Yes, there are carcinogens in hot dogs but we continue to eat them (most of us) because we love them and there is a debate as to just how many can hurt you over how long a period of time. There are also carcinogens in the public discourse – many different types and varieties – probably more than there are found in the average hot dog. Or in — as they used to say in the Cub Scouts with a lot of snickers – the average weiner. Weiner! Hahahah!
Yes, we’re talking about NY Congressman Anthony Weiner’s sexting scandal (Note: sexting defined as sending sexually explicit pictures and/or sexual words over your phone, through the internet or in any other hand held device… yuk, yuk). One talking head on cable news this week called it a real life tragedy. Tragedy? Like, uh, Columbine? AIDS? Genocide in a third world country? Are they kidding?
Being born and bred in New York, I got a good chuckle from the poll released yesterday that more than 50% of New Yorkers surveyed don’t want Weiner to resign. I haven’t lived there in many years but I don’t get it either. Yeah, yeah, I know – he now can’t do his job with the same effectiveness because all the other uber-ethical congress people won’t work with him, he has bad judgment and can’t be trusted and – the biggie – HE LIED!! (Imagine, a politician trying to cover up a sex scandal!). But New York has always been a bottom line kind of place. Does he deliver the goods to us? If so, then I don’t give a —- what the —– he does. Who cares!! Fuggedaboutdit!!!!
I tried explaining to a very good friend of mine that this kind of sexting behavior is how MANY Internet savvy people (single presumably but not necessarily) often flirt these days. There are degrees, certainly, but it’s pretty common. (Who’s shocked? Raise your mouse. Eek!). Truly. Really. I didn’t grow up with the Internet and am a bit shy so – disclaimer – this isn’t my thing. But I know of many, many people who treat some sites on the internet, or some phone numbers or email addresses of people they meet (in person or on the Internet) the way people of my generation would treat people or experiences at an in-person mixer or singles bar. Taking or stretching this metaphor further (pun intended), there are all kinds of mixers – all kinds of bars. Use your imagination.
But this isn’t the point. The real point is – exactly what DID happen in this case? The Congressman had no physical contact with anyone. I mean, it would be a REALLY BORING scene if I were writing it in a screenplay. I guess Aaron Sorkin could make it sound interesting with lots of provocative dialogue or a director like Danny Boyle could pump it up visually (pun intended). But strip (yet another pun!) all that aside and we’re still left with this basic dramatic question – was he unfaithful to his wife? (or us?) Is virtual sex immoral in the same way physical sex is? Be careful here. Think about it. Now keep thinking while I promise not to send in the thought police. And I give you this example — in the seventies, Jimmy Carter got some flack admitting during a Playboy interview he had “lusted in his heart after women.” Isn’t that ridiculous?????? And side note: in the seventies, Playboy was seen as a LEGITIMATE and prestigious JOURNALISTIC SOURCE. It also trafficked in naked pictures (mostly female body parts but still…) AND interviews with presidents like Carter, movie stars like Barbra Streisand and famous writers like Kurt Vonnegut.
That (of course) is not the case today. Imagine today’s president doing an interview for a magazine with naked pictures of women. (Certainly one that featured naked men would be downright carcinogenic). A magazine like, well, uh – What is the Internet equivalent of Playboy? Is there one? Can there be 2011 respected journalistic publications that feature us (humans) as our maker (is that God or our parents?) made us or as we entered this world? Is there one that isn’t porn or halfway in between? Is there no halfway point anymore? That is the Weiner question. Pun intended. What is the moral compass that points you to the moral line you can’t cross? As the Supreme Court decided in an obscenity case I did a social studies report on in high school (yeah, that was in the seventies, too) – it depends on “community standards.” What are those – your community? The Internet community (is there such a thing?)? Uh, well, it depends who you are and where you live.
William Hurt asked this question in the great movie “Broadcast News” . (Yes, I quoted BN in a previous blog but it’s great movie dialogue so indulge me) when his (sorta) girlfriend played by Holly Hunter chastised him for possibly fudging part of a news story when he did a retake of himself (the reporter) crying when a woman he interviewed on camera related a sexual trauma that happened to her. You mean, that’s “verboten?” Hurt’s character asked? Well, Hunter’s character was incredulous that he could even ask such a thing — how he couldn’t know that he had “crossed A LINE.” Hurt’s reply – “well, they keep moving that little sucker, don’t they?
- Is Weiner’s problem as bad as Bill Clinton’s in person sexual dalliance with intern Monica Lewinsky?
- Is Weiner’s problem as awful as having an affair with a male or female staffer (IN PERSON) in the office?
- Is Weiner’s problem more offensive than soliciting another guy LIVE in a men’s room if you’re a married male congressman?
- Is Weiner’s problem worse than hiring numerous prostitutes, having real sex with them and charging it all on your personal credit card to the tune of many thousands of dollars?
- Is Weiner’s problem a problem for us? Or for him and his now pregnant wife?
Logic would tell us it could now be a problem for all of us because it now renders him unable to do his job because of bad publicity. Logic would also tell us you can’t lie to the world and your colleagues for a week and then expect full support from them given the climate in the world or American political reality show entertainment. But logic has nothing to do with any of this. It’s all about personal and/or “community standards.” And the line is fluid (pun intended). With little wiggle room (hahaha!) for anyone anymore.