More evidence, if evidence were needed, that shame and the celebrity culture are like oil and water ó or like crucifixes and vampires. Now Lance Armstrong suggests he is the scapegoat for drug-taking among his fellow cyclists. "As much as Iím the eye of the storm, this is not about one man, one team, one director. This is about cycling, and to be frank itís about all endurance sports. Publicly lynching one man and his team will not solve this problem." So now his punishment for cheating amounts to a "lynching"? Youíve got to admire the manís chutzpah. Of course, it is all part of the smokescreen effect: when you can say that lots of other people did what you did, you diminish your own culpability. But Mr Armstrong aspires to world-class status as a smokescreener, as he once did as a cyclist.
"My generation was no different than any other," he told Cycling News. "The Ďhelpí has evolved over the years but the fact remains that our sport is damn hard. The Tour was invented as a stunt, and very tough motherf*****s have competed for a century. And all looked for advantages. From hopping on trains a hundred years ago to EPO now. No generation was exempt or Ďcleaní. Not Merckxís, not Hinaultís, not LeMondís, not Coppiís, not Gimondiís, not Indurainís, not Anquetilís, not Bartaliís, and not mine." That covers just about everybody, I imagine. But what, then, becomes of his celebrated "apology" only a week or two ago? What kind of apology stipulates that the thing apologized for was done by everybody else in the world as well?
Yet even as he was apologizing, it was pretty clear that Lance Armstrong saw himself as the principal victim of his own misbehavior, self-pity being as much a part of the celebrity culture as shamelessness. So, too, todayís Washington Post brings news of convicted rapist Mike Tysonís reaction to protests about his appearance as an actor in an episode of "Law & Order: SVU" set to air "on the eve of a global event supporting survivors of rape and abuse." NBC has now changed the air date, but not cancelled Mr Tysonís appearance. "Iím sorry that sheís not happy," said the latter about the leader of the protest, Marcie Kaveney, in a grammatically pristine interview with TV Guide. "I didnít rape nobody or do anything like that, and this lady wasnít there to know if I did or not. Since Iím clean and sober five years, I havenít broken any laws or did any crimes. . .Iím happy with myself. Iím not on drugs. Iím not drinking. Iím not making a big fool of myself again. Iím trying really hard, you know?"
Perhaps it might be thought to be of some relevance that, as the Post reports, "Tyson also provided some details of his ĎSVUí character, which NBC declined to give earlier. Tyson plays a death-row inmate who was a victim of childhood abuse and who murdered one of his abusers." Of course he did. The nationís death rows are full of abuse-victims who have murdered one or more of their multiple abusers. Mind you, the abusers must themselves be supposed to have been the victims of abuse and thus as innocent as their murderers. And so, presumably, were their abusers ad infinitum. Tout comprendre, cíest tout pardonner, as the French proverb once put it, anticipating the celebrity culture by several centuries. Itís a generous-spirited admonition, but you canít help feeling that when someone, appealing to its spirit, offers you just exactly enough to comprendre in order for you to pardonner there might be some cheating going on behind the scenes.