A JAZZMAN CHRONICLE. DISSEMINATE FREELY.
THE SCARLET LETTER: W IS FOR WRONG
By Jack Random
I was wrong. I was foolish. I don't get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me.
Tiger Woods, February 19, 2010.
Few economists saw our current crisis coming, but this predictive failure was the least of the field’s problems. More important was the profession’s blindness to the very possibility of catastrophic failures in a market economy.
Paul Krugman, September 2, 2009.
Tiger Woods was compelled by media outcry to stand before the cameras and submit to public humiliation. For some fifteen minutes on a Friday morning the world stopped to witness the event and sit in judgment on the sincerity of his contrition. Within seconds of his scripted performance the media was clamoring for more. They feel entitled. The public needs to know. The public demands.
Tiger Woods will no doubt deliver in the fullness of time. He is no longer a golfer. He is no longer the man destined to break Jack Nicklaus’s record of eighteen major golf championships. He is a serial adulterer. He wears a scarlet letter. He will always wear it. Someday he will return to the sport in which he excels and his accomplishments may again outweigh the foibles of his private life but he will never lose the scarlet letter.
The world is not a just place. It is no more just that a golfer should make hundreds of millions of dollars and be crowned the king of a billion dollar corporation than it is for that same golfer to submit to public humiliation for private wrongs.
If not for the corporate monster that has planted itself around Tiger Woods, he would not owe the media anything. If he were just a golfer he could invoke the spirit of Charles (I am not a role model) Barkley, make amends with his wife and family, return to the game on his own time schedule, and refuse to engage the media circus any further.
When it comes down to it, golf is just a game and Tiger is just a player. He is not a public official and his judgment does not directly affect the lives and well being of anyone outside his circle of friends, family and associates.
There are plenty of people in public life who deserve the kind of scrutiny and harsh judgment that is bestowed on the world’s most famous (now infamous) athlete for they have assumed a public stance and their pronouncements and decisions have had a profound effect on the lives and well being of millions, indeed, on the welfare of the nation and the world.
They include the “experts” and officials who served as propagandists and perpetrators of the nation’s most disgraceful war since Vietnam and their names include retired Generals David Grange, Wayne Downing, James Marks and Barry McCaffrey, retired Major Generals Don Sheppard and Bob Scales, retired Lieutenant General Tom McInerney, retired Colonels Wayne Allard and William Cowan, retired Captain Charles Nash, and of course the irrepressible torturer-in-chief Dick Cheney. Virtually all of these so-called “experts” had active interests in the war machine and were serving as nothing less than lobbyists.
If anyone deserves to pay the price of public humiliation, loss of credibility and the scarlet letter of betrayal it is the government propagandist who charades under the guise of an impartial media analyst.
Tiger Woods betrayed his wife. These individuals betrayed the nation and every soldier who would come to serve in that misbegotten war. And yet they still appear as media experts without any revelation of their checkered pasts. Of course for the media to expose them they would have to reveal their own complicity in cowardly compromise and this they will not do.
Another class of media pundit that deserves an indelible mark of shame is the economist or economic expert that promoted endless deregulation of the financial markets for more than a decade and failed to foresee the inevitable collapse in the housing market, triggering a cascade of implosions that brought the global economy to its knees.
They include Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Ben Stein of commercial fame, former Senator Phil Gramm, Allan Meltzer of the American Enterprise Institute, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, former Times columnist Bill Kristol, Milton Friedman, Bruce Bartlett, virtually every major bank president, every CEO of a major financial institution, and countless others. Given the bipartisan consensus initiated by former president Clinton, there are in fact only a handful of economic experts who did not get it wrong and none of them are in positions of power today. So be it. Anyone who was so blinded by group think that they could not see this train wreck coming does not deserve to be considered an expert in the field.
Tiger Woods cheated on his wife and got caught. These people helped to defraud every stock and pension holder in the world and escaped unscathed, often with multi-million dollar bonuses. If we gave these individuals the public flogging they deserve they would not be empowered to fight back essential financial institution reforms today.
The time will come when the advocates of the Afghan war and global “free” trade will also come to judgment. When it is finally determined beyond doubt that our efforts in Afghanistan are in vain and that the trade policies of neo-liberalism have created an economic divide on par with feudalism, then all those pretenders should step forward for their own public humiliation.
But we should not be vengeful. It is not punishment we desire. It is only information to which we should be entitled. We need not place a permanent mark on their brows that would force them to confront their failures in everyday life. We need only a reminder when they appear on television or in a public forum. I suggest a lapel pin (where they used to wear the American flag) with the bright red letter W.
W is for wrong. Wear it proudly or remain silent. Either way the public interest will be served.
Meantime, call off the dogs and let Tiger tend to his own life. He has brought shame upon himself but he does not deserve a constant drubbing from a media that has its own burdens to bear.
“Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand” by David Barstow, New York Times, April 20, 2008.
“How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?” by Paul Krugman, New York Times Magazine, September 2, 2009.
JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS). A COLUMNIST FOR THE NATIONAL FREE PRESS, WORLD EDITION, HIS CHRONICLES HAVE BEEN POSTED ON NUMEROUS CITES OF THE WORLDWIDE WEB. SEE WWW.JAZZMANCHRONICLES.BLOGSPOT.COM.