What is it with apologies these days? They're never good enough.
NBC News Anchor Brian Williams makes misstatements (here come the comments, so let us do it for you: "he lied", "he dishonored veterans", "we can't trust a journalist who lies", etc) about his experience in Iraq. Williams admits his mistake, calls it a "conflation" of two events, and Twitter and social media explode in a frenzy to the point where NBC has to suspend him for six months.
Shouldn't "I'm sorry" be enough?
Not in 2014.
We say "Dwight David Eisenhower" and you think: "President", "Supreme Allied Commander in WWII", made the call of the century to send the D-Day forces in when his weathermen told him there would be a break in the weather sufficient to land his army.
Do you think "Kay Summers" the young aide he had an affair with? Nope. That happened in 1942-44.
We say "General David Petraeus" and you think…"Iraq & Afghanistan" commander; "Head of the CIA", "resigned in disgrace after having an affair."
As commander of the 101st Airborne Division, Petraeus was awarded the Bronze Star with the coveted "V" meaning with Valor for his command decisions under fire during Operation Iraqi freedom in 2003. But we remember Petraeus not for his competency or his heroics, but his foible in having an affair.
Why do we today seek to drive any person of talent out of the Public Arena when their human foibles are exposed?
Does having a marital affair disqualify you from leading troops in battle or heading a governmental agency, or being President or a member of the cabinet?
Should Brian Williams' misstatements about his experiences in Iraq or Hurricane Katrina prevent him from reading the news off a teleprompter? Why do we care so much?
Schadenfreude is the the feeling of pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. The word is taken from German (one of our favourite languages, and literally means "harm-joy".
The 2000's-2020 is the era of Schadenfreude. It seems that the internet is almost a perfect tool to expose the flaws in anyone, and then drive wedges through those cracks until the person crumbles under the avalanche of criticism and mockery.
We think the explanation lies in the cowardice and incompetence of the critics. Cowardice because their comments on social media can often be anonymous. And incompetence because the incompetent seem to derive a certain pleasure of dragging the competent down to their level. We see it in the comments section of this blog every day.
The problem is that when we need a world leader; when we need someone to deal with global warming, the Russians in the Ukraine, the Chinese in the Pacific, religious extremists in the Middle East causing chaos and destruction, the best and the brightest of us will remain safely out of the limelight- unwilling to risk personal destruction as the cost of using their talents.
It's a poor trade- the acceptance of unblemished but mediocre individuals in lieu of remarkable leaders who can't pass the personal morals test. And we are all the worse for it.
Long weekend coming up. Enjoy.
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