The Lileks Zone

Final thoughts on Weinergate

Now that the mega-swingin’ ultrasexy textin’ dude has ‘fessed to broadcasting his John Thomas on Twitter, we can all move on and let him get back to working on the people. Or doing the work of the people. Whatever. People are involved. But those who have followed the story from the start, who know how Twitter works, who found his initial reactions to be . . . peculiar, the aftermath provides a certain amount of Schadenfreude. (German word meaning “joy in the squirming of an insignificant worm who stuck his nether-member in a media Cuisinart set on ‘puree.’”) There’s the apology to Brietbart. There’s the jaw-dropping fact of Brietbart taking the press conference before Tony the Tweeter showed up, which is like John Edwards showing up to refute some accusations and finding the entire editorial staff of the National Enquirer at the podium, fielding questions. There’s the itty bit of pity you felt when he choked – up – in – public talking about what he had done, and there’s the grim satisfaction of hearing Pelosi announce they’d be looking into this, which suggests there will be a Process, and an Evaluation, and other synonyms for dragging him by a hook up the steps of the Avantine and throwing him into the Tiber.

But few things are more delicious than big traditional media outlets deciding to shiv him, and shiv him hard, for giving an interview, lying, and browbeating the reporter.

ABC pushed this clip out – via Twitter! O irony – after the mea culpa, which is their way of saying they can take self-righteous twaddle from a politician, but not when he goes after one of their own. It undercuts the apology completely. He shows he has no center, no real self, just a series of personas he can adapt as the situation requires. Combine the two – the liar and the groveling supplicant – and you have a remarkably unattractive personality.

But what made him attractive before? Nervy pugnacious sarcastic defense of all the Proper Things, of course. The Left saw this twig as a stout trunk, because this is what they applauded: a scrappy intellectual! A brain! A smart guy who told it like it was, and wasn’t afraid to speak truth to all the various Powers out there who want to elect Sarah Palin so she can unleash the book-burners and thug-bumpkins seething in the heartland. To the young women who followed him, he was Awesome – he used Facebook! and Twitter! and was totally all about the right causes. The sort of guy who, if you got pregnant, would drive you to Planned Parenthood and go halfsies on the bill. Just don’t say you want to keep it, because then he’d get that look, and get irritated, and while okay sure it’s your choice, he supports choice, this complicates matters, and he thought you were cool.

You may wonder what motivated him, but that’s easy. Power over the jocks. All the guys who snapped towels at him because he was in the Chess Club. He got some power; he buffed up; he saw Adonis in the mirror instead of a preening little  peacock. He’d always been able to talk his way out of things, and thought that skill would work here too. It usually does, right up until the moment when it doesn’t. He maneuvered himself into the worst possible place: all he has is words. And no one believes a thing he says.

One more thing: you can’t say the guy never tried to do the right thing. From his website:

In early 2007 my office did a study that found that over 85% of registered sex offenders in New York City live less than five blocks from schools, and 670 sex offenders live within just two blocks. Some offenders are even closer, permanently residing less than 500 feet away from unwitting parents, educators and children.

Along with several colleagues in Congress, we introduced & passed the KIDS (Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators) Act of 2007, a bill to require sex offenders to register their e-mail and instant message addresses with the National Sex Offender Registry. The “Kids Act’ implemented one of my six recommendations to keep a closer eye on sex offenders both near school grounds and online. I also proposed stricter GPS tracking of sex offenders, tougher enforcement of registration laws and more public disclosure of sex offender data.

Sadly, the Internet is the predator’s venue of choice today. We need to update our strategies and our laws to stop these offenders who are a mere click away from our children.

That was 2007. Perhaps we need to update them some more.

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June 2011