Friday, February 19, 2010

Tiger, Responsibility and Public Harm, aka Who Gives a Crap

Everywhere I look today it’s all about Tiger, and I don’t mean Tony. I’ve only been following the story peripherally but know the gist of it: He cheated on his wife, got caught, and now there’s a big brouhaha as he apologizes on live TV. The last time I checked space shuttle launches were not given this much attention.

You have permission to dismiss this opinion as excessively cynical, but really, at the end of the day, who gives a crap? You could say that since it’s all over the news someone must, but then we get into a chicken-and-egg thing where you wonder if it’s only news because the media tells you it’s news. You can’t go into a supermarket or open up a major news website without seeing someone’s body, character, clothing or politics being held up for public scrutiny, and all signs point to it being a lucrative business.

But really, this whole Tiger Woods is just another example of a story we’ve heard dozens of times before. People cheating on their significant others is not news, and every year we get the same story with different names about people in high places behaving in tawdry ways that pretty much tells us the same thing, and yet we’re still expected to be shocked and appalled.

I don’t get it. Perhaps I’m just an unusually private person in this day and age, but I neither care nor particularly want to hear about people’s personal affairs, nor would I want my own plastered all over the front page for people to scrutinize. There are a few instances where I find it more justified, but those have specific conditions. I thought that the media coverage last year when the Governor of South Carolina ran off for a few days to visit his mistress it was a bit more legitimate, since when a head of state vanishes it is cause of concern, but after he was found the story devolved into the usual hand-wringing about men and power and the hypocrisy of a social conservative “family values” man engaging in an elicit affair. I’m willing to give the media a bit more slack with this one, since it was an elected official who engaged in this sort of behavior, but an athlete? That’s when I draw the line.

An elected official who has the power to make and enforce laws is also under public scrutiny as far as their character is concerned, since people want to know if the person they give their vote to is honest. If they cheat on their significant other and engage in hypocritical behavior it’s within the voter’s right to withhold their vote or vote for an opponent, but a golfer? Tiger Woods is famous because he can play golf well, and whether or not he cheats on his wife or not doesn’t affect that. Several of his sponsors have dropped him in the wake of this in order to preserve their image, but at the end of the day this really isn’t going to affect the lives of everyday people?

That’s the thing that bothers me about this “apology” to the American people. “Apology” implies that harm was done, but was anyone (other than his wife) really hurt by his actions? I’m not counting the sponsors who may have lost money on him, I’m talking about a more philosophical concept of harm. I know my reaction to this was to roll my eyes at both him and the media, but I have to wonder, is he apologizing because he’s honestly sorry or is it because there’s an idea that we “own” part of him, or is it the “I’m sorry because I got caught” apology that seems everywhere these days? We can debate his intentions and thoughts all we want, but at the end of the day it just doesn’t pass muster for me as something I should give a crap about. And where do we get off taking a clearly hurtful event for this family and shining a spotlight on them when we really have no stake in the outcome? Looking at all of this, I have to wonder if that's where the real harm in all this is occurring and if in fact it falls on us.

The question I’m continuing to ask as all this unfolds (and there is no indication that it will go away any time soon) is whether it is worth our time and attention, but all I have to do is glance at a magazine rack and see that a decent amount of people think it is.

1 comment:

  1. I think it has to do with the need for externalisation of what people are ashamed to own. By disapproving of Tiger, people get to fool themselves (for a while) that "we aren't like that" and that's why it continuous to be in the news, far beyond any reasonable news value the thing might have had.