Hypocrisy is a never-ending font of fun. And the truth is, many terrible people have given excellent advice at various points in their lives. Whether they follow that advice, or have followed it in creepy ways, is a different matter, but hey.
Such is the basis of Zac Bissonnette’s new book, Good Advice From Bad People: Selected Wisdom from Murderers, Stock Swindlers, and Lance Armstrong. He’s found and written essays about 75 compelling little gems, such as Bernie Madoff’s advice that “The best chance for the average investor is to put money in an index fund.” This is so, so true, and yet Madoff made his money when investors did not put their money in index funds, and instead invested it in his Ponzi scheme. If only people had taken his advice!
Then there is Dennis Kozlowski’s advice to new grads that “You will be confronted with questions every day that test your morals. Think carefully, and for your sake do the right thing, not the easy thing.” That would have been good advice for him to follow when faced with the temptation of the unauthorized bonuses that resulted in him serving time in prison.
Or consider Donald Rumsfeld’s sage observation that “It is easier to get into something than to get out of it.” Someone should have thought of that pre-Iraq, perhaps? These bits of advice just keep going, and made me both laugh and gasp. For instance, I learned that Jerry Sandusky’s memoir was actually called Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story. Yes, Touched. He wrote “I believe happiness…comes when you extend yourself and reach out to others. When you reach out with the loving, caring hand of concern to help someone find their way or to give them a little guidance or support along the way.” Reaching out is good. But it’s only now that we know exactly how Sandusky was reaching out those caring hands of his.
Bissonnette is at his best when he plays it straight (“What church scandal would be complete without allegations of homosexuality?”), telling the quote and then giving a short biographical run-down of exactly what breed of hypocrisy we are dealing with. Not all of the 75 essays zing, but enough do that this book is worth a read if you find the idea of good advice from bad people as funny as I do.