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5 Awesomely Misguided Public Protests

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Unless you live under a rock -- or your name is Ashton -- you no doubt have an opinion about the firing of Joe Paterno.

Actually, if you possess a shred of humanity, your thoughts have probably been focused far more on the horrific sex abuse scandal unfolding in lurid detail at Penn State than the fate of a football coach who failed to be bothered by the prospect that a child rapist was being protected by his silence.

And yet, into the wee hours of the morning on Nov. 9, we watched as hundreds of Happy Valley students raged -- using the firing of Paterno as the catalyst for a protest that culminated in a near riot of broken glass and a toppled news van.

Here is what they might have been protesting: that Paterno has been a man of honor and principle throughout his decades-long association with the university and until there is a full investigation into his role, or lack thereof, in this tragedy he deserves a chance to defend himself and/or the opportunity to retire on his own terms.

The reality is that all the protests really consisted of were some marching, slurred chants of "We are Penn State" and "Joe Paw," tearing up of lampposts and so on. There seemed no greater relevance, no sophisticated thought process and nary a shred of concern for the victims and their families.

A smattering of students may have voiced their thoughts with eloquence, but the overwhelming majority of the crowd had no point, no heart and no brain.

It was only Tuesday -- nearly a week after the riots -- that the Collegian Online, the student news site, got around to saying in an editorial that "If you were one of the people who rioted last Wednesday and ripped lampposts out of the ground in downtown State College ... If you attended Friday night's somber vigil ... If you left flowers at Joe Paterno's house ... Or if you have made any comment about the scandal at Penn State ... You need to immediately read the 23-page grand jury presentment outlining the charges against former Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, if you haven't already."

Good call. Odd that it took a week to tell students to educate themselves before rioting, but a good call nonetheless, since literally rioting about something you know nothing about -- especially when it involves charges of years-long sexual abuse of children -- seems, well, misguided.

The sorrowful display by Penn State students had us recalling some other infamous examples of misguided public passion over the years:

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