Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Revolution will not be televised.

Janet's last post about Tiger Woods and the unbalanced news approach to the lives of athletes was wide and deep and full of stuff to respond to. In fact, I carried comments around in my head for weeks, never somehow finding the time to commit them to digital paper.

One of the things I wanted to share was a brilliant article by Malcolm Gladwell (October 19) from the New Yorker, "Offensive Play: How Different Are Dog Fighting and Football" which dives deep into the offensive, violent habits of Michael Vick but also into the possibly (if we take a long hard look) equally questionable nature of our nation's favorite sport, of which Vick himself is a participant. I urge you to read it. It seems that violence is all around us, and dogs are not the only victims, nor are the fans of dogfighting the only ones passionate about injury and permanent damage.

But, there's more. On the subject of Tiger Woods. It is true that our obsession with his private life is completely misplaced and, well, stupid. It is also true that our love of seeing our idols fall so far is ridiculous. But the fact is this: He was never the perfect man we made him out to be (or he made himself out to be, or his image-handlers made him out to be, or his sponsors made him out to be, or Accenture made him out to be) in the first place. He was, largely, a construct. A shimmering, mirage-like image built on top of true athletic skill.

The media helped create the myth. Now the media is helping to pull the myth to pieces. And nowhere in there (or at least not to a great enough extent) are we looking at the true story. Tiger isn't the issue. The media is the issue.

A free, intelligent, educated, analytical media is the heartbeat of a thriving democracy. Ours has turned into a numbing drug that is as numbed by its own stupidity as the people who are sadly subject to its output. A media that supports myths and image-making isn't doing any of us any good.

On this subject, nothing better than Frank Rich's last rant on the NYT: "Tiger Woods, Person of the Year." Reading it, I had one sad thought. Right when our country truly needs something revolutionary to happen, right when the power needs to be wrested from the hands of those who would abuse it only to rake in useless wealth at the expense of millions of others, right then...there will be no revolution and it will not be televised. Because the very media that could help bring it about (bloodlessly, one would hope, if such a thing is possible), is too involved in the lie-making to let the rest of us know what we need to wake-up and face.

This has been written in a rush, without the benefit of proof-reading. Please excuse.—Charlotte


  1. Charlotte, no proof-reading required here. I'm just so glad you're back and here and wrestling with the required angels of the analytical media we desperately need. I've missed you! Why didn't I email you, you ask? It may be because I've just been waiting, since these times are so filled with children and shopping and tree trimming and...well, none of which I'm doing, but I'm certain you are. And also because I can feel you out there, even when we don't exchange a word. I'm also glad you pointed out the Frank Rich article, as it both shocked me (for his equating Tiger with Enron, or semi-equating him with Al Qaeda) and gave the entire story a kind of needed farewell. Although over here, you already know, it ain't going anywhere. Derek and I had quite a loud 'discussion' of it the other night, which I'd like to post about too. Morality - or better yet, other people's morality - is more touchy now than religion or money. Morality (or lack thereof) is the new Richy Rich. I don't get it. But it's very, very interesting. love love, jannie

  2. Charlotte, I read the article by Malcolm....OMG..
    I couldn't help myself...I just had to write once again, to disagree if nothing else. Anyone with half a brain knows that Michael Vick is a monster....and what happened recently?...his team gave him an AWARD because of how he dealt with adversity. Are they on a different planet or what?
    I guess I disagree with both you and Jan (be nice- respect your elders)...because I don't think it's the media...I think that we have told these athletes time and time again that they are better than the average joe and therefore held at a different standard. Whether it's beating their wives, children,animals,lying,stealing,
    cheating...raping or murdering....we tend to think they are better than us, and more importantly THEY think they are!!!!
    So, maybe it's not any of my business if Tiger cheats on his wife, but finding out that he is no better than some of OTHER athletes (and worse, in some cases) really pisses me off.

  3. I agree with what you're saying about the athletes getting "too big" for their own good. But I still think that the media is really responsible for this. I mean, yes, PEOPLE are responsible for themselves, for the misdeeds and crimes. But the media certainly doesn't help. Basically, they tell people what they want to hear as long as it sells. And then when it sells, to swing in the opposite direction, to weigh in with morality on a situation that they helped to create, they do that. When, instead, there are wars to cover, and hungry people, and global injustices, and even within these stories, a zillion shades of gray and consequences and reasons, that are never discussed. Which I guess is what Janet was getting at, no? Why aren't we outraged about about Michael Vick and his treatment of animals? And, as Malcolm Gladwell points out, why aren't we concerned about the incredible and damaging violence of our favorite sport? And, as you're pointing out, WHY are these people held to a different standard? You say it's not the media, that it's "us"...but we don't we 'vote' by supporting media that reports what we want to hear? Isn't "us" really, in the end, the media? I dunno. Maybe it's not. But between corporate sponsors and news outlets and John Doe, it sure seems to me like the first two are sending louder messages to Tiger. In any case, you're right: They're no better than other athletes, and in some cases worse. That's the bottom line.