REALLity Check

by David Bloomberg

Well, the elections are thankfully over. We at The REALL News are proud to say that this is one of only a few places you can go to read articles that have nothing to do with Monica. But sex scandals and elections can still end up in our pages, as you’ll see below.

The Election News

Alabama voted Governor Fob James out of office. This is worthy of mention here because James spent a fair amount of effort using his office to keep Alabama schools from teaching science.

James, as you may recall from previous columns (most recently June/July [Vol. 6, #5]), opposed the teaching of evolution in public schools. At one state school board meeting, he walked around like a monkey to make fun of evolution.

Now that James has been ousted, perhaps Alabama can come join the rest of us in the 20th Century, and teachers there can properly educate their students in biology. Time will tell.

The Sex Scandal News

It’s rare enough that we get to see a well-researched, skeptical TV show. So imagine my surprise when there were two such shows on one night, both dealing with false memory syndrome situations (10/27). Dateline NBC devoted their entire hour to discussing the Bennett Braun case, including interviews with the Burgus family (see our October and November issues [Vol. 6, #8 & 9] and the update in this issue). Frontline, on PBS, featured a look at several daycare child-molestation cases from the 80’s. What makes these stand out, other than the hysteria they were a part of, is that our current attorney general, Janet Reno built her reputation largely on these cases, and it looks like they may very well have been bogus, like so many similar ones (that’s the scandal part, by the way).

Frontline mainly discussed two cases. The first dealt with a former police officer who was charged with molesting a child at the daycare his wife operated. Reno and company lost that case because it was one child’s word against that of an adult. So they changed their methods, set up a special interview room where therapists could talk to the children and provide videotape "evidence," and brought in lots of children to back each other up. The problem is that they never seemed to consider that they might actually be leading these children to believe things that never happened. The tapes show therapists asking clearly suggestive questions. But the number of "witnesses" won over a jury in a second trial of the same man (for similar charges against other children), and he was sentenced to five life terms.

Similarly, the Florida prosecutors went after Bobby Fijnje, a 14-year-old part-time church babysitter. Using the same tactics, they even expanded accusations to include supposed satanic rituals. But this time the defense was able to point out the massive flaws in the case. An independent expert discussed the problems with the suggestive therapy. The supposed evidence pointing to satanic rituals was shot down. The jury saw these holes and found Fijnje not guilty.

Meanwhile, the ex-cop has used similar information to get an appeals court to overturn his conviction after 12 years in jail, though prosecutors may appeal because they still believe he is guilty — even in the face of all the other information available to them now.

As usual with this type of case, there are many victims. Certainly, the innocent man who spent 12 years in jail is a victim, as is the boy who had to spend two years of his teenage life on trial. But we can’t forget all the children, whose memories have been abused. A false memory of such a thing is virtually impossible to differentiate from a real one, so as far as these kids are concerned, they really were molested.

In other words, Reno and her prosecutors created a crime where none existed, and in her quest to save children, she instead made victims of them.

For more information on this program, you can check out Frontline on

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