I was catching up on some podcasts this weekend and was listening to Radiolab. Specifically their “Right To Be Forgotten” episode about Cleveland.com’s practice of giving people the opportunity to petition to have police blotter articles about them scrubbed from the Internet.
The long and short of it is: In some situations, Cleveland.com (the main news site for Ohio) is agreeing to purge news stories about (usually minor) infractions committed a long time ago.
Thanks to a little something called journalistic ethics, once a story is up, it’s up. However, because of the Internet, these stories are living on much longer and having a much deeper reach than before.
Translation: If you got written up for public urination in college in the ’90s and you have a unique name but you don’t want potential new employers or dates to find out about it in Google, you’re SOL.
Sure, this little experiment brings up some interesting questions: At what point does the unintentional punishment of infamy outweigh the crime? Do people have the right to have dumb past deeds forgotten? Where is the line between justice and mercy? Who should be the arbiter of it? Can people change? Jean Valjean/silver candlesticks/etc.
But toward the end of the piece, Radiolab interviewed a petitioner who had exposed himself — not once but twice — and wanted the stories about him taken down because he got fired and his kids were embarrassed.
OH YOUR LIFE IS HARD BECAUSE YOUR SHOWED YOUR DICK TO SOME RANDOM UNSUSPECTING WOMEN? POOR YOU.
Does it suck to be his family, who now has to live with people knowing their dad/husband likes to get his kit out and waggle it at strangers? Sure. Did the guy seem sorry? Absolutely. You know who else is sorry? Domestic abusers right after they’ve hit their wife. Does it stop them from doing it again? Not the last time I heard.
And you know what? That’s the goddamn price you pay for sexually assaulting someone. Because that is what this guy did. He’s an adult, a father. It wasn’t a “mistake,” like he said. His junk didn’t happen to fall out of swim shorts with loose lining. It was deliberate, done without consent, at the very best out of a grievous misunderstanding of sexual appeal, and more likely to provoke, shock, intimidate or humiliate.
To add insult to injury, Cleveland.com purged his story — likely because he worked to remediate his actions, has not reoffended (or at least not been caught), and his court records were sealed. And, although his identity was kept concealed, I’m guessing there was a good dose of white male privilege in there, too.
When the producer asked him about how the women he violated might feel knowing their story was taken down, all he could do was stammer, “I hope they don’t think about it.”
In case you missed the #metoo boat, shit like this happens to women every. Day. To all of us. And we think about it. We think about when it happened to us. And we think about how to keep it from happening to us again.
Are those women’s eyeballs going to fall out because they saw a penis? If so, then call my optician. But he treated them like worthless objects and made them feel unsafe in public. Until women are considered valuable and worth respect, until dudes like this one are held accountable, until Brock Goddamn Turner doesn’t get off because he’s a promising young man and Brett Kavanaugh doesn’t get put on the goddamn Supreme Court — then as far as I’m concerned, I’m not signing up to give anyone any do-overs. And if that gives you a sad, then MAYBE DON’T SEXUALLY ASSAULT PEOPLE.
Heather Huntington is a Staff Contributor for Paijba. You can follow her on Twitter.
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