Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tyger, Tiger: Tiger Woods and Hard Core Pornography

It's all about control, really. Money and sex and power. Politics and manipulation. It's who we are. Trying to come up with some excuse for living. To find some niche in this world and to make something out of ourselves. And that's where the power comes in. In Blake's world of Experience, that's what we must grow into. Finding responsibility and affluence and power in this world, without succumbing to the temptations and the vices that are so easily attained these days. And in this world are so many people that tell us how it's supposed to be, who give us the top story, the popular headlines, the promises that we'll be taken care of by those more powerful than us, but who in actuality are savvy enough to make us believe it. The government and the media, two of many forces that would make of us victims whose only recourse is to rely on others to provide for our supposed happiness.

And Tiger Woods was just one of many victims to fall for the temptations of this world. He was a genius athlete, and the only thing that mattered was the Golf game. But companies came aside him and said, if you'll just wear this hat, or this shirt, or those shoes, will give you money. Or drive away in this car, shave with this razor... the list is endless. We'll even give to your own non-profit organization, help the kids in the urban centers play golf and forget their troubles for a while (or whatever). Make you think you're doing good for other people. Just become a walking billboard. And the other temptations.... the ones that got him into trouble..... yes, he was the victim in these actions. But we ought not to take pity on him.

For he was the one who gave them permission to do those things, to say what they say, to control his life for him. He gave them the sanction to profit off of his abilities. And now, without him, they will have to find some other gifted soul to make money off of. Perhaps it will be some tennis phenom, or the gifted pitcher for the Yankees. Who knows...

I was recently listening to a lecture given by Ayn Rand in the mid 1970's, called "Censorship, Local and Express," where she outlined the major Supreme Court cases for Obscenity rulings. The rulings, she found, were quite interesting, and I found a direct connection between pornography and Tiger Woods.

Modern pornography is an indirect result of the media on which it is produced. There were, of course, paintings that were considered obscene long before the camera and the photograph were invented. The invention of television didn't affect the amount of porn that was produced in the beginning, as, outside of 8mm reels that were located in adult Nickelodeons and movie theaters even up to the 1970's, there was no way to experience pornography at home except for magazines and still shots in books...etc.... Admittedly, the invention of the Polaroid camera did what the Internet did in terms of bringing the recording of desires into the forefront, as now photographs could be made instantly, and in private, so that everyone now could have pictures of their desires (be it legal or not). It was ultimately the invention of the VCR that made pornography available to all citizens.

But that is just the history of porn through the lens of the media that made it. To stem the tide of such material, various court cases were argued in the 1970's. The most important case was Miller vs. California in 1972. Miller was convicted of sending unsolicited advertisements of sexually explicit magazines to people, and so he argued that the conviction violated his 1st Amendment rights. The Supreme Court heard the case and upheld the lower courts decision. It was the reasoning for this upholding that interests me. Chief Justice Warren Burger showed that, to hold trial on an obscene work (I'll let Wikipedia do my work for me):

The basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be: (a) whether 'the average person, applying contemporary community standards would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. (from the article on Obscenity)

However, as Rand pointed out, there are no definitions given to what may be offensive, or who an "average person" might be. Also, what are the "contemporary community standards" that a work must be judged upon? In other words, the conservative Judges ruled that the government has the right to deem something obscene, and therefore, exempt from 1st Amendment protection, by some vague idea of moral law, that which could change from courtroom to courtroom.

There were other judges that upheld the lower courts decision based on the idea that Interstate business transactions had been made, so the federal government had the right to regulate those transactions. This reason was given by some of the more liberal Judges, who, although disagreeing with the idea of regulating based on moral principles, at least ideologically, found it easier to regulate business transactions as regulations of material things.

I have always said, even before I had heard it in Rand's lecture, that the Republican politicians are very willing to have small government, as long as they retain the right to regulate moral or ethical laws. Democrats find it abhorrent to regulate morality; however, they see a large, powerful government as a way of taking care of its citizens, regulating the material and business transactions in order to maintain control over people's lives. Neither method of control is acceptable, in my opinion. Rand goes a step further, in saying that the two political parties control those issues that they value most. In short, the Democrats want to control your things, your material possessions, while the Republicans want to control your mind, your thoughts.

So where am I going with all this? As I was listening to this lecture, I recalled the issues that the media brought up about Tiger Woods. The arguments against Tiger fall into two camps. He has committed immoral acts according to "community standards" and therefore should be allowed to fall from the pedestal on which he has been placed (note that the media is the entity that put him there). In doing so, he has committed a breach of contract from the businesses using him as a billboard, staining their image and decreasing profits. The stories you hear on the news is either shocking revelations of immorality, or how many sponsors have pulled their use of Tiger in advertisements.

It all comes down to control. One opinion is outraged over the immorality of the act, and the other revels over the loss in profit from failed business ventures. In each case, we oogle over the acts done, and the money lost. And all the while, the media profits from increased ratings. As they should, as we have become programmed to emotional outrage over immoral acts (to the point of getting pitchforks and branding torches), or in morbid curiosity over the loss of so much profit, as if in satisfaction that the loss of revenue somehow makes us feel better. The media realizes all this and feeds us other people's failures, so that we might feel good about ourselves. We have become a society in which success is tolerated as long as we can profit from it. And failure is expected, even anticipated, as the vultures look forward to pulling every last scrap off the bone.

There are people who look past the scavenging vultures and reach a conclusion far beyond the World of Experience. In the case of pornography, Justice William O. Douglas said that the Government had no right to interfere in the private lives of its citizens, and hailed the 1st Amendment as protection against censorship and control by a Authoritarian government. His opinion echoes that of Voltaire, and also of many Libertarian voices today. Each individual has the right to determine what is obscene and what isn't, and if they decide that a work is obscene, they should refrain from experiencing it.

In the case of Tiger Woods, the dissenting voice comes from Mike Huckabee, who stressed that ultimately, this is an individual problem for Tiger and his family. The public has no right to interfere or examine the private lives of individuals, even "celebrities" such as Tiger and his wife. We should all be examining issues that actually concern us, issues that were so easily put aside by the media and our own brains. Immorality and Failure are far more interesting than Health Care, or the supposed Environmental crisis. It's not the media's ultimate fault that we were so easily distracted. It is ours. We have given them the sanction to victimize Tiger Woods, to pull apart his flesh and expose him to the world, while we sit back and watch. They are simply doing what will make them profit, what will give them control over our lives. We have become a society of onlookers, like those who slow down gandering at traffic accidents. We have become the people sitting in Plato's Cave, watching the shadows of images on the wall, while those who control the fire do as they please.

[Not exactly sure I got where I wanted to go with this, so I'll edit it later. If anyone actually reads this, thoughts would be appreciated.]

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