I’ve been working on a piece about the Grayson Wyrembek (Vaughn) case, and it’s gotten stalled. In the meantime, a lively discussion on the case developed on the Birth Mother-First Mother Forum. One of the topics up for discussion is media. I wrote a long reply, which got a little convoluted since I had to cut it up in sections to post. The post below is based on that reply, but longer and more detailed.
Media is all about perception.
Clearly paps Christy and Jason Vaughn played the media (or should I say jerked them off?) They were very good. I was impressed with how much angst, tears, pomposity, and self-righteousness they were able to wring out of their legal arguments. Funny how if we, that is, people who have actually experienced firsthand adoption corruption, greed, and lies, were to act like this, we’d be dismissed as ungrateful, bitter, over-emotional and in need of therapy.
Without good media, though, you’re a cooked goose, at least as far as your self-esteem and the voyeuristic public are concerned. Ben Wyrembek is clearly in the right for retrieving Grayson from the adoption mill, yet he may as well be Osama bin Laden for all the clueless consumers of media hype care. Ben’s lack of media presence, (no doubt ordered by his lawyer) created a negative image. Instead of Ben the good father fighting for his son, we got Ben the bad guy, the sperm donor, the drive-by dad, the abuser, the abandoner, the baby stealer. If he really cared….
This is what’s really going on. We have a mutual aid society operating here; or in the parlance of my above metaphor: a circle jerk.
Litigants empower the media. The first one through the door gets the pretty frame and the positive press. In turn, the media, empowers the early litigant to be, in their own eyes and the eyes of the public, the hero of their own narrative. The public, in turn, gets to blow-out its grievances against the state, the courts, or whatever government bete noire they suffer from. The media coverage/ campaign acts as a safety valve for the aggreived litigants and public at large, marking out a starting point for future political action. Expect to see Baby Grayson bills introduced in the Ohio General Assembly and elsewhere next year to make it more difficult for dads to hold on to their parental rights. Expect to see the Vaughns show up, other children and church in tow with clips and videos in hand, to tell their sad tale of family demolition by judge. How they plan to explain that at least eight courts don’t “get” their case and how the Ohio Supreme Court doesn’t understand Ohio law is still a mystery.
If Ben Wyrembek had gone and presented his case to the media early on, there wouldn’t be over 7500 people on Facebook demanding his tar and feathering, calling him an abuser and drug addict, or sending the Vaughns bags of money and gifts to finance their pointless appeals. Of course, if he had, he’d be labeled a self-involved opportunist with an unnatural desire for getting his face on the 6 0’clock news–unlike the Vaughns.
I can’t decide if Ben handled this case right in terms of media. The “nice” side of me says that kids are not dogs and ponies. But I also don’t like to see good guys like Ben Wyrembek take a public beating from the fists of an adoption-ignorant public. Now, when adoption has become everybody’s business right out the gate Ben could just have told his story to the press without holding up Grayson as a prop. Preemptively, through his own dignity and reticence, he could have cut Vaughns off at the knees if they tried to turn Grayson into a household name. Maybe. What do you think?