The Sceptic Blog

Random thoughts of a random chappy

The Apprentice – Rewarding Deceit

with 10 comments

1. In today’s episode of The Apprentice, Alan Sugar chooses to hire the only contestant caught deliberately lying in his application form. Message to the nation: try lying – it’s worth it: even if you get caught, nobody will care very much. Perhaps that’s why the BBC showed The Apprentice after the Watershed – teaching children to lie is worse than teaching them to use bad language.

2. What chance is the United Kingdom today giving its youth, when the media celebrate and exalt those whose ideals, if they ever learned any, are constantly subjugated to their desire for transient success?

3. Even a child who aspires to succeed at a healthy, wholesome sport like running, sees one of the media’s greatest sporting heroes – Paula Radcliffe – so desperate to win a marathon that she thinks it worth debasing herself to urinate in the gutter, while being filmed, rather than lose with dignity.

4. Alan Sugar makes no secret of being a Jew. What a shame that he cannot also demonstrate even a little of what it is to be Jewish. I am not talking about observance of the ritual laws, but about observance of the fundamental characteristics of the founders of our religion.

5. Abraham based our religion on kindness. The Apprentice is about getting on by putting other people down. The contestants are encouraged to fight in the boardroom as brutally as they can, having set each other up to fail so far as possible. When two of the contestants tried to bribe a shop-owner to ruin the other team’s chances I thought they would have to go – how could Sugar be seen to countenance even the possibility of having such people in his business? One of them stayed.

6. Isaac developed the characteristic of strength. Strength in rabbinic understanding is the ability to control oneself. Single-minded determination to win at all costs is the opposite of strength: it is the weakness to allow ambition to prevail over principle. The contestants in The Apprentice seem to care only about winning: as one of them actually said, there is nothing he would not do to win: the extremity of weakness being portrayed as praiseworthy strength.

7. Jacob developed the characteristic of truth. Truth appears to count for little in Sugar’s world. The winning contestant is the one who lied to get in; while one of the interviewers, proclaimed as a successful man of business, made light of this on the grounds that he had done it himself.

8. Many of us believe passionately that Judaism is not about social exclusivity, but about contributing to and being part of the real world. But that is difficult or impossible to do if the real world does not allow even basic standards of decent humanity to operate as the common denominator of acceptable behaviour.

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Written by Daniel Greenberg

June 11, 2008 at 10:28 pm

10 Responses

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  1. Lee was lucky, considering the inaccuracies on his CV. I only hope that readers don’t think that the quality of CVs and job applications is no longer important. Nothing could be further from the truth, in normal circumstances – i.e. when not part of a TV series. Usually, these documents are all that a prospective employer has on which to form important first impressions. Specialists can help with improving the standard of English on CVs and job applications – http://www.simplywords.co.uk, for example.

    Mr Dallas Willcox

    June 13, 2008 at 8:25 am

  2. I have a no-advertising policy which would normally have led me to filter out the “example” from the previous comment: but as a gesture of goodwill, seeing as how it’s nearly Christmas, I decided to leave it in (for now).

    Daniel Greenberg

    June 13, 2008 at 8:48 am

  3. To put a little balance, it should be said that a number of national newspapers also deplored the example this program was giving to the general population.

    Barry Freilich

    June 17, 2008 at 10:35 am

  4. True, but not until after I had already posted: you heard it first on the Greenberg.

    Daniel Greenberg

    June 17, 2008 at 11:23 am

  5. in my luach, Christmas is in Kislev.

    chaim chossid

    June 17, 2008 at 6:19 pm

  6. Quite right: but in the words of the old music-hall song, “Kislev is just around the corner”.

    Daniel Greenberg

    June 17, 2008 at 8:28 pm

  7. I have another topic on which you might wish to publish: please suggest an email address to which I should send it.

    Harvey Freeman

    June 23, 2008 at 9:05 am

  8. One of the candidates this year was also accused of lying on her CV as to how long she had held her job. she even admitted it but it was not mentioned again. Next year, Sir (Lord) Alan is planning a junior apprentice as well. I wonder whether the next generation will reflect the dishonest culture around them? It will be interesting to see.

    Avi Greenberg

    June 11, 2009 at 8:32 pm

  9. I think that this is an extremely subjective article. In truth, the apprentice as chosen had a poor educational background and came from a working class family with little or no aspirations. Perhaps he had to lie, just to get his foot in the door. Despite his mistruth, and there were mistruths from many of the candidates, he succeeded. I have thought long and hard about what you say, and I agree that one has to be honest to live a good life, but you are too quick to condemn this person for the crime of wishing only to personify the society that demands the archetypal apprentice: ruthless; commercially driven. Perhaps he did merely what he had to do in order to achieve, according to the image of what it is, in modern day society, to be successful. Is it fair to judge him? Is it his fault? Surely religion preaches against prejudging, and ignoring context and individual circumstance.

    Mr Chimp

    July 8, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    • I sympathise with much of this: and I agree that it is not for me to judge anybody else, in the sense of purporting to know what battles he or she has won or lost in developing his or her own character. But given that this is a national programme giving a message to those who watch it, it is appropriate for religious people to suggest their own reaction to that message. What is gained by lying is not worth gaining.

      Daniel Greenberg

      July 8, 2009 at 8:38 pm


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