I don't know how many of you have read David Brooks' November 14 article titled "Let's All Feel Superior" but it's a very good and informed take on some of the psychology behind why the media's righteous indignation is ignorant of the well-documented limitations of the human mind. It really gets into the manifold tricks that the human mind plays on people, and the subconscious limitations and weaknesses that might cause someone to look the other way, without even consciously looking the other way.
It cites a lot of studies and objective data on many different factors that might have caused any inaction - it's not just a bunch of pansies defending why they feel they might not have done the right thing, but actual proof that maybe you wouldn't either. When these situations come up, it's never as simple as "yo, here's the right button and the wrong button, push one please," but is likely very complicated, in ways we realize and in ways we can't process. The sooner we are aware of how our weaknesses manifest themselves, we can learn how to exercise discipline over them and figure out to do when confronted with such savagery (paraphrasing the article, not my own language).
The whole article is worth a read, but here's an excerpt from the beginning:
First came the atrocity, then came the vanity. The atrocity is what Jerry Sandusky has been accused of doing at Penn State. The vanity is the outraged reaction of a zillion commentators over the past week, whose indignation is based on the assumption that if they had been in Joe Paterno’s shoes, or assistant coach Mike McQueary’s shoes, they would have behaved better. They would have taken action and stopped any sexual assaults.
Unfortunately, none of us can safely make that assumption. Over the course of history — during the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide or the street beatings that happen in American neighborhoods — the same pattern has emerged. Many people do not intervene. Very often they see but they don’t see.