The long knives are back out, but this time, the prey is a dead man. Using the opportunity of the leaked email messages to CNN, the media are able to pull the Sandusky story back to the man they’ve wanted in the spotlight all along: Joe Paterno.
Paterno must have known. And he protected the brand. After all, he’s powerful, petty and vindictive. Sure, Sandusky was the catalyst behind all this, but Paterno! Well, he’s the real criminal here because, while Sandusky just had an uncontrollable sexual perversion to feed, at least he wasn’t a hypocrite.
Journalists hate hypocrites more than sexual perverts, because hypocrites con people into believing in them. Journalists are wizened and cynical. They generally don’t believe in anyone or anything. And they’re smarter than everybody; certainly smarter than the rubes who bought into this Joe Paterno con artist all these years.
Now that Sandusky is firmly in jail, the story can’t be allowed to drift. There are too many people invested in saving themselves and keeping the media glare on Paterno. So they leak snippets of email messages that, with the media winking and nodding along, seem to indicate a grand cover-up. Much ink has been spilled the past few days on one snippet of one email note in particular, from Tim Curley:
"After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps."
That’s it. Nowhere does that prove anything concrete—except it pithily appears to reinforce the media narrative they’ve worked hard to cultivate: Joe was the mastermind behind the cover-up to save his program. Like November's grand jury presentment, which was similarly leaked, it provides just enough information for the media to run around with hatchet in hand, claiming a scalp and marking their territory. Does anyone remember that the presentment was, shall we say, hyperbolic is places? The media don’t get rich counting on you to remember things like that.
That the email referring to Paterno could be interpreted in a number of ways isn’t of interest to the media. Their spotlight is back on the man whom they’ve wanted it all along: their hypocrite. They’ll simply ignore any benign explanation. That they get to take swipes at the crazed apologists who are too dumb to realize that it’s all a big conspiracy to protect St. Joe is just icing on the cake. Or something. Does it really matter to the media? Paterno creates page views. Hard facts about Second Mile, Corbett, and yes, even Schultz, Curley and Spanier are met with yawns. So they’ll simply be used to pull Paterno back into the story. Back into the spotlight.
What the media are missing about this story is that the rank-and-file Penn Stater wants more than anything to discover the truth. If Joe Paterno is an evil, evil man for "allowing" this to go on at "his" campus, we want to know this. If there was a ham-fisted cover-up of epic proportions, we want to see the evidence. If Second Mile was involved in something much deeper and darker, let’s have it. It’s their job to uncover the truth. Instead, they’d rather insult us and marginalize us. Instead of doing their jobs, they’re giving us half-truths, snippets, biased commentary, self-serving leaks, innuendo, payback for Joe treating them shabbily, condescending smears, and most of all, they're allowing themselves to be used by people with powerful agendas. And we’re on to them.