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Friday Music Blogging

Floyd Landis Doubles Down, Melts Down

Here's the latest news from cycling:

Floyd Landis, the American cyclist whose 2006 Tour de France victory was nullified after a positive doping test, has sent a series of emails to cycling officials and sponsors admitting to, and detailing, his systematic use of performance enhancing drugs during his career. The emails also claim that other riders and cycling officials allegedly participated in doping, including seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

People will find this news interesting for several reasons, but I have a special one: I actually read Landis' book. After he was stripped of the TdF victory, he launched a draining, $2 million legal battle to clear his name. Not only that, he wrote an entire book -- called Positively False -- arguing his case.

On practically every page of the book, he protested his innocence and harshly attacked the practices of the anti-doping agencies. A relative who's interested in cycling loaned me the book, and I read it, thinking it would be wise to keep an open mind until I heard Landis' side of the story. Ultimately, I found it only moderately convincing. Landis and his lawyers had obviously carefully examined the testing process and found some real flaws, but he was never able to come up with a convincing counter-explanation for his damning results. Reduced to its essentials, the argument was highly legalistic -- not "I can prove I'm innocent," but rather "The process you used to prove my guilt was flawed." Many will call this a typically American defense, and I can see why.

Technical legal arguments aside, Landis stridently proclaimed his innocence. He never doped, anywhere, at any time, for any reason, evah. He was just an aw-shucks, corn-fed, goody-two-shoes Pennsylvania Dutch farmboy who was being unfairly targeted by the cynical (read: European) authorities. And frankly, the enormous financial sacrifices he was making to fight his appeal through all the instances gave his claims a bit of credibility. Why on earth would he bankrupt himself and put himself through hell for a lie?

Well, now we know the answer: because he had a sociopathic streak as wide as the Alps. He assured literally millions of people that he was innocent, and was consciously, knowingly lying the entire time. Am I wrong in thinking there's something American about this sort of brazen hypocrisy? Other examples abound: the male Christian fundamentalist anti-gay crusader who recently toured Europe while receiving "erotic massages" from a rent-boy, or the latest in an endless line of conservative 'family values' politicians found to have been screwing around. The latest of these sad sacks actually recorded a video praising sexual abstinence with the very aide he was shtupping!

I'm not saying that hypocrisy is uniquely American, of course. What I'm saying is that it seems that America produces an unusual number of hypocrites who not only live by double standards, but shamelessly, openly, and enthusiastically champion the very standards they daily violate in the bedroom or boardroom. I ascribe it to the narrow, unforgiving code of middle-class morality which most Americans feel the need to appear to be upholding. The inability to reconcile their drives and their image lead them to feats of compartmentalization that normal humans can only gape at in horrified fascination.

I may be off-base here, but I just don't find this particular brand of hypocrisy as often in Europe. Europeans are keen to keep their personal lives private, and aren't given to the kind of black-and-white 'straight talk' that leads to categorical statements such as "I never doped" or "I'm not gay" or "I would never cheat on my wife." The European style, to me, is embodied by Miterrand's famous quote: "I was born Christian and shall doubtless die in that condition. But meanwhile..."

And meanwhile, here, I want back the 3 hours I spent reading Landis' book, and the 4,593,254,210 synaptic firings I devoted to wondering whether he might have been the victim of injustice. And I'm not alone...


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It reminds me a little bit to eastern german official moral.
the socialistic regime demanded a better human than the normal human is able to be. So everybody has to be full of guild. And so they were quite open to backmails by state or society. "All people are same, but some are more same."
May it be possible that the US works a little bit comparable?

I like the idea of "Lets have as few (moral) rules as possible, but take them seriosly".
Just set the burden of rules not higher than common people can carry. Otherwise they will fail, dont want to admit it and you produce masses of hypercrites.

If you set to much, to high and to strict rules, you press people getting hypocrite if they cannot stand to these rules.

So better getting more relaxed with your rules and accepting more honesty.

James Rytting

One reason Americans lie is our British heritage, from which isles we imported prudery and free enterprise (sicut, British Petroleum). Each, including BP, presupposes and generates hypocrisy as conditions of their existence. Americans, however, have outdone our forebearers; vide, the blossoming, if not invention, on these shores of advertising, public relations.

Another is the curse of optimism to which Americans, particularly the elite, sincerely as often as cynically, attribute positive causal powers second only to belief in the Big Guy in the sky (The latter belief, too, is riven through with optimism, as opposed to honest dread). This makes dissemblance a virtue.

The political and media responses to the world changing disasters on Wall Street and in the Gulf of Mexico are archetypal. To take the latter example, it has been clear from the start that BP executives were lying, but the press quickly decided that the real story would be the Apollonic efforts of brilliant engineers to stop the flow, which BP still maintains it hasn't measured, although that would be the very first variable that engineers trying to stop the geyser would need to know. Even now, the U.S. papers are still pretending to be on tenterhooks awaiting the results of the "top kill" and proposed "junk shot," leaving it to the foreign press (the Independent) to point out that this is like throwing snowballs at the moon.


There's clearly no national monopoly on lying, orangeshow, as I made clear in the original post. What seems particularly American to me is the frequency with which people engage in blatantly hypocritical conduct for years on end. Note that even commentators who often disagree with me see a point in this observation.


Why do you think it is American to lie?


"compartmentalization" and "hypocrisy" - why use such negative terms? Americans just love a good story, both as storytellers and as wide-eyed recipients. The quality of a narrative does not depend on whether it's true. People enjoy being lied to. That's what religion boils down to - tall tales (OK, lies) that make life bearable.
Europeans, on the other hand, would not even believe the initial assumption these scandals are based on, namely, that there could be such a thing as a "good person". We know that everyone has rotten secrets, incestuos affairs and a drug habit (and P.S. God is dead). That view may be closer to reality, but it doesn't make you a better person, it just makes you depressed, lazy and bitter. Which, in the European view, everyone is at the bottom of their hearts, so why bother?

Anyway, I'm a big fan of American sex scandals because of their entertainment value. You have to admit that Reker's story about how the rentboy was supposed to help him with his heavy luggage (!!!!) was comedy gold. Similar to Sanford's Appalachian trail narrative. Genius! I think John Edwards is still my favorite though. (btw, did you know there's a Wikipedia list of US political sex scandals?)


My regular role when your "America bashing" posts turn up is to play the role of devil's advocate, but you are on to something here.

This hypocrisy is not "uniquely American," but it does have a uniquely American flavor. And there are too many instances of it for it to be dismissed.

The other side of this: the many Americans who specialize in "letting it all out," writing confessional novels, etc. As if they have to scrub themselves clean in public in order to receive absolution for their sins.

Perhaps our national epic novel shouldn't be "Moby Dick" but "The Scarlet Letter": the nation requires an instructive exercise in the uses and abuses of stigmatization.


I've also wondered about this difference between both our societies as well and have come to the conclusion that we Americans are hopelessly affected by centuries of puritanical ideology. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, indeed there are many admirable elements of puritanism that set me apart from my European friends that I'm happy are part of my mentality, e.g. the American work ethic, the American style of discipline, our egalitarian convictions, etc. But there are definitely some negative aspects of puritanical thought as well. Europeans seem much more capable and of accepting basic human frailties while we seem to harbor an irrational need to set ourselves upon a shining pedestal of "morality". Could this be the reason Europe deported all their puritans to the American continent centuries ago?

I remember a few months ago going to a local village bar/club while visiting a friend of mine in the Alps. This disco was the only one around for miles around, so young people don't really have a choice on the weekends. The first time I entered the disco my heart almost stopped still - everywhere I looked, as far as the eye could see, were only teenagers, 15, 16, 17 year olds, smoking, drinking, having a good time. I was so nervous, I think I must have broken out into a sweat. What's wrong, my friends asked. I've never been to a disco where there were underaged teenagers before, I said. For some strange reason, my puritanical American mind half-expected the police to raid the club any minute, and of course they'd naturally arrest me, the guilty looking foreigner standing out like a sore thumb, for being a pedophile! I found it impossible to relax the entire time I was there. In the meantime everyone else was having a grand time...cut to me in a corner nervously looking around for undercover cops...

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