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Bad and Worse: The Misbehavior Arms Race

posted May 11, 2012, 6:28 PM by Kyle Willey
If you've turned on a television or read a newspaper in the past couple weeks, you have probably seen a story relating to some misdeed of one or another politician. I'm not saying that this is necessarily bad-I endorse the free flow of information, but it seems just a bit crazy to me.

Picture this: You're on a playground and you, rather literally, kick another student off the swing set. A teacher runs over and asked why you did it, and you reply "He punched me yesterday". How would the teacher respond? At least where I went to school, you'd get in just as much trouble as anyone else.

It seems like these news stories aren't meant so much to expose some personal failing (yes, that's right, I'm saying that they're worse than character assassination) but rather to cover misbehavior on behalf of the party attempting to point out the flaws of another.

I'm actually all for exposing any misdeed. In my opinion, privacy is all fine and dandy but if you've done something wrong everyone deserves to know about it, especially if you're running for political office. Mind you, I don't think we need to go into every wrongdoing of every politician back to when they took their first step, but I still think it's important to look at failings in others objectively and clearly; we are all human, after all, and we all make mistakes. The issue is that we see things that we would never pay attention to if we were doing them ourselves as mortal sins courtesy of a media desperate to find something to talk about. I'm not going to talk about who has what agenda, because it's really not the core of the issue. The question is: What does this do?

I've seen so many things where people talk about a certain misbehavior, and the issue is that we just see a sort of arms race going on where we get bombarded by this constant influx of skeletons excavated from moldy closets. Politics doesn't seem to be about positions any more, at least in the media's views, because it's all about looking at flaws and failings. What sort of message are we sending to children? Any publicity is good publicity because you can turn it around by showing that someone's done worse? You wouldn't get away with a slap on the wrist for murder by pointing out that Hitler killed more people than you. What we need is to actually look at people and evaluate them, and accept the fact that everyone has done something they regret, and the vast majority have done something that would get them in trouble and they'd rather not have exposed for the sake of public stigma, if nothing else.

I'm not the sort of person who usually says that society should loosen up, but I believe that on this matter that it is important that people start thinking with clear and level heads and stop playing the blame game; if someone did something wrong it's definitely a factor to consider, but we must ensure that our society isn't shifting to an attitude where it is enough simply to say "I'm not the worst.", as opposed to actually caring about integrity and character.