04 December 2009

Morality and PR

Here's my one thought on the Tiger car-wreck/philandering story: perhaps the press might consider making a distinction between the morality of a person's actions or choices, the evaluation of their overall character, on the one hand, and the way their team handles public relations, on the other. In this media frenzy, as in many others, this difference seems to be completely elided. The "story" therefore is whether or not Tiger has made a statement, whether he is "controlling" the story that the press is itself telling, whether the press will continue to speculate, and so forth. But what this means is that we come to judge the character of our sports heroes and other celebrities in terms of PR management. Tiger's "image," all would admit, has been carefully constructed, manipulated, and managed, and the "story" is about how this even will harm that image; thus, it's a question of moves in the game of Public Relations.

But I could care less about how Tiger "manages" his image. I care about the athlete for only two reasons: a) his athletic prowess, for the fact that something like arete only appears in athletes in today's culture, and b) secondarily, and related to (a) because I therefore identify with this figure and want to feel that I know and admire him. Here, obviously, is where all the role model, "look up to" stuff comes in. But my point is that (a) has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with what Tiger does off the golf course, and that (b) shouldn't have very much at all to do with Tiger's PR team. He cheated on his wife. He probably did so multiple times. He cheated on his wife of only 5 years (who just happens to be a super-model) and he has two small children. If we are going to discuss this under (b) then it seems like an open and shut case, and I have no problem morally condemning Tiger for utterly despicable choices and acts. But let's stop pretending that Tiger Woods is somehow a better or worse person because of what he says on his website, or how he directs his manager to deal with the press. He's obviously a great golfer, quite possibly the best to ever play the game. He is also one of the best athletes in the world today. And, it now seems clear, he's a pretty weak man.

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