15 December 2009

The Denial Twist

You should know that the doctors weren't kidding
that she was singing it all along

but you were hearing a different song

Upon every unveiling of public scandal, particularly ones in which the general public feels betrayed by an institution or individual, I get to thinking whether the shock expressed is truly warranted.  I'm referring of course to Tiger Woods and his now infamously daily growing harem. 

Let me put the Tiger aside for a moment and quickly peruse a few other high-profile scandals.  There's the grandaddy of them all:  Watergate.  Dick Nixon glumly told the American people on national TV that he wasn't a crook, but his public service record, in spite of his apparent success, had leaks of unethical, self-serving behavior throughout.  He witchhunted Alger Hiss into prison for being a Soviet spy and his own Vice-President was the first VP to be convicted of bribery and forced to resign office.  Nixon existed in a nucleus whose orbit nurtured ethical breaches and illegality.

A few decades later, another President got caught up in a different kind of public shame.  The masses were appalled that Slick Willy had shot his load on the June Cleaver dress of a White House intern.  But before this affair, his purported indiscretions were widely known.  Where to start?  Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, the list goes on and on.  The only real shocking part of the whole thing was the universal unattractiveness of all the women involved.

On to the Tiger.  Sure he expertly marketed himself as the ultimate human being, a Nietzschean Übermensch if you will,  a man with no flaws, seemingly capable of any feat.  But we really knew nothing about Tiger save for what he chose to show us, and that was limited to the golf course.  He inculcated himself around an army of PR men who maniacally controlled all access their prize client.  But if you looked closely there were cracks in the Portrait of Tiger Woods.  His petulance on the golf course, going beyond mere cursing to throwing his driver so hard recently that it richoted and struck a bystander.  At the British Open, he relinquished a last day lead, something that he'd never done before.  Perhaps his tumultuous inner life had finally caught up to his incandescent public one. I noticed all these things and I didn't look too closely.  I don't even like golf.

The signs were there all along. No one knows anybody, not that well, and anyone is capable of anything at anytime.  Betrayal is always around the corner.  And remember, what people think is true is often shaped by the context in which information is presented to them and their willingness to be deceived -- even by themselves.