We live in an era of wild overreaction. In fact, “overreaction” is too mild a term for it. Our culture churns out hysteria like Old Faithful churns out water — voluminously and with tourist-attraction regularity. Just because people are freaking out about a thing doesn’t mean it’s a significant thing; it just means we’ve got a whole bunch of freak-out and we have to use it somewhere.
There are still a lot of parents who spank their kids. Not as many as there used to be, but a lot. These parents are well aware of their diminishing numbers and of the way opinion makers have turned against them. We wonder how much longer we’ll be allowed to raise our own kids without some waste-of-space government busybody moving into our spare bedroom to monitor every parent/child interaction.
Adrian Peterson may have abused his son, and he may deserve to do time for it. I don’t know the details because, thanks to the predictable geyser of freak-out, honest details are thin on the ground.
But there’s a significant portion of the population that’s going to be hesitant to go all-in on condemning Peterson not because they agree with what he did but because they’re afraid the accompanying hysteria will extend past Peterson’s excesses onto normal, garden-variety corporal punishment.
People who are passionate about a cause may think that amping up the hysteria is a good strategy, but it often just drives away people — people who agree with you, but just aren’t flipped out about it — who should be their natural allies. I’d like like to see everybody rein it in and look for the truth, but unfortunately that’s not the age we live in.