Veteran accuses two Auburn football players of harassment.
Gus Malzahn apologizes to female veteran after alleged verbal harassment from Auburn players
Those were the headlines at the forefront of al.com on Wednesday and on the front page of YahooSports.com on Thursday.
Two Auburn players harassed a veteran and her dog. That’s all most people who’ve heard about the story will ever know. Two Auburn players verbally assaulted an Amerian hero and her loyal canine companion.
No matter what really transpired, that’s the brush with which the two Auburn players (and by association the entire Auburn football program) will be painted.
The fact that the Auburn players have been tried and judged nationally by a headline-consuming public over what by most accounts seems to be a minor incident is a condemnation of the type of society in which we currently live.
Did the players assault the woman, verbally or otherwise? It doesn’t matter. The allegation is out there. If the players defend themselves in any way against the allegations or if the Auburn athletic department or administration defends them, it will be seen as a further attack on the disabled veteran. It’s a no win situation.
Many have noted that none of the hundreds of students who would have been potential witnesses to the incident have come forward to verify the story. In fact, the only witness to have spoken about the incident contradicts the version that made headlines. Does that matter? Is that relevant? At this point the reality of the situation is superseded by the media’s need to fan the flames of hysteria.
Does it make any difference that the person making the most online noise about the incident, the sister of the alleged victim, is an acknowledged Alabama fan who once worked at Auburn? Is there any relevance to the fact that she says her tenure at Auburn specifically led to her “making a big deal” out of the incident? No, because it doesn’t really change the allegation, just the level of indignation. This person is the Twitter warrior issuing callouts to everyone from Toby Keith to Keith Richards, seeking a bigger audience. What’s the purpose of her outrage?
Does the fact that some dispute the alleged victim’s status as a veteran carry any weight? When you see posts claiming the alleged victim selflessly fought for her country, is there any relevance to the fact that according to numerous online sites she didn’t actually serve beyond basic training after which she was dismissed for medical reasons? It doesn’t. Her service record, or lack thereof, doesn’t change what did or didn’t happen.
Does it matter at all that others unearthed message board posts where the alleged victim was seeking potential additional money from the Veteran’s Administration? No. Not really. Any effort to cast doubt on the alleged victim’s motive or rationale would be seen as mean-spirited.
Yet in the social media maelstrom, that’s exactly what’s happening. The Auburn players have already been convicted by the allegation itself. The alleged victim is having her life history probed. Her tweeting sister is having her motives questioned. What should have been a molehill has morphed into a volcanic mountain spewing unwarranted and unwanted steam on all involved. To what end?
According to all reports, a pair of Auburn football players attempted to talk to and/or pet the service dog that accompanied the alleged victim. Regardless of which version of the story you accept as the truth, there was a subsequent brief verbal altercation between the alleged victim and the two players. Then the two players went on their way. The alleged victim went home.
No matter what you believe happened, this was a minor incident. Even if the players did use profanity as they walked away, it remains a minor incident. In the pre-social media days this entire incident would have been handled by the alleged victim contacting the school, by the administration having the players apologize, and by tacking on a little discipline and maybe a talk on how to behave around people with service animals. That would have been the end of it.
It would not have become a platform for people to shout to the rafters and seek the support of country music artists to rally to a cause that — let’s be honest — really doesn’t exist.
The players tried to pet a dog. The owner didn’t like it. They exchanged words. There was no need to push the nuclear option button on Twitter.
That’s what this society has become. We are instant reactionaries, intent on seeking public retribution for the smallest of offenses. People can’t disagree. People can’t have words with each other without someone making it into a national incident. The molehills of simple grievances are made into mountains. Outrage for the sake of outrage is the norm. It’s not a good thing.