Monday, June 13, 2011

The Case of Anthony Weiner

One of the least appealing features about being a political scientist in the U.S. is the intense media scrutiny of the personal lives of political figures.  I have never considered such peccadilloes to be of much interest to me, so long as it does not impact their job, violate any laws, and the person is not being a two-faced hypocrite.  This is why I tend to have a great distaste for Republican sex scandals.   Not because of the scandal per se (minus the law-breaking aspect [if there is one]), but because it is a party whose adherents constantly tell us how to live our lives and how the government should be legislating morality on us all, when they are themselves violating the principles they claim to believe in.  There are few worse crimes in my eyes (other than those of a purely criminal nature) than hypocrisy.

I have looked back on Rep. Weiner's career, and I cannot recall the last time he advertised himself as a 'family values' type of officeholder.  Not one denunciation of anyone else for his/her private behavior.  Not a single call for resignation of any of his political opponents for being unable to keep their marital vows.  Anthony Weiner is many things, but he is not a hypocrite.

As far as I can tell, although who knows how this will play out in the coming days and weeks, Rep. Weiner has violated no laws.  His greatest moral crimes are being a louse, as a husband and person, and a liar (to his wife and his constituents).  He did not even have sex with anyone he sent sext messages to (which in itself would still not be against the law).  He did not pay anyone for sex, like Senator Vitter and Rep. Ken Calvert have done (and ended up getting re-elected anyway).  He has not harmed anyone other than his wife and probably his marriage.  If Rep. Weiner is to resign over what he has done, up to this point, someone needs to explain to me why Senator Vitter should still be allowed to occupy space in the U.S. Senate, never mind Rep. Calvert (who was arrested after being caught in the act with a prostitute in his own car).

If Rep. Weiner should be excoriated for anything, it is his habit of sending unsolicited sext messages and pictures to women, many of whom were simply trying to engage him in political conversation.  This is a past-time I do not engage in, so maybe I am wrong in what I am writing, but it would seem common sense to me for a man to not send women (he has yet/never met) compromising pictures of himself and sexually suggestive text messages.  Maybe this is what our culture has come to, that it is suitable now for people to behave this way, that we have finally come full circle and drafted a member of Congress to be the first guinea pig for ethics in social media networking.  And one cannot use age as an excuse because Weiner is a 46 year old man, much older than myself, and a man who did not even start using the internet probably until he was in his 30s (in other words, he did not grow up with the internet or utilize it for the purposes that has ensnared the congressman in his current quandary).

Rep. Weiner's interactions with women on the internet, though, is the part I find most interesting, more so than his pictures or messages (which the media concentrates on [OK, so I posted one with Charlie Sheen pasted in the background]).  With the recent advent of social networking in our lives, what is normal conduct for people online?  It seems to me from the message boards I read that people and the messages/responses they post are more licentious and aggressive (and abusive) than how we behave in everyday life.  However, much of that is on account of the anonymous nature of being online.  Weiner behaved the way he did as a public figure, never attempting to hide his identity from anyone (until he was caught, of course).  It makes you wonder what he was like when he was posting anonymously or meeting women on the streets.  It does not bode well for him as a person, but then it is entirely possible he lived a different life online. 

Still, if Weiner did live a different life online, if indeed he treated women he ran into more respectfully than the ones he sent messages to online, why would he continue to act the way he did in his own name, without any attempt to hide the conduct?  It is all speculation to me, but I surmise any person who starts sending half-naked pictures of himself to women he has never met is most likely a sexually aggressive person in the flesh.  But I could be wrong.  The internet age has changed a lot in terms of how people behave and interact with each other, even the language that we use (much of it coarsening over time, replete with emoticons and slang).

Last but not least, if what Anthony Weiner has done is terrible in sending non-nude (albeit inappropriate in light of the fact his were unsolicited) photos of himself, what about those politicians who have posed completely nude?  I do not recall too many Fox 'news' correspondents raising a stink about these photos.

Indeed, in the case of Scott Brown, Fox 'news' cooed over his nude photo.

If that is acceptable, and if none of the women Anthony Weiner sexted file a complaint over his conduct, then what is the difference between them?  Why is Schwarzenegger/Brown's nudes acceptable and Weiner's partial-nudes reprehensible?  Why is it OK to pose nude, and talk about how you are bringing the 'sexy' back to Congress, but if you are half-naked and doing it online (assuming the other party's consent) it is wrong?  Is it because of the medium involved?  And while I personally think Mr. Weiner's behavior is worse, in light of the fact he sent his pictures to individual females as a married man (and at least one of those women was only trying to engage him in a political discussion, not elicit pictures of his pecks), I still think it is a perfectly legitimate discussion and debate to have.  So, to my tens of readers, what doth thou thinketh?

1 comment:

Alan said...

Everyone does something wrong in their lives that they shouldn't be proud of...It's the nature of human beings...While you'd think that you could put politicians on a higher moral ground than everyone else, I think the reality of the situation is exactly the opposite.

So when I see a sex scandal or ethics investigation, etc of any politician, I'm not surprised. What really matters though is whether they actually did something illegal. If not, why should I feel they need to resign? Ultimately what Anthony Weiner did was not illegal, and in comparison to other recent scandals, not even that exciting (beyond his unfortunate name).

If what he did justified his resignation, well then at least let his constituents make that decision come re-election. He represents them and no one else. Pressure from other politicians and the media should not have been a concern for him.