Commonwealth Mediaevalist sees recurring Antipodean pattern now supercharged by media-driven Compensation expectations
In the era of pervasive popular communications, asserts Commonwealth mediaevalist Gordon Strong, “it has been seen that the media and the public combine symbiotically in influencing outcomes in a court of law.
“Accusations are far more likely to remain in the public consciousness than subsequent retractions.”
Justice must be done, and seen to be done, noted Gordon Strong in evaluating the current hysteria outbreak in Australia
“The problem now arises when pressure is brought to bear on the judiciary from other, non-judicial, sectors,” he emphasised.
He stressed too that in assessing the current furore over Cardinal George Pell “it will be instructive to examine previous events of a similar stamp.”
He cited the Orkneys ‘Satanic Abuse’ case in which social workers insisted that children had been subjected to demonic practices and which was dismissed as ‘fatally flawed’ by the presiding judge.
Similarly, the Chamberlain Trial / Baby Azaria case of 1980 which “now seems remarkable for the fact that most of the prosecution evidence was later rejected.”
The pillorying in the Baby Azaria case of the defendants by the media, “the ludicrous innuendos, and the disingenuous attitude of the ‘environmental’ officers, resulted in an unedifying spectacle.”
The Chamberlain couple were not fully exonerated until over thirty years later.
“The issue here is not necessarily the guilt or innocence of the parties involved.
“It is the tendency of the media to weigh opinion towards one version of events.”
Child abuse he said is only one of the emotive issues embraced, “almost gratefully,” by the media.
“Such reportage grips the public imagination, and therefore opinion is easily manipulated. “
Cautioned Mr Strong: “It might be argued that in such cases the media encourages and supports victims who might not otherwise have had the courage to step forward with their own revelations.
“Is it possible some proportion of these claims might be spurious?
The immense sums known to have been paid out in compensation in such cases “must surely tempt unscrupulous individuals to take advantage of the situation?”
He added that the media accelerator now routinely draws in another multiplier represented by Hollywood “via rapturously received movies based on these very cases.”
Both the account of the exposure of ecclesiastics in Boston and the Chamberlain trial were dramatised.
In general, observed the mediaevalist, the Cardinal Pell affair seems “couched in mystery,” even without considering the complexity of the internal politics that are a “hallmark” of the Roman Catholic Church.
“It is so far unclear what allegations have been made against this senior official.
“The denial of any wrong-doing by him is simply interpreted in this fevered atmosphere as further proof of his guilt.”
Mr Strong recalled that Pope Francis describes the affair as ‘a mediatic judgment – a judgment of gossip’.
What is equally a cause for concern, noted Mr Strong, is that Australia’s Victoria State police officials publicly speak of ‘a whole range of historical sex offences.’
This he pointed out was a phrase which, stated in isolation, has an ominous ring.
“Undisclosed information held by government agencies always has sinister overtones, as if to imply ‘you are all guilty, if we say so’
Mr Strong said that he discerned an underlying sense of personal triumph being shown by “lesser mortals” in attempting to bring down Cardinal Pell.
He observed too that in the present era of media excitability the more celebrated and powerful the figure the more likely they are to be drawn into a maelstrom of rumour and infamy.
In contemporary times, said Mr Strong, it is evident that having an exalted status in society may in fact be a liability, a lethal burden instead of a blessing.
Somerset, UK, based Mr Strong, the author of numerous books on antiquity, and who recently visited Australia on a lecture tour, pointed out that he was not a Roman Catholic.
He was anxious that researchers into this now apparently recurring syndrome, one on a seemingly accelerating cycle, provided context and background.
Mass hysteria episodes in history, although equally alarming, were not exacerbated by the pervasive universal electronic communications of today.
It was now overdue and imperative claimed Mr Strong that this element became recognised for what it had become---a precipitating and sustaining component of contemporary outbreaks of mass hysteria.
| From the MSCNewsWire reporters desk || Monday 10 July 2017 |||