"All the world's a stage..." - William Shakespeare
"In the future, everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes." - Andy Warhol
There exists nothing more hollow than an inauthentic admission of guilt. Not socialite snobbery; not universal entitlement; not political trendiness; not omnipresent advertising - Nothing. If I learned anything as a smartass, trouble-making youth, it was that if you don't genuinely feel remorse about something, it's better to just keep your mouth shut. Don't dig a deeper hole for yourself with false humility; it's always obvious and never fails to make you look even more clueless. At the very least, keep your insincerity low-profile; don't broadcast it to the entire world.
Despite an incalculable number of apology fails throughout history, it appears that we're now being presented with an entirely new brand of hypocrisy, one that wouldn't have been possible without the advent of YouTube. I'm calling it the "I Accidentally Killed a Human Being and Here's My Chance to Become Famous for Fifteen Minutes for Doing So" confession. To my knowledge, the lone transgressor (or innovator, depending on your perspective) is a young man named Matthew Cordle, and he deserves strong consideration for the most despicable human being alive. Not because he got drunk and used horrible judgment (far too many of us have been guilty of that to single out Mr. Cordle - myself included, unfortunately), but because he had the nerve to create a YouTube video rife with false humility to divert the attention from his crime in an attempt to paint himself out as some sort of tragic hero. To do so, he assumes the role of auteur, using sophisticated cinematography, expertly lit cut-scenes, a perfectly complementary soundtrack, and a scripted narrative to selfishly craft his story rather than focus on the real ramifications of what he did and the effect his actions have had.
For your viewing displeasure:
Despite what Academy-Award Nominated Director Matthew Cordle would have the world believe, this video is not intended as an apology to the victim's family, nor is it intended to dissuade individuals from driving drunk. It's nothing more than the attempt of a man who was already the primary suspect in the incident at the time of filming (mind you) to get ahead of the story and the impending legal proceedings by disingenuously proclaiming his guilt and making a perfunctory plea for responsible drinking.
Cordle is admitting to top-notch dip-shittery in one sentence, then posing as the brave trailblazer in the next. He desperately wants to convince us that he is sacrificing himself to spread a message, that he is falling on a proverbial sword for the benefit of humanity, but that's not what he's doing at all. He's admitting to something that those in the know already knew, yet he thinks that this admission somehow makes him noble. For Cordle, this is a far more comfortable perspective than reality, which is that he drove drunk and killed someone in the process.
The worst part about this sort of delusion is that it is extremely effective on both the individual and the world at large. Cordle is convinced that, since he wants to appear genuine, people will automatically assume he is genuine - and, in many cases, he's right. Immediately after this video was posted, there was an outpouring of support and admiration for the Oscar hopeful, but now that we've had some time to digest the implications of it, public opinion is quickly beginning to change.
What exactly is Cordle saying here? Sure, he admits to killing Mr. Canzani after hopping on the freeway traveling the wrong direction in late June of this year, but he does so because the police have already fingered him as the primary suspect - what difference does it make? Watch the video again; everything after his initial admission is spin. He's taking every route possible to distract from his actual role in the crash. Rather than truly accepting responsibility, he consistently uses words and phrases like "lost control," "depression," and "struggle" to describe his state of mind, his alcohol dependency, and his bogus regret.
If Mr. Cordle is so intent on waxing cathartic through accepting responsibility, why doesn't he actually do so? Why does he spend half of the video attempting to explain his actions rather than focusing on the damage he has done? When he implores the audience not to drink and drive, he frames the message in such away so as to deftly deflect his culpability: "Don't say it will never happen to you because it happened to me," drones Cordle toward the end of his bit of cinema. Nice sentiment, I suppose, but this didn't just happen; it wasn't simply an accident. Mr. Cordle set these events in motion with his own actions. If he would've expressed this, it's possible that this video would have been viewed differently. But he didn't, so it won't be - which isn't to say that there won't be waves of copycat confessions until this just becomes business as usual.
True humility doesn't involve excuses. As painful as it can be, the truth has the transcendent quality of righting past wrongs. It seems as though Cordle is somewhat aware of this fact, but too afraid to put it into action.
For all the mock candor, snappy #'s, and melodramatic reveals, this video is still a fascinating, albeit sick, cultural development. It's a new form of confessional that is based on my generation's perverse obsession with delusional self-presentation. We've gotten to the point where we're so inundated with B.S. that we don't even question it anymore. We're repeatedly forced to swallow it, and slowly this is becoming a normative phenomenon - as evidenced by the thousands of comments below the video praising Cordle's "bravery." Based on the absurd amount of hits (not to mention attention) that this video is getting, it seems fair to assume that this is just the next step downward on the descending spiral staircase that is the Internet Age. Autonomy is a wonderful thing, but the technological revolution has repeatedly shown that it doesn't always mix well with matters of morality.
Still, even in the event that any of Cordle's rehearsed musings rang with even the slightest hint of sincerity, it would be difficult to accept his confession as truly authentic. There was no need for him to attempt to convince the world of his remorse; true contrition would have involved a far greater measure of private silence than public speech. The instant he uploaded this short film to YouTube, he lost any speck of credibility. The video has suddenly become a national talking point rather than a straightforward, humble admission of guilt. The principle event has been moved to the periphery of the story he created, which was surely the plan all along. Suddenly, we're not mourning another victim of inebriated poor decision-making, we're debating the merits of an admitted killer.
Meanwhile, the deceased has a family that has not only lost a loved one, but has now been placed under the national microscope. They've been left out of this conversation, but they're the ones who have lost the most. Angela Canzani, Vincent's daughter, recently spoke with a news station in Columbus, saying "Every time that anything comes up, this whole thing has made the death of my father fresh. I feel like he died all over again. And all I keep hearing about is the message, and what people seem to forget is that a person is dead."
If you disagree with me, if you think that Matthew Cordle is a noble, yet tortured, young man who is carrying the torch for responsible drinking in this country, bear this in mind: In 228 seconds of calculated rambling, Matthew Cordle never once actually says the word "sorry." But I guess since he started a Twitter campaign, we should forget why he felt compelled to make the video in the first place.
Peterson, Hayley. "Woman Says the Drunk Driver Who Killed Her Father and then Confessed on YouTube Is Forcing Her Family to Relive the Trauma of Their Loss." Daily Mail. News. 9/11/13 Web. 9/13/13.