18 January 2013

Real dead women are more important than fake dead women

There are definitely other things I could be writing about.  Other things I should be writing about.  But something has been bugging me for a while, it sort of came to a head in the last day or two, and it's time to say so.  So I'll preface with the standard "these thoughts are my own" disclaimer.

Real dead women are more important than fake dead women.

Quick recap for anyone who doesn't pay attention to these things: Monti Te'o, the captain of the Notre Dame football team, had a girlfriend that didn't exist.  She "died" just before Notre Dame's game against Michigan State, and the media went crazy over how Te'o overcame this incredible psychological burden to have a great game.  Te'o and Notre Dame now claim that he was the victim of a "cruel" hoax; however some of the statements Te'o made over the course of the year suggest there may be more to it than that.  The story has been plastered on the front page of newspapers across the country, and has been the big topic of discussion on national cable news for more than a day now.

That's right - some really good football player got duped by an online profile.  It's shocking, you know, because nobody has ever lied on the Internet before, and nothing is more important than the fictional love lives of athletes.

Lizzy Seeberg did exist.  She was allegedly sexually assaulted by a Notre Dame football player in 2010.  She notified police, who didn't even contact the player for several days - though they did investigate Seeberg thoroughly.  Ten days after she reported the assault - after she got text messages from the football player's friend saying "don't do anything you would regret... messing with Notre Dame football is a bad idea,"  and knowing that the alleged abuser hadn't even been questioned, Lizzy Seeberg committed suicide.  Not long after, a second woman who was allegedly raped by a Notre Dame football player received several text messages from that player's teammates, warning her not to report it to authorities.  She ultimately decided not to prosecute.

Notre Dame has already held one press conference about Te'o's fictional girlfriend, one in which they announced they were "conducting an investigation" - what University "investigates" a student's fake online girlfriend? - and in which the University's athletic director held back tears.  They have also collaborated with a CBS News story, discussing the fictional girlfriend, after the University already knew about the hoax.  They're apparently going back and scrubbing transcripts that refer to the story at all.

Of course, now the media is attacking this complete nothingburger of a story like it's the Pentagon Papers.  New York Times.  Washington Post. CNN. ABC News. Chicago Tribune. Time Magazine.  They're searching out the alleged perpetrator of the hoax. They're calling up his parents, his neighbors, asking everyone they can think of for comment.

Notre Dame has held no press conferences regarding the alleged rapists on the football team or regarding the student who took her own life after reporting a sexual assault.  The President of the University refused to meet with Lizzy Seeberg's parents - on advice from counsel, of course.  The campus police investigation that opened so slowly was closed very quickly. The player accused by Lizzy Seeberg played in the same national championship game that Manti Te'o did earlier this month, as did many of the players who sent text messages to the second alleged victim.

The amount of coverage Lizzy Seeberg's case got since 2010 is barely a fraction of what we've seen about Manti Te'o in the last 48 hours. A handful of people - mostly women - have noted the difference in how Notre Dame has handled the two cases. Christine Brennan. Irin Carmon. Amanda Marcotte. Katie J.M. Baker. And of course, Melinda Henneberger, a Notre Dame alum who has followed the Seeberg story for years.

It bothers me that the only people who seem to speak up about this disturbing disconnect are feminists, as if you have to hold a particular political ideology to demand zero tolerance for this sort of thing.   It bothers me even more that the national media has basically been let off the hook - why aren't they attacking Lizzy Seeberg's story with the same zeal?  Why aren't they asking Notre Dame's leadership - you know, the big Catholic school - about the Catholic value of standing up for the powerless against the powerful?    At a time when society is supposedly waking up to the issue of rape from Ohio to India, Where is the media on this?

Where are any of us?

What incredible cowardice.  What a disgrace.


SS Mystic 9 said...

Worth the rant. Definitely worth the rant.

PunditMom said...

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I have been trying to get my head around why we are obsessing with the story of a person who doesn't exist. The other convo on this I am enjoying is the egg that many in the media have on their face for not doing at least a little investigating as they were reporting the "story."

Kimberly Hampton said...

I am so happy you have brought this to the public's attention again! The hypocrisy of it all is reprehensible and goes in line with "legitimate rape" depending on who it is that commits the act of violence!

Cheryl said...

Thank you for this.

maryn said...

Superb. Thank you so much.