Friday, December 4, 2009

Alexander Hamilton = Tiger Woods?

History is useful because we can make analogies to the present. Today's Washington Post has a fun, if slightly weird analogy. As an added bonus, the analogy will make Chris, our resident Burrophile, very happy.

Article reprinted for educational purposes

Tiger's privacy: a reconsideration

Ruth Marcus

Oh, Tiger, Tiger, not so bright. Apologies to William Blake—and I must confess I never really liked that poem—but this line might be apt: “In what furnace was thy brain?”

It would appear, actually, that Tiger’s brain had rather little to do with his prowlings “in the forests of the night.” And since I went out pretty far on a limb the other day arguing that the celebrity golfer’s behavior was a private matter, it’s time to extend, if not revise, those remarks in light of new disclosures about Woods’, ahem, “transgressions.”

I urged Woods in my earlier column not to capitulate to public demands for details of his admitted failings. At the time, it was already pretty clear that Tiger had behaved badly.

What we’ve learned since, or think we have: Not just once. Not just one woman. Not just a brief fling. While his wife was seven months pregnant. And also: complete with a cyber-trail of lurid texts and audio of an anxious-sounding Tiger voice-mail (“Can you please take your name off your phone? My wife went through my phone and may be calling you.”)

I’m trying to decide whether I would have looked at the situation differently if I had known these details. I don’t think so. “Tiger, thank you for not sharing,” I wrote, and still mean it. I understand that men—and women—have affairs. Always have, always will. But bragging about it? To US Weekly?

What is revolting about the modern manifestation of this age-old phenomenon is the notion that these private…here comes that word again…“transgressions” are a fit, even expected topic for public discussion. People used to save love letters, so I guess it’s no surprise that they would save racy texts. Still, to put them out—or, more probably, sell them--for all to see, as the perfectly named Jaimee Grubbs seems to have done with Tiger’s?

True, back in 1797 Alexander Hamilton published a pamphlet, “Observations on Certain Documents,” detailing his “amorous connection” to Maria Reynolds. But at least that was in service of Hamilton’s effort to defend himself against more serious charges of speculation. And the pamphlet, by the way, was a mistake; Hamilton’s political enemies even paid for a second printing. Noah Webster lamented that a man of such stature would “publish a history of his private intrigues, degrade himself in the estimation of all good men, and scandalize a family to clear himself of charges which no man believed.”

Woods may be no Alexander Hamilton, but his tell-little approach is the right one. (Tell nothing, as I said, would be even better.) “No matter how intense curiosity about public figures can be, there is an important and deep principle at stake which is the right to some simple, human measure of privacy,” Woods said in his statement Wednesday. “Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn't have to mean public confessions.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself. In fact—I didn’t. Tiger, your behavior was shameful. Don't make it any worse by discussing it.

1 comment:

  1. Im a big fan of Tiger Woods, and the fact that the media expects a answer from him is completely an invasion of his privacy. Yeah he went out and had an affair with some women... actually a lot of women, but that still doesn't mean the media deserves an explanation, nor does the public deserve an apology. Leave the poor man alone!


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