Ted Bobrow

Move On, Folks, Ain’t Nothin’ to See Here

By - Jun 25th, 2009 12:56 pm
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When I found myself writing about Le Affaire Flynn/McBride last week, I promised myself that I’d return with a thoughtful reflection on why these stories are so irresistible. Then the Mark Sanford story broke and last week seems so, so long ago.

Like many others, I believe what people do privately is their own business as long as they don’t hurt anyone else. But it’s also true that salacious stories involving public figures are almost guaranteed to attract the attention of the masses. The reason, of course, is largely obvious. Sex sells. Most of us are attracted to the subject of sex whether we admit it or not.

But I think it’s overly simplistic to chalk this fascination up to some uncontrollable id that rages underneath the surface of every one of us. Most of us make it through the day without visiting porn sites or mentally undressing every attractive person we meet (back me up here). I believe there’s something universal here that isn’t strictly prurient.

We use stories to make sense of our world and have ever since cavemen drew pictures on walls. As children, we learn right from wrong by listening to fairy tales and real life stories from our parents and other role models.

It’s no accident that so much great literature and works of art deal with romance and relationships; tragic and comic. We model ourselves on the admirable behavior of our heroes and heroines, both real and imagined, and we learn what not to do from the villains. And that undoubtedly involves how we balance our personal urges with our norms of behavior and our responsibilities to our families, to our jobs and to others.

Certainly there’s something distasteful about our interest in, even obsession with, scandal. But this is how we learn our “dos” and our “don’ts.” We are constantly testing and adjusting our values and ground rules as we add new information.

It’s hard to imagine today’s scandals matching the shelf-life of the two biggies of the ‘90s; the OJ trial and the Clinton impeachment. In both cases, I professed little interest in the gruesome details but it became impossible to look away after months and months of media overkill.

I no longer dismiss the public’s interest in these matters as groundless. We care about these stories because they help us better understand our own lives and the choices we make nearly every day.

So, no, I don’t think Jessica McBride or Chief Flynn, or Mark Sanford or Eliot Spitzer should be flogged or tarred and feathered but neither should they be given a pass that what they do on their own time is irrelevant. They are, in one way or another, public figures and their behavior gets evaluated by the court of public opinion whether they like it or not.

There’s a reason the CSI and Homicide franchises have become so amazingly popular. Our interest in analyzing the forensics of the personal lives of public figures serves a purpose in setting our moral compasses and is deeply ingrained in our DNA.

We slow down as we drive past the proverbial multi-car crash partly to gawk but also to gather information that we can use. Who was at fault? Was someone speeding? Were kids involved? What judgements can we make?

The authorities may say, “There’s nothing to see here, folks, just move on” but we all want to decide for ourselves.

0 thoughts on “Move On, Folks, Ain’t Nothin’ to See Here”

  1. Anonymous says:

    morning ted…for the best in scandalous behavior, read the twisted Dem Bones tales by Stella Cretek. Goose The Bible Salesman who the ultimate low down pole cat mother of all snakes in the grass, but hey, as a member of Homo-sapiens,i recognize the backstory…stella

  2. Anonymous says:

    lest we forget, she that is without sin, cast the first op-ed.

    look, in an ideal world what people do in their private lives probably shouldn’t be made into a public spectacle. that said, when you build a career attacking the personal foibles of others, you have clearly indicated that such material is fair game.

    this story has legs not simply because it is salacious, but also because jessica mcbride has represented herself as a person of strong moral fiber. add to this the circumstances surrounding the beginning of her current marriage and you’ve got a pattern of behavior.

    simply stated, this story is captivating because mcbride’s hypocrisy is on full view here.

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