Lessons Lost: McCarthyism and Yellow Journalism Run Amuck
McCarthyism: The practice of making accusations without proper regard for evidence.
Yellow Journalism: The use of exaggerated, scandal-mongering, or sensationalistic eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers.
My wife split up the Saturday paper in ritualistic fashion. As is custom, I was handed the sports section; and there, in big bold letters I saw it: Armstrong to lose Tour wins. Bewildered, my eyes scanned down to the subtitle: The cyclist will be stripped of his seven victories after not going to arbitration over doping allegations.
What an atrocity! No, not that Lance Armstrong was allegedly being stripped of his Tour de France wins, but the utter lie the paper had used to draw me in — a perfect example of the modern day yellow journalism that pervades everything, especially political prose.
Perusing further, I found several interesting and very relevant tidbits of information, typically referred to as “facts”. Frist, that the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is recognized by the U.S. Congress as the official anti-doping agency for Olympic, Pan American, and Paralympic sport in the United States, and as such, does not have jurisdiction over this matter. It further stated that this position was shared by the International Cycling Union; the sport’s real governing body which has repeatedly backed Armstrong’s in these proceedings. More importantly, I learned that the only physical evidence entered into the record were the results of literally hundreds of drug tests performed on Armstrong between 1999 and 2005 during his incredible run of seven straight Tour de France wins, every single one of which he passed! So what earth-shattering evidence did the USADA have on Armstrong that could possibly repudiate these test results? Hold on to your hats folks; this one will blow you away.
The USADA has NOTHING. Not one failed drug test. Not one swab of a Lance Armstrong jersey sold on eBay or one discarded energy drink bottle recovered by a dumpster diver that has ever tested positive for a banned substance. That’s right folks. They’ve got zip, squat, zilch, nada, and the exact opposite of “something”. Apparently all the USADA has is a governing mandate that would make Joseph McCarthy and his followers very, very proud.
For those of you in need of catching up, Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) vaulted to fame in the 1950’s when he thoroughly abused his powers to legitimize the character assassination of thousands of Americans who were merely suspected of being communists and/or communist sympathizers. And like the USADA, all Senator McCarthy needed were people willing to come forward to testify to alleged acts of illicit conduct that only needed to appear to be guilt-worthy. No need for facts or evidence, thank you. Apparently in the minds of congress, Athletic Doping is as big a threat to our way of life today as communism was in the 50’s. And here’s the punch line. If you go to the USADA’s website, you will see their slogan proudly displayed, “Protecting the Rights of Athletes”, which then begs the question: In what universe are they protecting Lance Armstrong’s rights? They lay claim to a jurisdiction that is not theirs and then then find Armstrong guilty without one shred of physical evidence. Hmmm. I believe that’s how it worked in 18th Century Salem too.
Unfortunately, this is not the first we’ve seen of this type of behavior by our government. Recently, the Senate summoned famed pitcher Roger Clements to appear before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (why not just call it McCarthy II) on charges that he used steroids during his storied career; charges brought on nothing more than the word of confessed drug users and dealers. After hearing Clements vehemently deny any steroid use, the Senate Committee actually debated on sending him to jail for allegedly giving false testimony, despite the fact that there was no physical evidence to the contrary.
“So why”, you might ask, “are you blogging on a sports story, Dan?” The answer is simple. We are faced with the total collapse of morals in Washington DC. Politicians are in the pockets of big money and special interests, and work only to further their own selfish gains. In support of these efforts, they have continually eroded personal freedoms so that their wrongdoings can either go unnoticed or, as in the case of Charlie Rangel, unpunished.
One of the few protections against corruption in government previously afforded The People was a free press; one that exists, at least in part, to inform us of wrong doings in the government. However, the fact is that all commercial media news outlets now exist first and foremost to create profits, and will do whatever it takes (like posting misleading headlines) to maximize their bottom line. As such, the truth now takes a back seat to circulation, listenership, and viewership. In short, we are on our own folks, which is why we have to take an active role in educating and protecting each other. We need to join movements such as the Coffee Party’s “Be the Media” campaign, in which Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media outlets are used as platforms to broadcast non-commercially biased warnings against corruption in government and elsewhere. Then, we need to organize into an unstoppable force for the promotion of the common good. Once that is done, we can flush out the liars and the buyers, returning power back to its intended resting place with The People.