The Dark Side of "Tiger", and a lesson for Barack Obama

Courtesy of El Rushbo, here is one of the most intriguing editorial pieces that I have read in some time, written by Lisa Schiffren: Tiger, Barack, and the Law of Transitivity. In her piece, Schiffren explores the mythical “Tiger Woods” who was created by corporate marketing departments in order to turn him into a billion-dollar money making machine:

The talent was real. But the things that made the public like Tiger personally — the low-key demeanor, manners, and sweet smile of countless sports-page photos, magazine covers, political analogies, and most important, product endorsements, was an act. That would be betrayal enough. But it wasn’t just Woods’ act. The larger lesson here is about how much artifice — sustained, deliberate deception — goes into the construction of a public persona when there is profit to be made or power to be had.

In one instance reporters had photos of a “transgression”…committed in a church parking lot, no less. These journalists agreed to keep it secret — if Tiger posed for a cover story at Men’s Fitness Magazine — a cover that would sell huge numbers. Normally Woods wouldn’t have been available, since he had an exclusive contract with Conde Nast’s Golf Digest. With full understanding of the situation, Conde Nast allowed the rival cover because he too profited from having Tiger remain an icon.

Note that this industry-wide coverup of Woods’ cheating (and apparently his personal nastiness, arrogance, and general non-cuddly nature) is not a small, secret plot by dedicated fanatics. Rather, it is a set of interlocking self-interests manifested in sustaining the pristine image of this one sports icon to keep cash coming in. (emphasis added)

Things get really interesting when Ms. Schiffren takes a closer look at Barack Obama:

If I were watching the public’s disgust with the newly revealed Tiger Woods from an office in the West Wing, I’d be concerned. Because Barack Obama is about as completely manufactured a political character as this nation has seen. His meteoric rise, without the inconvenience of a public record or accomplishments, and the public’s willing suspension of critical evaluation of his résumé allowed his handlers and the media to project whatever they wanted to on his unfurrowed brow.

After a year in the spotlight, Barack Obama, hailed as a brilliant man and a creature of destiny who would heal us all, is himself falling rapidly to earth. (Thankfully, his family life remains above suspicion.) The flaws that were airbrushed out of the candidate photos are becoming glaringly obvious under day-to-day scrutiny of his public performance in the White House.

And while it doesn’t matter if another athlete is an adulterer, it matters a lot if the president is revealed to be an inexperienced, excessively ideological, and weak man who is naïve about the world and uncomfortable exercising American power during a time of war. It matters if nothing in his training would have equipped the president to understand what it takes to stimulate job growth, or ameliorate a recession, or to end an overseas conflict successfully. It matters that he is uninterested in the science behind global warming — and wishes to use the issue to amass power and reorder society. It matters that he has no interest in the construction of policy.

Schiffren concludes her piece by warning the President that “the impulse of the betrayed is to tear their fallen deities to shreds.” Perhaps this is why President Obama’s current approval rating is the lowest recorded for any president at this point in his first year of office. When the people are promised bread and given stones instead, they will not be happy.

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