July 23, 2007
The Masters Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank

Dear Marketplace Friend, 

    I just spent two hours trying to patch a nail hole in a friend's reputation tire. What happened? He had been involved in a casual discussion - in a public place - with an unusual conversation partner. Someone had a video camera... and the whole dialog was digitized. Because my friend is well-known, the video was donated to YouTube, and the "private" conversation was now "on-line," and subject to misinterpretation. How would you like to live in a "hidden camera" world, with every casual word subject to widespread scrutiny and review?
    Every few weeks, I Google "Bob Shank." That's either an intense case of self-affection... or, a check-up on what's happening - to me, about me, regarding me - in the internet neighborhood. For me, no news is good news. There are a few other Bob Shanks who get top-billing. None are famous; all are weird-ducks (like me) in their own right... and not-at-all at risk of being confused for me. 
    In the old days, most of us ran in pretty small circles. Funeral homes were always built with 200 seats for a reason: that was more than enough capacity to house the maximum number of family, friends and coworkers who would attend your service. Back then, all you had to monitor was the busybody down the street, or the nothing-better-to-do coworker, or the "let me share a prayer request with you" shrew at church. If there was corrupting chatter going on about you, you could track it down pretty quickly. 
    The fields of journalism and photography have devolved into a bottom-feeder pursuit. Find high-visibility people, in any field... and find the dirt they don't want "out." The journalists search the past; the photographers snap the present. Any morsel that will morph into a character-killer will find its way into the public view, available for anyone with an hour to spare and a search engine to sniff. 
    Today, everything is super sized. It's bad enough to deal with that at dinner; it's even worse to head home and turn on the "news." Our presidential process has been super sized, leading up to 2008. It's gone from a 400 yard dash to a 26 mile marathon; on the heels of the '06 mid-term, the starting gun for the ‘08 general election misfired. It's not just a longer course; there are more runners. I considered filing for a while; considering the credentials of some of the fringers, I figured I had as much to offer as they did! 
    Put Paragraph #4 together with Paragraph #5, and what do you get? Expect the culture to be consumed - for the next year, plus - with the discoveries and disclosures of journalists and photographers, concerning the contenders for President of the United States. In the boxing ring, the referee usually meets the pugilists in the center and gives the order: "I want a clean fight," and then calls the foul when the punch goes below the belt. That's what makes prize fighting civilized; politics lacks that politeness. Find a flaw - from the past, or from the afternoon - and get it into circulation as quickly as possible. That's what we'll enjoy as we prepare for our polling duties in November 2008... 
    Unfortunately, that's enough to keep a majority of America's best away from the race. I mean, come on: if every move of every day in your life were to become widescreen news fodder, would you feel safe? 
    Technology may make us more aware of the 24/7 lifestyle audit, but it was underway long before the 'net made it popular. The "system" was always stacked to advance the person with a clean reputation. Cover-ups allowed some charlatans to climb the ladder... but, cover-ups don't work any more, in a world where every person with a cell phone is a videographer who can upload their candid camera exposé to a news network. 
    For Pilate - 2000 years ago - it was politically expedient to expose some flaws in Jesus' public image. Despite that temptation, his investigation of Jesus' life, message and actions brought him to a conclusion that history has never been able to dispute: "I find no basis for a charge against this man." (Luke 23:4) This man - a "professional" at finding fault - looked for the flaws in Jesus... and was skunked. 
    Don't know about you, but I'm living my life as if there are no "secrets." No "off time" when you can "let it all hang out." In the short-term, the whole world is my judge and jury. In the long-term, I'll answer to the Lord Jesus Christ - the One without faults - for the "works done, while in the body."

Bob Shank


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