What The Jerry Sandusky Scandal Tells Me About Village Voice Media

Excuse me while I digress for a bit...

I don't know if this is the worst year in the history of college football in terms of off-the-field scandals, violations and outright miserable human behavior. But it sure feels like it.

Nevin Shapiro's admissions of a (literal) boatload of violations involving the University of Miami tore down a program on the rise and reaffirmed what everyone always thought about the Canes.

Jim Tressel's shadiness undid a storied Ohio St. Buckeyes program and his own career. Overnight he went from a trusted father figure to a self-interested, sweater-vested dirtbag.

Cam Newton and his father were exonerated over accusations that they openly asked for a bribe to attend Auburn...but no one outside of Auburn, AL is convinced.

Oregon got caught making a shady $25,000 payment to Willie Myles and his "recruiting service" which basically involved Myles trying to veer kids towards the Ducks.

Butch Davis finally took the fall for all the shadiness that happened under his watch at North Carolina.

Conference realignment, driven by money and without input from the student-athletes who generate all that money, has remade the landscape into a Frankenstein patchwork of conglomerates and strange bedfellows.

The Fiesta Bowl got caught giving away freebies to politicians and proving that the BCS is just as corrupt as you think it is.

I'm sure I'm missing more minor violations and other dumb decisions or mistakes made by players, coaches or administrators. However, the point remains...college football is having a bad year.

And that was BEFORE the news that Penn State stood idly by and let one of their assistant football coaches molest and abuse multiple children in their midst for 20 years.

Because let's be clear...what Sandusky stands accused of and what the many, many, many Penn State officials and employees stand accused of NOT doing is one million times worse than any of those other things I listed.

What Jim Tressel and Butch Davis did was violate rules.

What Jerry Sandusky did was violate human decency.

We can sit here and argue all day how terrible it was what Terrelle Pryor did or whether or not Cam Newton deserved punishment, because the truth is there is a lot of gray area in their situations.

There is no discussion when it comes to Sandusky. There is no gray area. It is so black and white that it's insulting if anyone actually does try to mount a defense.

The same goes for Penn State AD Tim Curley, VP Gary Schultz, head football coach Joe Paterno and everyone else at the school who was privy to information that could have prevented Sandusky from doing further damage to children and chose to draw a line in how far they were willing to go to protect them.

Their inaction does not fall into a gray area. Because there is no gray area here either.

It's one thing to witness a theft and do nothing. It's another thing to witness a fight and do nothing. And it's something on a completely different level so far beyond either of those to witness an adult molesting a child and do nothing...or next to nothing.

I know this because I spend a lot of time on Twitter.

Ah yes, Twitter. The much-maligned, snap-judgement center of the Internet. If there's something worth complaining about, people are complaining on Twitter and people off-Twitter are complaining about those complaining on Twitter.

Folks on Twitter have gotten accustom to voicing their opinions within seconds of anything happening. There is no news lag. When a celebrity dies, a trial decision is handed down or an Earthquake happens, we all know about it within seconds and we've all judged them/it seconds later.

Usually, there's four sides to the discussion. There's the majority that voice an opinion one way. Then there's a dissenting minority. Then there's an ironic reaction to both the majority and the minority. And then there's a serious reaction to all three of them once the emotions have died down.

However when it came to the Sandusky news, there was no such progressions. There was one voice and one voice alone. This is horrible. This is awful. This is unconscionable. Everyone needs to be held accountable. Yes, there were Penn State loyalists who defended their people to the death, but there were a minute minority.

There was no doubt...we know bad when we see it and this is about as bad as it gets. Even if it only involved one child, it would have been bad. But this??? This cuts to the core of everything we know to be wrong.

It makes me think about Village Voice Media and what they're trying to accomplish right now in their underage sex workers "crusade."

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Since I moved to Seattle in June of 2010, I have become an avid reader of The Stranger and Seattle Weekly. Both are "alternative weeklies," which is a nice way to say "those square newspapers that exist to stir s*** up."

I do not read the Seattle Times. I don't go to Seattle news sites. The only local radio I listen to is sports-related.

So, basically, I get all my local news from these two newspapers.

The core demographic for both papers seems to be a counter-culture, weed-smoking, concert-attending hipster. They aren't left-leaning, they're left-leaping.

For better or worse, I don't fall into any of those initial categories. I don't care about their extensive music reviews. I find the weed culture boring and uncreative. And I wear cargos and baseball caps way too often for anyone to ever consider me a hipster.

What I do like about the weeklies is that they don't pull any punches. They go after politicians for their bulls***. They come correct on PR flacks trying to pull the wool over our eyes. They get down and dirty to tell the story behind the story.

They "fight the good fight."

And so when I opened the Seattle Weekly in late June to read the article Real Men Get Their Facts Straight, an expose into Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore's Real Men Don't Buy Girls campaign, I expected them to uncover shocking truths about how evil this seemingly-goodhearted effort to educate people about child sex slavery in the United States truly is.

I expected to find out money was being funneling into Kutcher and Moore's private bank accounts. I expected to hear that they have records of Kutcher visiting underage prostitution houses. I expected to hear about how these two smug Hollywood jerks were being Hollywood jerks.

The end result of the article was that, while it's true that child sex slavery exists in the United States and around the world, it's not quite as bad as they're making out to be, so let's, like, chill out, you guys.

Hooray?

Were we supposed to feel better knowing that? I remember that I stopped reading the article halfway through because I just kept getting more and more confused. Not by the numbers. Not by the campaign. But by the slant that the Seattle Weekly had taken.

Did they not want us to worry about child sex slaves? Did they want us to stop trying to help child sex slaves? Since, according to their numbers, the amount of arrests numbered in the four-digits instead of the six-digits, should we not really care about children forced into a life of prostitution and abuse? Should we just consider them "acceptable losses" and move on with our lives?

The Seattle Weekly is owned by Village Voice Media (VVM), which owns alternative weeklies like the Seattle Weekly all over the country. They own NYC's Village Voice (obviously), The LA Weekly, The Miami New-Times, The Minneapolis City Pages and a bunch of others.

What I didn't realize when I read the story in the Seattle Weekly was that the story had also been printed in all of VVM's 13 publications. This was a big deal to them. They wanted to make sure everyone knew how inflated the statistics were and how child prostitution is SO not the big problem those Hollywood jerks are making it out to be.

That was weird, I thought. So I did a little digging. Turns out, I didn't have to do much at all.

Village Voice Media owns Backpage.com, whose adult listings section has been accused of being "a platform for the trafficking of minors." It's like Craigslist back when Craigslist had sex-related ads. And here's the thing...Backpage makes money.

I don't think you understand...Backpage makes A LOT OF MONEY for VVM. Roughly $22M a year.

Here in Seattle, Mayor Mike McGinn made a local plea for the Seattle Weekly to shut it down after his police force rescued three female children advertised on the site around the same time as their article on Ashton Kutcher.

Rather than addressing the issues at-hand, The Seattle Weekly & VVM responded by making it personal, attacking McGinn and his credibility.

It was a page right of the Fox News/NewsCorp playbook.

(And in the interest of full disclosure, Ashton Kutcher sits on the board of investors for SB Nation, the platform that runs this site. However, I am in no way affiliated with Mr. Kutcher. I have never spoken to him. I don't follow him on Twitter. I can't think of one movie he's ever made that I enjoyed. And you couldn't pay me enough money to ever watch an episode of "Two And A Half Men." So...you know...)

A few weeks ago, a coalition of 36 clergy members (including Christians, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and others) purchased a full-page advertisement in the New York Times asking VVM to remove all adult advertising from Backpage.com (see the full ad here).

VVM's response basically reads, "Well, criminals are gonna do it anyway so, whatevs you guys" and then turns it into an attack on the clergy member's credibility.

Just like Bill O'Reilly would.

And anyone else who had dared to speak out against Backpage (or child sex trafficking in general) has faced similar wrath in recent months.

In this past week's Seattle Weekly, yet another feature article was published on the topic. "Lost Boys" wants to set the record straight about the stereotypes of the underage sex worker. The thesis seems to be that many underage sex workers are actually boys and many of them enjoy doing it.

So...case closed? Yes?

The article shames "narrow-minded" advocates who waste so much of their time, money and efforts trying to help children who are performing sexual acts on adults, because...they're totally having fun? They're having a great time? They're living the dream? They're boys and boys can handle it while chicks can't?

Seriously, even Ruport Murdoch thinks this ongoing, multi-platform campaign to justify Backpage and underage prostitution in general is a bit much.

Whatever point VVM is trying to make, it all just feels...pointless.

Is the point that we shouldn't care so much because there are only 50,000 child sex slaves in this country instead of 300,000? Is that supposed to make us feel better?

Is the point that child sex slavery is going to happen anyway so just deal with it?

Is the point that anyone who speaks out against child sex slavery must have a secret agenda, especially if they're religious or famous?

Here's what I know today that I didn't realize before the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke. It doesn't matter if it affects 300,000 kids or ONLY ONE. We, as a society, will not stand for this stuff. Not when it involved children. Not when it involved adults in positions of power. Not when it involves people who had an opportunity to stop it from happening and did nothing.

Jerry Sandusky allegedly molested eight children. If we suddenly found out that seven of them were made up and he only actually molested one child, no one would go throw a parade down State College's main street.

It would still be one too many.

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I don't know if anyone at VVM will read this. I'm not looking for a fight. Merely responding to what I read and trusting my instincts. If they do read it and have some free time, I assume they would refute this entire article by breaking down what Sandusky did and what the Backpage controversy is about and call them apples and oranges. Then they'd probably make fun of Syracuse or my name or say something about my mom.

But they're not apples and oranges. They're both apples, just different kinds.

Village Voice Media would like you to think that, when it comes to the welfare of innocent children, numbers matter.

The Jerry Sandusky scandal proves that they don't.

I still read the Seattle Weekly. It has good articles and think-pieces.  I just stop to think about their agenda now every time they write something and that sucks. And until they and their parent company stop acting just like arch-nemesis NewsCorp, I'll continue to do so.

I guess that's why I always reach for The Stranger first. Well, that and because Lindy West is amazeballs.

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