Much virtual ink has been spilled this week over Anthony Weiner’s Twitter indiscretions. Pretty much every “weiner” joke in existence has been published in the past few days during “Weinergate.” (Damn you, Richard Nixon, that every political scandal should have “-gate” appended to it.) And yet for all the words written about the whole mess, from the calls for resignation to the heartfelt defense, one thing that has been conspicuously absent is compassion. Compassion for Huma Abedin, Weiner’s wife who has had to sit by while the country discusses her husband’s sexting and online flirting. Compassion for the woman accidentally dragged into the middle. And yes, compassion for Anthony Weiner himself.
It’s no secret that I’m a big Weiner fan. But even if I weren’t, the whole thing turns my stomach. Not that a politician did something wrong, but the way the media and the public immediately leeches onto it, hungry for blood. You’d think that the morally righteous or faux-outraged folks calling for his resignation would be the ones I find the most appalling. But no; I expect that from them. What really upsets me the most are the blog posts and Facebook notes and all the rest defending him by claiming, “At least he’s not as bad as X who did Y,” digging up all manner of buried dirt we thought we had gotten past. None of this – absolutely none of this – is any of our business. Even the fake sympathy on behalf of Huma or the comments to the effect of, “Why would he cheat on HER?!” are not really our place to make. But we’ll continue to do it, over and over and over, no matter who it hurts.
That’s really at the heart of what bothers me about this story. In our lust for a juicy story and longing for schadenfreude, we forget that politicians are actual human beings with feelings underneath their public faÃ§ade. If he doesn’t resign (which it looks to be the case), Anthony Weiner will have to face this story every single time someone mentions his name in the press for the rest of his career. No matter how much good he has tried to do or how much he will accomplish in the future, he will always be “Anthony Weiner, that guy from New York who posted a picture of his weiner on Twitter.” And that’s a shame. Sorry, Anthony, for being a part of the blogging culture that makes that happen.
Image courtesy anthonyweiner.com