I just found a NYT article from 2007 in which the New England Patriot’s coach denies spying on the New York Jets. Despite his emphatic denials, the league found him guilty. Now he’s back to denying a new transgression. What’s interesting is that very few people outside of New England believe him or his quarterback.
If you read some of the comments people have posted about the ongoing story about Patriot footballs being softened against NFL policy, you might be shocked, shocked I say by the tone and venom of New England fans. Their state of denial takes many forms:
“Everyone does it so big deal.”
“We won and would have won anyway, so what does it matter?”
“The Seahawks use drugs –that’s much more serious.”
“No one can prove the coach or quarterback knew, so let’s forget it.”
“The team is really made now and will crush true Seahawks.”
So, the general gist of these remarks is that everyone does it, and that it makes it acceptable. Also, if you break a rule and you’re not convicted with overwhelming evidence, then you’re innocent.
I was thinking how this tempest in a teapot reflects what is happening in other areas of our lives such as politics and literature. Politicians will blatantly lie even when someone like John Stewart produces video to show them lying. What’s the normal reaction when caught? “I misspoke.” When the Senate shifted to the Republicans, the party line was “see how we improved the economy,” despite the fact that senate Republicans did everything they possibly could do to ruin the economy so they could blame President Obama. I also can think of at least two politicians who recently were caught plagiarizing material. They weren’t even apologetic.
Writers today plagiarize and then shrug their shoulders when they are caught. The father and son who claimed the young boy saw Jesus during a near death experience, admitted the boy had lied several years ago, but they didn’t offer to return all the money gained from book and movie sales.
What we have today is a slippery slope because most people no longer subscribe to the idea of absolutes (Thou shall not ever….). Instead, they rely on situational ethics. “I generally don’t lie but it’s okay to lie to my boss because he’s an SOB.” Students tell themselves “I generally don’t cheat, but Professor Jones is so unreasonable that he’s forcing me to cheat to avoid failing.”
The result of all these cases where people are caught in their own lies and avoid apologizing is that many people are becoming more cynical; “Well, of course he lied or copied his speech from someone else; everyone does that sort of thing.” This kind of growing cynicism is bad for our country and for democracy in general because it encourages politicians to lie even more in their ads. What’s the worst thing that could happen if they are caught? They simply say they misspoke.