Memo to BP: You Can Run, but You Can't Hide

There are advantages to the relentless, 24-hour news cycle of our celebrity-obsessed media. Sometimes the bad guys get their due.

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Heavyweight champion Joe Louis could easily have been describing our moment many years ago when he famously warned his opponents, ''You can run, but you can't hide.''

In the context of covered-up child abuse by the Vatican, an environmental disaster of epic proportions created by British Petroleum, and the destructive motion through the room of counterfeit profit and equally counterfeit financial advice provided by Goldman Sachs, things have startled us awake in novel ways. We are at the edge of revolutionary response because high-flying public life has come to mean that the nature and the facts of corruption are now so interwoven with the 24-hour cable news cycle that devastation is hard to escape. This is especially true of those caught on camera with unmistakable evidence of their dubious acts.

The constant blizzard of fluff and the distractions of irresponsible reporting are what you get with freedom of speech, obviously. Yet the media's tendency to elevate the trivia tends to back down before things of actual weight. Even in a world steered toward lies and melodramatic exaggerations, dramatic truth sells much, much better. It's always worth a try. So the competition for viewers has made its unintentional impact on what was once unimpeachable but irresponsible, arrogant and corrupt brain drain at the top.

This competition is especially capable of landing mortal wounds when accompanied by images that have not been doctored so that things are made particularly clear. We saw the many victims of autocratic human arrogance writ so large and dangerous by the Catholic Church as it attempted to hold back the damning dawn of sunlight on the priests who had defiled the children and adolescents they were there to protect. Over and over, these pedophiles were passed from parish to parish like morally despoiled hot potatoes. Or looming through the boob tube were the topside suits of Goldman Sachs appearing with such disregard for the idea of fair play that those once thought of as the smartest guys in the room were exposed as bilking hustlers far beyond forgiveness.

If those personal appearances will not do, even those long done with the American sentimentality over nature can feel absolutely hostile toward big oil's irresponsibility at the televised sight of billowing plumes of brown muck or oil-covered pelicans futilely attempting to fly free of a greasy, man-made darkness.

Such images make it more than clear that dramatic change is on the way--not because we actually like or expect it. The imperatives of improvement are upon us in a relentless way that cannot be sidestepped. Republicans make it seem impossible to find anything truly wrong in or with the world of business, but I am sure ''Drill, baby, drill'' will not be chanted any time soon--or it will be soon forgotten.

 

If that responsible slogan had any chance of being forgotten, Republican Joe Barton reminded all of those who saw him apologize to BP at a nationally televised committee meeting in Washington for the company having experienced a ''shake-down'' at the hands of the White House. He said that in the morning and had apologized for apologizing by 4:30 that afternoon. Some elephants had obviously used those big ears to listen to the angry rumble shaking the ground in response.

Genuflecting to our celebrity culture comes with a price: It corrupts our national spirit and buck dances us all ever closer to decadence. We have come to believe that the shocking culture innately has something to do with rejecting repressive limitations, which is a fool's analysis. But the reality is that American popular culture has become the equivalent of thick mud covered with glitter. And yet, a chance at redemption has arrived, and we should grab it.

What is necessary should happen because the alternative has been proven to be exactly what it is and what people have long known. Yes, those at the top usually look out for themselves and might even create alliances with others almost exactly the same as themselves. But we are in a moment when unimpeachable power is taking a beating we never thought we would see.

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