American Scandal Notes: The Many Meanings of Scandal

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History 4197 • Spring 2013

Thursday, January 17, 2013
The Many Meanings of Scandal

Themes
* Slander
* Attacks on personal and public reputation
* Take people to court for slander
* Print Media
* Publicity
* Personal Attacks
* Gossip
* The engine of scandal
* Doesn’t have to be true
* Public figures
* The most likely figures. They invite scandal because they are in the public sphere. Slander has been limited to people who stay private. Etymology of Scandal
* Greek meaning – Skandalon
* Cause of moral stumbling
* Obstacle or trap
* Old French escandre (11th century)
* Scandal first used in English (16th century) – lined to Slander * Religious Meaning: Discredit Religion
* Secular SPEECH ATS:
1. Defamatory actions or utterances (HONOR)
2. Discreditable actions (SHAME)
3. Offensive Conduct (IMMORALITY)
a. Usually connected to sex because of this, from the Catholic tradition. Secrecy and Deception
* Secondary Transgression
* Heightened by cover-up
* Scandals tend to be linked with secrecy and deception and become worse when a cover-up is involved. * Minor offenses do not constitute scandal; neither do larger offenses such as genocide. It’s somewhere in the middle. * Hypocrisy – Gap between public and private identity, discovery of hidden secret self that brings on the scandal. * Metaphor of the face

* Two-faced
* Faces tell something significant about a person
* Greek tradition
* Struggle to save face and repair one’s reputation
* Ritualized performance
* Confess wrongs, get sympathy and get back into the moral community. * Formula involved, becomes a requirement and must say certain things in order to be forgiven. * Variations based on what the scandal is

* No longer feels genuine because of the ritual involved. * Manipulation of symbolic power: Control self image
* Ongoing problem for public figures
* Handlers control their images for them
Drama of Concealment & Disclosure
* Exposure & Visibility
* Can be no scandal without exposure
* 20th century – Exposé newspaper journalism emerges * Scandals must be played out in the public sphere and secrets must become public knowledge. * Audience – Public Judgment
* Public opinion
* Susceptibility
* Public Figures are much more susceptible.
* Not all transgressors are equal. More prominent figures more likely to be dragged before the court of public opinion. Transgression of Morality
* Public knowledge of misdeed
* Public disapproval (collective)
* Public shaming & Stigma
* Shame serves as an internalized form of discipline. Rules must be taught. Children are taught the rules of social behavior; they are not instinctive. * When rules are broken, one must suffer the consequences. * Stigma – no longer a normal member of the community. Stigma can quickly dissipate. * Cycle of condemnation and forgiveness

* Scapegoat – someone forced outside of the community; ostracized * Puritans
* The Scarlet Letter – defined by the A
* Stocks – publically humiliate people and others harass, taunt, and insult them. * Collective action of public disapproval.
Gossip Fuels Scandal
* Old English Godsibb – godparent
* Female chatter (old women)
* Birthing room, intimate setting
* Trivial matters (private knowledge)
* Spying, acquiring information one shouldn’t have
* “Leaks” – anonymous, secret, divulging gossip.
* Gossip fuels scandal
* Shared usually through face to face communication
* Traditionally associated with an intimate form of speech. Must trust the person will keep the secret and not condemn you. * Intimacy & Private confidence
* Gossip implies a level of trust and creates a bond
* Forges social...
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