their hardest to make the perpetrator seem to be an absolute nutjob. Where is anyone demanding crucifixion?

johnb: Sympathy because of their footballing activities, or sympathy because they’re children who’ve destroyed their lives by doing something astonishingly stupid, in the same way we’d have for any juvenile offender?

Almost certainly their footballing activities. The US has the highest per-capita prison population, is not built around sympathy for or rehabilitation of offenders in general, and has vastly unequal provision of justice and lenience based on race and class.

To reverse your question: what is it about sexual offences committed by popular individuals that makes people who are usually all about being “tough on crime” and “throw away the key” suddenly discover their liberal side and all be in favour of non-custodial sentences, rehabilitation, etc.? (Though not in favour of dealing with the extremely toxic subculture that creates people who would commit and film a gang rape, that would be too radical)

Yeah, they were young, they were astonishingly stupid to film the crime, and they went well beyond “stupid” to commit it in the first place. Nevertheless, they have the public support of the media, and most of the population of their town, so I don’t think they’ll suffer too many lasting effects. They’ll probably even be out of jail in time to resume their sporting careers (and probably not very rehabilitated, sadly)

But the amount of sympathy they’re getting you’d think it was some victimless crime like a parking ticket or “recreational drug use while white”, not a horrifically violent assault.

It is completely appropriate for us liberals to spend some time considering the impact of these proceedings on the convicted.

I would want the media to do so in this case, just as I would in the case of young gangbanger who was pressured into doing something stupid, or a pothead getting a three-strikes conviction in California, or, indeed, even a deeply troubled and calculating “monster” like James Holmes.

Thinking about how best to reform and heal these people (having “sympathy” for them, if you like) is a morally laudable thing. It doesn’t mean excusing what they did and it doesn’t have to come at the expense of acknowledging the harm done to the victim(s). It’s what Gandhi and MLK would have us do!

What do you expect from Conservative News Network?

Just another corporate conservative propaganda outfit dressed up to look like a free press.

Still, always nice to see the fallacy of the so called ‘law and order’ right wingers. Funny Candy Crowley used to get terribly worked up about consenting sex between adults when it was Bill Clinton. But rape? No big deal for Candy.

cim:
I agree completely that the reaction from many throw-away-the-key rightwingers in sexual assault cases is also perverse, presumably reflecting the fact that their hatred of women exceeds their fear of young men, even when one of the young men is black. Which is terrifying in its own right. But this is CNN not Fox or the Daily Mail; I don’t think you can say they’re an organisation that cheerleads for draconian punishment in general.

In any case, the fact that some rightwingers are being inconsistent in a way that strongly suggests they are woman-hating creepers doesn’t mean we need to abandon our principles solely in order to distinguish ourselves from then.

I also think you’re being too [optimistic/pessimistic depending on how you look at it] about the convicts’ prospects.

They’ve been given a one-year and a two-year minimum respectively, but both can be detained until 21 and will only be released before that if shown to be remorseful/reformed/safe/etc. At least for adult sex offenders, the criteria for this are so onerous that virtually none of them are. They will be on the sex offenders’ register for life, and in the US that isn’t just going to disqualify them from sensitive jobs but is publicly available data (so no job, then) that also bans them from living, working or even entering areas within a certain distance of schools/McDonalds/etc.

Their family backgrounds will insulate them from the worst of the material consequences of that, so they won’t actually end up living under bridges, but they’ll still struggle to get almost anywhere. And their backgrounds won’t do much to insulate them from the violent bullying (and, obviously, sexually assaulting) hell of the US prison system.

So yes, I agree with you that they’re bloody unlikely to come out ‘rehabilitated’ as opposed to ‘even more broken’.

8. margin4error

Nothing wrong with recognising the horror of throwing away one’s own life at the age of 16 – or the harsh reality of a criminal record that means by 66 you are still held to the crimes you committed a full five years before you were deemed mature enough to drink a pint of beer.

Something terribly shocking though, about seeing a news network that so readily engorges itself on righteous indignation over criminality and the devastation of the victim – ignoring the victim and engorging itself on sympathy for vicious criminals.

“vicious criminals?” – see, this is just weird.

Obviously, a minor touching another minor’s bits without permission isn’t something that shouldn’t be socially accepted, whether that involves sticking kids in jail or not. And obviously it is, in actual teenage life, known to be both disapproved-of and illegal.

But also, in actual teenage life, it’s something that happens with enormous prevalence. And is usually written off, by both sides. And happens far too frequently for it to be even slightly fair to write these kids off as “vicious criminals”.

When you’re mid-teens, you’re told that all sorts of things are bad by all sorts of people. Some of the people are morally correct and should be listened to; some of them are legally correct whilst describing stupid laws; and some of them are puritan scumbags.

Sorting out the crazy lies kids that get told by adults, such as “sex before marriage is evil and wrong” and “drugs are evil and wrong”, from genuine truths kids get told by adults, like “touching up drunk girls is wrong”, is hard.

Far harder than commentators on websites, almost all of whom are adults who managed to navigate the process without fucking it up too badly (since we’ve managed to make it here rater than sending in messages from jail or the grave) give them credit for.

Basically, while we’ve managed to fuck the kids up by telling them crazy lies and truths in the same breath and expecting them to work out which ones we mean, we’re then quite happy to consign them to the flames for failing to solve the riddle in question.

And while right-wingers are guilty of this on pretty much every topic, sexual assault is one where lefties are just as bad.

margin4error:

I believe we’re both heartbroken for this girl and appalled by the actions of her attackers. And we’re also agreed that it’s appropriate and good to consider the fates of all parties with compassion. The remaining question is one of balance and consistency.

Here, I don’t have facts as to how much CNN “engorges itself” on sympathy for the victim versus sympathy for the rapists.

But neither does the author of this piece, apparently. Look at the silly Facebook photo meme that proclaims “Not one word about the victim”. So Candy Crowly didn’t mention the victim in that one paragraph? Has she uttered other statements about the case, in which she does? Maybe, maybe not. But to present this one clip of this one segment as proof that these commentators have treated this case with an objectionable lack of balance is uncritical in the extreme and insults the intelligence of any reader who cares more about the truth than the facile stimulation of their own sense of righteous indignation.

In fact, that’s what bothers me (and this is a bigger point): So many posts in the opinion-driven blogosphere use flimsy evidence and gross generalizations to cast their opponents in the least charitable light and stoke outrage among their readers. That’s easy, and it’s good for pageviews, but it’s bad for the world.

One year for gang rape? Seriously?

12. margin4error

Andrew

It is fair to say that the victim may not be as ignored as the various clips in circulation suggest. I’m reasonably sure that the editor of any such news show would be pretty clear cut in demanding at least lip-service to the hurt caused to the victim, and probably a fair bit more than that.

But it is unambiguously odd to hear so much sympathetic coverage of people who engaged in such awful behaviour and who are now convicted rapists – from a channel that simply doesn’t do much sympathy for criminals in its coverage.

I think Time has summed this up pretty well. The high status of the boys involved, and the ludicrous distancing adults do from youthful behaviour (as demonstrated by John b) has often see these sorts of vicious criminals treated rather differently to other vicious criminals of their age and kind but who do not carry with them some high profile.

The key here being that there isn’t much by way of ambiguity. They posted the video of their crime online. They texted about it and wrote about it online. They shared photos online. And you, me, and CNN can thus find out how unsympathetic we should be.

http://ideas.time.com/2013/03/17/steubenville-rape-guilty-verdict-the-case-that-social-media-won/

“ludicrous distancing” – what on earth are you talking about? Kids’ brains are wired differently from adults. Teenage boys in particular are documentedly terrible at empathy, as well as lacking in judgement and experience. This is why we don’t let 16 year olds vote, drink, smoke or drive.

Again, it’s a horrible tendency normally exhibited by people on the right to treat kids as kids when seeking rights, but to switch immediately to treating as responsible adults who blaming them for their actions.

Also, stop calling it a gang rape. It isn’t. That’s just a stupid thing to say.

@John B

I broadly agree with the point that it’s entirely reasonable and appropriate to feel and express sadness at the fact that these young boys have so thoroughly trashed their own lives and prospects with youthful arrogance and stupidity, encouraged and enabled by the community they lived in. But let’s not minimise what they did:

http://www.xojane.co.uk/issues/steubenville-rape-verdict-alexandria-goddard

15. ludicrous pseudonym

“This is why we don’t let 16 year olds vote, drink, smoke or drive. ”

hmm.

they may be able to vote in Scotland soon.
they can drink in most European countries (and the UK with a meal under adult supervision)
they could smoke until a couple of years ago when the law was knee-jerkingly changed.
and they can drive in certain states of the USA.

also, they can marry and have children.

over to you.

16. So Much for Subtlety

3. Dave

I think it’s more to do with the fact that the victim was completely ignored in the reporting.

Gee, David, why might they have completely ignored the victim in this story? Would it be because … it is a crime to report on the victim in this story? The two accused are up there on TV day after day. We get to know them. We see them. The victim on the other hand is covered by a ton of suppression orders and laws designed to protect her identity. They can’t do a damn thing to identify her. So you have two individuals who speak to the audience day after day compared to some anonymous victim who is never seen and never speaks. People tend to sympathise with the people they see. This is why people care so much about Anne Frank – she left a diary that talks to us directly – while no one gives a sh!t about the faceless and voiceless victims of Pol Pot.

4. cim

Almost certainly their footballing activities.

This is CNN. They have no sympathy for football players. When Sally calls CNN right wing she is being more unhinged than usual.

(Though not in favour of dealing with the extremely toxic subculture that creates people who would commit and film a gang rape, that would be too radical)

What toxic subculture? It is called growing up. It is universal to the human condition. As long as they can afford mobile phones.

Yeah, they were young, they were astonishingly stupid to film the crime, and they went well beyond “stupid” to commit it in the first place.

Yeah and but for the grace of God, there goes any one of us. I doubt that a single male poster here can honestly say that if the right circumstances had come up, with a little alcohol in their system, they might not have done the same thing. Sure they should go to jail for a long time, which they won’t, but they are children.

But the amount of sympathy they’re getting you’d think it was some victimless crime like a parking ticket or “recreational drug use while white”, not a horrifically violent assault.

Indeed. More sympathy for the victim would have been nice. Although that would lead to tougher questions like what were her parents thinking. But as long as they can do nothing to even hint at who she is, that is not possible.

“Yeah and but for the grace of God, there goes any one of us. I doubt that a single male poster here can honestly say that if the right circumstances had come up, with a little alcohol in their system, they might not have done the same thing. Sure they should go to jail for a long time, which they won’t, but they are children.”

That’s a pretty terrifying admission. That you think of that as a normal part of growing up would be exemplary of the “toxic culture” that’s being referred to.

18. So Much for Subtlety

17. Hannah

That’s a pretty terrifying admission. That you think of that as a normal part of growing up would be exemplary of the “toxic culture” that’s being referred to.

It is isn’t it? Although perhaps “the same thing” is a little strong. I doubt many people would have carried her around like that. But a sexual assault? Sure.

I don’t think it is a normal part of growing up. I think the potential exists in all of us. If you allow young boys and young girls to get drunk and have sex it will become a normal part of growing up but that is why most people don’t let their daughters go to parties like this.

But it has nothing to do with culture. It is a biological fact. Young boys all too often these days have the bodies of adult men but the brains of children. That is why they can’t legally drink or even drive some places. Their hormones are telling them to do some things that their culture tells them they should not. Or the despised traces of their grandparents’ culture tells them they should not. Their parents culture is the culture of free love and porn. That is telling them something altogether different – and a lot more subtle. They are children. How do you expect them to figure it all out? At least one of the boys did – you hear him on the tape asking how they would feel if this girl was their daughter – but two lives have been ruined because no one was protecting either the victim or the two boys.

19. ludicrous pseudonym

I see SMFS subscribes to the radical Dworkinist view that all men are rapists, or potential rapists, or wannabe rapists, interesting

20. So Much for Subtlety

19. ludicrous pseudonym

I see SMFS subscribes to the radical Dworkinist view that all men are rapists, or potential rapists, or wannabe rapists, interesting

Me and Dworkin, Soul Brothers. Well, soul siblings.

I did not say men. I said children with the bodies of men. Men learn how to control their behaviours and urges. Even then they cause trouble when they drink. We are talking about boys whose bodies are surging with hormones, steeped in the culture of porn, under the influence of alcohol, who do not have the judgement and good sense of adults.

Seriously, any man here who does not think they could have done similar things is deluding themselves.

“Also, stop calling it a gang rape.”

Group hug?

22. Shatterface

Rape’s the issue where conservatives turn into woolly liberals and the liberals turn into rabid conservatives.

23. Shatterface

But it has nothing to do with culture. It is a biological fact. Young boys all too often these days have the bodies of adult men but the brains of children.

That’s a controdiction. You can’t claim this is ‘biological fact’ and nothing to do with culture on one hand and then start throwing the words ‘these days’ around – unless yiu think there has been a recent change in biology.

LP: extending votes to under-18s is both a terrible idea and a disgracefully cynical move by the SNP given demographics of independence support. Under-18s may only marry in England & Wales with parental consent. Most European countries (certainly France, Scandics and Germany) don’t sell booze to under-18s outside of family meals.

But yes, in some places 16-year-olds can legally do the things you say. In some places 10-year-olds can legally get married. This doesn’t justify treating them as adults, particularly when doing the “you are a child in terms of rights but an adult in terms of punishment” thing.

Jimmy: if I put my finger up your arse while you were asleep and my friend filmed it, that would be a lot of things, none of them at all nice in any way, but it wouldn’t be a gang rape.

25. Left Not Liberal

SMFS said

“Yeah and but for the grace of God, there goes any one of us. I doubt that a single male poster here can honestly say that if the right circumstances had come up, with a little alcohol in their system, they might not have done the same thing. Sure they should go to jail for a long time, which they won’t, but they are children.”

Speak for yourself you would be rapist shithead. Animals like you should be castrated.

26. So Much for Subtlety

23. Shatterface

That’s a controdiction. You can’t claim this is ‘biological fact’ and nothing to do with culture on one hand and then start throwing the words ‘these days’ around – unless yiu think there has been a recent change in biology.

Well there is one link to culture – no other culture I can think of offhand would betray three young people in this way. Pakistani parents do not allow their sons and daughters to go out and get drunk with strangers without adult supervision. By and large.

But there has been a change – an improvement in diet. Which means puberty is hitting earlier. Or at least something has changed which means puberty is hitting earlier. Young people are getting bigger at a much younger age. Because of the pervasiveness of porn and advertising they are also becoming more aware of sex at an earlier age too.

27. Mediastinum

@SMFS

‘Seriously, any man here who does not think they COULD have done similar things is deluding themselves’

‘I doubt that a single male poster here can honestly say that if the right circumstances had come up, with a little alcohol in their system, they MIGHT not have done the same thing.’

I just want to confirm exactly what you mean by these statements just before I cast any judgement. Are you saying that it is ‘physically’ possible for all men in that situation to rape her because they have a penis and she has a vagina? or are you saying that all men in that situation would have thoughts and feelings about raping her and would find it difficult not to give into those urges? The two options are quite different so if you could just clarify your position it would be very helpful. If neither of these positions fit please could you give greater depth to the answers. Thanks.

28. white trash

“Because of the pervasiveness of porn and advertising they are also becoming more aware of sex at an earlier age …” Oh come off it SM4S.

Throughout the whole of human history until very recently human groups and families have lived together and slept together, often along with domesticated animals. Children used to know far more about sex, reproduction and the basic facts of life and death than they do in our modern insulated times.

This Steubenville case in all its ramifications just goes to prove, once again, how puritanical America keeps throwing up monsters and sick people. Forever trying to repress natural behaviour like drugs/drink and sex and it always rebounds in the worst possible ways.

29. So Much for Subtlety

27. Mediastinum

I just want to confirm exactly what you mean by these statements just before I cast any judgement.

Oh go on, judge away. You don’t need my involvement.

28. white trash

Throughout the whole of human history until very recently human groups and families have lived together and slept together, often along with domesticated animals. Children used to know far more about sex, reproduction and the basic facts of life and death than they do in our modern insulated times.

You might be right. But for the West that meant before Victoria. So in fact there was a long period where children did not know much. No longer.

This Steubenville case in all its ramifications just goes to prove, once again, how puritanical America keeps throwing up monsters and sick people. Forever trying to repress natural behaviour like drugs/drink and sex and it always rebounds in the worst possible ways.

Yeah right. These young boys were hardly puritanical. Nor is the worse of America’s problem a product of rural Protestant communities. Gang rape is not a unique problem to the US. Gang rapes in Paris and Copenhagen are well documented. Not to mention grooming in the UK.

Don’t cheapen this to make a banal political point.

@ john b

“Also, stop calling it a gang rape. It isn’t. That’s just a stupid thing to say.”

And yet ‘rape’ is exactly what what the assailants themselves called their behaviour, during their internet boasting. But apparently (as always) you seem to think you know better. Were you there, john b?

http://www.newstatesman.com/2013/03/steubenville-trial-over-what-drove-group-teenagers-live-blog-rape

The reports of the photo evidence alone are bad enough, and yet you creepily minimise a series of disgusting assaults as amounting or equivalent to:

“a minor touching another minor’s bits without permission”.

31. white trash

SM4S

“there was a long period where children did not know much. No longer.”

And this is ‘bad’ how? why are you so keen for children and young people to be kept in ignorance about the facts of life?

It’s hilarious that you make out that “since Victoria” is “a long period”, when the rest of human history, ie tens of thousands of years is far, far longer, as well as far more important from the relevant evolutionary point of view.

“These young boys were hardly puritanical”

You seem like you’re being wilfully dim here. The point I made, perfectly clearly, was that in a puritanical SOCIETY like the USA the natural result of such SOCIAL REPRESSION of natural instincts for healthy sex and alcohol is inevitably sickos like these rapist boys and sad victims like the alcoholically incontinent 16 year old girl they exploited.

In a free and unrepressed society these teenagers could all have had a few drinks together and a nice consensual threesome.


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