Rabbi Boteach has counseled numerous celebrities, including Michael Jackson and Lindsay Lohan, and says that it is the height of Hollywood hypocrisy to dub Mr. Gibson a pariah at this point in his career, when he suggests the actor/director created what he calls a monument to anti-semitism years ago with his runaway hit, “The Passion of the Christ,” and was subsequently shown in the press to have repeatedly made anti-semitic comments. “Where were they back then?” he asks, adding that the only reason for the current shunning is that Gibson’s career is in a serious slump.
The threshold for even “pariah-for-a-day” status is getting lower with every scandal, says PR and reputation expert Adam Kluger. But there is no guarantee of absolution or condemnation for any given offense, he points out. “It is a mixture of many factors such as likability, past track record, and the seriousness of the deed,” he says. Today’s public figures, whether athletes, movie stars or politicians, have the added burden of zero privacy. “Most of us have done or said things we aren’t proud of, but we don’t have to see them going viral all over the Internet and then edited and mashed up with the worst parts played over and over,” he says. This, of course, is aside from the very real fact that in the entertainment world, a “bad boy” image is often good for a career.
The media’s role is fueling a downward spiral in shared moral values, says Walter Guarino, strategic communication professor at Seton Hall University and president of SGW Advertising Agency. “Sensationalism may have been upgraded in order to enhance sales,” he writes in an email, adding, “with the speed of online news, bad news travels faster than ever,” pointing to the ratings value of the recorded Mel Gibson phone call.