by JOANN WYPIJEWSKI
I don’t “believe the victims”.
I was in Boston in the Spring of 2002 reporting on the priest scandal, and because I know some of what is untrue, I don’t believe the personal injury lawyers or the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team or the Catholic “faithful” who became harpies outside Boston churches, carrying signs with images of Satan, hurling invective at congregants who’d just attended Mass, and at least once – this in my presence – spitting in the face of a person who dared dispute them.
I don’t believe the prosecutors who pursued tainted cases or the therapists who revived junk science or the juries that sided with them or the judges who failed to act justly or the people who made money off any of this.
And I am astonished (though I suppose I shouldn’t be) that, across the past few months, ever since Spotlight hit theaters, otherwise serious left-of-center people have peppered their party conversation with effusions that the film reflects a heroic journalism, the kind we all need more of.
I don’t believe the claims of all who say they are victims – or who prefer the more tough-minded label ‘survivor’ – because ready belief is not part of a journalist’s mental kit, but also because what happened in 2002 makes it difficult to distinguish real claims from fraudulent or opportunistic ones without independent research. What editor Marty Baron and the Globe sparked with their 600 stories and their confidential tip line for grievances was not laudatory journalism but a moral panic, and unfortunately for those who are telling the truth, truth was its casualty.
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