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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The two words you really wanted to hear from me

Yes, here they are.

No, not: "Love you!" (well maybe one or two of you ...).

No, the two words you've wanted to hear from me for the past few days were surely: "Tiger Woods."

All right, discuss. I'm not going to say anything more, except you may assume a certain degree of cynicism at my end ... and that this (the apology itself if it lets you view it plus some commentary) doesn't reduce my cynicism in any way. If you can't see the apology speech at that link, go to YouTube.


Russell Blackford said...

Come on, you just know you want to comment on this.

NewEnglandBob said...

It was difficult even to come here to type that I couldn't care less about Tiger Woods.

I care more about my barber and I am nearly bald.

Russell Blackford said...

Okay, I was too cryptic.

I don't care about his sex life.

What I thought might come up is what people think about the idea that sportsmen are supposed to be role models for anything other than how to hit a ball with great power and skill (or whatever they do in individual cases); the idea that someone owes the public or his fans some sort of apology for his very private conduct, in this case his sex life; the seemingly-accepted role of the media in hounding people, including their children, over such private matters; what significance we give to public apologies such as the one Woods gave a few days ago (is this really appropriate behaviour over a private marital issue?); etc.

I think it's been an unedifying spectacle this week in particular. All this orgy of public emotion over something that is none of our business, all this prying into someone's personal life.

It's difficult to write about this without becoming part of the problem, but note that my intention was not to act as a magnet for Tiger Woods jokes. It's to ask questions about - for example - whether this kind of spectacle of pursuit and ritual humiliation/redemption is really what we want our news media to be doing.

NewEnglandBob said...

OK, I was too cryptic about my remark too.

I couldn't care less about what any sportsperson does outside the venue of his/her sport. I also do not care about the lives of any TV star, whether it be a 'reality' program nincompoop or a late night host or an actor on a sitcom or drama show.

I also do not care to hear about the private lives of any politician or member of any armed forces or any rock star.

The press will always try to force this information out but individuals should resist responding.

I do not care about Woods' sex life, his marital relationship, his children or what he thinks about Reebok vs Adidas.

If someone is an elected official or a potential one, then I care about his/her views on public issues that he/she will deal with. I do not care about Sarah Palin's family, but I do care about her lunatic views coupled with her ignorance in dealing with issues and the media.

There has NOT been an "orgy of public emotion" about this. There has been a media orgy about Woods. Most of us just couldn't care less.

There are people who do care about the lives of 'celebrities' and run their own life based on who was popular last night on 'American Idol', but that is because they have no life of their own to live.

Bill Clinton's biggest mistake was trying to defend himself with lies. He should have just stated "My private life is none of your business" no matter what came out in the press. Every time he was asked about it, he should have responded with "health-care, jobs, the economy, etc. are more important issues to be dealt with".

Russell Blackford said...

Okay, Bob, fair enough about the "orgy of public emotion" point. I meant "orgy of emotion expressed in public" (which there has been) not "public engaging in an orgy of emotion" (which I agree there hasn't been - not like when Princess Diana died, for example).

But anyway, it's the media orgy that I'd like to attract opinions about. I tend to think, with you, that people in this situation should stand their ground, but I'm sure someone will tell us that that's unrealistic. If so, why?

Flea said...

I'm with Newenglandbob: I do care more about his barber...

Cafeeine Addicted said...

"what he thinks about Reebok vs Adidas."

Well, to be fair, he may be an authoritative voice with regards to their golfing lines.

I find these spectacles surreal in a way, because they are small town gossip writ large. You can see some of the traditional elements (tv commentators trading rumors in lieu of washer women in the yard), all the while it is being hyped up, ramping up the suspense, all in an attempt to create a connection to the audience.

steve said...

I have to agree completely with Newenglandbob.

Woods should have emphatically, unequivocally and decisively told the media and that portion of the general public whose lives are so meaningless that they can only live them vicariously through "celebrities", to go fuck themselves.

Bruce Woollatt said...

I think that the whole impetus on the part of the person who is the subject of the feeding frenzy is the need to be "liked". If one feels that one is actually some sort of "role model" or "hero", (if someone believes their own press releases and publicists) then one might feel that some sort of explanation is "owed". Does playing the "Go fuck yourself, this is none of your damned business" card work out in the inevitable "redemption of the fallen" story arc? Assuming that the person in question seeks to retain or regain their popularity/role model/hero status.

Roger said...

`"Things have come to a pretty pass when people drag morality into the sanctity of private life."


Unknown said...

It's been a big issue back in the UK as well recently: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/8495604.stm

Russell Blackford said...

I'm y'all feel like this. How do we get out the message that people's private lives are private, that prying into them is NOT what we want from the media, and that it's quite right for people to tell the media to bugger off?

Tiger's capitulation has made it more difficult for the next person to do that. That's the aspect of his behaviour that I find annoying, not what he does in private with the consenting sexual partners of his choice.

Rory_ said...

Of course, sportsmen don't owe the public any explanation or apology for their private actions.

However I don't think anyone has addressed the main argument you hear from "people", which is that their children idolise celebrities for their sporting/acting/singing achievements, and as a result end up idolising them for their unrelated personal actions too. I think this is a valid problem, but the responsibility lies with the parent to let their kids know that just because Mick Malloy may perform admirably in films doesn't mean that his homophobic jokes are admirable. (Granted his comments were in the public sphere so it's not a great example, but you get the idea.)

Charles Sullivan said...

A good satire on Woods in The Onion:


Roger said...

"How do we get out the message that people's private lives are private...and that it's quite right for people to tell the media to bugger off?"

Many people have chosen- or had no choice but- to do without private lives however. Their love-lives and family lives have been means to publicity and fsme or ways to acquire sponsorship from the start. Woods' wife and children were an important aspect of his image and the "brand". If he had been- or been allowed to be- just someone who played a game well he'd bemuch less rich but he aouldn't face the problemsd he doea.