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Releasing Victim 2's name publicly was reckless and irresponsible

Patrick Smith

The fact of the matter is that it is not John Ziegler's job to be responsible, or nuanced, or to think about whether his on-air comments are productive or dangerous, or cogent, or even defensible.
- David Foster Wallace, "Host," The Atlantic, April 1, 2005

Eight years ago, John Ziegler was a conservative/libertarian talk radio host in Los Angeles. His job was to be "stimulating," "attitudinal," and "emotional." Although I'm not an avid talk radio listener, I am quite certain that Mr. Ziegler embodied all of the traits listed. I'm sure that made him very good at his former job, "an exotic, high-pressure gig that not many people are fit for," and one "in which ‘the truth' is wholly a matter of perspective and agenda."

His former job, though, is not his current job. Unlike his former career, John Ziegler's current project requires him to be responsible and nuanced, and to think about whether his on-air comments are productive, dangerous, cogent, or even defensible. Within the last week, that line was crossed.

Amidst the chaos and despair that embodied much of the last sixteen months in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky saga, Penn Staters often found themselves at odds with the world. Our "culture" was derided as football gone wild; our pride in our university mocked. It's unusual for a group of 500,000 living alumni to feel so alone, and it created a dichotomy that has been difficult to break. Despite the various divisions within the Penn State family, the last sixteen months have created an "us versus them" mentality that persists sixteen months after the removals of Joe Paterno, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz, and Graham Spanier, thirteen months after Paterno's passing, and nine months after Sandusky's conviction on forty five counts of child sexual abuse.

For decades, Penn State had plenty of surrogates to appear on television and in print to discuss how wonderfully it defined "success with honor." Then, in an instant, there was nothing. For a portion of the Penn State community, John Ziegler filled that void.

I'm neither conservative nor libertarian. I'm not a member of talk radio's audience, and I don't much care for Sarah Palin. There probably isn't much that John Ziegler and I would agree on. He was not someone with whom I was familiar, nor someone with whom I would actively align, but if John Ziegler was going to speak favorably about the university that helped to define me, I was content to allow it to go generally unabated.

I can't do that anymore.

Several months ago, John Ziegler alleged that he and Penn State football legend Franco Harris had "confronted" NCAA President Mark Emmert, and that Mr. Emmert "ran away out [the] back door." I called that tactic counterproductive, particularly in light of the exceptional work that Penn Staters had done to rebuild the university's tattered reputation.

On Monday, over the objections of Scott Paterno and the Paterno Family as a whole, Mr. Ziegler appeared on The Today Show, and later got into a shouting match with Piers Morgan on CNN.

On Tuesday, John Ziegler publicly released the name of Victim 2.[1]

This blog, similarly to traditional media sources, does not reveal the names of sexual abuse victims in order to avoid the problem of re-victimization. It does so because sexual abuse causes victims to carry lifelong psychological wounds that do not need to be continuously reopened. To do so in this instance, in such a high profile matter, is reckless and irresponsible.

John Ziegler can do and say whatever he wants when he is speaking for himself. But John Ziegler purports to speak in support of the Penn State community. He purports to speak in support of the Paterno family.

John Ziegler does not speak for the Paterno family. He doesn't speak for proud Penn State students like Ryan Beckler. He certainly doesn't speak for me.

Enough with the shock tactics. Enough with the escalation.


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[1] Ziegler claims that the name was posted by accident and that a "cyber attack" prevented the name from being taken down. This could be true, although Ziegler's own stated plans reflect an intent to release Victim 2's name anyway.