In my day job, I’m a counselor for teenagers with anger problems. One of the phrases we like to throw around is “life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react.” It’s intended to make them realize that they can’t control what others do, only what they do in response, but it’s also the kind of thing that can be applied at times when you see the reaction to an event becoming more profound than the event itself.
Case in point: Anthony Weiner.
No one’s going to say what he did wasn’t stupid, that it wasn’t kinda creepy. The fact of the matter is, though, that he broke no laws and really didn’t do anything that horrible. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve seen the pictures and can tell you that I’ve sent (and received) worse. This is a story of pure tabloid bullshit journalism and nothing more, proving that the American public likes to be titillated and entertained more than they like to be informed.
I want to point out that I’m slowly going away from blaming the media for things. The media gives the people what they want. They don’t want dry discussion of economic policy differences and foreign diplomatic events, they want to hear about explosions and sex. So that’s what we get.
See, I have a track record of not giving a shit about anything inconsequential. Politicians are human. They do dumb stuff just like the rest of us. Maybe they get drunk and say something idiotic, maybe they send pictures to people, whatever. All that matters to me is what they’ll do for the country, and Rep Weiner has been one of the left’s strongest assets. Does this change it? Only to the extent that the public’s blockheaded frenzy might ruin his career.
Again, Larry Craig was only a story because he was a furiously anti-gay Senator. Mark Foley was in charge of protecting kids from internet predators. Anthony Weiner is just a dude that sent some pictures. The difference is rather stark.
Meanwhile, of course, the recent blowup (semi-recent, anyway) that Clarence Thomas failed to disclose $100k of donations from Citizens United when he was ruling on their case has gone under the radar. Why? Again, it’s a boring “political” issue, about campaign finance and judicial proceedings. Hard to make a headline out of “justice rules on case despite conflict of interest resulting from donations” as opposed to “WEINER EXPOSED!!!” Gotta give the people what they want, right?
And that’s just it. If you want to know why we’re in such dire straits, here’s your answer. Remember, the media and Washington are put in place and supported by the public. Without ratings and without votes, they ain’t gonna have jobs. When the public focuses more on a Congressman’s dick than, say, the GOP attempting to demolish health care for vets, that’s what we’re gonna see on TV. Until the people go “so fucking what?” we’re stuck with it.
By the way, why is it that Weiner and John Edward are considered sleaze-balls, but Newt Gingrich gets to be on FOX and run for president?