Jan's Reviews > How to Become a Scandal: Adventures in Bad Behavior

How to Become a Scandal by Laura Kipnis
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's review
Jul 03, 11

bookshelves: non-fiction
Read in June, 2011

Ever wonder why people in "high places" always seem to get themselves embroiled in scandals that could have been (seemingly) easily avoided?

I don't think that Kipnis's book does a particularly good job of answering that question. At the end of it, I still don't understand really why high profile politicians (I'm looking at you, John Edwards) think they can father illicit love children and use campaign funds to support their mistresses without getting caught, or why high-profile male ministers rail loudly against homosexuality only to be caught in compromising situations with other males (*cough* Ted Haggard *cough*). Why put your neck out on the chopping block when it's fairly likely to get cut off? Perhaps it's hubris; perhaps they secretly want to get caught; I'm still not sure, and I don't think Kipnis is either.

However, that doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy this book. In fact, I still thought that it had a lot of interesting insight into human behavior. For example, I was particularly intrigued by her exploration of the media frenzy surrounding Lisa Nowak, the "crazy astronaut" who drove from Texas to Florida to confront her romantic rival. Why was the media so fascinated with this event? Did the nervous, tittering tone of the coverage belie the truth that lies underneath: that we all fear that we could some day become a Lisa Nowak? If this highly intelligent, well-trained, fully-evaluated woman could, basically, lose her s*!t, then who is immune to such crazy behavior?

So too did I enjoy her musings about Linda Tripp, the woman who broke the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal. Now, don't get me wrong, I have no sympathy for Linda Tripp, who seems like the worst friend a person could ever have, in addition to being a miserable human being. However, the media's attack on her was particularly vicious. Most everybody seemed more offended by her actions than they did the President's. Why is that? Does everybody just hate a tattle tale?

And ultimately, what is with our need as a populace for scandal? Nothing would be an outrage if we didn't decide that it was. The media is constantly trying to get us angry about something - I guess it sells more papers - but rarely about things that matter, in the grand scheme of things (ultimately, most of these so-called scandals are really only the business of the people involved). Why is that?

I know that she may have missed her mark, but I can't seem to get myself to penalize her for that. There was too much good stuff in this book to give it any less than 4 stars.
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