Is Mark Steyn Walking into a Trap?
On Mark Steyn’s Se’nnight of Steyn, January 25-31 weekly recap, his most read piece was entitled, Penn State’s Institutional Wickedness. He talks about the new motions he’s filed for summary dismissal of Michael Mann’s eight year old libel lawsuit against him. He has a quote from the leaked Grand Jury presentment that caused a national outrage:
On March 1, 2002, a Penn State graduate assistant (‘graduate assistant’) who was then 28 years old, entered the locker room at the Lasch Football Building on the University Park Campus on a Friday night. … He saw a naked boy, Victim 2, whose age he estimated to be 10 years old, with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky. The graduate assistant was shocked but noticed that both Victim 2 and Sandusky saw him. The graduate assistant left immediately, distraught.
The graduate assistant went to his office and called his father, reporting to him what he had seen. His father told the graduate assistant to leave the building and come to his home. The graduate assistant and his father decided that the graduate assistant had to promptly report what he had seen to Coach Joe Paterno (‘Paterno’), head football coach of Penn State. The next morning, a Saturday, the graduate assistant telephoned Paterno…
He then writes a very devastating, insightful critique of assistant coach Mike McQueary and the infantilization of society:
Hold it right there. “The next morning”?
Here surely is an almost too perfect snapshot of a culture that simultaneously destroys childhood and infantilizes adulthood. The “child” in this vignette ought to be the ten-year-old boy, “hands up against the wall,” but, instead, the “man” appropriates the child role for himself: Why, the graduate assistant is so “distraught” that he has to leave and telephone his father. He is pushing thirty, an age when previous generations would have had little boys of their own. But today, confronted by a grade-schooler being sodomized before his eyes, the poor distraught child-man approaching early middle-age seeks out some fatherly advice, like one of Fred MacMurray’s “My Three Sons” might have done had he seen the boy next door swiping a can of soda pop from the lunch counter.
The graduate assistant pushing thirty, Mike McQueary, is now pushing forty, and is sufficiently grown-up to realize that the portrait of him that emerges from the indictment is not to his credit and to attempt, privately, to modify it. “No one can imagine my thoughts or wants to be in my shoes for those 30-45 seconds,” he emailed a friend a few days ago. “Trust me.”
“Trust me”? Maybe the ten-year-old boy did. And then watched Mr. McQueary leave the building. Perhaps the child-man should try “imagining” the ten-year-old’s thoughts or being in his shoes.
Oh, wait. He wasn’t wearing any.
It’s truly great writing, but there’s only one problem. That incendiary presentment was not true! Since the whole world is absolutely certain that it was, I’m going to have to go into some detail about why I think it’s not and why I’m interested in it. When this story first broke a decade ago, I noted it with mild interest. I’m not a big sports fan, but my late father was a football coach so I’m familiar with the culture. I remember feeling bad for all the fans who had their hearts broken. I had no reason to doubt the story and only revisited it when Michael Mann sued Mark Steyn, National Review, CEI and Rand Simberg who called him the Jerry Sandusky of climate science. I’ve taken a great interest in this case which I consider a direct threat to the first amendment.
Three years ago, I ran into a post at Michael Shermer’s Skeptic Magazine site entitled, Trial by Therapy: The Jerry Sandusky Case Revisited. That can’t be right. It looked like it might be sympathetic to Sandusky. So I read it. It was a review of a new book by renowned science writer, Mark Pendergrast, claiming that Jerry Sandusky was innocent. I was very surprised to find that it was a positive review and that it was extremely well argued. So I kept up with the comments and found a podcast interview with the author which really hooked me on the story. I found that the guy conducting the interview, John Ziegler, was even more knowledgeable about the case than the author. Ziegler is a boisterous former talk show host, documentary film maker and podcaster. He has solid journalistic credentials. He’s done a lot of high profile interviews. He has a site (temporarily closed due to upcoming projects so link is to Way Back Machine version) that’s often derided for its retro AOL style look and is full of posts, podcasts and videos. I used to listen to a lot of radio talk shows and now listen to a lot of podcasts plus I found the new aspects to this case fascinating so I sort of adopted this mangy, stray story since no one else wanted it. I even started a small blog called Canman Canned Facts where I occasionally write about it.
I’ve been following this story for three years mostly on Ziegler’s Twitter feed. I often listen to his podcasts when I’m out and about. I can’t exclusively concentrate on them so I always listen to them more than once. I’m sure I’ve listened to them more times than anyone on the planet. It’s been a wild ride with lots of ups and downs. Ziegler has a podcast interview with the author of the skeptic.com piece, Fred Crews, that really illustrates how this story has barely held on by a thread. Crews is a former English professor and essayist who’s written a lot about Freud and repressed memory. He recounts how difficult it is to get anything published about the Sandusky case. Shermer’s board balked at publishing his review in the magazine.
Mark Steyn slams Mike McQueary for waiting until the next morning to report the incident to Joe Paterno. Next morning? How about after the next few months, … when a job that he wanted had just opened up, … which he did not get, … as a critical link in a coverup, … which he would get three years later? Well known author, Malcolm Gladwell, has just included a chapter about this case in his latest bestselling book, Talking to Strangers. Prominent social psychologist, Carol Tavris wrote a review of it for the Wall Street Journal where she castigates Gladwell for not drawing the obvious conclusion that Sandusky was innocent in this case. Why would Gladwell go to the trouble to include this toxic case in his new book? I suspect he wanted to ease his conscience and right past wrongs. Back in 2012 he wrote a piece for the New Yorker on child molesters that featured Jerry Sandusky.
But didn’t McQueary see Jerry Sandusky raping a young boy in the shower? Weren’t there all kinds of boys who came forward and accused Sandusky of sexual abuse? The actual investigation that led to Sandusky’s arrest started with one accuser, no corroborating witnesses and two Grand Juries that did not bring indictments. The case was going nowhere until the investigators came across a story about Mike McQueary. They interviewed him almost a decade after the incident. He had to recall everything from memory and memory is a very important part of this case with many aspects such as unreliability and malleability.
People used to get charged and convicted of sexual abuse based on claims of repressed memory. Experts on memory started to look into this and debunked the theory of repressed memory and it’s no longer supposed to be used in courts. One of the leading experts is Elizabeth Loftus who testified at an appeal hearing for Jerry Sandusky. Now the whole Sandusky case is obviously not based on repressed memory, but author Mark Pendergrast did manage to interview one of Sandusky’s court accusers who admitted that he had engaged in repressed memory therapy. Did McQueary remember seeing a rape. His story has changed many times and there are lots of permutations such as him originally thinking he saw nothing but changing his mind after learning that the police think Sandusky’s a child molester. I’m only scratching the surface here, Ziegler has amassed copious evidence that McQueary is an unreliable witness.
There’s also lots of evidence of overzealousness by the prosecutors. There are emails showing McQuery complaining that his words were twisted and that he did not witness rape. The boy in the shower was not identified at trial, but it is well established that his name was Allen Myers. He was a Second Mile kid who had lived with the Sanduskys. He made sworn statements and wrote letters to newspapers in support of Sandusky and claimed to be the boy in the shower. He went to Sandusky’s lawyer to offer support then disappeared. His mother worked for a lawyer. This lawyer would end up getting multi million dollar settlements for several accusers, including Myers. Myers was later subpoenaed to an appeal hearing where he gave evasive testimony. Why did he flip? There’s lots of permutations. He could have been convinced that there were other truthful accusers. Ziegler has pointed out that he had a DUI conviction and may have needed the money. I can not emphasize too strongly that I’m just scratching the surface of mountainous material.
Mark Steyn’s post has a picture of Graham Spanier leaving a courtroom in his post. Graham Spanier was the president of Penn State at the time and went to trial for various charges including conspiracy and a felony. He got convicted on one child endangerment misdemeanor law, … which didn’t exist at the time! Ziegler has a remarkable podcast where he describes the trial. It really is Ziegler at his best! Well, in the Pennsylvania court system, it looks like Spanier is headed to jail.
Here’s where Michael Mann comes in. In his first book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars (published before the Sandusky scandal), there are two instances where he mentions Spanier giving him encouraging support. In his latest book, The New Climate War, he thanks Spanier in the acknowledgements. Steve McIntyre has noted it:
Now Steve writes about football once in a while. He practically wrote an encyclopedia on Deflategate. I’ve tried to get him interested in this case to no avail.
Now I think Mann deserves credit, even praise for his support of Spanier. It should also be noted that he also acknowledged Spanier in his previous book, The Madhouse Effect, published well after the scandal. I have no idea how much Mann knows or believes about this scandal. He doesn’t appear to be a personal friend of Spanier. If Ziegler does manage to get his story out and acknowledged (probably as wishful as Mark Jacobson’s 139 country plan), Mann will have a solid hook into it. It will give him a club to beat Mark Steyn with, and you know he will. On a factual basis, he has nothing else!
Please, Mark. Write something about this and beat Mann to the punch. I know I’m greedy. You’re right about the free speech and science aspects of the case. I want you to be right about everything.
Probably. But they will persecute him any way they for daring to disagree with them.
“How are you!”
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“How dare you.”
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Mike, thanks for presenting that side of things. I know nothing at all about this, other than what I read the other day in the documents Steyn has recently submitted to Court as part of his application to have Mann’s case against him summarily dismissed.
So far as that case and application are concerned, does anyone have any information on when it might be heard, by what date Mann has to submit his documents in response, and if they will be publicly available (via the internet) to be perused?
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Mark Steyn and Steve McIntyre keep very close tabs on this case and instantly report any new developments. Judith Curry also usually notes anything new that happens. She filed an amicus brief for Steyn. All three have active Twitter feeds:
As for upcoming dates, They’re probably not publicly available and if they are, they’re likely buried in legalese. Anything that becomes available will very likely be linked to by Steyn and McIntyre.
Mike, thanks. I’m a lawyer (albeit retired) so hope that I can penetrate the legalese, even though US legalese differs a bit from UK legalese. I’ll keep an eye out, though I don’t “do” twitter.
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John Ziegler’s new podcast is up and running. This looks like a serious production that will be hard to ignore. I certainly give it better odds than Mark Jacobson’s 139 country plan. It starts out with a ton of interviews right off the bat.
Well done, Mike. It’s an uphill battle, because the received story conduces so perfectly to so many of our agendas. As you warn us, that doesn’t make it true. I’d love to read your thoughts on Gladwell’s coverage of the trial, which struck me as a bizarre and effortful abrogation of skepticism—though you may feel there’s no real climate angle there. Anyway, there’s almost too much here for any one commentator, so your hesitancy about where to begin was understandable. Whatever The Truth is, you’ve done your bit to foster a non-excluding, supportive space where it may just feel safe, one day, to come out.
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Thanks for the comment and being willing to comment on this toxic subject. Gladwell certainly deserves his chiding from Carol Tavris, Ziegler’s astounding podcast on the aftermath of the Gladwell book was very discouraging. It has an interview with a reporter for USA today named AJ Perez who was going to to a story on the book, but quit his job a day or so before:
I personally think he may have got some sort of payoff. Early in the WTBOH podcast, Ziegler’s Twitter account got hacked and he was locked out for a few days. I can’t imagine that was not related to this case. Still, I have to give Gladwell credit. It still gives me an important point to use to try to convince people on Twitter. Hanging on by a thread is better than not hanging on at all.
There’s a very important development coming up in the next month. Jerry Sandusky is appealing in federal court for a new trial, which he clearly deserves. So far he’s been appealing in state courts where he can appeal over and over again. The only problem is that in Pennsylvania, all judges face election and they don’t want to be known as the judge who gave the world’s most famous child predator a new trial. In federal court he only has one shot and he can’t go back to state court again. If some PC appointed federal judge denies Sandusky’s appeal, Malcolm Gladwell may end up feeling a bit like Mike Ehrmantrout:
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It’s great to see Brad on Cliscep again.
Indeed not. I don’t know the details of this case but I felt warned once again this week by Murray Gell-Mann and Michael Crichton simply about believing stuff that’s in the newspapers:
So Mike’s warning to Mark Steyn could also be on target.
That quote’s from Goodreads. I do miss Crichton.
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