Hagiography. I was not familiar with the word until reading Rick Reilly’s commentary on ESPN where he shares his thoughts on JoePa’s role in the Penn State Sandusky scandal. In this context, “hagiography” is used to mean the anointment or idolization of JoePa — those who bought in to his legacy literally thought he could do no wrong.
Reilly points out that even as the Sandusky scandal was breaking, he and others thought JoePa couldn’t possibly have had knowledge. As he put it, JoePa was “too old and too addled to understand, too grandfatherly and Catholic to get that Sandusky was committing grisly crimes.” For all intents and purposes, they believed Joe Paterno was a saint.
Even now, after the Freeh report has laid bare the extent of the coverup and of Paterno’s depth of knowledge, the Internet is alive with JoePa defenders. I admit that I find myself not wanting to believe the evidence, and I’m not even a Penn State fan. Clearly, the lure of the legend is powerful.
As I read ESPN’s article I was struck by the thought that Obama enjoys similar hagiography as JoePa. Case in point: Chris “thrill up my leg” Matthews recently commented that Obama was basically “perfect.” This from the same guy who said his job was to make Obama a successful president, and once compared Obama to Jesus. The Internet overflows with other examples of the cult-like support of Obama.
I believe that once a person buys in to a legend, in some ways they feel like they become a part of that legend. And they perpetuate and even grow that legend – and their own perceived role within it – through their own retelling. When this happens, their dedication to the legend becomes more powerful than the legend itself.
When people by in to a legend, they become incapable of seeing the truth. Anything which could shatter the legend is willfully ignored. Not just because it would destroy the legend itself, but also because it would mean the person’s investment into said legend would have been false from the beginning.
JoePa, Tiger Woods, Barack Obama. All legends, all recipients of blind hagiography.
The media really should wake up. I firmly believe that our leaders — regardless of party — should be treated tough by the media. Fair, but tough. There is no room for idolatry in a free country.
As the unnamed professor from Reilly’s commentary said, “What you media are doing is dangerous.” Yes, it is dangerous. Idolization allows Obama to be a lazy president and a weaker leader, which damages us both domestically and throughout the world. Media, take a lesson from the blind beatification of JoePa and do your damn job.
© 2012, Robert James. All rights reserved.
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