My family is traveling, with our home base in Cincinnati, Ohio this week. Yesterday, we got the opportunity to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, located on the riverfront here in Cincinnati. It was sobering, uncomfortable, and inspiring - all at the same time.
Our 20/20 hindsight makes it difficult to understand how slavery was defended. Politicians defended it as right and necessary (and we think that awful politicians are a new invention…). Businessmen claimed it fueled the economy; and, in large part, they were correct. Scientists claimed that people of African descent were inferior; while they were often stronger and more resilient, they drew the short straw when it came to intelligence. That’s why owning them is OK. (Beware of “settled science”…) Even Africans themselves would raid other villages and tribes, capture people to sell to the white man, for their own financial gain.
That being said - the most uncomfortable part of this was how the preachers provided supposedly biblically-based cover for all this. Sermons were preached about the inferiority of those with darker skin, and how they are ordained by God to be subservient to the white man. (This was throughout North, Central, and South America - this isn’t just a U-S-of-A sin.)
Why was that uncomfortable? It’s no secret that I’m a Christian, recently coming on staff with my church. We, as Christians, must be sure that we faithfully divide the Word of Truth so that our ancestors do not look back on us with the same shame I felt when I heard my ancestors. They got it wrong - from the bottom to the top, point-blank, wrong. We are all made in the image of God, not a one of us more or less valuable or worthwhile than another. This does not mean that we completely capitulate to the current cultural zeitgiest, deciding that abortion is A-OK or that the clear prohibition of homosexual behaviors were somehow misconstrued. It means that we, as people of the Word, must make sure that when we stand up and say “thus saith the Lord,” that we’re correct.
The most sobering part of the museum had to be the “modern day slavery” section. I knew that slavery still existed under different names, but the prevalence statistics were quite sobering. (I didn’t memorize them, so I can’t quote them; suffice it to say, unless you’ve looked into it, it’s higher than you think.) We must ensure that, while we’re looking for the best deal, or the least expensive way to get something, that we’re not enabling modern-day slavery. From unfair labor practices (a big reason I’m against illegal immigration, BTW), to excessively cheap textiles, to service staff, to prostitution and pornography - the market for these things are the current demands that run the engine of modern-day slavery.
Now, apart from the statistics I mentioned in the last paragraph (and some of the details of the “regulated” slave trade), none of what I’ve mentioned above was new to me; it was just sobering (and good) to be reminded of it. I was also impressed with the even-handed display explaining the 3/5 compromise. (For those unaware, it was Southerners who wanted slaves counted as whole people; Northerners didn’t want them counted at all, but agreed to 3/5 to placate the South. It was about apportionment of seats as it related to proportional representation, not an indication of one’s humanity.) As with anything, there were a few places where this language was inappropriately applied, but all in all, I was greatly enriched from our visit there.
Let freedom ring; let us Christians amplify the sound, whether others use that freedom to choose the way we hope they would - or not.
These thoughts all center around issues related to the recently deluge of revelations regarding sexual misconduct.
Men should always treat women with respect. Women should always treat men with respect. However, to deny that we live in a world where what “should” and what “are” will never be aligned.
The vast majority, if not the totality of the current misconduct allegations, are against men. The vast majority (I can think of two exceptions in the past year) of teacher sexual misconduct allegations are against women. I’m surprised there haven’t been studies on this disparity; absent those, though, this does point to power as an enabling factor in these cases.
The oversexualization of our society has been a net loss. Even natural expressions of non-sexual friendship and love, such as hugs among friends or a parent kissing a child, are viewed as scandalous. Even a literal pat on the back for a job well done can be misconstrued, and playfulness is simply too great a risk. I fail to see how this is a good thing.
Mike Pence took a lot of ridicule over his stances regarding meetings with women. In nearly every one of these recent revelations, had the men involved had the same stance, we wouldn’t even be talking about this. We certainly wouldn’t be talking about hundreds of victims, mostly female or underage.
Along similar lines - there is one worldview that acknowledges women’s inherent vulnerability in these areas, and provides protection for them prior to marriage and freedom to seek fulfilment within it. It also enjoins men to be repectful, treating women to whom they are not married as they would their own sister and mother. It’s a shame it’s fallen out of favor among so many, who don’t realize the freedom one experiences when one is prevented from even being put in the situation of having to make a potentially devastating choice.
Finally, of course there are people who claim the above worldview and use it (or use the claim of it) to their own nefarious advantage. This brings us back to the first thought above. The existence of people who misuse or fail to live up to the ideal doesn’t mean that the ideal is flawed; it’s the people who are flawed.
No, this isn’t about Harvey Weinstein per se; he is but the latest in a long string of issues where Hollywood (used here as a proxy for the movie/TV industry as a whole) cannot seem to see its own hypocrisy. People in Hollywood tend to get the large part of their fame from literally pretending to be somebody else. (Yes, I know, it’s called “acting.”) When Hollywood decides to get political, though, they tend to be virulently against anything representing conservative principles and values. The “why” behind that is multi-facted: liberalism sounds more compassionate at first blush; those mean, nasty conservatives are the ones against our edgier art; I’m surrounded by these people and I don’t want to rock the boat.
Whatever the motivation, though, the Weinstein scandal exposes just another area where Hollywood claims to advocate one thing, but their product and actions contradict themselves.
On screens large and small, guns are everywhere. The criminals have them, the police have them (though sometimes the police are the criminals), and the really good guys can use them to fight for good (think Jason Bourne, or the Taken franchise). Yet, more than 9 out of 10 denizens of Hollywood are pro gun-control legislation, to the point where blood was still drying on the pavement in Las Vegas when they began beating that drum again. (I don’t even have time to get into the entire “silencer” thing; I think that they think those work the way they do in the movies, not the way they actually do.)
Well, Hollywood - you’ve shown us how things get resolved. Bringing in the firepower is the way you fix situations.
Hollywood got on the glow-bull warming train a long, long time ago, and has amplified every doomsday and “man is killing the planet” claim that came along. They are so impassioned about this that they attend global conferences about this pressing issue… in their private jets, the mostly-least-efficient way to get there. Their primary homes are large mansions, and they usually have vacation homes as well. (This isn’t simple envy; I’d live in a mansion and get away to my vacation home too - if I could afford it. I just wouldn’t claim that I’m saving the planet from a death sentence while doing it.) The logisitics required to produce a blockbuster movie are staggering - yet they use them time and again, to line their pockets.
Actions speak louder than words; you say it’s a problem, but your behavior tells us otherwise.
Speaking of lining one’s pockets…
Hollywood is greatly concerned with the topic of income inequality. I mean, it’s just not right that women earn 77 cents on the dollar as compared with men! (Well, except for the fact that, in reality, that number was poorly calculated when it first came out, and even that same flawed calculation gives a larger number now.) Yet, Hollywood continues to have very few female leads, and even when they do, there are often also male leads, who are earning double or more for the same film. It may be hard for us to think that there’s really that much difference between $5 million and $10 million.
It’s not just gender issues, either; at every opportunity, they support government programs to give things away, whether it’s medical care, food, or tax exemptions. Of course, it’s the government giving this things away, not them; compared to more conservative parts of the country, charitable contributions are low. In fact, what often passes for “charity” in Hollywood are dinners where the actual stars simply show up; the thousands-per-plate prices are paid by the well-connected but lesser-known people.
Plus - these folks amass their millions off the backs of the ~$10 ticket prices paid by average people. As a generally free-market guy, I’m not faulting them for extracting the value they believe society places on their craft. It does seem to me, though, they could be a bit more magnanimous instead of deriding the very people whose money has given them such a comfortable and fabulous life.
There is one place where actress salaries outpace actor salaries - the adult film industry. Which leads us to…
We’ll talk about Weinstein, et. al. - but let’s look at some history first. For years, decades, Hollywood has ridiculed those of us who have bemoaned the increasing vulgarity and explicit sexuality, telling us that a) it was artistically necessary to advance their story; b) it’s just a fictional story; and c) lighten up, you prudes! Now, I am not unaware of the balancing act between showing enough for people to get the point and not becoming gratuitous (this doesn’t apply exclusively to sexual content). If two people are kissing at the end of a date, the screen fades to black, and the next scene are them both in PJs at the breakfast table - does that not advance the story just as much as an extended scene with nudity, thrusting, and noises?
Traditional sexual morality has never been Hollywood’s interest. At times, the portrayals are setups to show the negative consequences of those actions; more frequently, they’re either just straight titillation, or they’re done by characters for whom we’re now rooting. Their private lives mirror their art; in fact, the term “Hollywood marriage” describes a union of two beautiful people which will only last until the next opportunity comes along.
The “casting couch” has become legend, and enterprising women decided that they could use their assets to break through that way, literally sleeping their way to the top. It’s a terrible thing to spell out that way, but facts are often terrible. Hollywood is not alone in this scenario; business, politics, and sports also have their stories of powerful men who used women for their own pleasure, maybe with the promise of preferential treatment or advancement. I’m glad that they are starting to see that this is a bad deal, but are you the ones telling us conservatives that we have a “War on Women” because we don’t want the government to pay for killing a baby in a woman’s womb?
I doubt anyone from Hollywood is reading this, and it’s already longer than I’d set out to write, so I’ll wrap this up here. I’m glad that a lot of people are coming forward to tell their stories and condemn Harvey Weinstein; it would mean a whole lot more if they had done so before it became trendy to do so. In summary, here’s how I see the recent action taken by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences:
An organization, whose members still include Roman Polanski and Bill Cosby, decided to expel Harvey Weinstein.
These thoughts all center around issues of our current discussions on race relations, Confederate memorials, etc.
People who are not neo-Nazis or white supremacists all believe that they hold to morally reprehensible views. White people who miss an incident and do not immediately decry it should not be assumed to be “with them.” Their numbers are quite small, and while they are being more vocal as of late, we should be thankful they are few.
Lots of folks are opposed to the concepts of “white power,” “white supremacy,” or “white pride.” Lots of folks also find it nearly as reprehensible when you change “white” to any other term. Diversity is great, but our current iteration seems to be focused on our differences more than our similarities; it should rather be focused on a richer unity.
You can be against white supremacists, and against Antifa. You can even believe that we’d all be better off if everyone just stayed home and did things in a way that wouldn’t so easily escalate to violence. And, you can be assured that if you felt the president’s initial remarks were a strong rebuke, you’re not alone.
It would be a lot easier for some of us to be more vocal if we didn’t have this false duality, where to be against one “side” aligns yourself with other. The left has proved themselves the biggest group of sore winners in the world, and any sort of firm, quick “win” in this area will just embolden them to mob-rule their way on top of whatever the next grievous ill they determine. (“THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!” - yes, that’s why the founders gave us a republic, if we can keep it…)
I do not believe that race relations, nationwide, are nearly as bad as they’re made out to be whenver these flash points arrive. Regular people should not buy into the divisiveness an excessive focus on these issues can bring; rather, we should each make positive steps to be friendly, understanding, and helpful. Seek out similarities, don’t point out differences.
The same people who sneeringly chide that Antifa is the good guys, because “you’re supposed to be anti-fascist,” don’t see to see the irony of massing against an event called a “free speech rally.” Of course, the main issues are a) just because you’re prone to violence doesn’t mean you’re legally allowed to stamp out fascists; and b) who decides who is a fascist? Ditto for the Southern Poverty Law Center and “hate groups;” their lists have long ago outstretched the credulity of any fair-minded individual.
I wonder if, now that our country has recently seen how distasteful racism is, if people understand why Tea Party members were so bothered by that same (proved unfounded) allegation? I wonder if anyone feels that they owe them an apology?
(Some of you may recognize this format as one used by the highly-esteemed and, sadly, now-retired Thomas Sowell. The above is an homage to him and his pithy insights he would share from time to time. Do a search for “thomas sowell random thoughts” if you want to be enlightened.)
We all agree that the seceded States, so called, are out of their proper practical relation with the Union; and that the sole object of the government, civil and military, in regard to those States is to again get them into that proper practical relation. I believe it is not only possible, but in fact, easier, to do this, without deciding, or even considering, whether these states have even been out of the Union, than with it. Finding themselves safely at home, it would be utterly immaterial whether they had ever been abroad. Let us all join in doing the acts necessary to restoring the proper practical relations between these states and the Union; and each forever after, innocently indulge his own opinion whether, in doing the acts, he brought the States from without, into the Union, or only gave them proper assistance, they never having been out of it.
…I think it wiser moreover not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife & to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.
I missed this in 2013, and this is not a 3-post series as usual. Instead of writing a lot about each topic, I’ll give a short reason I categorized it where I did. Please make no assumptions or conclusions about what I don’t say; the fact that people are so apt to do that should probably make the “Bad” list, but not this year. Since this is a single post, we’ll lead with…
No Terrorism at World Stage Events - 2014 saw the Winter Olympics in Russia and the World Cup in Brazil. Neither were marred by terrorism.
16 Out of 20 Ain’t Bad - Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood did not want to provide coverage for 4 of the 20 forms of “birth control” mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as they work post-conception (an “abortofacient”). The Supreme Court agreed, in a rare victory for religious freedom.
Plummeting Oil Prices - In spite of the current administration’s best efforts, our economy overcame them. The “Drill, Baby, Drill” crowd was vindicated, as an explosion in US oil production caused prices to drop substantially. Fracking has enabled this boom while preserving the environment, and the drop in prices has hit hostile-to-us oil-based economies hard. It’s a big win-win that progressives still can’t throughly grasp.
Republicans Win Control of Congress - This is a qualified “good” entry, assuming that they’ll govern as they ran. Hey, there’s a first time for everything, right?
Tennessee Football Rises - Playing an SEC schedule and non-gimme out-of-conference games with the youngest team in FBS is a recipe for a 3-9 season; the Vols made it 6-6 (and, since this is written after their bowl, 7-6) and have great momentum for 2015.
The Deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner - Neither the Brown nor Garner families had loved ones with them this Christmas that they had last Christmas. There may be speculation as to the incidents surrounding their deaths (and neither are going to trial, so we’ll likely never fully know), but even the public knowing every little detail of what happened will not bring these young men back to their families.
Colorado Going to Pot - The first year’s experiment with legalized marijuana has not gone well. Assurances that children will not be able to easily get it have evaporated, and nearly all the tax money it’s generated has gone to enforcement. Their governor caught some heat for saying that the citizens acted foolishly, but the facts certainly indicate he was correct in his assessment.
Ebola - 2014 was the year Ebola came to America. While there were some ridiculous things with how it was handled, the bad was limited, with some who contracted the disease surviving, and a new set of medical protocols helping to protect those who care for people.
ISIS - Nearly 10 years after being freed, Iraq fell back into enslavement thanks to a group coming in to make a hostile takeover, combined with an army that was not willing to fight for what it had won. Islamic law marches on, while Christians die, in a place where thousands of Americans gave their lives to win freedom.
Russian Aggression Versus Ukraine - Russia invaded and took over part of another sovereign nation. They do not appear to be done yet.
The Handling of the Death of Michael Brown / The Reaction to the Brown Grand Jury Verdict / The Reaction to the Garner Grand Jury Verdict - Ferguson and Missouri police handled the initial aftermath of Brown’s shooting about as poorly as you could. The riots once the grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson were unnecessary and unhelpful (and unwanted by Michael Brown’s family), and the “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” gesture would have been impactful had it been based in verified fact (which it was not). This was also the case where “unarmed teen” is supposed to imply harmless, peaceful, law-abiding child, but video showed a certain store owner who would dispute that characterization. Once the Garner verdict came out, there were die-ins all across the country, proving nothing, but inconveniencing people who had nothing to do with anything surrounding the case. Two dead New York policemen and one in Florida, at last reports, still hadn’t brought Michael Brown or Eric Garner back to their families. (If I have a chance, there will be much more on this in my MLK post.)
p.s. ALL lives matter.
Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Missing E-mails - Under oath, and subpoena from Congress, IRS chief Lois Lerner claimed to have lost her e-mail. This was after other e-mails came out that pretty much confirmed their deliberate targeting of conservative groups leading up to the 2012 election. While those e-mails were “found” toward the end of the year, this Watergate-esque dodge was pathetic. IT does not work that way, and if it does, those people need to be fired.
Computer Security - This was a bad year for computer security. “HeartBleed,” “Shell Shock,” and “Poodle” were names given to long-existing exploits that were discovered in the software that runs much of the Internet. Target fessed up about how large their breach was, and Home Depot let a lot of customer information get away as well. Finally, targeted attacks released iCloud data from celebrities, while an (internal? North Korean? We don’t know yet…) attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment released salaries, movies, even e-mails among leaders and actors. (Maybe we should sic the Guardians of Peace on the IRS!) Hopefully some good will come of this; if nothing else, it will make people think about security before they trust a “cloud” service with their information.
Kaci Hickox - Kaci is a nurse who was exposed to Ebola. She defied quarantine, though, and created a lot of concern. While she ultimately was not found to have the disease, her foolish, selfish actions stirred up a lot of concern in her community. As a medical professional, she should have known better. But, of course, if she had, then her name wouldn’t be on some random guy’s blog in a year-in-review post, would it?
“Same vocabulary, different dictionary.” This is the way Skip Heitzig described false teachers in a recent sermon on 2 Peter 2. That certainly is good to remember when it comes to theological matters; think about how many different definitions, just in evangelical circles, you have of the word “worship” and of its role in the life of the church and believer.
It works outside the realm of the directly-theological as well. Take the CIA report released last week. I’ve been seeing a lot of banter back and forth over the results of the report, but relatively few questioning its characterization. Even though pretty much everyone is against “torture,” there are competing definitions at work. If we just debate back and forth without addressing the root issue, we’re simply reinforcing the “other side”'s view of us.
Now, to be fair, it’s generally the left who like to redefine things. Racist no longer means “one race is superior”; rather, it covers a host of things, from ethnically-related comments, stereotypes, or even common insensitivity, if the object has a different ethnicity from the one who is offended. Rape is expanded to include a whole lot of things that are not really rape, including simple after-the-fact regret. Marriage means something today that it has never meant throughout millennia of history. And, somewhere along the way, freedom of speech has been replaced with freedom from offense, and freedom of association has been replaced with freedom to compel.
That being said, I’m not necessarily advocating for “the right” either - it’s not about the right, it’s about being right. We cannot flourish, either as a Christian or as a society, if we do not share a common lexicon. And, until we do, it is futile to try to defeat one person’s argument with an argument that has an entirely different meaning. All you’ve got is ships passing in the night. Same vocabulary, different dictionary.
Shame. Judge. Bully. Three words that we’ve seemingly redefined, but only on one side of the equation. The words still carry their negative weight when they’re used to label someone or their actions. However, the bar at which those labels get slapped on is becoming very, very low.
How do we fix it?
Stop. If you’re accusing someone using these terms, stop. (You don’t have to stay stopped - keep reading.)
Investigate. I don’t want to hear that this person is a bully (a subjective, opinionated statement); I want to hear what they did that is so reprehensible. See, I want to save my moral outrage for truly outrageous things. If I got upset over every accusation, my outrage machine would have been tapped out long ago.
Do not respond to uncomfortable questions with one of these accusations. Just because someone makes you feel uncomfortable with what they said does not mean that they’ve done something shameful. Are you truly offended at the question? Or are you offended that their question hit the nail on the head?
If, after 2 and 3, you still believe that their actions rise to those levels, then by all means, apply them. Just realize that by applying those labels, you’re shaming - something you say people shouldn’t do. If you get a bunch of people to do it, and harass the person over it, you’re bullying - something you say people shouldn’t do. And, by looking at actions and deeming them shameful, you have also made a judgment. (gasp!)
Pointing out facts is not shaming.
Moral disagreement is not judging.
Coercing behavior is not necessarily bullying.
When you point a finger at someone, you will often find 3 pointing back at yourself.
(Stay tuned, where in our next segment we discuss “Even if they’re a horrible person, does what they’re saying have a valid point?”.)
Who would have thought that a beauty pageant would bring rape to the forefront of American conversation? Yet, this year’s Miss USA pageant has done just that, in two different aspects. As you may have already surmised, this post will deal with rape by name, but in the abstract. You have been warned.
First up is the winner, Nia Sanchez. She entered the competition as Miss Nevada, and it is her interview answer that’s getting the attention. She was asked about the spike in rapes on college campuses, and she replied:
“I believe that some colleges may potentially be afraid of having a bad reputation, and that would be a reason it could be swept under the rug, because they don’t want that to come out into the public. But I think more awareness is very important so women can learn how to protect themselves. Myself, as a fourth-degree black-belt, I learned from a young age you need to be confident and be able to defend yourself, and I think that is something we should start to implement for a lot of women.”
Now, you may be reading that thinking, “OK, where’s the controversy?” The backlash has been mostly from leftist feminists, with a common response being “Instead of telling women to defend themselves and victim-blaming, why don’t we tell men not to rape?”
Now, I’m going to set this off in a larger font, in bold, all-capital letters, so that if any of these lunkheads venture over here, it’ll stand out, and maybe they’ll get the point.
ADVOCATING SMART SELF-DEFENSE IS NOT VICTIM BLAMING!
See, you can tell men all you want not to rape, and the vast majority of them will get it. In actuality, the vast majority aren’t rapists to begin with, contrary the leftist feminist talking points. A large number of victims does not equate to a large number of perpetrators. So, by all means, educate. The men who grew up raping in video games or watching rape fantasy pornography may have their minds reoriented, and not become perpetrators.
That leaves us with the men who will not alter their behavior, and continue to think it’s OK for them to do that. Why in the world would you get onto someone for advocating that women learn how to defend themselves? I’ve been around a while, and this tip-toeing around the defense issue has done nothing but make the numbers of victims skyrocket. Punch, kick, shoot - whatever it takes, learn the skills to give yourself the greatest chance to not become a victim.
Let me take a quick minute to address the “victim blaming” charge. There are people who do this; however, there are people who would categorize what I’ve written above, particularly that last sentence, as victim blaming. Those people are just as useless as actual victim blamers. Yes, a woman should be able to do whatever she wants and maintain a reasonable expectation that no one will take from her what she has not offered. But, we don’t live in a “should” world, we live in an “is” world. An “after-action analysis” type of look at these events can yield information that could make this less likely. We have no trouble telling women to walk to their cars in pairs, and to park under a light, to avoid getting mugged. But, if we make that same situation as a smart way to reduce your risk for rape, now we’re victim blaming? Now, if you take that analysis and start saying, “Well, you knew you couldn’t hold your liquor, and you had 7 drinks” to imply that the woman had a hand in it, you’re venturing into victim blaming territory.
To take this thought one step further - let’s say that we can eliminate all rape in the next 15 years through education. Are they really arguing that it’s smart for women to leave themselves more vulnerable for the next 15 years? If so, I would put these leftist feminists into the “rape culture enablers” camp. A good self-defense class takes a couple of weeks to complete. If the men won’t get educated, let’s make sure they get hurt.
On a much more positive note, we have Valerie Gatto, Miss Pennsylvania. After the competition, she revealed that she was conceived during a rape. (See, Todd Akin? You moron…) That part isn’t good, but what is good is what happened after that. Her mother was going to give her up for adoption, but decided to keep her, and worked to raise her in a loving home. Now, she is using her platform to support those who have gone through similar situations. Who knows, maybe she can be the poster child for the people the “rape exception” abortion people want to keep from being able to draw breath.
A friend posted this picture earlier today, and combined with another headline I read, really got me thinking. A good portion of this started out as a comment under that picture, but then I thought “Why should Facebook get these thoughts for free?”
One of the arguments against large corporations is that they are unjust; and, as much as those of us who recognize them as the energy driving the gears of our economy, they have proved by their actions that they need checks and balances to prevent that very thing. The key, of course, is to strike the right balance where growth is not hindered, but abuse is prevented.
Now, consider the pharmaceutical industry. The desire to produce medicines to help people live fuller lives is a good thing, but this picture (and the society it accurately represents) proves that they are no more immune to self-serving actions as the oft-termed “evil” coporations that produce food, consumable goods, technology, etc.
How about higher education? I don’t think anyone reading this ever heard, going through high school, “You know, when you finish here, you should go ahead and get a job, and be productive.” No, we all heard “Graduation is just the beginning; you need a 4-year degree before you’re really ready! Because it’s so important, we’ll outright give you some money, and lend you the rest; don’t worry, this will be easy to pay off once you’re out there making six figures!” Yet, who is benefiting from our current under-30 sea of student loan debt? Colleges and banks, that’s who. Meanwhile, students are finding no job market for their degrees. Were they sold a useless product?
The point is that, in each of these cases, the original thought was a good one. This product will make people’s lives better. This pill will take away pain. This knowledge will give you a leg up in the world. Then, bit by bit, that germ of an idea grows, until you end up with something large and successful, which leads to an increasingly self-serving outlook. It’s the old “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” thing in real life.
The key to this is character in those who gain this notoriety. However, we cannot control others. In our fallen state, the one thing we can control is our reaction. Do we really need that product? Have these degrees really lead to higher incomes? Do these drugs’ claims make sense? “Buyer beware” is always good advice. If more people took it, maybe the market for the speculative advertising that has launched these areas into such heights would dry up, and they would have to start being more honest about what they can really provide.
One final note - government is no more immune to this than education, medicine, or corporations.