I am continually astounded by the effect that immediate communication has had on American society. Social media is the chief proprietor of this powerful technology. It has afforded everyone from Johnson of the fifth register at Wal-Mart, to Oprah Winfrey, the world’s most powerful media magnate, with a platform to spout off their heart’s content. The era of newspapers, regional news broadcasts, and the non-news cycle has fallen to the wayside in the wake of everyone having access to news sources that operate every hour of every day. As much as I am a fan and advocate of these various tools, it hasn’t been utilized completely for good. In my opinion, the ability of all people, whether individuals or in groups, to both create and contribute to narratives and perceptions has birthed a nation of rabid moralists and cultivated a widespread moralist culture.
For those who aren’t in the public eye or in positions of authority, this doesn’t amount to much. If I get exposed for a drug addiction or get caught not paying my taxes, my Twitter and Instagram won’t blow up to the tune of millions, nor will I receive undue pressure from my multi-billion dollar employer, my manager or my publicist, urging me to hold a press conference on CNN or ESPN so that I can feign contrition and offer up some hollow apology for a human mistake just to appease the moral masses and salvage my career. Unfortunately for those who are in the public eye, the same cannot be said. Famous people and public figures far and wide are now held at the mercy of the Twitterverse, and any perceived character misstep is met with swift retribution, even when they do apologize. It’s a righteous cause that I’m ashamed we’ve taken up because we have stripped ourselves of the right to be human and make mistakes without our characters being called to the carpet for virtual ritualistic castration. For those strong enough to overcome it, they’ve been fortunate to come out of the other side unscathed to the point that their lives are not completely over. For others, the weight of acquiescing to our self-imposed societal standards for behavioral perfection has taken a toll that cannot be reconciled with.
Yes, I feel for celebrities, professional athletes and public figures who are profoundly talented and deserving of their success, but have seen their careers and livelihoods altered or brought to a screeching halt because the less talented and less successful public has demanded comeuppance for some perceived moral slight. The primary argument from most people who comprise this moral police state – and I hear this a thousand times a day – is that they are rich and successful and thus held to a different standard. I’ve never bought this notion. To me, it just comes off as jealousy over the fact that they haven’t managed to find themselves in the influential and affluent seat that the sources of their crusade are in. Instead of resigning to the fact that their relative lack of success is a you problem, due to the lack of talent, motivation and ambition that it takes to get there, we’ve instead decided to take anyone with a modicum of success and widespread influence down simply because of our innate desire to rather see someone fail than succeed. Let’s face it, most of this world is made up of mediocre, unfulfilled and untapped potential, and when the rubber meets the road, we get pleasure from seeing others brought down to the level of the general populace. Think of the crabs in a bucket metaphor, and there you have it – America’s moral police state.
This brings us to what’s left of the great Tiger Woods, who as I pen this piece is coming off yet another embarrassing performance at the 2015 US Open. My man didn’t even make the cut at the event, scoring 10-over 80 during Thursday’s opening round and a 76 on Friday. As a Tiger Woods fan, a piece of my soul has left me each time he’s trotted onto a golf course to continue his pursuit of another Major, only to fall flat in utterly shameful fashion. What was once a spectacle to behold as we bared witness to the (black) man who would eventually become to greatest golfer of all time has been reduced to watching a guy who is stuck on 14 Majors and just can’t get out of his own way. People like to lament on the myriad of injuries that he’s sustained throughout his career, father time, changing his swing or working with different swing coaches, as the reasons for why he hasn’t been able to come from under it. This is all smokescreen. Society needs to accept responsibility for the role that it has played in the demise of Tiger Woods. It isn’t injuries or a broken swing. It’s the moral police state. The moral police state has effectively put the kibosh on the career of Tiger Woods, and it’s about time that it be held accountable for its actions.
What has happened to Tiger represents the perfect case study for how our impossibly heightened standards for morality with respect to famous people has had a resounding and direct impact on that person’s livelihood. It began with an article published by The National Inquirer on November 25, 2009, claiming Tiger had an extramarital affair with a New York City nightclub owner. It then escalated with the crashing of his SUV two days later, resulting in a media frenzy that sought to put Tiger on morality trial where he was asked to repent for his sins and pay his dues before he can resume what at the time was still a dominant career as a professional golfer. He complied. He made his public statements, apologized to his wife and family, attempted to make amends to the fans that he disappointed, and asked for respect and privacy during a trying time. He was contrite, and though I find the idea of having to make public apologies for private and personal matters revolting, I nevertheless conceded that it was something Tiger had to do given the seat of influence that he routinely found himself occupying. But alas, this wasn’t enough, and it was at this point that things went a bit too far.
Because the very public displays of remorse weren’t enough to satiate the moral police’s agenda for blood and sorrow, Tiger proceeded to admit himself into rehab for sex addiction. SEX ADDICTION. He cheated on his wife and the public shame of the transgression wasn’t enough to get the court of public opinion off of his back. As a result, those around him who were providing counsel decided that it would be best for him to enter into rehab for sex addiction. This was a clearly calculated move in an effort to regain favor with the viewing public. I found it disturbing. Demanding public apologies and a show of a united front on behalf of the family was one thing, but I found the act of admitting oneself into rehab for infidelity potentially damning for any other public figure caught cheating on their spouse moving forward. It established a dangerous precedent. We all have our individual views on the nature of the severity of infidelity. Some don’t think it’s something that has to upend relationships and families, others find it reprehensible and unforgivable.
I still don’t know where I stand on this, but I can unequivocally say infidelity does not warrant someone being labeled a sexual deviant or a sexual addict. I don’t care how many women Tiger was with. It could have been 50. All that says to me is that he should have never been married in the first place. A man with that much money and influence is enticing to most women if we’re going to be candid about these issues. When the world is your oyster, it can be quite difficult to ignore the urge to indulge. Tiger was a guy who was the highest-earning professional athlete in the world and hadn’t gotten the chance to sow his royal oats. He had no business being married, but he was not a sex addict. If infidelity was a sign of sexual addiction, rehab centers across the country would be struggling to manage their caseloads. I would take out a business loan to invest in the development of my own sexual rehabilitation clinic to cash in on the demand. It would be that real.
The public fallout from Tiger’s personal trials and tribulations and the subsequent admission into rehab for “sex addiction” is what contributed most to the dissipation of Tiger’s career. It was never the same afterward. He became emotionally and mentally broken. Had it not been for the public’s ravenous desire to see Tiger a defeated man, I am of the belief that he would have continued to have an illustrious career, injuries aside. However, the worldwide humiliation upon being labeled a sexual deviant drove Tiger into a state of emotional despair so drastic, not even his supreme mental fortitude was enough to overcome it.
I know there will be many who read this and say that I am an apologist for bad or immoral behavior. Many of you will say that I am excusing what Tiger did and am suggesting that he shouldn’t have had to endure some form of punishment, public criticism or have his career adversely affected by the decisions that he made. That is not the case. I am all for contrition and public remorse. What I am against, however, is the notion that his or any other wealthy public figure’s career and livelihood has to be taken away from them as adequate payment for perceived wrongdoing. The fact that an apology and public shame wasn’t enough and Tiger ultimately entered into rehab for sex addiction is representative of the American moral police state’s unwavering cause to bring down famous people for moral crimes that no one is incapable of committing.
What’s even more egregious is the rationalization that the moral police state makes as justification for why someone has to be brought down. That’s when Tiger’s status as a role model for children or setting a good example for the game of golf comes into play. Granted, Tiger does stand as someone that younger kids may look up to, particularly if they’re into golf. But the role model thing has got to go. It’s antiquated. PARENTS are the real role models, or at least they should be. It is they who are supposed to teach their children how to differentiate personal character from technical greatness so they can learn how to appreciate the greatness of a performance or artform without worshipping the performers as people. When I see the moral police use the role model excuse as a source of their ire against famous people, I chuckle at their outright admission of guilt as failing parents.
Tiger is no longer a winning golfer because we took his mojo away from him and refused to give it back. It’s locked in a jar on a desk in an Illuminati official’s office, along with O.J.’s other glove and Lil Wayne’s lyricism. A public apology and humiliation wasn’t enough, and so we demanded more and were given just that when Tiger decided to placate the screaming masses by admitting to being addicted to sex. If all that constituted the fallout from his mistake was public shame, contrition and divorce, things would have gone differently. If after separating from his wife he didn’t have to deal with the mental anguish of being declared a sex addict and were allowed to continue doing what he was doing – without the spectre of infidelity hanging over him due to his status as a single man – the injuries and jacked-up swing wouldn’t have been enough to stop him. It is my belief that had the moral police state not gotten to Tiger with such forcefulness, he would have continued the trek he had embarked on to become the greatest golfer who ever lived.
A common thread throughout my writing is the idea of the power that social media has provided for the otherwise voiceless. While I am for the most part in favor of us having this power, I am not in favor of every manner in which we’ve chosen to wield it. Instantaneous public outcry has forced the hand of influential people in the public eye. Their personal choices, triumphs and mistakes have now become a matter of public record in ways that no one could have imagined, and the fact that their careers are quite literally held at the mercy of positive public relations has spurred the jealous and unmotivated into a feeding frenzy of apology demands and career reprimands. American society has become a moral police state. It has claimed the career of Tiger Woods and it will continue to claim the lives and careers of other public figures who are deserving of their success because of their talent, drive and ambition, human error notwithstanding.
I became a fan of golf because of Tiger, and it pains me to see that he will never reach Jack. It pains me even more to know that he will never get there not because he completely fell off performance-wise, but because he cheated on his wife and significantly less-accomplished elements of righteous indignation banded together and decided to use their keyboards and smartphones to force his hand. The moral police state needs to do a better job of separating the performer from the human and learn where to draw the line in terms of what it demands as payment for perceived slights. Until it does, it will continue to unfairly claim more careers and more lives. Maybe I’m a bit loosed morally. Maybe I’ll feel differently when I’m a husband and a father. Or maybe I’ll just be a good husband and father. Keep fighting the good fight, Tiger.
Am I off-base here? Is my theory on America being occupied by a moralist police-state out of bounds or in-bounds? Do you also notice what’s happening but attribute it to something else? Or am I just crazy for feeling sorry for Tiger? Let me know in the comments.
Javis Ogden is a Miami native turned current Tallahassee transplant and the founder and chief contributor to Conscious Approach. He has worked as a creative content specialist since completing his graduate degree in Integrated Marketing at Florida State University, and he aspires to be a cultural critic, screenplay writer, ½ of the ESPN First Take debate panel, author, or whatever his short attention span will allow him to be inspired by at any given moment. When he isn’t pursuing freedom, you may be able to find him on an indoor basketball court. He is always in search of his muse. You can help him find it by following him on Twitter @JavisOgden, Instagram @JVWins, Facebook /JavisOgden, and snapchat JavisOgden.