Ethics Dunce: Buzz Bissinger

It took about an hour after the  Barry Bonds verdict for the first ethics-challenged national sports writer to write something outrageous about it. Not surprisingly, it was Buzz Bissinger, a the member in good standing of the Daily Beast’s stable of annoyingly hypocritical, biased or appallingly cynical writers, Bissinger belonging to the last category.

His post, which pronounced the Barry Bonds conviction “a travesty” in the title, contained one ethics howler after another, any of one of which would have justified an Ethics Dunce prize.

Here they are:

“It is true that the case of Barry Bonds does hit a new low, a new low in the waste of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money, a new low in the witch hunt of a player who, because he was considered surly and arrogant and unlikable, is now having intimate details of his life revealed (such as testicle shrinkage), a new low in outrageous abuse of government power.”

  • If Bissinger believes the money spent on making Barry Bond accountable for his lies is “a new low in the waste of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money,” he does not pay enough attention to current events to be allowed to write about anything in an online news magazine.
  • Here is yet another dishonest journalistic use of the term “witch hunt,” which implies the persecution of the innocent for a non-existent crime. (There were never any witches in Salem, Buzz.)  Bonds, on the other hand, did obstruct justice and did lie, which is what he was prosecuted for.
  • “Testicle shrinkage”=the Bill Clinton cigar story. A powerful figure refuses to tell the truth, lies, and stonewalls federal investigators and attorneys, forcing them to use evidence that would be 100% unnecessary if the individual wasn’t trying to get away with a crime….in Bond’s case, lying under oath about his steroid use. So the Feds had to prove it in court, and had an ex-mistress of Bonds’ testify to the typical steroid-induced changes she observed in his body. And Bissinger blames Bonds’ embarrassment on the prosecutors! Wow. What a  theory: if one hides facts from an investigation, it is unfair and an abuse of power for the government to embarrass you by finding other ways to get the truth out.

“Bonds is the ultimate cautionary tale of what happens when you don’t care if you are liked, and go against the Field of Dreams image of baseball.”

Bissinger’s theory, see, is that Bonds has been singled out because he is roundly detested, which indeed he is. This is a crock. There is a connection between the fact that Bonds is almost universally disliked and distrusted and his prosecution, but not what Bissinger thinks it is. Bonds respects nobody, cares for no rules or authority, and is the ultimate selfish and ruthless achiever who will sacrifice anyone and anything to achieve his own goals. People who are like this are usually unpopular (because they are mean and untrustworthy), and they are excellent candidates for unethical conduct, lacking as they are in fairness, respect, responsibility, decency and honesty.  People didn’t go after Bonds for cheating because they didn’t like him; they didn’t like him because of the same values and behavior patterns that led him to cheat.

Bissinger later notes that retired pitching ace Roger Clemens is also being prosecuted for lying under oath about steroid use, and argues that this bolsters his point, since Clemens is also disliked (because he too is an arrogant, self-absorbed jerk). But Buzz: did it occur to you that Clemens and Bonds are also the only two players to lie under oath about using steroids? Isn’t that more significant among the reasons for their prosecution than the fact that they are despicable? What likable player who lied about steroids under oath has been left alone? No…the two biggest jerks made the two biggest lies. What a surprise. Since he is apparently aiming to be as unethical as possible, Bissinger implies racism in the prosecution of Bonds by saying Clemens is the “only white” player to be prosecuted. Of course, Bonds is also the only black player to be prosecuted.

“Given the millions and tens of millions and in some cases hundreds of millions on the line, not to mention a deliberate don’t-want-to-know policy by league owners that until a few years ago encouraged steroid use, how many Major League Baseball players do you actually think did not take steroids to improve their performance? Two? Three? Five is as high as I will go.”

Ah, there it is! The Golden Rationalization!  Everybody does it, so why make a big deal out of it—the trademark logic of the proudly unethical! Worse, Bissinger is, absolutely without justification or proof, impugning the honesty and integrity of hundreds of players who didn’t cheat…which is just one more bi-product of the miserable conduct of Bonds and his fellow cheaters. Why does Buzz claim all but five players were willing to break rules and laws? Because he would…

“They would have been foolish not to, just as a writer would be foolish not to inject himself in the butt if it would make him the next Hemingway, or the same with an accountant if it could make him a highly paid insurance agent.”

Well, this is  good to know: Bissinger thinks anyone who doesn’t cheat is a fool, if cheating can achieve an illicit edge over the competition. Thus he projects his own rotting, miserable ethical standards on everyone else. Buzz Bissinger, Pulitzer Prize -winning writer, fervently believes that everyone should cheat, and, like Bonds, lie about it.  Presumably his anti-principles apply in all settings, though he mentions only two: school, college, scientific research, taxes, gambling, investments. If it makes you artificially better, richer, more successful, it’s fine to cheat.That’s the Bissinger way.

No wonder Bissinger sympathizes with Barry Bonds! But showing people like Bonds and Bissinger that cheating isn’t right, isn’t fair, and isn’t good for society is one of the very good reasons for spending some of that taxpayer money.

“We like to think we are more pure than any other country, that we honor with righteous rigidity the difference between right and wrong. We conveniently forget we are the only country in the world that dropped two atomic bombs on innocent civilians. We forget about the heads of state of other countries we had killed. We just keep on trucking with the National Anthem.”

Buzz is a historian now….a really incompetent and bad one. The citizens of a country that brutalized Asia and launched a sneak attack on America were not “innocent.” Just as American citizens are accountable for what their government does, the citizens of a nation that permits its government to perpetrate atrocities can’t claim “innocence” when accountability arrives. It is fine for Monday Morning history quarterbacks like Bissinger to pooh-pooh military estimates that an invasion of Japan would take more American casualties than the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined, but my father believed the estimates, and he was slated to be in the first wave. I may well owe my existence to those two bombs: Thank you, Mr. Truman.  America saved the world from genocide and dictatorship in World War II, and this non-combatant cheating advocate sums up the bravery and sacrifice of a whole generation as an unprovoked act of terrorism…in defense of scum like Barry Bonds. What a loathsome and ignorant individual.

“If the federal government wants to waste millions of our dollars on meaningless charges, that is revolting enough.”

Bissinger’s ignorance has no bounds. Lying to grand juries goes to the core of law enforcement and is a serious violation of every citizen’s duty. Those charges aren’t meaningless. They are crucial.

“If Barry Bonds is going to trial for steroid use and perjuring himself before a grand jury, why not Mark McGwire?”

Well, let’s see…how about the undisputed fact that McGwire didn’t lie to a grand jury, and Barry Bonds did? I think that would pretty much sum it up. But I know, to Bissenger, prosecuting Bonds for something he did do rather than McGwire for something he didn’t do is “selective prosecution.”   This is the “Dunce” part of the “Ethics Dunce” designation.

“The villain in all of this is not Barry Bonds, but a former IRS agent named Jeff Novitzky, since transferred to the Food and Drug Administration. He is a zealot in the worst form of zealotry, getting his rocks off by trying to nail professional athletes who God forbid took something to make them better in an era of rampant abuse.”

No, Bonds, who is the one who cheated for years and lied about it, including lying under oath, is the villain, not the law enforcement official who didn’t let Bonds get away with it in part by using legal talent financed by his cheating.

I also just love the transparent nonsense “era of rampant abuse” excuse. In Bissinger’s moral swamp, gangs that kill people during gang wars aren’t as culpable as those who kill when its relatively quite. Bribe-taking Congressmen during corrupt times are better than their counterparts who are on the take after reforms are in place. Bissinger doesn’t hold Bonds responsible for lacking integrity, courage and character because he doesn’t value those things, if he even knows what they are. If lots of people are cheating, breaking rules and violating laws, well, why wouldn’t you do it too? Buzz really doesn’t know.

Bissinger closes his offensive rant especially offensively, gratuitously calling America “a second-rate country.” Only one thing will make America a second-rate country, and that is if we allow the putrid ethical standards this Ethics Dunce to ooze into our culture and our character.

17 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Buzz Bissinger

  1. Not really on topic, but as someone whose grandparents grew up in a Japanese-ruled territory, I’d like to reiterate the point that it wouldn’t have been just American lives at stake if a ground invasion of Japan had gone underway: Japanese soldiers and civilians, along with anyone involved in the still active (if admittingly close to collapsing) fronts in China and Southeast Asia, would have probably suffered even more than what they ended up experiencing. (Honestly, I hate when the “America is the only country to actually use atomic weaponry on others” meme is used to try and prove that the US is unique in the evils it has committed; the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were only the exclamation points to a long series of horrifyingly brutal assaults on the civilian populace committed by all sides in the war.)

    • Thanks. About 78,000 more comments exploring the other factors and considerations in the impossibly difficult decision th US faced regarding Japan and the atom bomb, and we may actually scratch the surface of the utilitarian validity (or not ) of such a decision at the end of a world war. Bissinger ignorantly tosses off the bombings out of context as if they are self-explanatory proof of a black heart, done just for the hell of it, or to kill Japanese chidren. My contempt for this ass is higher than Mt. Chimborazo

  2. While I generally agree with what you have said, I have two questions:

    1. Why is the US Government so involved in trying to find steroid use in baseball? While they might have the legal right to do so, shouldn’t this be a job for whoever runs Major League Baseball?

    2. How do you know there were no witches in Salem?

    • 1. Sports is a big business, and the government has a legitimate interest in seeing that it is not corrupted.
      2. Government has a role in establishing ethical standards through law and law enforcement, and the U.S. government is (correctly) anti-drug use.
      3. As we could see in baseball, there are enough conflicts of interest that can impeded a sport’s self-regulation that the government can legitimately decide to step in.
      4. Athletes are paid cultural heroes, and as such pose special dangers to children who idolize them as role models when they engage in harmful conduct.
      5. The government has always embraced baseball’s special features as iconically American, harkening back to the rural past, and embodying core American values like family, courage, team work, honor and sportsmanship—hence the sport’s unique exemption from anti-trust laws on the dubious argument that it is not, first and foremost, a business. Thus a tainting of baseball is the tainting of American culture, upping the stakes.
      6. Protecting the grand jury process is independently important, but most of all….

      Everybody hates Barry Bonds’s guts.

  3. In Salem, witches of the kind they were seeking didn’t exist. Yes, Wiccans or people who also use the term witch exist now, even then. But in Salem, where state and church were pretty much one and the same? I agree with Jack- not a one.

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