From the Montreal Gazette Dec 26, 2009. By Jack Todd
Tiger’s downfall is a fitting end to a decadent decade in which lies were used to start wars, make the rich richer and ensnare people like the parents of Balloon Boy – who wanted only to get on reality TV
MONTREAL – Richard and Mayumi Heene were sentenced to jail this week. Ninety days for the husband, 20 days for the wife.
Our news cycle being what it is, you have probably already forgotten that the heinous Heenes are parents of the Balloon Boy, the 6-year-old who touched off an international story while safely hidden away in his attic.
Fitting that while the first decade of this century was dribbling away, the mendacious Eldrick “The Weasel” Woods (The Golfer Formerly Known as Tiger) was watching his marriage and his endorsement deals fall apart, the Heenes were preparing for jail, Bernie Madoff was already in jail and George W. Bush was as invisible as it is possible to be for a man who was president of the United States only 11 months ago.
Such is the unravelling of the Decade of Deception. Of fabrication, mendacity and untruth. Of Enron and Bernie Madoff, Earl Jones and Vincent Lacroix. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. And the filthy rich bankers of Wall St., who came up with a filthy lie – renamed toxic assets as “derivatives” and very nearly brought the global economy to its knees.
Richard Heene, small-time schemer, thought he had it figured out. The rationale was mind-bending: Come up with a sufficiently large hoax and he could get his family onto “reality” TV, which is a whopper of a lie in the first place.
Heene’s problem? Too small a lie. To profit from this mendacious decade, you had to tell lies so large that the rest of the world had no choice but to swallow them. Fibs so all-encompassing that when your phony investment scheme begins to crumble, you are deemed too big to fail.
Like the lies told by Woods and his team of spin artists. When I wrote a column about Woods a week ago, I was stunned by the response – more than 300 emails and they’re still trickling in.
Very few disagreed with my take on Woods as the sham of the decade, the man who was a huckster first and everything else second. Some condemned his womanizing, although, in truth, the women who have come forward so far don’t constitute an unusual total for a professional athlete.
Many more were upset by the hypocrisy. This is a man whose billion-dollar earnings were built on endorsements first, with golf a distant second.
Woods was the greatest huckster of the decade because of his squeaky-clean image. It helped that people who play golf are well-heeled, but it was important that Woods seemed so perfect. Good-looking, multiracial, soft-spoken (except for the petulant tantrums), flawless in his personal life. And there was that 1,000-watt smile.
When it all came undone after wife Elin Nordegren took a golf club to his SUV, we discovered that Woods was perfectly in step with the decade of the big lie. He was not what he seemed, not remotely.
Which made him pretty much like everyone else – or at least those with money and power who spent the past 10 years acquiring more money and more power, mostly by piling one lie atop another.
Weapons of mass destruction? There were none – but the Bush administration kept lying about them all the way to Baghdad. Nearly seven years later, President Barack Obama is still trying to disentangle the United States from a mess that has cost the lives of almost 5,000 coalition soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis.
Enron? To this day, no one knows what it was that Enron really did, other than siphon money into the pockets of its top executives. Yet (as Frank Rich pointed out in the New York Times last weekend) the editors of Fortune Magazine voted Enron the most innovative company in the United States six years running.
Enron was a shell of a company. There was no there there. The company produced nothing, owned nothing, accomplished nothing except to bring the state of California to the brink of bankruptcy.
How many of the biggest names in sports in the past decade were phony as three-dollar bills? Barry Bonds, Marion Jones, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez. Now Woods himself has been linked to Anthony Galea, a Canadian physician who uses and dispenses HGH – human growth hormone.
A coincidence? If there is one thing we have learned from the past decade, it’s that where there is smoke, there is fire.
Lies aren’t birthed in a vacuum. Liars thrive because they fill a need, because people want to believe.
Bernie Madoff, the biggest swindler of the decade, did it by feeding people what they want. Investors want to believe they can get a 20-per-cent return on their dollar, year after year. Golf fans wanted to believe that Tiger Woods was perfect. Home-owners wanted to believe that housing prices would go up forever.
And far too many in this country, as well as south of the border, want to believe that a television network that labels itself as a news outlet is really delivering news. But as soon as you say “Fox News,” you have already told the first lie. “Fox Propaganda” would be more accurate.
Like most big-time lying, the distortions at Fox are backed by massive corporate money. Money is where the lies begin and it works in insidious ways. The BlackBerry ad uses the Beatles tune All You Need Is Love to push a message exactly the opposite of the one the Beatles intended. If love is all you need, then why do you need a BlackBerry?
Unfortunately, the lying will go on because the rewards are great, real punishment rare. Just this week,
Peter Hadekel pointed out in these pages the inadequacy of the fines levied on a group of Canadian banks and investment dealers who sold $32 billion worth of toxic asset-backed commercial paper. The fines totalled $138.8 million, a fraction of the worth of “assets” that weren’t assets at all.
At the beginning of this decade, I wondered aloud what we were going to call the first 10 years of the new millennium. The Aughts? Naughts? Zips? Nothings? After 10 years of systematic, percolating, corrosive lies, the appellation is simple. The only name that fits the past decade is the Zeros.
Soon we will face the Teens. And the first thing we can look for is the slick, carefully orchestrated “rehabilitation” of Weasel Woods (including the obligatory weepy appearance on Oprah), a public remake for which his millions of lobotomized fans are audibly panting – to be followed by a brand-new, global Nike campaign.
Coming soon, to a golf course near you.
No word of a lie.