Penn State: The Banality of Collaborative Evil

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When the Israeli government captured Nazi mass murderer Adolf Eichmann, journalist Hannah Arendt was struck by the fact that Eichmann appeared to be a nondescript accountant type. He was not highly intelligent, and he did not appear to be particularly vicious. This led Arendt to the conclusion that anyone could, under the right ideological circumstances, become evil. Evil, she said, was banal.

This was an exaggeration of the case. Eichmann was a willing executioner of Hitler’s orders; he identified deeply with Hitler’s anti-Semitism. He was not just a cog in the system, he was an active system-maker.

But there is truth to the notion that anyone, given the right amount of self-interest, can be sucked into collaborating with evil — or at least looking the other way. Edmund Burke once stated that all that was necessary for the triumph of evil was for good men to do nothing. The Nazis believed ideologically in the murder of Jews, but the rest of the Western world, including the Roosevelt administration, were willing to sit idly, closing their gates to the refugees. A Holocaust is a worldwide affair.

At Penn State, the same principle applied. Former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky spent decades sexually assaulting young boys. He started a charity, The Second Mile, to recruit young boys. One victim was a houseguest with Sandusky. Sandusky fondled him, performed oral sex on him and forced the boy to perform oral sex in return. A Clinton County high school routinely called the victim out of study hall to meet Sandusky in a conference room. The wrestling coach at the high school, Joe Miller, saw Sandusky molesting the victim; Sandusky said that he was wrestling the boy. Miller found the situation odd, but said nothing. This behavior lasted from 2005 to 2009.

On March 1, 2002, graduate assistant Mike McQueary entered a locker room at the University Park Campus. The lights and the showers were on, even though it was 9:30 at night. McQueary looked into the shower and saw a young boy with his hands against the wall being subjected to anal sex by Sandusky. The graduate assistant reported this to Joe Paterno, coach of the Penn State team. He was then called to meet with the Penn State Athletic Director and the Senior Vice President for Finance and Business.

Paterno was nowhere to be found. Sandusky’s keys to the locker room were taken away, and the incident was reported to The Second Mile. Nobody reported any of this to the police.

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  • randy

    Similar to the catholic church.

  • Coachwkr

    This is what happens when you allow homosexuals into a youth organization. Look at the Catholic church and its problems with homosexual priests. And to think there are people who want the Boy Scouts to give homosexuals unfettered access to its charges.

    • randy

      The comparison is the cover up. Many heads are going to roll at penn state, the was nobody in the higher up in the so called church that lost there job or went to jail.

  • ProudInfidel12

    Coachwkr….Being homosexual has nothing to do with being a child rapist. Being deviant and mentally ill, does. Sure, there are gay child sex offenders, as well as straight ones. The only common denominator is their sick twisted idea of what is sexually arousing. I'm as conservative as the next person, but generalizing is what liberals do. Try not to make that same mistake.

    • StephenD

      Well said. The fact is that those with a propensity for sex with children will find venues that offer continued exposure to opportunities for such encounters. This is why we see such proliferation among priests, Scouts, Camp Councilors, live in schools, etc. To suggest, as some have that this is a problem of the Catholic Church defies reality. It is a problem in all walks of life where evil can find a foothold.

      In this particular case, the coach that found him in the act is as guilty for not tackling him then and there and putting an end to all the misery since.

    • mrbean

      You are full of it! Homosexuals like their young twinkies and chickenbait.

      • Herman Caintonette

        You should know, being the expert in such matters, Bean Sandusky.

    • Niku

      You may have a good point,but you'll have to help me. When is the last time you heard of a hetrosexual male raping, or even fondling, a boy? That's what I thought.

      • Herman Caintonette

        Little girls? Another story….

    • Lfox328

      I could accept what you say, but the evidence is clear in this case. Sandusky's victims were SOLELY boys. He was not an equal opportunity offender. He was a gay man with an appetite for underage victims.

    • Lfox328

      No, not all homosexuals are child molesters. But putting a gay man in charge of young boys is as inappropriate as putting grown men in charge of a girl scout troop. It creates an opportunity for those inclined to get access, with no protection for the child.

  • meekee

    Does Sandusky classify himself as gay or simply lecherous and evil? We need to be told!

    • mrbean

      Homosexuals like their young twinkies and chickenbait

      • Herman Caintonette

        You should know.

  • Herman Caintonette

    Reinhold Niebuhr pointed out that groups tend to be more immoral than individuals. It is the process by which Jews become Nazis.

    In Letters to a Young Lawyer, Alan Dershowitz relates the heroic tale of Jan Karski, a Catholic lawyer-diplomat who went undercover into the Nazi death camps to report on the conditions therein. He was captured and tortured by the Gestapo, and later, pulled out his own teeth to avoid detection. He might have saved hundreds of thousands of lives by disclosing the reality of what was happening in his homeland (by persuading the Allies to modify their battle plans), had he been able to speak to the right people. But the most important Jew in Washington —Justice Frankfurter—refused to lift a finger to pass along that crucial information to Roosevelt. Dershowitz, Letters at 7, 12-13. It was in his personal interest to keep his mouth shut, and so he did.

    Judges like Frankfurter face an irresistible temptation to put their fingers on the scales of justice for their personal benefit. So did Joe Paterno. But if the Nazis had been forced to commit their most nefarious deeds under the harsh disinfectant of sunlight, even they might have been given pause. I would respectfully submit to you that the same rules apply in our courtrooms, and in every major college football program in the country. The Nazi analogy has a certain repulsive beauty—a certain symmetry. When good people become indifferent, injustice happens. And in groups, people will become indifferent.

    "Indifference is not a beginning, it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor—never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten. The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees—not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity we betray our own."

    Elie Wiesel, Perils of Indifference.

    Truth be told, Dershowitz—who teaches legal ethics at Harvard, which is a presumptive contradiction in terms—has his own feet of clay. While he counsels young lawyers to “blow the whistle to the Judicial Conference” and to Congress, Letters, he claims to have witnessed judicial corruption “with my own eyes in the courts of Boston, New York, and elsewhere,” Alan Dershowitz, Supreme Injustice: How the High Court Hijacked Election 2000 116 (Oxford U. Press, 2001), and evidently failed to report it, despite an affirmative duty to do so: Any lawyer “having knowledge that a judge has committed a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct that raises a substantial question as to the judge’s fitness for office shall inform the Commission on Judicial Conduct.” Mass. RPC 8.3(b). Like Mike McQueary after him and the German guards before him, he saw Justice being gang-raped in the shower, but he threw his new sneakers in his locker and walked away. You can’t make this stuff up….

    As one who has been a crusader and whistleblower, and has paid the price personally for it, I can understand Dershowitz's, McQueary's and Bialek's reticence. The system will do everything it can to crush you, whether it is in our corrupt courtrooms, the Penn State football program, the halls of Congress, the Bush White House, the Catholic Church, the Nixon White House, or the Nazi Party. The most sickening part of this is not what Jerry Sandusky is alleged to have done, but that coverups are not so much the exception as the norm.

  • Herman Caintonette

    Shapiro is getting rusty. Every lawyer knows to use "alleged" and "purported" in cases like these, because as Sol Wachtler (another highly-corrupt New York judge, who actually did go down) wryly remarked, a good prosecutor "can indict a ham sandwich."

    Innocent until proven guilty, remember, Ben?

  • Ken

    Ben, don't be so quick to judge. A grand jury report
    is always extremely one sided.
    Remember the McMartin case and how it
    was resolved. Nuff said.

  • BS77

    From Penn State to State Pen……….good.

  • GypsyTyger

    Sorry Ben.The University Police didn't "let the matter go." They conducted an investigation,prepared charges and presented it to the prosecutor. The County Prosecutor is the one who determines whether or not a felony will be followed up on. In order for someone to be prosecuted for a felony they must be indicted by a grand jury. The County prosecutor determines what goes to the grand jury. The prosecutor in this case refused to take what the police had given him to a grand jury,doubtlessly because he was afraid that if they heard it they would indict and the scandal would embarass the university,i.e. the cash cow of Centre County Pennsylvania. The cops did their job. The Prosecutor didn't do his.

  • frankk

    If I'm not mistaken, it was the district attorney who refused to indict — Ray Giacar (?spelling). He later went missing and his laptop and hard drive were found a significant time later in the Susquehanna River. Water damage made it impossible to retrieve their contents. Was the laptop the only place in which the DA's information about the Sandusky case was stored? Was his disappearance linked to that case? By the way, Ray's still missing, and recently was officially declared dead.

  • WSG

    Predators come in all shapes and orientations and in both male and female. Restated: evil exists. Our society has lost much of the ability to discern right from wrong let alone good from evil.
    This is a natural consequence of removing discussions of same from the public square under the (FALSE) banners of "separation of church and state," "diversity" and "tolerance."
    Morally weak people and those schooled in "me first" rarely will find the courage to defend the innocent in situations like Sandusky created and exploited.
    EVIL EXISTS and must be defeated – that statement alone will cause many to tuck tale and run. JoePA, et al – call the office please…… .

    • WSG

      That should have been …… tail.

  • kafirman

    This piece demands a follow-on discussion of natural law.

  • Longhorn63

    Paterno is not a god! He should be prosecuted for suppressing and covering up the most heinous crime against humanity. There's no doubt there will be plenty more of those guilty of this coverup to be exposed. They should all be put behind bars. They are the lowest of humanity. As far as Sandusky, they can put a needle in his arm as far as I'm concerned. There's no cure for sickos like him.

  • steven l

    People gaining power feel unaccountable to society because society is corrupted by the notion of power and not right. The human as well as the animal world are both based on only one concept: power. Man dominates woman and child by virtue of physical power. The rest is history.
    The Christian church (men controlled organization) is a clear and obvious example where internal forces (males sexual needs) continue to support the right of clerics to molest children. What does society do?
    Islam is not different. Woman must submit to the force of man.