Between Lance Armstrong admitting he was doping and Jodie Foster coming out as a lesbian, it has been a rough week for the clueless. — Bill Mayer, Real Time, Jan. 18
I groan when the corporate media declare a new villain of the week, seemingly to distract us from the truly awful people who are rewarded for undermining what used to be called the common good.
Sure, Lance Armstrong is a sociopath, a guy who’d bike over his own grandma to win the big prize. But sports fans who were paying attention knew this years ago, without Oprah’s help. And yes, Lance is a liar, but there are many liars in public life, and how foul are his lies compared to Dubya’s WMD con game, or Jamie Dimon’s claim that JP Morgan never needed or asked for the $25 billion in TARP money that kept it from going bust?
The major villains in this country — banksters and corporate bosses — don’t ‘fess up to Oprah or anyone else. They hover above the law in glass-and-steel towers figuring out how to make more millions to hide offshore while putting more and more Americans out of work. They lie and steal with impunity — i.e., with full cooperation from the U.S. government — and then suggest that working stiffs who retire at age 65 and collect Social Security are being coddled.
Somehow, the corporate media never get around to reporting the scope of the banksters’ crimes, or the extent to which corporate CEOs and their friends in D.C. have gone to enrich themselves at the expense of workers in a job market that gets smaller and weaker with each passing year.
Instead, reporters attach themselves to frauds like Lance and Barry Bonds, and freaks like Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan. They feed us soap operas and morality tales about “celebrities,” ignoring any facts that might spoil the celebrity stories before they run their course.
It turns out that heroic Lance was doping — a shocker! — and it’s time for his public comeuppance. He and our other fallen celebrity heroes have important ritual roles to play. They are stand-ins for the truly vile — people like Dimon and his fellow chief executive gamblers on Wall Street who will never be formally accused, let alone brought to justice, for the economic disaster caused by what Matt Taibbi called their “greed, shortsightedness and – most notably – wildly irresponsible use of debt in pursuit of personal profit.”
Even more than in other eras, the news business today is about encouraging us to cheer and boo cartoonish heroes and villains — to keep our minds off the truly dangerous bad guys, the ones with the power to create a permanent underclass where a middle class used to be.
Clarification: I’m not saying the Lance Armstrong story — ruthless, creepy cancer survivor cheats his way to the top and uses his fame to raise great sums for cancer patients — isn’t worth telling. I can’t wait for the TV movie, maybe with Lohan as Cheryl Crowe, singing “Every Day Is a Winding Road” while Lance is having a blood transfusion on the floor of his tour bus.
I’m just wondering what happened to the quaint idea that a free press, by definition, should insist on an adversarial relationship with government, big business and the financial industry, in order to make sure Americans don’t become too clueless to realize when they’re being oppressed.