Anthony Weiner, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and the Circus

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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28 Responses

  1. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    If these people are going to vote in legislation that defines moral behavior, then their own behavior needs to be extensively explored.

    In particular, if they think that ubiquitous surveillance is a good idea, then they ought to be willing to live in that world.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    If I have a problem, it’s that scandals that are difficult to understand tend to get ignored. Let’s say that there was a conflict of interest when it came to a bill dealing with lobbying where X hires Y’s nephew, Y hires Z’s brother, and Z hires X’s spouse (or, heck, make there be 35 players with all kinds of criss-cross hiring).

    You need to make a chart to understand the web of nepotism by proxy and the conflicts of interest papered over by such a practice. Several charts, probably.

    A guy taking a picture of his junk? Ah, now *THAT* requires no charts, no footnotes, and no “by proxy” stuff. It’s junk.

    And so we’re talking about junk rather than talking about stuff that’s difficult to understand.

    Which is not to say that we ought *NOT* talk about junk. Of course we should! It’s a legit scandal! It’s just that there are leeches just as engorged with blood out there that deserve equal time even in they aren’t as sexy.Report

  3. I’ll take a sex scandal over a culture of hush-ups any day of the week.

    The real problem, though, is the world we live in today (or at least used to) wherein the NY Times sits on a story about wire-tapping for *years* and we get sex scandals.Report

  4. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    “Their lies hurtle nations into wars or economies into the incinerator… I’ll take a sex scandal over a culture of hush-ups any day of the week.”

    Right, but that’s the point- they don’t make a big deal about all lies, and especially not the ones that couldn’t be explained to a child- when government officials lie and it screws up the economy or leads to war, 99% of the media collectively moans “booooooorring” and waits for another juicy sex scandal to report on. So, yes, reporting on sex scandals might be better than a “culture of hush ups” (although I can tell you that most of the French I know would be displeased to see BHL taken as equivalent with “the French”), but here’s a better deal: they can act like some idiot emailing a picture of his goomagachie to a woman is really super important if the next time that Congress casually votes to ratchet up the Patriot Act one notch more, they also act like that’s really super important.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      But lots of history starts with the Wrinkly Bits. It may be the Last Turkey in the Shop, but it’s the first part of me through the Door to Temptation. It was the first part of Henry Tudor through that door, leading to a few nasty European wars.

      Power, especially political power in all its forms attracts a certain sort of person and there’s no denying its sexual nature. I remember a discussion years ago with a Frenchman and his wife about Clinton’s penis problems.

      Mitterand had just died in 1996 and his mistress Anne Pingeot (with whom he’d had a daughter, Mazarine) attended the funeral alongside his wife Danielle. Très français..

      The wife observed, and her husband concurred, Clinton was a beast, not because he had an affair, but because he did not love Monica Lewinsky. Not once had he actually spent a whole night with her. Monica complained to Linda Tripp because she knew she was being used. Whatever she might have felt for Bill Clinton, the sense of being desired by a powerful man, she knew her feelings would never be returned. Clinton’s other affairs were similarly abuses of power-based relationships.

      Sexual scandals are important, not because they have any impact on the PATRIOT Act, but because they show our leaders as human beings, usually wretchedly self-obsessed people, abusers of their position. If they put up a sign in the Rose Garden reading “The line for presidential blowjobs starts here” you may be assured most of the lobbyists in Washington would be forming up, with Barney Frank grinning, right at the head of the line. And we might tolerate it as a nation: we tolerate a great many other indiscretions and prostitutions of high position for favors of one sort and another.

      Clinton got in trouble, not because he had his affair, but because he lied about it. And let’s not forget he survived the scandal. Gerry Studds’ political career survived a scandal with a house page. Barney Frank’s boyfriend was a prostitute. America’s not as upset as it used to be about dead girls and live boys in people’s beds. We love these stories because they reduce these pompous and powerful asses to livid caricatures of themselves. It’s funny. Molière says comedy corrects men’s vices and nobody should be exempt.Report

      • I don’t understand — why would Barney Frank be at the front of the line?Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          I am told by a gay man of my acquaintance Barney Frank is the most genially amoral man in Washington and has never seen a penis he didn’t like.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          In fact, that whole trope about the sign in the Rose Garden, including Barney Frank at the head of the line, is copped from that conversation with the guy in #12.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. says:

            Okay, fair enough. I do agree that, in the right hands, a sex scandal can be a useful window on the soul of a scoundrel. I just wish non-sexual but equally scoudrelly acts were treated with the same level of mockery, disdain, and condemnation.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              From your mouth to God’s ear. Still, there’s nothing as funny as a good erotic joke, especially one involving a politician’s willie.Report

    • Avatar RTod says:

      Aren’t you putting too much blame on the media’s doorstep for this discrepancy, and not enough on ours? I’m pretty sure if we as a group of viewers/listeners/readers wanted to focus on the Patriot Act the media would be happy to oblige.

      In fact, can’t you make an argument that the focus on famous people sending pics of dicks and little on the Patriot Act a triumph of the marketplace?

      If I were Jaybird I would be writing something about this in a “we all want the freedom of the market to rule except when we don’t” line, only it would be more pithy and clever.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        The market is, in fact, covering everything. The Internet is doing one heluva job when it comes to opinion journalism and even hard news.

        Once upon a time, you had the big three at 6PM and your morning paper and that is what you knew about the world.

        If pinko Kronkite didn’t talk about it, and if the Herald Tribune didn’t talk about it, you didn’t know about it.

        Now? The gatekeepers can’t keep the flood back. The problem comes that things that are difficult to understand are difficult to understand and things that are childishly easy to understand are childishly easy to understand.

        Anybody can understand and argue about the latter. We (as opinion journalists) need to do a better job with the former.

        I’ll try to come up with a one-liner.Report

        • Avatar RTod says:

          Oddly enough, I think this might have been my point. Having pinko media overlords did mean that we were given a pretty entrenched coverage of Watergate, for example. I find it hard to believe that the same story today wouldn’t be essentially abandoned after half a week or so in the news cycle. I mean, a blog here or there would certainly carry on the fight, but hardly anyone would listen or care.

          A guy sexting, or boinking his page, or a sexpot widow dying of a drug overdose though… pure ratings gold. We can’t get enough.

          Not advocating one way over the other, just making the observation.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        I would say all that, but I’m not someone who cares too much if the freedom of the market rules or not. Should the news media be a ratings-driven money generator? Well, sure, Americans generally say “Yes!” Especially if it keeps it from being state media like Pravda or the CBC (which I still check every few days and don’t feel my freedom slipping away). Me? Eh, it wouldn’t upset my ideology one way or the other were the news media something different than what it is in the US.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          As for your question about whether the public is dumbing down the media instead of the reverse, it’s very possible. But, I think if I ran a media company, I might expend a bit more resources trying to appeal to a wider array of the public and therefore capture the largest share of the market, instead of what they seem to be doing, which is figuring out which group spends the most and throwing all of their resources at them. For instance, if I owned a film studio, I don’t think I’d be putting out 80 films a year for young men in the 15-35 demographic and two for anyone else. I mean, clearly, I’m not in the business, but my problems with these companies tend to be that I think their long-term business models stink.Report

  5. Avatar Koz says:

    I was going to write something before about the confluence of Newt Gingrich, DSK, and Cornel West. In addition to those, I think we can now add Anthony Weiner and Sarah Palin.

    This latest episode is like a bipartisan summer vacation. We’ll quit talking about Medicare and deficits for a week or two and entertain ourselves with mindless trivia before we have to return to regularly scheduled programming.

    That aside, the story for me is pretty clear. It is our republican constitution that lets us laugh at such people. They either want to force us to be involved in their little dramas or force us to perceive them in a particular serious way. Luckily, because we’re still a republic we can laugh at them if we want to, and for the most part we do.

    Therefore it is worthwhile to remember that our republic is worth keeping for that reason if nothing else.Report

  6. Avatar Mark says:

    Tony’s an idiot with Tiger Woods Syndrome. Guy’s got an attractive wife and he still plays around on the side.

    This so noted, there are significant difference between Tony and DSK.

    1. DSK allegedly had actual physical contact with the housekeeper in question; Tony never touched any of the women in his sordid tale.

    2. More importantly, DSK allegedly had non-consensual sex with the housekeeper; Tony reportedly had consensual activities with various females.

    3. DSK’s allegedly committed felonious criminal acts; Tony simply acted like an idiot – but, as far as we know, broke no laws. (Congressional ethics is a separate issue.)

    Still, and I’ll repeat this for a third time, Tony’s an idiot who lied to his constituents. His wife will handle the former. One has to wonder if his constituents can now believe Tony’s stance on any issue.Report

  7. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I know I said this before and it’s really a minor point, but I’m reading a lot of blogs talking about what “the French” are saying about this DSK scandal and how they’re responding to it. And let me say that what they, and you, are saying coincides with what some French people are saying. But it’s much more multifaceted than that. Honestly, I’ve never felt comfortable talking about French culture as a whole, and I still don’t now. But I will say that my limited window of information- being in regular contact with a handful of friends in France and reading a few of the daily papers online- doesn’t really gibe with what you’re talking about in that first paragraph. It sort of describes Bernard-Henri Lévy’s opinion piece, and I think the Economist makes an important point about more traditional French cultural norms, which are changing, incidentally. But, a lot of the American blogs I’m reading sound like they’re under the belief that Pepé Le Pew is a real dude.Report