Maybe the judge is a victim of the U.S. press, which somehow managed to “miss” the fact of Gibson’s long-time AA participation almost entirely. While readers in the UK, Australia, India, and even Thailand learned of Gibson’s 15-year AA participation at the same time as they learned of his arrest and his drunken outbursts, American readers have been fed the line that Gibson is a recovery virgin and that sending him to AA will be a New Thing for him and will Make a Difference. One would like to think that the judge was better informed, but maybe prosecutors played along with the game and kept him in the dark.
Even the L.A. Times, one of the only two American print organs that noted Gibson’s prior AA participation a few days after the arrest, seems to have forgotten about it in its coverage of the hastily-called courtroom event where Judge Mira disposed of the case. The Times’ staff writer Andrew Blankstein quotes a lawyer who specializes in DUI defenses, who claims that sentencing Gibson to AA is somehow outside of standard court procedure. Source. (Where has this guy been?) But Blankstein doesn’t dig any deeper.
So, instead of stories that ask, “What do you do with an alcoholic after AA has failed him?” — a question with broad public health implications — you get pablum like this:
- An op-ed in the Baxter Bulletin (Arkansas), has Gibson’s arrest serving as the lead for an infomercial promoting the local 12-step meetings. Source.
- A guest op-ed writer in the Roanake VA Times expresses optimism that Gibson will become clean and sober now that he’s been referred to “the one program we knew worked” — Alcoholics Anonymous. Source.
- Postcards from a Pug Bus (Source), a supposedly satirical, dig-behind-the-scenes blog, indulges in an imaginary monologue in which Gibson “takes the first tottering step” on the twelve-step recovery journey. Duh.
And much more of the same.
Hats off to whoever is spinning the Mel Gibson story in the U.S. media. You’ve managed the next thing to a media miracle: turning Mel G.’s ugly recovery failure, after 15 years of AA, into a tidy advertisement for the organization. It’s like turning Chernobyl into a promo for nuclear power.