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Randy Alcorn: Faustian Bargains in a Culture of Deceit Emerge from Penn State Scandal

Alleged serial rape case not the first time good people covered up for evil ones

The Penn State University pedophilia debacle is the latest version of an old story — heinous immorality covered up and allowed to continue by people who abrogated moral responsibility. How could something as monstrously immoral and perfidiously pernicious as the rape and sexual molestation of children go on for years within a prominent, respected institution?

As Andre Agassi used to remind us, image is everything. But what he didn’t mention is that image is not always the real thing. In fact, it is often an intentional deceit designed to benefit self-serving scumbags hiding behind masks of probity. Pull back the curtains of powerful people, corporations and esteemed institutions and too often you will expose cheats and liars perpetrating a fraud on the public.

We are so steeped in hogwash that only the most credulous should be surprised by revelations of corruption and treachery in high places. Day after day our minds are bathed in broadcasts of exaggerations, distortions and half-truths. Quality products, persons and services are often merely myths maintained by clever advertising and promotion campaigns — all directed at a public expected to be gullibly trusting.

How often does anything turn out to be as good as advertised? Are the skies really friendly? Does your insurance company really have you in good hands? Is your bank really so reliable and trustworthy that you don’t have to think about it? Do your elected officials really honor their campaign pledges?

We swim in a sea of promises, carried along on a current of illusions where splendid expectations are often only upsetting disappointments waiting to happen. Caveat emptor is the guiding principle of the prudent.

Is it any wonder why deceit and corruption infect even our most exalted institutions? But what allows it to spread and continue?

One explanation is that there is not always reward in doing the right thing to put a stop to it. In fact, there is often great risk in doing so. People in high-profile institutions, both public and private, who publicly expose corruption or egregious infractions of trust can lose their positions and have their careers quietly black-balled.

Mark Felt of the FBI, aka Deep Throat, who exposed the treachery of the Nixon presidency in the Watergate scandal didn’t go public until shortly before his death. Even in retirement he hesitated to identify himself.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been targeted by a livid U.S. government that is always seeking to keep secret its criminal, immoral and hypocritical behavior — instances of which Assange exposed.

Within institutions both in the private as well as the public sector, there have been numerous people who have had their careers stymied after exposing the corruption and deceit of the companies or agencies for which they were employed.

Furthermore, people don’t want to upset the gravy train. Even if individuals aren’t downright depraved, they will rationalize their complicity of silence with various justifications of self preservation — especially if they have dependents to support. You know, they are doing it for their families, and too bad about the victims, whether those victims are clients, customers — or children.

So, within the cauldrons of corruption and conspiracy, the operating policy is to speak no evil, even if you see it. While we pay lip service to the principled informant, the reality within institutions is that whistle-blowers are considered snitches and a danger to everyone making a living from the institution, no matter how rotten that institution is.

While there is great disappointment and public outrage over the Penn State debauchery, there should be little surprise that the culprits concealing it got away with doing so for years. Their wealth, positions and reputations were dependent on maintaing the sterling image of that institution.

The crucial question we should all ask ourselves, and answer honestly, is what would we have done in their places? Have we made any Faustian bargains to secure some personal desire or benefit? Can we truly be moral without the courage to confront and expose evil?

Only when most of us are willing to do so will the culture of corruption and deceit be dismantled and the instances of prolonged predations and depravity such as that which surfaced at Penn State become less likely.

— Santa Barbara political observer Randy Alcorn can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here to read previous columns.

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