Nearing the conclusion to my roughly three year student status in Paris, France, I return to the US with the appropriated attitude of “vivre et laisser vivre” along with the all-encompassing belief that existence precedes essence. Thus, I return with growing disappointment in the largely trivial dialogue between the media and the American public. To be clear, I am not claiming that the French state-owned media model is ethically superior to the American “fourth estate” model; they both are flawed in their own ways. One significant difference between the content choices of the French and US media is that French law restricts the unauthorized publishing of photos and information about someone’s private affairs, consequently cutting out a lot of the juicy fat that American’s love to sink their teeth into. This sort of reflects the existential values of the French people versus the spectator nature of the American population who are completely immersed in tabloid culture. A current example of such boundary-less media coverage is the extra-marital affair of former hero and former head of the CIA, David Petraeus, which resulted in grave consequences on his public image and personal life. Matthew Fraser describes the French attitude towards this front page scandal and many alike it as “never shocked or titillated by the rich complexity of life’s temptations” (1), meaning the French do not even engage in such personally irrelevant discussions.
Contrary to Fraser’s opinion that Patraeus’ resignation was “unexpected”, I believe America has the historical trend of condemning or disempowering political figures for subjectively immoral sexual behavior, therefore his decision to resign came as no surprise given the level of social pressure he endured from the media. His heroic service to the US military and continued commitment to national security in the CIA was tainted or even forgotten by the stench of his dirty laundry being tossed around the media. To the French, this only highlights America’s hypocritically self-righteous entitlement to devastate a man’s career for committing the very human act of adultery (after all we are not essentially monogamous creatures, but in the US possession is 9/10th of the law!). Statistics for the US alone estimates that 30-60% of married individuals will commit adultery at least once during their partnership, and it is clear that the French have accepted this reality as a conflict between nature versus nurture, culture versus instinct, private versus public. The sad truth is that too many Americans apportion authority to nurture and culture over nature and instinct which detracts from their understanding and connection with humanity at its core.
As a result, a man once praised for his patriotic commitment to national security is professionally (and socially) discredited solely for his failed marital commitment. Ironically the country he served turned on him for reasons that never interfered with his ability to protect the nation, which goes to show how disembodied and irrational American’s have become given the media is utterly saturated in tabloid news. The only thing America loves more than a hero is a hero-gone-wrong.
Having the privilege to live outside of the US in a country like France, I no longer feel victim to media manipulation and distractions. The moment I heard about Patraeus’ infidelity, I wondered if my feeling of indifference would be otherwise if I did not have the opportunity to gain a foreign perspective. Would I still be an American tabloid induced zombie? All that is certain is my adopted “Je m’en fous” attitude towards trifling media gossip has grounded me from great heights, giving me more mental time to work on myself as an individual and less time contributing to the destruction of another humans life.
“Truth About Deception.” Facts and Statistics About Infidelity. N.p., 2012. Web. .
Fraser, Matthew. “French Shrug at Petraeus’ Adultery.” CNN. Cable News Network, 13 Nov. 2012. Web.