Editor's note: The following was written by a board-certified psychiatrist with more than 45 years' experience diagnosing and treating mental illness, and who has served as an expert in thousands of civil and criminal cases. He is the author of "The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness."
"Once you get past integrity, the rest is easy." – J.R. Ewing in "Dallas"
Given what we now know, it is clear that Tiger Woods and Barack Obama have each been fraudulently packaged and marketed to the world.
Here's what many of us concluded about Tiger Woods over the last 10 years – and eagerly bought. Tiger is:
- The greatest golfer ever, an unusually accomplished athlete in one of the most difficult of all sports, able to play and win even while suffering excruciating pain from a broken leg;
- A Wheaties icon of integrity, a generous citizen dedicated to charitable causes and committed to bettering the lives of children worldwide;
- A devoted son who declares to the world his enduring love for his parents and deep gratitude for their unfailing support;
- A loving husband and caring father of two children, who affirms in a real-estate commercial how important it is to be a family man;
- A man of multiracial and multiethnic origins who transcends race and ethnicity, a man of destiny who will make uniquely valuable contributions to humanity.
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As everyone now realizes, a number of these conclusions, especially those related to Woods' character, have proved false. His middle-of-the-night encounter with a fire hydrant in November 2009, followed by all-too-believable stories of his extramarital sex life over the past several years, have shattered the illusion that Woods is a nice guy, let alone a paragon of manly virtue. Much has been written about what these events mean, including this by Slate columnist Jack Shafer:
In the past, Bo Belinsky, Joe Namath and Wilt Chamberlain – just to name a few Don Juans from field and court – made womanizing an integral part of their personas. But for business reasons – Buick, Nike, Gatorade, Gillette, EA Sports and Accenture being among them – Woods decided to exfoliate from his public image of all things base, carnal and even personal. The Tiger Woods that was constructed for corporate consumption was spotless and smooth, an edgeless brand easily peddled to sheiks and shakers. Given how desperately we want to believe in a human god, it didn't take much peddling from Team Tiger for us to accept Woods as a modern deity.
A few days later, Lisa Schiffren posted some comments on American Thinker. Noting that we are not usually much moved by the now-common occurrence of sexual acting-out in the rich and famous, Schiffren decided that in Tiger Woods' case:
We are staring (at the sexual revelations) because we've been had. Betrayed. We see now that the image was all a fraud. The talent was real. But the things that made the public like Tiger personally – the low-key demeanor, manners and a sweet smile of countless sports-page photos, magazine covers, political analogies and, most important, product endorsements, was an act.
But the pretense and betrayal weren't just on Woods' part, writes Shafer, who says "the larger lesson here is about how much artifice – sustained, deliberate deception – goes into the construction of a public persona when there is profit to be made or power to be had:
Even now, the same huge corporate effort that went into creating the billion-dollar nice-guy persona is hard at work trying to keep it alive – because if it dies, too many people stand to lose too much money.
Schiffren then turns her attention from Tiger sleaze to the current White House tenant. Noting Woods' now-metaphorical importance as a symbol of personal and corporate corruption, she cautions:
If I were watching the public's disgust with the newly revealed Tiger Woods from an office in the West Wing, I'd be concerned. Because Barack Obama is about as completely manufactured a political character as this nation has seen. His meteoric rise, without the inconvenience of a public record or accomplishments, and the public's willing suspension of critical evaluation of his resume, allowed his handlers and the media to project whatever they wanted to on his unfurrowed brow.
Noting Obama's "deliberately obscured personal and professional past and no traditional qualifications for high office," Schiffren acknowledges that "after a year in the spotlight, Barack Obama, hailed as a brilliant man and a creature of destiny who would heal us all, is himself falling rapidly to earth":
And while it doesn't matter if another athlete is an adulterer, it matters a lot if the president is revealed to be an inexperienced, excessively ideological and weak man, who is naïve about the world and uncomfortable exercising American power during a time of war. It matters if nothing in his training would have equipped the president to understand what it takes to stimulate job growth, or to ameliorate a recession, or to end an overseas conflict successfully. It matters that he is uninterested in the science behind global warming – and wishes to use the issue to amass power and reorder society. It matters that he has no interest in the construction of policy.
"Ultimately," concludes Schiffren, "Woods is an exceptional golfer with a character problem. Barack Obama, by contrast, is not an exceptional, or even particularly competent, leader. But because so many politicians, interest groups and factions have an interest in his continued presence, no one is ready to reveal the man behind the curtain just yet."
Marketing fraud in America
What Shafer and Schiffren are describing is American ethical and moral rot expressed in marketing fraud. And the rot is not confined to the unusually sleazy world behind the phony persona of Tiger Woods or the deceitful promotion of candidate and President Obama.
American moral rot, and the political marketing that attempts to rationalize and perfume it, is now epidemic at all levels and in every sector of our society. It is found in unfaithful spouses, neglectful parents, violent schoolchildren, embezzlers in businesses, sexually abusive priests and church coverups, neighborhood child molesters and porn-watching government officials.
It is present in professors who falsely revise American history and manipulate the political sentiments of young minds, in teachers who encourage sexual acting-out and seduce students into sexual acts, in businessmen who knowingly sell defective products, in lawyers who prosecute and defend fraudulent civil and criminal claims and in judges who ignore the law, violate the Constitution and legislate from the bench.
Moral rot is found in climate scientists who cook the research data used by environmentalists to promote bogus causes, in medical and pharmaceutical researchers who hide adverse test data, in doctors who submit phony bills to Medicare and Medicaid, in athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs and in elected officials at every level of government who exploit their offices for power, money, status and sex at the expense of their constituents.
Marriages and families have been especially devastated by the moral rot of America: Infidelity, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, unnecessary abortions and record numbers of divorces have taken a brutal toll on families, with the wreckage falling hardest on the affected children. In our modern permissive culture, the actions leading to these tragedies are typically rationalized as "sexual liberation," "personal growth," "self-discovery," "finding your soulmate" and "the right to choose," among other slogans that spin sin and slide meaning.
The global financial crisis, too, is a moral matter. Marketing their actions as "stimulating" or "saving" the economy," the Federal Reserve and the U.S. government have cheated America's citizens out of their wealth for decades by expanding the money supply beyond any reasonable relationship to production, disconnecting the dollar from tangible assets and bailing out and refusing to prosecute financial criminals who manipulate markets at investor expense. The central banks of most other countries have duplicated these sins.
Worldwide, the moral rot of material greed, conspicuous consumption and decline of personal financial responsibility, coupled with government-enabled easy money designed to make political hacks look like kindly uncles, have promoted endless borrowing, ruinous debt and recurring inflationary bubbles that have wrecked whole economies and the financial lives of millions.
With such all-pervasive moral rot, what hope is there for redemption? Let us revisit Tiger Woods.
Apology and repentance
On Feb. 20, 2010, Tiger Woods publicly apologized for his sins against his wife, children, friends, business associates and fans, among others. Unlike many apologies made in recent years by public figures who express "regret that anyone might have felt hurt" by something they have done, Woods' apology and the manner in which he made it looked like genuine remorse, largely because it fit so closely with what a true apology requires.
A true apology first acknowledges responsibility for wrongdoing, then admits to specific harm done to the victim, expresses genuine sorrow for the harm, offers to make restitution and promises to prevent any repetition of the wrongdoing.
In his confession, Woods admitted to infidelity and cheating, which he described as repeatedly selfish and wrong. He declared full responsibility for the multiple injuries he caused, especially to his wife, but also to his children, his mother and his wife's family, and to fans, friends, sponsors and business associates. He refused to blame his wife, and instead praised her grace and poise. He acknowledged guilt in stating, "I knew my actions were wrong. But I convinced myself that normal rules don't apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. … I thought I was entitled."
Woods even empathized with those critical of him, understood he must make amends and become a better person, and admitted his need for treatment already received and his need for more to come. He acknowledged having learned to seek support from his peers in therapy, hoped that someday he could return that support to others who are seeking help and admitted to straying from the teachings of his religion and to the importance of spirituality in his rehabilitation.
Cynics among us will doubt that Woods meant what he said or will change his ways. Many will assume his confession was simply a well-staged first step in a plan to sanitize his now-soiled corporate image and restore his profitability to former levels. They will predict that Woods will simply be more careful in the future to cover his sins.
Ideals, lies and consequences
The cynics may be right, but I doubt it. I think Woods' apology and stated intentions are genuine. Surely most of us hope he will do whatever it takes "to start living a life of integrity," as he put it, if only for his own sake and that of his family.
Ironically, however, there is another reason we should wish him well, and it has nothing directly to do with his golfing career. In fact, we sorely need him and many other famous and influential persons to be new spokesmen for a global moral renaissance, a moral revolution to combat the rampant moral rot that is destroying the foundations of Western civilization.
Like all ideals, America's founding ideals of individual liberty, self-reliance, personal responsibility, mutual consent, moral virtue, true charity, rule by law and freedom from undue government regulation and control, among others, are pre-eminently moral matters, not just organizational principles. The violations of those ideals, cited by America's founders and many others before and since, are evils because they undermine what is best for human happiness and well-being.
The great irony of the past century lies in the fact that these evils and the rest of the moral rot listed earlier have been marketed to us as just the opposite in the same ruthless and cynical manner as the images of Woods and Obama have. The campaign has succeeded. Like gullible children, we have bought the marketers' phony sales pitches. In the process, we have corrupted ourselves, our culture and our country.
The nature and extent of this malicious campaign have been revealed in all its ugliness in two remarkable books by journalist David Kupelian: his 2005 work, "The Marketing of Evil: How Radicals, Elitists, and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised as Freedom," and his 2010 sequel, "How Evil Works: Understanding and Overcoming the Destructive Forces That Are Transforming America."
With dramatic clarity, Kupelian exposes the evil in modern marketing technology itself: the desensitization, jamming and conversion techniques designed to make the perverse appear normal, the dysfunctional appear functional and the destructive appear righteous.
Both books reveal the systematic indoctrination and consciousness-restructuring techniques that appeal to our emotions, our primitive appetites and our regressive longings. These techniques aim to undermine valid ethical and moral principles previously grounded in tradition, religious training, personal experience and common sense.
Since the 1960s, Kupelian notes, the overly permissive, morally corrupt and politically correct American left has flooded our culture with the propaganda of immorality. Their goal is to reprogram the American conscience – to see the criminal offender as victim, the victim as inciter, the perpetrator as a free or merely troubled spirit and even the barbarism of radical Islam as simply a multicultural alternative.
Especially moving is Kupelian's indictment of modern journalism:
Hiding behind a pretense of journalistic impartiality, de facto activists masquerading as objective, dispassionate reporters use the same seductions, the same expert packaging of corruption, the same propaganda techniques that professional marketers use. In America, what was once a free press – the hallmark of a free country – has largely become just another public-relations establishment, intent on advancing ideologies and agendas that are hostile to traditional American values.
Kupelian laments our culture's rebellion against those values, and the spiritual confusion and corruption that have followed. In the seductions of secular socialism, he observes, we have lost our former ideals of character, nobility, wisdom and maturity. Of special importance are his remarks on the function of marriage in personal development:
"Marriage is the stimulus for little boys to grow from the immature mix of latent nobility and compulsive selfishness into a true man. Without the matrimonial promise made before God and man to stay together forever – without a lifelong commitment inoculating them against hard times – the trials, difficulties and pain of marriage and raising a family would be too much for many people to handle."
Too much, indeed, for Tiger Woods. Kupelian's "true man" is the traditional ideal of a principled, honorable and even chivalrous gentleman who is thoughtful and protective toward women; it is not that of a hypersexual, compulsively selfish adolescent fixated in phallic narcissism and full of contempt for his marriage and women in general. The marketed image of Tiger Woods crashed and burned when he wrecked his SUV.
But this is not a new experience for us. As Schiffren observes, a majority of voting Americans bought the bogus image of Barack Obama – and they did so despite dire warnings from many during his candidacy.
In February 2008, columnist Charles Krauthammer understood Obama's campaign fraud very well: selling hope the way Aquafina sells bottled tap water.
"We are the hope of the future," said the candidate with messianic fervor, "We can remake the world as it should be"; "We are the ones we have been waiting for, we are the change we seek." Krauthammer, who has elsewhere observed Obama's unlimited narcissism, cited his grandiose campaign promises to heal the world's conflicts with mad dictators, resolve entitlement problems without painful trade-offs and fund his welfare programs by ending the Iraq war. The title of Krauthammer's article, "Obama Spell Mesmerizing But Empty," says it concisely.
The revelations of Obama-fraud have continued since then. In a July 2009 American Spectator piece titled "We've figured him out!" Ben Stein observed that the American people have awakened to the truth about Obama. They can no longer ignore his ultraleft record as a community organizer, his antiwhite writings in books, his quiet acceptance of Jeremiah Wright's racial rants, his coverup of his academic record or his irrational economic and health-care programs and foreign-policy betrayals. Stein might as well have included Obama's relationships with domestic terrorist William Ayers, felon Tony Rezko and militant priest Michael Pfleger, along with Obama's many angry and radical government appointees: Van Jones, Anita Dunn, Kevin Jennings and Mark Lloyd, among others.
More recently still, columnist David Limbaugh in his piece, "Strikingly unpresidential," comments on the fraudulent marketing of the personality now in the White House:
President Barack Obama doesn't deserve the reputation he's had for his style and temperament and for being gracious, civil, bipartisan and post-racial. He is often ungracious, uncivil, hyper-partisan, race-oriented and vindictive. He mocks and ridicules almost for sport. More than any president in my memory, he often does not comport himself presidentially. … He came into office with a reputation for being sophisticated, gentlemanly, above the political fray and open-minded. But it was a façade, facilitated by good looks, a seemingly pleasant demeanor and an extraordinarily fawning – and forgiving – media.
Limbaugh notes, in particular, that Obama is a "graduate of Saul Alinsky's school of thuggish street agitation."
He is Alinsky personified with a disarming smile. It's not just a matter of his having embraced a political strategy that involves hitting below the belt and abusing power to help his friends and hurt his enemies. His behavior is not just a tactic; it's part of who he is. It is apparent that he has been coddled so long that he simply has zero tolerance for any opposition. Indeed, he is exactly the opposite of who he billed himself to be: "I will bring a new type of politics to Washington."
The average American citizen is immersed in the myriad obligations of everyday life. As traditionally trusting souls, we tend to take most of what we see and hear at face value – that's true about most things, not just what the politicians tell us. But that kind of trust doesn't work anymore, and the American public's recently plummeting approval ratings for government officials and their policies reflect this reality.
In fact, we have been told far too long, "Don't be judgmental!" especially on moral matters. But that demand is nonsense. The human brain is made to pass judgment, including judgments about the reality, credibility, morality and rationality of everything we encounter. The American Revolution was a judgment about what is real, good and right. The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution are judgments about what is real, good and right. The founding of America was a judgment about what is real, good and right. Making judgments about such matters is not only not improper; it is absolutely essential to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It is painfully clear that the America of Tiger Woods and Barack Obama is riddled with fraud at every level. Kupelian, again, summarizes it well in "How Evil Works":
Over the last couple of generations, a vast web of organizations and agendas profoundly destructive to American liberty, morality and prosperity have grown up in our midst. Major institutions, from our schools and churches to our news media and government, have been subverted. Millions of our fellow Americans have become confused and demoralized, their loyalties captured.
Indeed. A nation brilliantly conceived in liberty and in moral virtue has become stricken with a values and attitude disease that is destroying our freedoms and corrupting our collective conscience. Beyond our personal indulgence in illicit sex, we have become all too permissive in our verbal and physical violence, in our greed for unearned wealth, in our dependence on government instead of ourselves and in our pursuit of public approval instead of personal integrity. We have yielded to the temptations of political charlatans pretending to care about our lives while they peddle the character-corrupting madness of government entitlement. In our moral and intellectual weakness, we have surrendered our personal sovereignty to control-freak officials lying about their dedication to the public interest.
All of this is a major disorder of mind and spirit. It is a mental as well as social disease that threatens our nation's soul, its character and even its life. Without a conversion of our moral spirit by whatever means necessary, we can easily see our future in the rising economic, social and political chaos of Greece and the imminent diffusion of Europe's identity as a culture originally grounded in the Judeo-Christian ideals of reason and rectitude.
What can we do about all this? By what means, if any, can we revive the core of Western culture essential to civilized life on this planet?
For starters, a rededication to respect for certain constants in human nature and certain realities of the human condition is essential. The laws of economics, for example, are not negotiable. Regardless of intentions, benevolent or otherwise, the laws of supply, demand, price and scarcity cannot be ignored in favor of a statist political agenda without ultimate economic disaster. History has repeatedly demonstrated this basic fact of life, and it is painfully evident once again in the financial earthquakes now erupting around the globe.
As the tragedy of Tiger Woods and the developing failure of Barack Obama's presidency reveal, there are other rules, social and political, for example, that cannot be ignored without disaster. These are rules of law, morality and ethics, rules of honesty and integrity, rules of respect for the persons and property of others, including the Golden Rule, that have been distilled over thousands of years through trial and error. Most of these rules are grounded in the biblical principles of Christianity. It is a matter of historical fact that when applied to the economic, social and political life of man, they have been far more effective than any others in the pursuit of human well-being.
Unfortunately, the modern liberal agenda has inspired all who are ignorant of human nature to break those rules. Based on powerful appeals to primitive appetites and infantile longings, the corruption of America has been driven by a liberal/progressive marketing campaign of unparalleled effect.
To counter its destructive propaganda, a renaissance of libertarian/conservative ideals must be promoted by persons to whom the masses will listen. It is not just the substance of the newly revived message that is crucial. When clearly stated, the merits of liberty and morality easily crush the sophistries of modern liberalism and its moral relativism. Those merits, after all, gave birth to our beloved country. But effective spokespersons are just as important; without them, the message that our citizens must grow up and become responsible adults will not be heard by most of the population.
With an acute appreciation of the irony of the idea, therefore, I propose that Tiger Woods, of all people, may be the best choice to lead an American moral renaissance. Because of his worldwide fame and personal charm, and because of the severity of his sins, a repentant Tiger Woods now has the chance to become an exemplar and spokesman for morality in direct proportion to how badly he betrayed his wife, children, friends and business associates. He has the chance, that is, to become a healing icon, a symbol of moral rehabilitation to help cure the Western world's moral corruption. In this pursuit, he could fulfill his father's prediction that he is a man of destiny: that he will indeed, and with a stunning irony of his own, make enormous contributions to humanity.
In his apology, Woods already took the first step toward becoming a new prophet of morality. As a second step he can form and fund an institute for the study of morality and ethics in modern life at every level. The institute could research, among many other things, the history of moral principles and programs in the development of Western and other cultures; the effects of moral systems on contemporary government policy and social process; the role of ethics and morality in economic transactions; the relationship between morality and religion; the origins of moral intuition in the biological, psychological and social nature of man; the process of moral development in children; and the empirically verifiable insanity of moral relativism.
In founding and overseeing these efforts, Woods would take great care that empirically verifiable facts, not political ideologies, are the ultimate arbiters of the institute's moral researches. Among other topics, the indisputable fact that human beings are biologically disposed toward spiritual and mystical experience, including religious experience that they invariably relate to morality, must stimulate respectful inquiry. In the same spirit of inquiry, the fact that many atheists are morally competent must also be explored and understood.
By committing himself to the strictest rules of morality and ethics in all of his future conduct, Tiger Woods could make a good-faith attempt to compensate his wife for his betrayal of her and for the immense shame he has brought upon her. He could give her good reason to be proud of him instead of humiliated. By the same kind of commitment, and by founding an institution dedicated to a moral revolution, he could also do the world an enormous favor: He could become a credible symbol of growth to moral competence, of conversion to authentic masculine maturity, as he renounces with proper contempt his old identity – that of a self-centered, dishonest and hypocritical adolescent.
In the course of his own moral renaissance, Woods could fuse his Buddhist spirituality with the timeless lessons of Judeo-Christian morality on which all decent human conduct must be based, whether in marriage, business, government or social life. He could then devote himself to teaching those lessons to the world through his institute. The strict ethical principles of golf (the rule of self-imposed penalty, for example) may act as a metaphor with which to reintroduce and reaffirm traditional Western moral principles. Those principles include the ideals of individual liberty, individual responsibility and individual assumption of risk, and the virtues of mutuality, charitable activities, respect for the personal sovereignty of others, compassion for the handicapped and the Golden Rule.
If Tiger Woods can transform himself with credibility and authenticity, then, and only then, can Woods return to the public world and enjoy the respect and admiration of others because his character, not just his golf game, truly deserves them. Only then can he again stride the world stage as an icon, this time as a symbol of a fallen man who has been resurrected through repentance, insight and courageous personal growth. If he does not undergo this transformation, he will not be able to defend himself against the inevitable catcalls of "hypocrite," "jerk" and much worse. Indeed, the worst catcalls may echo from his own conscience – or perhaps not, if he is narcissistic enough to dismiss his moral crimes as too trivial to bother with.
As a final irony on this matter, I offer the following suggestion: If Woods does return to the world morally transformed and ready to be a symbol of rectitude for the masses, I suggest he identify himself as Eldrick Woods (his real name), not Tiger Woods. That change would give further symbolic meaning to his new identity as a morally mature man, one who is no longer a morally challenged adolescent preying on women who prey on him. Woods' sponsors may object that this change of first name will hurt his market value. But the opposite may be true: the world may quickly and gladly learn that Eldrick Woods is the new, and more admirable and believable, endorser of quality products.
As for President Obama, we should have no similar illusions that the man who would fundamentally transform America will fundamentally transform himself. It was Saul Alinsky, the admirer of Lucifer and prophet of community organizers, who prescribed social revolution by agitating supposedly victimized citizens into a state of helpless frustration. It is Barack Obama, former community organizer, who has said of his immersion in Alinsky's methods, "It was that education that was seared into my brain. It was the best education I ever had, better than anything I got at Harvard Law School."
"Seared?" As in searing hatred? Obama's admiration of Alinsky is the admiration of destructiveness. This should not surprise anyone. Many have noted our president's remarkable comfort with hateful, destructive and dishonest people; his now-obvious intent to destroy the economic and political foundations of American greatness; and the notable ease with which he manipulates and deceives. All of these observations confirm Obama's deep identification with Alinsky. They also indicate intense anger as a major dynamic in his mental makeup, as there is no other psychological explanation consistent with his history.
Both grandiosity and vindictiveness are apparent in his intent to dismantle a freedom-loving society for which he has repeatedly apologized and toward which he feels deeply bitter. His façade of quiet dignity, noble purpose and presidential temperament, and his pretense to objectivity and open-mindedness, define a man who long ago "got past integrity," both moral and intellectual. Given this kind of personal solidity, we can predict with confidence that Obama will not suffer the acute cognitive dissonance that has moved Tiger Woods to remorse. Obama will continue to apologize for America, but not for himself. He will continue to rationalize as progressive virtue the enormous domestic and international damage his policies are inflicting on the fabric of our country.
If America is to be transformed to its former greatness based on ideals of liberty and moral virtue, a golfer reborn as Eldrick Woods is a far more inspiring figure than a president who gained office by deception.
With or without inspiration from famous persons, however, we the people must get our own ethical houses in order if we are to save ourselves and our country. If we keep asking government to indulge our appetites, appease our envy, gratify our dependencies and rescue us from our own negligence, America will follow contemporary Europe and other collectivist states into the asylum of social madness.
The insight, repentance and courage essential to Woods' growth to moral manhood are just as essential for the rest of us to do what we must: Become responsible citizens who follow the rules, and stop electing frauds who break them.
Lyle H. Rossiter Jr., M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist who has diagnosed and treated mental disorders for more than 45 years. As a veteran forensic psychiatrist, he has been retained as an expert in more than 2,500 civil and criminal cases. He is the author of "The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness."