Wednesday, February 24, 2010



Who Cares About Adultery?

It is tragic that we, as a nation are reduced to holding our leaders to sexual standards while giving up on holding them to their promises for social justice. So many of us feel helpless. Only money seems to talk. Those who have no money and at the moment have no organized mass voice are effectively silenced. When people are or feel that they are helpless, they may save themselves the pain of consciousness and create escapes. Those escapes provide a kind of freedom that is its own prison. Perhaps our national investment in our hero’s sexual fidelity to the promise of marriage absolves us of the very difficult struggle to hold our leaders accountable for fidelity to campaign promises and stated human values. Maybe we need to have a national fearless moral inventory of our war crimes and our criminal economic system and its impact on America and the world. Maybe the fascination with Tiger Woods’ transgression and confession is a sad symptom of weakness and a fear of the road to recovery which begins with the truth?


As a qualifier, I'm not really so sure that the American public is all that fascinated with the Tiger Woods adultery story: I do know, however, that the corporate mass media are totally obsessed with it. I mean, it's entirely possible that people are on the edge of their seats about it, so I'll keep that in mind, but it's certain that we've had the tale rammed down our throats repeatedly, especially the week after the story broke. At any rate, either way, public fascination or media fixation, we've got to deal with it.

A few days ago, I considered doing a short post about Woods' extramarital affairs, if only because of the way these stories about celebrities' and politicians' sex lives are so omnipresent. That is, I like how he asserted in his recent statement to the press that it's nobody but his and his wife's business; I didn't like how he kept apologizing to everybody. But I let the moment pass. It just didn't seem like that big of a deal.

Then I noticed the above linked AlterNet essay. It reminded me of another essay I read at CounterPunch a couple years back about the Michael Richards n-word scandal. It was just one sentence, really. Something to the effect of "because the progress of US race relations is in a state of stagnation or even reversal, word games take the place of actual debate and dialogue." That is, while deeply offensive, Richards' verbal attack on African-American hecklers is nothing compared to the hard core poverty and urban despair suffered by millions of blacks everyday in the US. But the corporate media don't report on that. Instead, they went wild for a few weeks over the stupid statements of a celebrity in a comedy club.

I already know that the mass media, of both news and entertainment varieties, serve a diversionary function in terms of American political life. That is, like the ancient "bread and circuses" of ancient Rome, if the people are fed and entertained, they're not so concerned with what the government is doing. But I'm starting to see that it's more complicated than simple diversion. Even though most Americans are unable to articulate exactly why, it is clear that people are experiencing great discomfort with the affairs of their nation. They long for justice, but are so ill-informed that they're not quite sure where the injustice they hate actually resides, don't really know where to direct their ire.

And the corporate media appear to be hyper-aware of this. Consequently, they feed us an endless stream of relatively minor transgressors and transgressions to be dealt with in the court of public opinion. Sexual injustice is a favorite, and the bigger the celebrity or politician, the better. But there's also that big cunt on Headline News, Nancy Grace, and her chest-thumping over kidnappers, sexual abusers, and child-killers. There's NBC "news" in the form of the most evil reality show ever, To Catch a Predator. Yes, sexual predators and child-killers are very bad, but when compared to bombing thousands of children in Iraq and Afghanistan, compared to millions of Americans nervously existing without health insurance, compared to hundreds of billions of tax dollars simply handed over to crooked banking institutions, well, it's all a sliding scale, of course, but, you know, they should put the pedophiles in the metro section, not on the front page.

I mean, compare the media festival in the late 90s over President Clinton receiving a blowjob from an intern to the dearth of reports on how President Bush stole the 2000 election, or lied us into the Iraq war. The news media feed us bullshit to satisfy our longing for justice, allowing the greatest injustices to go unexamined.

And that's what the Tiger Woods adultery scandal is really about. The actual event, a great athlete screwing around on his wife, while important to the participants, is utterly unimportant to everybody else. But the corporate media play it like it was Watergate or something. I'm not sure if shit like this does anything to make people feel better about their intense unease with current affairs, but it does successfully divert their attention from matters far, far, far more important.

It would be an interesting thought experiment to compare the number of conversations you've had about Woods' philandering to the number of conversations you've had about Dick Cheney admitting on national television that he personally approved of waterboarding prisoners of war. I know I've talked more about Tiger, myself. What about you?