Rep. Weiner knew the risks

Representative Anthony Weiner has been caught up in a firestorm of sexual frenzy that has the tabloids (and tabloid TV) going crazy.

First of all, the guy who was a leading contender to be mayor of New York City is a bit of a jerk. Somehow, some way, he apparently thought that he could tweet pictures of his underwear, his crotch and his bare chest. Remember, he is a U.S. Congressmen. He clearly knew that he risked being caught. He says that he won’t resign, despite the fact that even the Democrats who are trying to take back the House want him to.

Weiner is an expert on social media and he knows full well the power of that medium. He has become a leading proponent on how to use social media to serve his political purposes. He is newly married to a practicing Muslim woman who has very strict standards. Yet, despite all the hysteria and the tabloid nonsense, Weiner has not yet been seen as someone who has actually consummated a relationship with any of his twitter pals.

It should always be remembered that half the marriages in the United States have ended in divorce. Studies have shown that huge numbers of Americans have been involved in extra-marital relationships. The other day at WAMC, a volunteer with a French background told some of us that the French think we are nuts. Someone noted that when the French president, Francois Mitterrand, died, both his wife and his mistress were in attendance. The French would appear to be taking all of the recent scandals with an attitude of disdain.

For me, however, this whole sorry mess is a microcosm of American politics. It seems to me that the media is practicing what can only be called “The politics of distraction.” Let’s remember that the media, or predictable parts of it, are hardly what we used to call responsible. They do what the men who own them tell them to. Even those media moguls who themselves have had marriages that went south run front-page headlines using every sexual pun known to man. Rupert Murdoch has been married three times. One of his divorces reportedly cost him over a billion dollars. Yet his penchant for exploiting the pain of others apparently has no limits.

Rex Smith of the Albany Times Union says that papers like his sell very few copies on the newsstand. Most of the people who buy these newspapers do so by subscription. The tabloids sell up to 20 percent, he says, from the newsstands. It is as if the ends justify the means.

But I think something more is going on here. The war in Afghanistan is costing this country over $2 billion a week. We hardly see that sensational information being played out on the front pages of the tabs. The right-wing rags have a political philosophy that is always predictable. When it comes to privatizing Social Security, decapitating Medicare, and screwing the American middle class so that the folks at the top can get and keep everything, those newspapers are strangely silent except to give a hand to the monopolists and the one percent-ers who want it all.

So Anthony Weiner becomes the bait to avoid the serious subjects. We, the public, are to blame as well. The past sexual repression in this country, the sale of millions of pornographic or semi-pornographic magazines, and the soft-core cable channels are part of the syndrome guaranteeing that we can be manipulated on subjects like Weiner. Yes, he’s a dope for putting himself into this situation but don’t think for a single minute that there isn’t a lot more going on here. As Winnie the Pooh might have put it, “The dumber we get, tiddley pum, the dumber we get.”

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 6/11/11

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