I made the mistake, during a moment when the strange planets of curiosity and boredom aligned, of looking at the photos. I assure you I wish I hadn’t. Really wish I hadn’t. (Don’t, if you haven’t already.)
This is not about the size of the tweeted or the appropriateness or inappropriateness and deleterious behavior of a certain politician, but rather how the age gap may well play a role in our judgement of its severity and about the democratization of intimacy.
He violated that maxim I have so prominently displayed on my fridge: “Always make new mistakes.” His were old ones, so old and tired and egad, what was he thinking when he committed them over and over again. Blatant foolery.
Who can possibly defend his actions, even if they might possibly attempt to argue his right to privacy? But then again, does a public figure, in particular one who tosses his intimacy into the arena of social media, have a right to privacy and intimacy? In our society public servants, politicians and celebrities of all ilk, are denied this, and they understand that this is the trade off for the fame and glory and perks. Want a private life? Don’t run for public office or put yourself in the public realm…or so we seem to say by exposing such things relentlessly and devouring the news with such relish. (Gossip magazines sell millions of copies and their electronic equivalents have millions of hits, and their owners make billions of dollars over our perceived “right” to know.)
The reaction of the public and the media has been pretty homogenous. Lots of talk about social media, the permanency of what gets posted on it, the distinctions (or lack of distinction) between net and earth behaviors. Talk of ego and how it clouds judgment. Many suggest we use this as a “teaching moment” (something about that term makes me wince for some reason) with our children.
I did have a conversation with my kids about it. Actually my eldest was with me when this certain politician denied everything and claimed he’d been hacked. Now that the scandal has developed ad nauseam before our eyes I find that really they don’t seem to be much phased by it, which I find curious. I would venture to say that most teenagers don’t seem to lend it too much importance. Dude got caught. He lied to his wife. He thinks he’s hot and he is so not. End of story. Whatever…
Perhaps it doesn’t phase them so much because, for their generation, the line between private and public is just not so clearly delineated. While I think morally they are clear that he was wrong, the actual exposure of this (and of other things, indeed) doesn’t matter as much to them. Granted they are young, and when they are thirty or forty they may regret the transparency of their lives now, forever recorded in bits and bytes, or not.
Theirs is a generation who spills their guts in their statuses and online blogs and tweets and tumbles (can I say that? tumblrs?), and they just don’t really see what the big deal is, whereas for my generation the mere mortification of having such pictures out there for the world to see is enough to send one into cardiac arrest or self-exile. (But then again, even that is impossible now. Running away and being incognito is, as Mr. Weiner can attest, difficult at best.)
What gave me pause about all this is how intimacy and privacy are becoming, in effect, democratized by social media. In this new world perhaps tweets such as this may not for much longer be cause for talk or sell newspapers or web ads. When privacy and intimacy lose value their violation becomes almost a moot point, or does it?