ISSUE-132

Scandals are useful because they focus our attention on problems in ways that no speaker or reformer ever could.


Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim. In developing and supporting your position, be sure to address the most compelling reasons and/or examples that could be used to challenge your position.


In late 20th-century American politics, one major event that changed the course of the United States is perhaps the resignation of President Richard Nixon. His stepping down from office can be seen as the direct result of the Watergate scandal, which drew extensive public attention to government accountability and the abuse of power. In this light, some put forward the argument that scandals are useful because they can focus our attention on issues that would otherwise go unnoticed. While I acknowledge that scandals are indeed very effective in attracting the public attention, more often than not the scandals are irrelevant to the most pressing issues faced by a society. Rather, most of the scandals we see today are petty and concern the private life of a public figure. Hence, I cannot agree that they are all that useful.


To begin with, it is undeniably true that our attention can be easily drew to scandals because our innate curiosity. That is, we always would like to know more about others, evidenced by our everyday tendency to gossip. When it comes to public figures this is even more obvious. For instance, another American President facing the challenge of impeachment is Bill Clinton, whose sexual scandal involving his office assistant drew national coverage. Interestingly, what most people were curious about was the details of the affairs between him and his assistant. Therefore, I agree with the assertion that scandals can direct our attention to issues in ways that no speaker or reformer could, since it is our human nature that is driving us.


That being said, the usefulness of a scandal is questionable even though our attention is drew. Some defendants of scandal’s usefulness would argue that exposing political figures wrongdoings can better hold those in power accountable, such as in the case of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton mentioned above. However, while in theory this is possible, in practice people rarely look into the deeper implications of scandals but rather focus on the façade. Let’s still take the case of Bill Clinton as an example, in which the articles of impeachment were actually not about the affairs, but based on his lying to the investigators. The public, on the other hand, was not interested in whether Bill Clinton was fit for the Oval Office. In today’s world, scandals abound and most of them are related to the private life of prominent public figures. The connection between their private lives and the welfare of the society is very slim. Thus, I very much doubt the usefulness of scandals.


All in all, while it is true that scandals are extremely powerful in grabbing our attention, most of the time they are pretty irrelevant to the most important social issues that require our attention, which substantially weakens the usefulness of scandals.


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