Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Virtual Sex Scandal

As Glenn Greenwald puts it, what is so sickening -- or revealing -- about a D.C. sex scandal is how "reporters who would never dare challenge powerful political figures who torture, illegally eavesdrop, wage illegal wars or feed at the trough of sleazy legalized bribery suddenly walk upright -- like proud peacocks with their feathers extended -- pretending to be hard-core adversarial journalists as they collectively kick a sexually humiliated figure stripped of all importance."

Unlike other recent sex scandals, Greenwald points out, this one doesn't appear to involve illegal sexual activity or gross hypocrisy or lying under oath or making illegal payments.  Rather, as Hendrik Hertzberg says, "it’s the first entirely virtual political sex scandal, the first to have been conducted entirely via e-mail, and online social media."

I agree with The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf, who says, "a politician's sexual fidelity in marriage, or his sexual behavior generally, doesn't reliably tell us anything about the integrity he demonstrates when acting in his official capacity.  Hertzberg explains:  "By itself, the fact that a person has lied about sex tells you nothing about that person’s general propensity to lie. Unlike most citizens, prominent politicians . . . make speeches by the hundred, give media interviews constantly, and have extensively documented public records. If the politician is a habitual or characterological liar, the public record will show it and the lying-about-sex is redundant. If the politician is not a habitual or characterological liar, his lying-about-sex is misleading—is itself a lie, in a way." 

As I said before, what is so frustrating is that the mainstream media is obsessively covering this story while ignoring far more important issues.  Indeed, as Glenn Greenwald concludes, "Can one even imagine how much different -- and better -- our political culture would be if our establishment media devoted even a fraction of the critical scrutiny and adversarial energy it devoted to the Weiner matter to things that actually matter?"

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