As nooze stories go, it has all the elements necessary to become an out of control frenzy – sex, a rising star, and the shiny-kewl allure of an internet fad. The scandal involving Rep. Anthony Weiner was bound to be horribly over-played, and it has been. Yet there is so much missing from the breathless hours already reported that it’s worth looking at much deeper.
What we was lost immediately in the frenzy was any sense of humanity and, as could be expected, a complete lack of introspection by those involved in the “reporting”.
Before I get started, I want to make it clear that I’m not condoning what this guy did. It was selfish and childish, points I consider obvious. If he can’t represent his district properly anymore he should resign, putting his “career” second – if Elliot Spitzer can bounce back with his own show, Weiner should do fine.
But what drove him to behave this way? It’s a simple question that I’ve never seen asked in all the speculation around this story. Here’s a driven, serious man at 46 who is probably feeling a little of the “second adolescence” that is common at midlife. He’s also expecting the birth of his first child, a time when any man has tremendous anxiety. In addition, Weiner has been getting a lot of exposure on teevee lately as a fiery spokesman for the left, certainly giving him a feeling of incredible power. The stress must have been incredible.
What he needs now, or really needed a month or two ago, is a close friend to pull him aside and say, “I know you, this isn’t you. Cut it the Hell out, now!” That, and a good dope slap. But that didn’t happen as far as I know.
The only essay I’ve found with a shred of humanity is this excellent analysis by Scott Adams of Dilbert (thanks, Meghan!) on how and why men sometimes do very stupid things for sex. Adams isn’t a reporter, he’s just a guy with a sense of reality. But if he can get it, why didn’t anyone in the nooze?
What I’ve seen of the exchanges on twitter shows me a man who is awkward with women and probably never acted like this before. I know because I’m the same way and I can relate to this guy. The phenomenon we’re seeing here is probably the flip-side of “flame wars”, where people act differently when there is a machine between them and the person they are “talking” to. But when we get into machines the focus of any article is going to be the kewlness, not the people. Here’s an article that attempted to play off of the scandal by, in my view, utterly missing the point. Somewhere in here is a good novel (that I need to finish, BTW).
Beyond all of this, however, is the real question as to how this got to the news in the first place. A certain sleazy “reporter” who practices the “gotcha” moment has been feeding this all along, now peddling in pornography for mass consumption. Given that Weiner has been one of the few Democrats with a real spine and the fact that his accuser has a track record of less than ethical behavior we have to at least consider that this has been a set-up from the start. How did all those pictures and exchanges come out so carefully, measured out day by day, to keep the scandal boiling? There is little question that big media has been at least manipulated, even if it was pure opportunism on the part of the one pushing the story. But if it was all a trap there is a much more interesting story at the heart of this, one where the playground of politics has managed to turn even nastier thanks to willing accomplices in the nooze.
Where does this take us? Hopefully to a point of silence where a family can start putting their lives back together. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t see this as the most over-hyped nooze item they’ve seen in a very long time. But for all that noise there has been an awful lot unsaid. That’s what’s really sick here, in my opinion. But I’d love to know what you think, too.