ON THE OTHER HAND: Look before you leap

Posted: Monday, August 11, 2014 10:34 am


Most people love a scandal or a nice big juicy story that involves skullduggery and backstabbing. When these stories come to the public eye we buy newspapers and gather around the television to get the inside scoop from the pundits and experts. What we find, oftentimes, is that these “experts” and “insiders” are no more informed than we are, most of what they have to say is either a rehash of the initial story or pure speculation.

A recent example is the sad story of Anna that came out of Hobart and William Smith Collages last month. When the first story appeared in the New York Times land lines were quivering, cell phone towers lit up and the Internet was not big enough to contain the amount of traffic that was generated. Everyone had an opinion, but that opinion was based mostly on the first article in the Times, and we have since learned that this article did not tell the entire story.

There were only two places that I actually heard an adult conversation about this in the media, one was on a talk show in Rochester that is broadcast by the HWS radio station. The other place was in the pages of the Finger Lakes Times. This paper gave space to the Colleges, the Geneva PD, the Ontario County DA and Anna’s lawyer. And there was an oped column by the distinguished former district attorney of Monroe County, Howard Relin, who tried to put things in context. Sadly for the pundits and those on the Internet many of their assumptions were incorrect. Without an actual trial, I think that this series of articles will be the best explanation of this story that the public will get.

Another story that is great cause for comment is the “IRS Scandal.” The story was that political operatives in the IRS were stopping donations to conservative organizations and that there was a White House connection to all of this. What has come out in the hearings was that there was no political agenda, no White House involvement and that more liberal organizations had been affected than conservative and that this kind of checking has been part of the job of the IRS for decades. But on Aug. 2 the Detroit News described this as “a serious affront to civil liberties” that “merits the attention of a special prosecutor.” And in this paper on July 30 a regular column talked about the issue in terms that were long on speculation and short on fact.

If there is one example that we should all keep in mind before we rush to judgment it would be the Duke University case. Three Duke lacrosse players were accused of rape at a wild, alcohol fueled, off campus party. After a thorough investigation, it was all found to be false and the charges were dropped. But look at the devastation that was done to the school and the individuals involved.

Why is it that we continue to make these leaps to judgment? I think it is because these leaps take us just where we want to go. How many of us want to believe that college athletes are privileged class, nurtured and protected by their schools, athletes with household names? How many of us enjoy paying our taxes and wish the IRS was not so good at collecting them? When we hear of an abused woman, who among us does not think of their mother, sister or daughter? There are those times when it is our natural inclination to act rather than wait for the results of an investigation.

For me this wait and see attitude is still a work-in-progress. I still have the urge to accept a story on the barest of facts at times, but after eating my own words on several occasions, what I have learned is to keep quiet, take a deep breath and wait until I comment.

Tom Marsh is a native of Geneva and a graduate of DeSales High School and SUNY Alfred. He is retired from Goulds Pumps and interested in local politics. His “On the Other Hand” appears every other Monday. He can be reached at SimonRedWolf@aol.com.


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