Perhaps this week will go down in history as the Week of “What Difference Does It Make?”.
What difference does it make whether or not the Obama Administration misled the public for days about whether the Benghazi attack was a spontaneous demonstration over a video or a planned terrorist attack, indignantly asks Hillary Clinton. What matters is that four Americans died!
What difference does it make that Lance Armstrong doped to win his titles and lied about it for 15 years, poignantly ask Armstrong’s defenders. What matters is that his foundation helped cancer sufferers!
What difference does it make whether or not the version of Beyonce singing “The Star Spangled Banner” Americans heard during the Inauguration was live or studio-recorded, asks comic-turned radio pundit Dennis Miller. She’s hot! (By the way, my conversation about this issue with Bill O’Reilly before Miller issued his verdict—and referred to me as “Daddy Warbucks”—can be viewed here.)
Now we have a much ridiculed scandal over the fact that Subway’s vaunted “footlong” subs are in fact only around 11 inches, which has spawned viral videos and at least two lawsuits. Ethically-challenged Chicago Trib blogger Eric Zorn carries the flag for this latest army of “What difference does it make?” lie enablers. His argument, predictably, comes down to a cross between the Stephen Colbert-Jon Stewart market-tested “Let’s exaggerate this real issue and make it look ridiculous” formula and the Golden Rationalization, “Everybody Does It”…
“It’s tempting to side with the plaintiffs. Subway has been officious about protecting “footlong” as a trademark and casual about using tape-measure imagery in its advertising.
“On the other hand, a 2-by-4 cut of wood measures less than two inches by four inches. A “pint” in many taverns describes the size of the glass, not the amount of liquid-plus-foam placed on the bar. Footlong hot dogs often shrink in preparation to 10 inches or less. And, of course, in the fine print, McDonald’s reminds potentially aggrieved customers that “Quarter Pounder” refers to the weight of the meat before cooking.”
“Customers bothered by such generalities have every right to complain, though the cash register, not the courtroom, is the proper venue to bellyache.
“I noted online Thursday that Nestle’s 100 Grand (formerly $100,000) candy bar was worth only a buck or two at most, and I was thinking of suing. This led to the buffalo wings suggestion from a reader along with other ideas for umbrage opportunities: Banquet frozen meals bear little resemblance to actual banquet food. Life Savers neither float nor do they prolong a person’s life. Happy Meals sometimes leave you feeling depressed…”
Yeah, you’re hilarious, Eric.
The problem you neglect to mention is that thanks to that flat-out deceptive ruler ad and other misrepresentations, Subway customers have been laying out money for about 92% of what they thought they were paying for, and that 8% of around four bucks adds up to big money when you multiply it by a couple million “footlongs.” It’s fine to say that punishment should come at the cash register, but first a customer has to know he’s being cheated. This is like telling an faithful Armstrong fan that the proper punishment for the bully biker is to stop buying yellow bracelets. After making the risible defense that “Footlong” was only intended to be “a descriptive name … not intended to be a measurement of length”—never mind that the company used a measurement of length to advertise the sandwich, Subway, which was caught with its baloney down, agreed today that a footlong sandwich should be a foot long, and customers had a right to expect it to be so.
What difference does it make? Integrity and honesty, that’s what, just like Benghazi, Beyonce, and Armstrong. Zorn and his ilk, and there are some shockingly prominent and powerful ilk, want the American public to be like the proverbial frog, who would jump out of a pot of boiling water but will remain placidly comfortable in a pot of cool water slowly heated to a deadly boil. They think we should all allow ourselves to be slowly poached in a constantly intensifying culture of lies, in our government, our journalism, our sports, and our entertainment. Why? Because it makes it so much easier for them, you see. What’s a few days before the truth is told? What’s a little fudging? What’s a little cheating? What’s the difference between a live performance and a recorded one, if it sounds the same, and if it sounds the same, why not call the one by the other, more impressive name? What’s an inch of sandwich?
And then, of course, what’s two inches, or two and a half? In an earlier “What the difference?” moment, Oprah Winfrey actually argued (before negative public and media opinion rang her Oprah Alarms) that James Frey’s fake memoir “A Million Little Pieces” was just as valuable as a real memoir because the story was inspiring, and “what difference does it make” if it was all a sham? That attempt to raise the culture’s dishonesty tolerance failed, but the pot is still heating.
Integrity makes a difference, honesty makes a difference, and trust makes a difference. If we can’t trust our leaders, our products, our news and heroes then we are lost, and if we trust them knowing that they will lie to us because there are no consequences we are fools and worse. We are accessories to the corruption of our society.
The way a society encourages honesty is to insist upon it, and to make sure there are serious consequences when the society gets lies instead, whether the lies are large or small. Subway is seeing consequences of its lack of integrity; Armstrong is as well.
But the pot is still slowly heating, and the frog hasn’t jumped yet.
Facts: Chicago Tribune 1
Source: Chicago Tribune 2