Thursday, June 09, 2011

Greenwald: Weiner and repressed titillation

From Glenn Greenwald:

Yes, Anthony Weiner lied -- about something that is absolutely nobody's business but his and his wife's. If you're not his wife, you have absolutely no legitimate reason to want to know about -- let alone pass judgment on -- what he does in his private sexual life with other consenting adults. Particularly repellent is the pretense of speaking out on behalf of his wife, as though anyone knows what her perspectives on such matters are or what their relationship entails. The only reason to want to wallow in the details of Anthony Weiner's sex life is because of the voyeuristic titillation it provides: a deeply repressed culture celebrates when it finds cause to be able to talk about penises and naked pictures and oral sex while hiding behind some noble pretext. On some level, I find the behavior of the obviously loathsome Andrew Breitbart preferable; at least he's honest about his motive: he hates Democrats and liberals and wants sadistically to destroy them however he can. It's the empty, barren, purse-lipped busybodies who cannot stay out of other adults' private and sexual lives -- while pretending to be elevated -- that are the truly odious villains here.

In The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf argues that the private consensual sexual activities of politicians are none of our business, and in reply, Megan McArdle insists that "society has [an] interest in whether people keep their vows" in marriage and thus it's a good thing "to use a few of our precious news hours to say, 'Hey, not okay'!" Except McArdle has absolutely no idea what vows Weiner and his wife have made to each other, and she shouldn't know, because it's none of her business, despite her eagerness to learn about it and publicly condemn it. Even if she had any idea of what she was talking about -- and she plainly doesn't -- nothing is less relevant than Megan McArdle's views of the arrangement Anthony Weiner and his wife have for their marriage and whether each partner is adhering to that arrangement. That a journalist at The Atlantic wants to talk about this, and dig into the details, and issue judgments about it, says all one needs to know about our press corps.

Yes, this is really none of our business and I agree that investigative journalists could use their time better looking into more important matters, but I disagree that this is only about voyeuristic titillation. The Republicans, such as Rep Cantor, who have asked for Weiner's resignation are more correct than the few Democrats who have downplayed Weiner's shenanigans. The GOP has fallen into the crevice of political dialog where they have taken the side that all government is bad and Anthony Weiner can be used as yet one more example of the decrepitude of the institution of Congress. The Democrats are the ones who have always made the case that federalization of things such as health care, bank regulation and retirement Social Security can make for better society, so when their members are wanking their... er.. members on Twitter instead of ironing out solutions to our economic and social ills, it is especially poignant. If government is so necessary, then for chrissakes let's take it seriously.

Sure, Sen. John Ensign was screwing his best friend's wife and paying hush money, but he's a Republican and isn't that expected? Sure, Sen. David Vitter was prancing around in diapers in probably illegal (uninvestigated) trysts with prostitutes. Sure, Sen. Larry Craig was getting his balls washed by male consorts in airport bathrooms until he was arrested. But these guys have never made a pretense that government is anything but counterproductive and have always maintained that all federal employees are bums. Hasn't the GOP always been the party of taking it to us without even the courtesy of a reach around? And what could be more emblematic of that than such lewd behavior, all worse than Weiner's by the way?

While I may agree with Greenwald that engaging in titillation is a distraction, I would say that Democratic voters should be aware that behavior such as Weiner's only emboldens Republican voters in their belief that government is unnecessary and evil. We are in the midst of a fundamental discussion of what and how much of our lives we should entrust to government.

I happen to believe that the federal government should be, needs to be, recruited to manage and regulate and ensure our well-being on various important issues, and therefore I hold Democrats, who are elected to serve the people by forming a more perfect government, to a higher standard. I don't need to see pictures of Weiner's dick, but I can say that New York voters need to speak against their Representative's behavior... by not re-electing him. We need individuals in Congress who are awake and paying attention in order to counter-act the fixed number of cynical clowns who will always be there to represent their corporate overlords.

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