Celebrities make lots of money, but in return they're forced to submit vague and confusing apologies to the media whenever they do anything wrong. The latest example: Tiger Woods's sorta-kinda admission of infidelity. Our textual analysts take it from here:
I have let my family down [ 1] and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect [ 2]. I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone.
Although I am a well-known person and have made my career as a professional athlete, I have been dismayed to realize the full extent of what tabloid scrutiny really means . For the last week, my family and I have been hounded to expose intimate details of our personal lives . The stories in particular that physical violence played any role in the car accident were utterly false and malicious. Elin has always done more to support our family and shown more grace than anyone could possibly expect.
But no matter how intense curiosity about public figures can be, there is an important and deep principle at stake which is the right to some simple, human measure of privacy . I realize there are some who don't share my view on that. But for me, the virtue of privacy is one that must be protected in matters that are intimate and within one's own family. Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn't have to mean public confessions .
Whatever regrets I have about letting my family down have been shared with and felt by us alone. I have given this a lot of reflection and thought and I believe that there is a point at which I must stick to that principle even though it's difficult.
I will strive to be a better person and the husband and father that my family deserves. For all of those who have supported me over the years, I offer my profound apology .
1. The Vague Confession is one of the most common features of the celebrity public statement. How did Woods let his family down? By cheating on the mother of his children? Or perhaps by picking up the wrong brand of ice cream from the grocery store? It's unclear — and that's the point.
2. The Assertion of Imperfection (AOI) usually follows directly after the Vague Confession. This technique has been used by such celebrity-statement-makers as Carrie Prejean. Though it seems to be an admission of bad behavior, the AOI is actually designed to make the celebrity look better — he/she appears humble, human, and "just like the rest of us."
3. Here we see an example of the Shifting of Focus, an invaluable rhetorical feature for any celebrity statement. As is often the case, the focus here is shifted to the media. While the celebrity admits wrongdoing, he also implies that the true sin lies on the souls of those who chose to expose him. More simply put, it's not that he screwed up that matters — it's that everyone found out about it.
4. In common parlance, "my family and I have been hounded to expose intimate details of our personal lives" translates as, "evidence of my infidelity has already hit the tabloids, forcing me to issue this vague statement in the vain hope that you will pay attention to it instead of the much more specific and interesting details on offer elsewhere."
5. The Request for Privacy occurs in almost every public statement, and seems, on the face of it, to be contradictory. The celebrity is essentially speaking out to ask fans not to pay attention to him. Isn't this like telling someone not to think of a white bear? Or, say, a golf club going through a windshield? However, it's important not to subject the celebrity public statement to ordinary rules of logic, as celebrities operate in an entirely different rhetorical universe. Also, Tiger Woods's yacht is named Privacy.
6. Here this particular public statement achieves Total Semantic Breakdown. It becomes a statement about itself, and moreover, about the immorality and tragedy of its very existence. This ability of a text to come alive and comment on itself is hinted at in Roland Barthes's "The Death of the Author." But while Barthes was speaking figuratively, several publicists have actually dropped dead from the sheer effort of composing such self-referential statements. Or sometimes their eyeballs fall out.
7. While the publicists are busy picking their eyeballs up off the floor, the celebrity offers one Final Apology to the fans still reading his ouroboros of a statement. Everyone else has already switched over to Us Weekly — where textual analysts fear to tread.