Entry from January 31, 2013

More evidence, if evidence were needed, that shame and the celebrity culture are like oil and water — or like crucifixes and vampires. Now Lance Armstrong suggests he is the scapegoat for drug-taking among his fellow cyclists. “As much as I’m the eye of the storm, this is not about one man, one team, one director. This is about cycling, and to be frank it’s about all endurance sports. Publicly lynching one man and his team will not solve this problem.” So now his punishment for cheating amounts to a “lynching”? You’ve got to admire the man’s chutzpah. Of course, it is all part of the smokescreen effect: when you can say that lots of other people did what you did, you diminish your own culpability. But Mr Armstrong aspires to world-class status as a smokescreener, as he once did as a cyclist.

“My generation was no different than any other,” he told Cycling News. “The ‘help’ has evolved over the years but the fact remains that our sport is damn hard. The Tour was invented as a stunt, and very tough motherf*****s have competed for a century. And all looked for advantages. From hopping on trains a hundred years ago to EPO now. No generation was exempt or ‘clean’. Not Merckx’s, not Hinault’s, not LeMond’s, not Coppi’s, not Gimondi’s, not Indurain’s, not Anquetil’s, not Bartali’s, and not mine.” That covers just about everybody, I imagine. But what, then, becomes of his celebrated “apology” only a week or two ago? What kind of apology stipulates that the thing apologized for was done by everybody else in the world as well?

Yet even as he was apologizing, it was pretty clear that Lance Armstrong saw himself as the principal victim of his own misbehavior, self-pity being as much a part of the celebrity culture as shamelessness. So, too, today’s Washington Post brings news of convicted rapist Mike Tyson’s reaction to protests about his appearance as an actor in an episode of “Law & Order: SVU” set to air “on the eve of a global event supporting survivors of rape and abuse.” NBC has now changed the air date, but not cancelled Mr Tyson’s appearance. “I’m sorry that she’s not happy,” said the latter about the leader of the protest, Marcie Kaveney, in a grammatically pristine interview with TV Guide. “I didn’t rape nobody or do anything like that, and this lady wasn’t there to know if I did or not. Since I’m clean and sober five years, I haven’t broken any laws or did any crimes. . .I’m happy with myself. I’m not on drugs. I’m not drinking. I’m not making a big fool of myself again. I’m trying really hard, you know?”

Perhaps it might be thought to be of some relevance that, as the Post reports, “Tyson also provided some details of his ‘SVU’ character, which NBC declined to give earlier. Tyson plays a death-row inmate who was a victim of childhood abuse and who murdered one of his abusers.” Of course he did. The nation’s death rows are full of abuse-victims who have murdered one or more of their multiple abusers. Mind you, the abusers must themselves be supposed to have been the victims of abuse and thus as innocent as their murderers. And so, presumably, were their abusers ad infinitum. Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner, as the French proverb once put it, anticipating the celebrity culture by several centuries. It’s a generous-spirited admonition, but you can’t help feeling that when someone, appealing to its spirit, offers you just exactly enough to comprendre in order for you to pardonner there might be some cheating going on behind the scenes.

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