I know what Tiger Woods did, and I don’t like it. What I don’t understand – and this isn’t a pose, I really don’t get it – is why what Tiger Woods did is any of my business.
I’m not sure which of the dragons I can’t possibly slay I should take on first. There are three of them. Three core American values, synergizing like all get-out. You can’t stop ‘em, or even slow ‘em down. They’re way too powerful. But, what the heck. Let’s try.
We’ll start with this.
Even if it can be persuasively argued that other people’s actions – that do not rise to the level of a crime – are nobody else’s business, this would not, by at least one definition of “business” actually be the case. Exploiting people’s misbehavior is, in fact, one group’s enormous, and highly lucrative, business.
It’s the gossip business.
(And you don’t have to be famous to participate. Check out the White House gate crashers, the “Balloon Boy” family, and the couple with eight kids.)
A celebrity – or colorful “Nobody” – missteps, and the Gossip Machine instantly kicks into action. (I only know the celebrity ones.) Hugh Grant and a hooker. Mel Gibson and a female peace officer. Alec Baldwin, berating his daughter over the phone. Letterman and his interns. Tiger Woods and his ladies. There’s a leak or a reported arrest and it’s,
“Crank it up, Boys! We’ve got a Big One!”
Why do these stories bother me? Well, for one thing – as I’ve written elsewhere – I feel that when a hero of mine’s sordidity is made public, I – with no say in the matter whatsoever – immediately lose a hero. The great crooner, Bing Crosby, apparently, beat the bejeezus out of his kids. Now, during the Christmas season, every time I hear, Der Bingle warble,
“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas..”
I hear, set to the same melody,
“I gave my kids a good beating…”
Let me be crystal clear. On the issue of child beating, put me down as “Strongly Against.” I’m also sensitive to the assertion that a hero who behaves that badly forfeits the right to remain a hero. The thing is that I worshipped Big Crosby as an entertainer. Now, that adulation seems hideously misplaced.
I had nothing to do with Bing Crosby’s mistreating his children, and on a practical level, there was nothing I could have done about it. The question then is, did they – “they” meaning the people who cashed in on the story – really need to make it public?
“They didn’t need to. But there’s no law against it. It fact, what they did was entirely natural.”
“It’s business. Free Enterprise.”
Say hello to Dragon Number One.
“Wait a minute. Are you against Free Enterprise?”
“Some of it.”
“We’re talking about a legitimate undertaking.”
“Disseminating information. Come on. It’s Free Speech.”
“You’re against Free Speech?”
“Some of it.”
“It’s in the frickin’ Constitution! The First Amendment. First! The most important one!”
“Well, actually, the current First Amendment was originally the Third Amendment. But the first two amendments didn’t pass, so it moved up to first.”
“That was boring.”
“Just disseminating information.”
“Information nobody cares about.”
“And they care about Tiger Woods.”
“I see. So if people are willing to pay for it, you feel totally justified making money from Tiger’s misfortune?”
“Oh, geez. Who is this guy?”
“Just a person who happens to believe that your way of getting extremely wealthy stinks up the place, and by ‘the place’ I mean what we expose to the world as American Culture.”
“Look! People in – Thank God! – enormous numbers choose to read gossip. Nobody’s twisting their arms. It’s Free Will. You’re not against Free Will, are you?”
“Okay, let’s sum up, here. You’re down on Free Enterprise. You question Free Speech. And you have problems with Free Will.”
“You know what that makes you, don’t you?
“Here we go.”
“Listen, Smart Guy. You should be grateful you live in a country that gives you the freedom to write things that are wrong and stupid.”
“For a limited readership.”
“Hey, you could try gossip.”