How to create a culture of rape

Widespread greed and lack of empathy facilitated the cover-up of child rape at Penn State University.

Joe Pa
Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was fired for his part in a child abuse sex scandal [GALLO/GETTY]

In May of 2009, as President Barack Obama prepared to replace retiring Justice Anthony Souter on the US supreme court, he let something terrible slip – something that could threaten the very fabric of our civilisation! He said he would try to pick a new judge for our highest court who possessed “empathy”, or the ability to identify “with people’s hopes and struggles” when making decisions that would intimately affect their lives.

In other words, slightly different than how Justice Clarence Thomas does it, which generally involves applying lessons learned from all-expenses-paid, first-class corporate speaking gigs and serial viewing of the wacky antics of Long Dong Silver.

Predictably, right-wingers from Senator Orrin Hatch to former Republican National Committee Chair (and lobbyist for every destructive interest in existence) Ed Gillespie were just beside themselves, hissy-fitting at the outrageous notion that someone who actually cares about people might become a sitting justice on the High Court.

It is this degradation of American culture since the Reagan years – on steroids in our current Citizens United era as corporations have become people – that says the only healthy emotions are the ones that highlight one’s personal greed and lack of compassion for others. This is the cultural sickness that has been on full display for all its misanthropy this past week.

The most egregious example occurred in State College, Pennsylvania, with the growing and nausea-inducing scandal engulfing Penn State University. No, our culture didn’t create the paedophilia of former Penn State Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Sadly, this has been with us since the dawn of time.

But the greed of a big college football programme and the fortune and fame it creates allowed it to go on for years. This certainly played a defining role to decisions made by everyone from an assistant coach, who witnessed Sandusky’s anally raping a 10-year old in the shower; to the lack of action by the university’s president; to the post-2002 Rick-Perry-memory hole of the sainted (now) former coach Joe Paterno.

All of them spent at least a decade, perhaps closer to 15 years, covering up the behaviour of a serial-child rapist, who used the football programme’s reputation and facilities to both locate his victims and commit his crimes.

For these men in positions of power, “greed was good”, a lesson learned by the lunkheaded Penn State students who chose to “riot” Wednesday evening upon news of Paterno’s firing by the Penn State University Board by turning over a car, breaking windows and performing other acts of mass stupidity. For them, being able to party hardy post-victory and continue the cult of Paterno was more important than the lives of potential peers violently victimised by a beast.

The personal responsibility touted by these protectors, and in particular Joe Paterno – rock-ribbed Republican friend of the Bushs and former Pennsylvania senator turned presidential candidate Rick Santorum – was no match for the avarice their politics and personal-belief system would seem to espouse. Santorum, who sponsored the Republican-registered Sandusky for the “Congressional Angels in Adoption” award, based on the non-profit Sandusky founded to provide care for foster children, was still defending Paterno, last we heard.

So in case you’re scoring at home, to Santorum being gay is terrible, because homosexuality is just like “paedophilia”. But if the person performing or covering up child rape is a friend, paedophilia’s A-ok. So does that mean Santorum supports gay rights – as long as the non-straight in question is a friend of his?

This has been an another edition of Deep Thoughts with Rick Santorum.

Speaking of deep thoughts, the same big money created Santorum’s debate mate Herman Cain, avatar of the right-wing greed culture and a man who thinks “right of return” has something to do with sending back a pizza because it took longer than 30 minutes to arrive. Cain’s existence in the presidential race is courtesy of those libertarian Iran investors affectionately known as the Koch Brothers.

The fact that Cain has been accused of being a sexual predator is of no particular importance, because what he has done to women pales in comparison to what he could do for them and their big-money buddies with tax cuts, subsidies, deregulation and other items in the Norquist goody bag.

A philosopher that conservatives once believed in, Edmund Burke, famously said that “all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”. For too many at Penn State and among the Herman Cain express train, just doing nothing would be a step up.

Cliff Schecter is the President of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, the author of the 2008 bestseller The Real McCain, and a regular contributor to The Huffington Post.

Follow Cliff Schecter On Twitter: @CliffSchecter

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.