Monday, June 20, 2011

Brief Thought on Weiner

I may be way off on this since I don't really care about Weiner and don't bother to read much more than article captions on him.  However, I've been thinking recently (for a rather slow writing blog post, which will go up when I have time, moving is a major pain in the rear end) about how our society tends to talk a lot about merit but often in fact selects mostly for traits that are completely irrelevant for the job at hand.

What this has to do with Weiner is that it seems to me that Weiner found what seemed to be a harmless way to engage in something of a fetish, which when exposed ruined his career.  My impression is that Weiner seems to be something of an exhibitionist, sending mostly naked pictures of himself seems to qualify in my mind anyway. 

This leads me to two thoughts.  First, what are the alternatives for someone that has this fetish?  I don't want to dwell on this at any length, but I do think it needs to be pointed out.  Sending pictures seems quite harmless by comparison.  It also seems like any alternative would have less chance of exposure but ultimately be potentially more damaging for both the individual and, um, the person at the receiving end.  It seems plausible that Weiner's fall may push other people with this compulsion back towards more damaging means of fulfilling their fetishes (another caveat here, I haven't studied psychology and what exposure I've had to the fetish scene is of an anecdotal and personal nature, I have no idea what impact salient events like this have to the individuals with strong compulsions or who are more deeply involved in what I'll refer to for lack of a better term as alternative sexual activities).  Other means are far less likely to leave the kind of evidence left by the recent scandal and are likely something that many politicians engaged in with impunity before the age of Twitter.

The second thought is that why are we selecting so much for irrelevant traits?  To turn this thing around, it seems to me that Weiner had reached an accomodation with his urges that was safe for everyone involved.  I haven't yet heard anything about him actually meeting with any of these women or engaging in behavior that would endanger himself, his wife, or any of the women he interacted with.  While not a particularly noble action or one I think anyone would want to be exposed it doesn't seem terribly bad to me.  There are plenty of embarrassing activities that we engage that we don't want in our public lives.  To be particularly crass to make a point, imagine if someone circulated videos of a politician on a toilet while having a particularly hard time.  Wouldn't exactly maintain anyone's public image, now would it?  To me, the Weiner scandal seems broadly similar.  It's not particularly dignified by any means, however as compulsions go, this seemed under control and harmless.  What's the big deal?  The only difference I can see is that it's a compulsion that impacts relatively few people so many don't have sympathy for it.  If it was something else embarrassingly personal that more people engage in, I doubt there would have been the same reaction.

That all said, with a name like Weiner it should be common sense that more care is needed than normal to avoid any sort of sexual scandal whatsoever.  I think there are likely to be some broader negative impacts from this, and more to follow before we get used to the intimate details of public figures lives that are now exposed by the internet that before was concealed, but nothing too severe.  I do wonder if this would have been as big a scandal if he had a different last name however.

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