WASHINGTON – The tabloid plot thickens today, with TMZ jumping in to offer their version, taking over the National Enquirer role in a political scandal that late night comics like David Letterman aren’t about to stop using.
“Will you help to support Arnold’s love child?”, someone yelled from the crowd of press.
“Were you fully erect…?” came next.
A fitting finale for Rep. Weiner’s confessional press conference.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi is asking for an ethics investigation amidst Rep. Weiner saying he won’t resign.
Quite a few people in media have also gotten caught up in this one too. Partisanship isn’t helpful when sex is involved. Getting too far out in front of anyone involved in a possible sex scandal is always a bad way to go, especially when you start blaming people unequivocally for pushing it without proof.
It also used to be that reporting on something meant you had to have a basic knowledge of the subject, in this case sex and political scandal. But when the subject also includes new media platforms, the old timers simply think Twitter and Facebook are passing fancies and they don’t need to understand them; captive traditional journalist types believing old rules still apply.
On Twitter, someone young enough to know better, Jay Newton-Small tweeted this:
But there r 3 reasons why this won’t go away: 1) I hate 2 say it as I think it’s great she wasn’t there but we have 2 hear from his wife
I asked her via a tweet why Weiner’s wife had to say a word, but unsurprisingly she didn’t reply.
Another traditional journalist, Roger Simon, said the same thing on Charlie Rose last night, but also went further. Simon invoked a possible scenario that doesn’t currently exists, hypothesizing about Rep. Weiner tweeting underage girls. It was a very weird exchange for Rose’s show, which proved the media is out for blood.
As for Weiner’s gorgeous wife, Huma Abedin, the days of a political wife having to offer cover for her louse of a spouse are over, especially when he didn’t physically cheat, though there is a case to be made for emotional infidelity on this one.
Chris Matthews had yet another embarrassing hour of over the hill TV yesterday, though anyone who has watched him over the years won’t be surprised. Matthews started by talking about Hollywood and “70 year-old people dressed like.. 8 year olds,” then segued into people talking in “idiot Twitter language.” Later he said this:
“What is [sexting] about? Why don’t people call each other and have a nice romantic conversation if they like each other? I’m sorry, is it complicated? You used to call up and ask for dates, is it weird now?” – Mediate
Weiner didn’t want a date, in fact, he wanted the exact opposite.
Matthews, Jay Newton-Small, Roger Simon and many others reporting on this story are clueless, but that doesn’t stop them from rambling on and on.
As someone who actually spent time inside the dating and sex arenas, these ad-libbing amateurs simply sound clueless, though I won’t pretend that anyone can predict what will happen now that TMZ’s tabloid take has entered the picture.
As I wrote when Weinergate broke, this is about voyeurism, joined with the opportunity to reach out and not directly touch someone while getting your kicks flirting in a way that keeps the act of adultery at arm’s length, but still allows the obsessed to indulge his or her fantasies.
At this point, an important distinction even after Rep. Weiner’s televised confessional today, his compulsion to indulge himself has absolutely nothing to do with his wife or having a physical affair outside of his marriage, both of which he’s denied. In situations like Mr. Weiner’s there is more often than not absolutely no correlation to how he feels about his wife and marriage and the voyeurism he’s acting out. He can be madly in love with his wife, be technically faithful, though, again, some spouses would disagree with this definition, while enjoying himself in what he considered harmless fantasy, that is until he got caught.
What can begin as harmless voyeuristic adventurism can have at its root sexual compulsion, which can be dangerous in your life if not admitted, investigated and resolved.
The mistake people make when venturing into risky private interaction with people unknown to them on a public social platform is that, like with most technology, being unmasked is one click away. But then again, without that thrill the rush wouldn’t be enough to satisfy the voyeur.
Weiner’s behavior isn’t new, but the media platforms that make the world able to uncover your secret fantasies is.
Politicians still think they can hide private things behind closed doors. Arnold Schwarzenegger did a good job of it for a long time, but he never engaged online in the antics Weiner did. Sometimes it’s better to do it the old fashion way, though John Edwards found out when you’re stupid that doesn’t work either.
Taylor Marsh is a Washington based political analyst, writer and commentator on national politics, foreign policy, and women in power. A veteran national politics writer, Taylor’s been writing on the web since 1996. She has reported from the White House, been profiled in the Washington Post, The New Republic, and has been seen on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera Arabic, as well as on radio across the dial and on satellite, including the BBC. Marsh lives in the Washington, D.C. area. This column is cross posted from her blog.
Screen capture from Huffington Post.