What The H*ll Is Happening? [Edited: 11-14-11]


[11-14-11: I have continued thinking about this over the weekend.  I have formulated a model of how the Media/Mob uses "fact" in determining "truth."  See my additional thoughts in the Comments section.]

This is meant to be helpful.  Apologies in advance for some of this being half-formed and sort of lurching here and there.  It starts like a lecture and ends in a mess of "I don't knows."  I am bewildered by what is happening and how it is happening?  But, I am going to charge heedlessly onward ....

What is happening right now at Penn State is happening in three different systems or levels or dimensions or whatever word you want to use: legal, institutional and media/mob/faction. 

The process for reaching/finding/determining "truth" in each dimension/system is different.

We are most familiar with the first.

The method for reaching "truth" in a courtroom depends heavily upon what facts are inserted into the "Truth Machine."  One lawyer offers 14 pieces of information; the other lawyer offers 8 pieces; the Judge blocks 4 pieces of information.  The "truth-finder" then makes a decision based on the pieces of information that are "properly" provided.  Action is taken.  In really important cases, the "truth-finder" is mandated to be different than the "action-taker."

The rules concerning what can be is "properly provided" have been intensely and minutely debated for centuries everywhere across the world.  This is beyond good since the State can take your freedom or life based on these rules.

The legal system is attempting to reach "truth" for the purposes of individual fairness or justice or whatever word you want.  It is important to state that the legal system is supposed to ignore the "truths" that are reached in the institutional and media/mob/faction realms.

The "standard of proof" is mandated and stratified depending on the seriousness of the case: preponderance, clear and convincing or beyond a reasonable doubt.

The "truth-finding process" is mostly transparent.

By contrast, institutions reach "truth" through a very difference process.  The first difference is that, largely, in the Board of Directors room, there are no artificial limits intentionally set on what information can be inserted into the "Truth Machine."  (Obviously, I am oversimplifying; allow it for now.) 

Secondly, the inputs are vastly greater.  There is a sense in the legal process that the "facts" need to be narrowed to what is essential for determining "right" or "wrong."  In the institutional system, there is the opposite sense:  we need as much information about as many topics from as broad a spectrum to account for all the variables/factors/etc. 

Additionally, an institution is focusing on itself and how best to reach whatever goals it has set for itself.  The affect on an individual is largely irrelevant to the institutional "truth finding process."

Again, in stark contrast to the legal system, the institutional system absolutely and necessarily takes into account what is happening in the legal and mob/media/faction realms.  These are both hugely important "inputs" into the institutional "Truth Machine."

So, everything is fed into the "Machine":  financial information including donor dollars from two weeks ago vs. donor dollars from this week, ticket sales for the upcoming nationally televised football game, merchandise sales, etc.; legal information including current status and likely outcomes; labor relations including information concerning unpaid student-athletes; media, PR, public perceptions including current status and likely outcomes of media/mob/faction "firestorms";  "customer" happiness (or lack thereof) including trending attitudes of students, donors, alumni, etc.; political including current status and likely outcomes from local, state and federal governmental "truth-finding processes"; security issues including potential damage to property including the most valuable properties like brand name and trademark, but also including much less valuable properties such as the Admin Building; "goal attainment" including assessments/reassessments of the institutional goals and whether they are being furthered or hindered; etc.

The "truth-finder" --- BoT or CEO or other assigned with the task ---- takes these inputs, reaches a "truth" and takes action. 

The "standard of proof" is unknown practically, but is legally called the "best business judgment."  You heard Surna use this phrase several times during the press conference.

Note how self-interacting the process is.  Many of the inputs are coming from within the institution, the "truth-finder" is within the institution and, often, the "truth-finder" is also the "action-taker."

Truth finding for institutions is nearly 100% opaque and private and only vaguely understood by most people.

Media/mob/factions reach "truth" in a manner vastly different than either of the previous two.  It is the most volatile and most power and most far-reaching in impact and yet is the least well-understood system.  I am struggling with comprehension and understanding.  But, as said at the start, I am charging heedlessly onward.

Inputs to the Media/Mob "Truth Machine":  no limits, not even reality.  Many of us CFB commentors/posters are engaged in a small amusing effort to insert into the "Media/Mob Truth-Finding Machine" the "facts" that Craig James killed five hookers while at SMU and, that, to date, no denial has been made.  It's harmless ... maybe.

Alternatively, think about all the conspiracy theories like the "moon landing are faked," for example,  The public perception, the Media/Mob "truth" is that we put men on the moon, Armstrong jumped around, flag was planted, all that.  Suppose for a minute, that they WERE faked.  Then, the Media/Mob "truth" is entirely based on fiction.  Conversely, suppose that the moon landings really happened.  Now pause to consider the success of those putting forward the conspiracy.  The conspiracy is pure fabrication, and yet, I have heard about the theory and might actually need to seriously debate it with some idiot at some point in my future life.  This is what we are trying to do to Craig James.  We are trying to force him to deal with, in his real world, a fact completely fabricated in the virtual world.  The CFB blogoverse is going to completely explode in gleeful giggling the first time someone publicly asks CJ about the rumor.

Okay, next:  Who Is Doing the Inputting?:  In the legal process, it is lawyers, judges, etc.  In the institutional process, it is accountants, PR people, marketing, etc.

In the Media/Mob process, it is everyone, but with differing success.

We all have weights.  Just picking numbers:  Saying Nothing = weight of 0; Some Guy on a Message Board or Posting A Comment = 1; Some Guy With Knowledge on a Message Board = 2; Some Radio Guy = 10; Some Expert on the Radio = 15; Some Child Abuse Expert on TV = 30; Dr Phil on TV = 150; Some new Blogger = 5; Some Blogger of Note = 10; Some Reporter = 15; Some Reporter on TV = 40; Some Writer on a main-stream-media site = 40; Some MSM Writer with some reputation (Dodd, Doyle) = 75; the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania = 65; that Guy In Charge of the Pennsylvania Police = 50; Some MSM Writer with a real reputation (Wetzel, Feldman) = 100; some Talking Idiot on Radio (Madden) = 40; Some Talking Idiot on TV (Mark May) = 100; Some Respected TV Personality (?) = 200; Some VIP with actual power to do something (Delany, Slive, Senators, Governors) = 250; Persons With Votes (Perlman, formerly Spanier) = 150; Icons with a life's worth of achievements = 300.  Note that last one.  This is why many of you were right to clamor for Paterno to speak.  His opinion would have weighed very heavily.  But ---- and here is what many glossed over ---- that weight could have easily gone in the other direction.  If Paterno had said the wrong thing ... well, even more disastrous.  And, make no mistake, that was very possible.  Scott and Joe Paterno were tone-deaf throughout the last week.  The resignation announcement, for example, was partly/slightly defiant when the tone needed to be completely humble.  Canceling his press conference was the correct decision.

Okay, don't know if any of that is right, but moving on:

The "truth-finder":  I don't know.  At one level it is you, me, your neighbor, co-worker, reporters, pundits, talking heads, the President, everyone.  We are all part of the Media/Mob and in varying weights and measures, we move the Media/Mob towards one "truth" or another.  Most of you were/are in the part of the Mob trying to push the Media/Mob to the "truth" that Paterno had done no wrong and should stay.  That minority of the Media/Mob ---- you ---- got crushed in the avalanche of opinion moving to the "truth" that Paterno "did something wrong and has/had to go."

Here's the thing:  we all do this all the time.  Everyone of us who heard about/paid attention to the Casey Anthony case formed/accepted a Media/Mob "truth" about her.  The legal system reached a different "truth."  This happens all the time.  By the way, have you changed your mind about Anthony?

Okay, put all that aside.  I am not happy just saying that we, all of us, are the "truth-finders" because clearly the MSM has so much influence on what is "true."  This particularly true for the top-tier MSM Outlets (the nightly new shows, the New York Times, WSJ, etc.).  If it reported on the nightly news, it must be TRUE. 

But that doesn't quite explain it either.  I don't know.

Maybe we have to somehow account for "announcing-the-truth," like an output.  And maybe the announcing is weighted too.  If Guy On The Internet says "X is true," so what.  If Obama says "X is true," then it is TRUE.

I don't know.  So, heedlessly onward:

Standard of Proof:  for the people part of the Media/Mob, "Gut Feeling."  Every time you read/hear someone say, "I KNOW Paterno knew" or "there is NO WAY Paterno did not know" or "he should have done more," that's likely "gut feeling."  But then again, maybe he/she is just simply  accepting the Media/Mob "truth."  Add in the timing factor:  Citizen A went under a rock on Friday and woke up on Wednesday morning.  Citizen A logs onto the internet and reads statement after statement after statement of gut feelings expressed as legal fact.  Citizen A joins the mob and says: "Paterno knew, JoePa must GoPa." 

But again, that probably gets it all wrong too.

For the media part of the Media/Mob: no idea.  Journalist have ethics and don't report the moon landings were faked.  Wetzel wrote that Pateno had to go because he didn't do enough.  But he had no proven facts.  So one can only conclude that he based this on his "gut."  Maybe the members of the MSM do that all the time, but just gloss over it.  I don't know.  I have no idea what the Media part of the mob is using for the standard of proof.

Opacity:  completely public and transparent and yet most of us ----- me included ----- have no idea what we are seeing/experiencing.

Goals:  I have no idea what the Media/Mob has as "goals."  I'm tempted to just say "Hegel."

Heedlessly onward:

Action Taking: this is one of the most fascinating aspects of the Media/Mob process.  I did not really discuss it much re: the legal and institutional processes since action-taking is straightforward.  Judge acts variously as appropriate; BoT or CEO or whomever fires an employee, buys a building, etc.

But how does the Media/Mob take action? 

Note that in Paterno's case, it was actually TWO "truths" that were determined.  One that "he did something wrong" (or some variant) and, two, that "he must go now."  Let's focus on the second "truth."  The Media/Mob determined the "truth" that Paterno had to go, but the media was not in a position to accomplish that.  What did it do?

First, it sent a mob of actual living people to 'report" and "gather information."  The power of this cannot be underestimated.  These are not nice people that will politely step aside when you try to leave your house.  They camp on your lawn, block the entrance to your Administration Building and chase Paterno and his wife in their silver car when he was going to practice.  The disruptive impact of 500 reporters with their attendant equipment on a town like State College is enormous.  It is very disruptive even in large cities were the media's phyiscal presence is more common. 

Aside from physical presence, these reporters are not passive or quiet.  They incessantly demand the attention of everyone.  Put simply, no one gets any work done.  The word is "distraction."

And .... the reporters are not going to go away until the Media/Mob gets what it wants. This sentence requires its own FanPost.  For now, accept it.

Second, the Media/Mob takes action by ratcheting up the demands, the "outrage," the tone and the stridency/rhetoric. 

On Saturday, the Media/Mob was demanding that Paterno "answer questions."  The outrage was directed at Sanduscky.  The Media/Mob did not get what it wanted, so the entire focus came to center on the University and Paterno, the melodrama spiked, the "outrage" was stoked, and the new demand was the Paterno "must go now."  The Media/Mob got what it wanted but only partially on Wednesday morning and the pause in the firestorm during the day was palpable while the Media/Mob waited to see what the BoT would do.  When the BoT made the "right" decision, the Media/Mob patted the BoT on the head, said "good job" and now has turned its focus back to Sandusky, the victims and other really culpable people.  My guess is the physical presence of the media in State College is significantly less today (Friday) than it was on Tuesday and Wednesday.  As an aside, be assured that Penn State will be punished for its students overturning TV trucks. 

The next step is even scarier: they "really-start-digging."  This is beyond frightening because, now, some reporter is talking to the crackpot about why he thinks the moon landings were faked.  Who the hell knows where that ends up.  Cue XFiles theme music.  My biggest fear for Paterno was that he would be too stubborn to do it voluntarily (I was correct) or that the BoT would not have the power to force Paterno to retire immediately (fears unfounded, but not by much it seems).  Had Paterno stayed, actions 1 and 2 would have increased (e.g., more actual reporters, more stridency, complete circus for the Nebraska game, etc.) and the Media/Mob would have really started digging.   Let me ask you:  if the reporters keep digging really really start and keep digging, can they "prove," in the legal sense, that Paterno knew about the Sandusky allegations in 1998?  If that had happened under the pressure of the Media/Mob firestorm, that would have put an end to Paterno and everything he has ever done and the damage to PSU would have been beyond reckoning.

Anyway, as I said at the beginning, this has ended in a mess of "I don't knows."  Sorry for that.

One final thought before I have to go:  you cannot refute a Media/Mob "truth" with legal process "truth."  Stop trying.

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