News coverage has descended upon Steubenville’s local officials like water poured over an anthill. They scramble to maintain control over something that spectators believe is no longer theirs to oversee, based on many of the dual roles found as details unravel. Facts aren’t all that unravels, as heated quotes, unsolicited negative attention, and questionable gate-keeping practices are exposed within and without context.
Doubtless, everyone has a whiff of transference when confronted by a high school football sports establishment, as we all reflect on our social statuses and/or lack thereof when we were “that age” – and many of the spectators still are. When the smoke clears, there are some Occam’s-razor-sharp facts waiting to emerge.
First, social media has the power to assemble reality- but sometimes that reality is more of a Frankenstein’s monster, than the truth. In this case, we know that sometimes as part of teenage development, being an absolutely insensitive, cruel, inappropriate asshole seems like the best choice to some teenagers at certain times. Thankfully, we’re not all on camera when it happens. Unfortunately, such video also exposes what appears to be an inability to intervene in what, by most accounts, seems to be unspeakable, despicable, life-crippling behavior.
The social hierarchy in some high school settings could be comparable to that of the mafia, or politics. We witness some absolutely ridiculous behaviors in the name of acceptance, or to maintain secure social conformity. Some of these pecking orders are bolstered by parents, teachers, and other mentoring adults who either know nothing different, or notice nothing wrong. So the potential for this system to yield something as terrible as a rape or sexual assault is present. But none of this is sufficient evidence that such a horrible occurrence has taken place.
Simplicity is the answer, of course. Simplicity involves taking a path to the truth, and when a dual role or conflict of interest emerges which could influence the path, the investigation must be outsourced and monitored in an orderly way. Adults must be treated as adults- particularly the adults responsible for the venues where illegal activities took place. Children who are developing into adults should be held responsible as a matter of developmental mentoring and societal responsibility. Questions need to be answered as objectively as possible- testimony among people in a system like Steubenville’s social hierarchy is about as worthless as a work of fiction. So where will simplicity come from, this time? Technology. I’m not talking about the noisy cloud of activists, hacktivists, commentators, and social media trolls involved in this debacle. I refer instead to the data itself. Whatever data can be absorbed has a level of value to establish a certain fact or not. Data is simple. Manageable. And its pure exposure needn’t hurt anyone. What hurts is data interpretation, misrepresentation, and suppression.
When you see controversy surrounding the Steubenville rape case, that controversy is the result of interpretation, misrepresentation, or suppression. Look for the data instead. It’s as simple as that. A nation of children need continued mentoring in how to interface with romantic and social interests, how to behave as responsible members of society, and how to exhibit self control and integrity- regardless of what happened here.
If anyone from Steubenville ends up reading this entry, or anyone in a similar situation in the future, the simplest thing I can advise is this: when given the chance to cover something up, don’t do it.