Lance Armstrong is the Quintessential American Hero
You might have heard that disgraced road racing cyclist Lance Armstrong has admitted in a recorded interview with Oprah Winfrey that he used performance enhancing drugs during (and likely throughout) his professional cycling career. Apparently this worthless and meaningless admission has become a major news story and many people are concerned about its effect on the public image of other american heroes.
I however see this concern as misplaced since Lance Armstrong is, was, and always will be the quintessential american hero.
To understand what I am talking about let us start by listing the attributes that go into creating the quintessential american hero.
1] You have to be involved in the ‘right’ and ‘popular’ activities. Remember that American heroes never reach that status by doing something that might benefit or uplift humanity. You will never become an american hero by developing new drugs to treat previously incurable diseases, developing new technology to explore the universe or provide unlimited clean energy to humanity. Americans don’t care about people who do such ‘boring’ or ‘nerdy’ activities and will ignore them at best and humiliate or destroy them at worst. To become a true american hero you have to be a famous sport-star, renowned actor, popular musician, well-known mercenary or be involved with those glorious fields of human endeavor. Remember that people like Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky are true american heroes unlike the losers who developed the first effective antibiotics, built the Saturn 5 rocket or developed commercial nuclear reactors.
2] You have to look the part. It is not possible to become a true american hero unless you are good-looking man or a hot woman. Americans don’t like ugly or even plain-looking heroes. Do you think Americans would ever elect a bald or short president even if he was the most competent man for job? Sure, it used to happen before the age of TV- but not since then. Even an excellent but average looking sports-star will never be as big a hero a mediocre but attractive sport-star. Similarly an attractive but mediocre actor will reach heights of public acclaim that his less attractive but more competent counterpart will never reach. Even a military general who looks like a military general will have a far better chance of becoming an american hero than a more competent general who just does not look that ‘general-like’. While plastic surgery and cosmetic dentistry can help, innate good look are almost mandatory.
3] You must be good at public relations. Americans hate people who are realists or try to be factual as reality and facts are a major downer. The ability to lie, confabulate, distort truth or be selectively truthful is an absolute must for any true american hero. You can also supplement your natural ability in this area by hiring PR hacks, image consultants and getting all of your public statements preapproved by lawyers. It is also necessary to be able to convincingly fake the right amount of emotion at the right time. Nobody likes an american hero who cannot deliver the almost inevitable insincere apology without the right amount of public contrition. Once again, natural talent can be supplemented and enhanced by acting lessons. It is important to realize that good public relations is a 24/7 operation and letting the mask slip off for any extended length of time will seriously damage your chances at becoming a true american hero.
4] You have to seen as busy and engaged in your endeavor of choice. Americans don’t like idle people who can achieve great things since that is contrary to the calvinist worldview. The appearance of activity is extremely important for a true american hero because that is how you justify your rank and status. Nobody cares if your actions lead to any real worthwhile outcome as that is irrelevant. Heck, people don’t care even if you actions are hurting or destroying the lives of many others as long as you can justify it through the right amount of rhetoric, charm, outright lies and spin. In the worst case scenario, you can always deliver a carefully crafted, well-acted yet meaningless apology to those hurt or killed by your actions. It also helps if you can do that by quoting passages from the bible- because Americans know that religious people are always good at heart. Having an attractive and well-dressed family, who are good at acting, by your side is very useful when delivering apologies or justifying the unjustifiable.
5] It is important to appear and remain culturally relevant. Now doing that does require some skill and a good grasp of public tastes and trends. One of the most common ways of doing that involves creating foundations, charities or some sort of organisations devoted to solving or alleviating some real problem. While your organization will not achieve any success in its stated mission, it will create many job opportunities for lesser ‘do-gooders’ who in turn will sing your praises to an even bigger audience. Similarly standing upon the ruins of buildings destroyed through your incompetence will make you seem more leader-like than actually doing anything to fix the problems that led to the tragedy. Remember that good PR (point 3) is best served in a context or situation that demonstrates engagement and relevance even if you had to create the problem in the first place. Americans prefer bigger than life emotions, theatrical performances and entertainment over actually doing something.
In conclusion, Americans truly deserve their heroes- every single one of them.
What do you think? Comments?