Friday, August 2, 2013

Why We Hate & Love The Cheaters Who Lie

Pick a liar, any liar, and I’ll show you someone who causes us to question our own lives and values.

Let’s take Anthony Weiner.  Or Eliot Spitzer. Or Lance Armstrong. Or Ryan Braun. Or A-Rod. The list goes on and on.  You can find fraudsters in politics, sports, the media, on Wall Street, and everywhere that high-profile people exist.

With every revelation about people in power, or positions of authority, or role models who have done illegal or unethical or embarrassing things, we have to wonder if anyone is clean and legitimate in how they perform their jobs and live their lives.  True, no one is perfect, but in our confessional society, where redemption comes with a tell-all book or a reality show, you really have to look far to find someone without significant flaws.

Has it always been this way but we’re now just finding out the extent to which our leaders have fallen short of our standards – or are we amidst an era of failure that is unprecedented?

I go back and forth with Anthony Weiner.  On the one hand, I could not care less what he does in his private life, except his private life is not so private.  If he wants to cheat on his wife or sext people half his age, I don’t care.  On the other hand, what kind of judgment is he exercising when he fails to be discreet and sends out photos of his penis?  Perhaps worse than that – and the part I struggle with – is he’s a liar.  

He tried to cover up the scandal, then confessed, and went away.  But then articles appeared about how he stopped sexting strangers and is living a normal family life.  He then announces his mayoral candidacy and leads in the polls… until we learn he continued sexting a year after he quite Congress and said he was no longer doing it.

Do we want a serial liar who lacks judgment and self restraint leading the nation’s largest city?  Still, I throw it against the wall and compare him to his opponents and try to filter who really would make the best mayor.  Besides, lies aside, if the controversy really is all about his aberrant sex life, who am I to judge him?

Most liars don’t conflict me.  They violated my trust and disrespected their position.  This is especially true with pro athletes.  There is no room in my heart to forgive the steroid cheaters.  Once these guys stop being true competitors and dope up to get an edge and make millions, they are on my shit list.

Being in political office or playing on a field before millions is not like any other job, and poor behavior simply can’t be tolerated.  I feel deeply wounded that a guy like Ryan Braun, an MVP and perennial all-star would take steroids, and then lie when he was caught red-handed, and then get off on a technicality, only to then get caught again.  He didn’t even admit to taking drugs and really didn’t sound sincerely sorry when he issued a lame apology to accept a weak 65-game suspension. He should be thrown out of the game for life or at least a year.  And his contract, which was entered into based on false performances induced by steroids, should be voided immediately.

The American public often forgives its failed stars, though some are harder to like than others.  Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez are divisive lighting rods for all that’s wrong with pro sports.  But Pete Rose, who was banned from the game he loved because he bet on baseball games, is embraced by fans.

Bill Clinton got impeached by the House of Representatives for getting blown by an intern in the White House but remained in power and went on to be the best president of the past 50 years.  He has a high approval rating.  We can forgive our liars and cheaters but we hate them for making us love them. 

Interview With Author Sam Tranum 

What type of books do you write?  I try to write books I'd like to read, and I have eclectic taste.  

I've written three books: "Daily Life in Turkmenbashy's Golden Age," a travel memoir about living in Turkmenistan, "U is for Murder," a novella about a reporter trying to figure out who murdered a uranium salesman, and "Powerless: India's Energy Shortage and Its Impact," a nonfiction book that's pretty well introduced by its title.  I've also produced or co-produced three anthologies: "Life at the Edge of the Empire: Oral Histories of Soviet Kyrgyzstan"; "Lat Does Not Exist," oral histories from one of the many Indian villages being torn down to make way for the coal mines fueling India's economic growth; and "Love on the Road 2013," a collection of short stories from around the world about love and travel, which I put together with my wife. 

What is your newest book about?  "Powerless: India's Energy Shortage and Its Impact" is scheduled for publication by Sage India in September. India's growing energy supply-demand gap is already hobbling the economy and its only going to get worse. This book lays out the situation in detail.  

What is the writing process like for you?  It's like climbing a mountain. There are pleasant moments along the way, unforgettable views (or insights or discoveries), but mostly it's just a long, hard slog. The good part is when I've finished. I've reached the top. I've solved the mystery, satisfied my curiosity, fashioned my giant mess of research and thinking into something clear, simple and orderly. 

What did you do before you became an author?  While producing these books, I've been working in journalism. I spent four years as a reporter for daily newspapers in West Virginia and Florida and two years in Washington DC writing for a weekly publication covering the energy business. I edited for a year at a daily newspaper in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), and I taught journalism for two years at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. I've also done my share of freelancing. 

How does it feel to be a published author?  Well, I guess I'm not published yet, in the traditional sense. If all goes well, "Powerless" will be the first of my books to be put out by a traditional publisher. It looks like "Lat Does Not Exist" might be my second. How does it feel? Mostly I feel proud. I love books and I love the idea that someday someone is going to find a dusty, beat-up, second-hand copy of one of mine in a yard sale or on a shelf and pick it up and (hopefully) be fascinated by what he or she finds inside. 

Any advice for struggling writers?  To paraphrase a quotation the source and exact wording of which I've forgotten, if there's anything that can keep you from writing, let it. 

Where do you see book publishing heading?  It looks like it's going to be messy and exciting for the dwindling number of us who love, buy and read books. As publish-on-demand services and e-book platforms continue to democratize publishing, a lot of really bad books are going to be released and it's going to get harder and harder to find the good ones in the chaos. However, there will also be some amazing, innovative books released that the usually boring, risk-averse big publishing houses would never have touched. 

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2013

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