Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Scarlet Letterman

Surely, Maureen Dowd is right. The dalliances of clowns do not rise to the same level of moral urgency as do those of public officials. Link here.

Yet, the commentariat is currently consuming itself with questions about the sincerity of David Letterman's apology for his several intra-office dalliances. For a collection of these remarks, link here.

I hope that I am not the only one who finds the question strange.

Does anyone really expect that someone who puts on a mask to tell jokes can show the proper expression of shame? When you are always hiding your face, you cannot be expected to worry about whether or not you are losing it.

When it comes to celebrities, there is no way of knowing whether he is ever sincere.

We pay celebrities to embarrass themselves. Beyond how entertaining they are on stage, their off-stage lives are tabloid fodder. That is what makes them celebrities.

After paying celebrities to embarrass themselves, we should not be shocked when they do.

If we are too shocked, we should consider what it means to be an enabler.

Why is it different when we are dealing with a politician? Largely, I would say, because his we are far more likely to emulate public figures.

As basketball legend Charles Barkley so aptly put it: "I am not a role model."

Public figures set a standard for good behavior. Their actions spawn imitators. They do not just show us what is right or wrong, but they show us the path to worldly, not just monetary, success.

Public figures have responsibilities and authority; they have prestige and status in the world. When members of a community want to better themselves, they try to emulate these people.

Normally, people do not emulate celebrities. First, because your life is that much more difficult when you believe that every time you are invited somewhere you are "the entertainment."

Some people become celebrities because they fear anonymity or because they crave financial security. But celebrity success comes always comes at the price of respectability.

With Letterman, as well as with Clinton, the problem was not so much the behavior as it was the exposure.

Dowd was right to that when famous older men get involved with very young women, whether Monica Lewinsky or Stephanie Birkett, there is no real expectation of discretion.

A 22 year old intern is going to blab to all her friends about her sexual encounters with the president of the United States. It is very close to inevitable that she do so.

Stephanie Birkett was older than 22, but her young person's habit of keeping a diary and a photographic record of her affair provoked the crisis.

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