Sunday, July 28, 2013

In which Matt Taibbi is a prude

By Frank Moraes

I have tried my best to avoid coverage of the Anthony Weiner scandal, but I made the mistake of clicking on a link to a Matt Taibbi article that I thought might give an interesting perspective as he often does, Electing Anthony Weiner Isn't as Funny as it Sounds. It was really disappointing—surprisingly hand wringing, middle America, Villager outrage.

According to Taibbi, the Weiner scandal isn't just about sexting. He says of Weiner, "This marriedpolitician sent unsolicited pictures of his penis to female strangers on the Internet!" Now I couldn't care any less than I already do about the fact that he was married and despite what Taibbi claims about not wanting to sound like a prude, the fact that he italicized the word "married" does in fact make him a prude. But if Weiner sent unsolicited pictures to these women, that's a whole other story. It does, as Taibbi points out, make Weiner a "a 21st-century flasher who used the U.S. Congress as a raincoat." If that's true of Weiner, he really needs to get some help and the decade that Taibbi suggests sounds about right.

The problem is that I had never heard anything about this. Admittedly, I've done my best to avoid 
learning about this case. But I would have thought that Weiner forcing himself on disinterested women would have stood out. So I read the whole Wikipedia page on the scandal and a number of referenced articles. And I found nothing. All I can think is that what Taibbi means by "unsolicited" is that the women didn't send him explicit messages, "Please send me a picture of your crotch ASAP!"


Let me be clear, I find what I know Weiner has done creepy in the way I find most human sexuality creepy. But I don't find it offensive. And I would find it very offensive if Weiner was texting to women about Republican obstruction in the House and suddenly sent a picture of his dick. That would show a shocking lack of socialization—although many if not most men do lack such socialization.

The rest of Taibbi's article is just repeated attempts to make a joke out of the Weiner scandal. He does this, despite the fact that the whole idea of his article is that it is no joke. He says, for example, "I'm not saying the guy can't have a career after what happened, but his options should be pretty limited—a rodeo clown, maybe, or one of those guys who hands out fliers for strip clubs in Times Square." That's a funny way to put it—but really?! Rapists have far more career opportunities than that. Taibbi's statement is indicative that he has not succeeded in keeping this scandal in perspective.

He makes one good point. "But Mayor of New York City? I know the bar was set pretty low when Mike Bloomberg bought the office outright in 2001..." Exactly! That's what's really wrong with our political system. It isn't that narcissists get elected. But then he blows it by adding, "But we can't have sunk this far." So the logic here is that government by, for, and of the rich is a-okay. What's more, I'm sure those rich people are just as narcissistic—just in different ways. But a known narcissist is not okay.

Matt Taibbi is usually much better than this. I guess he thinks that he's pushing back at all of the media snickering going on. The problem here is that I haven't noticed much snickering. There's been a lot schadenfreude, of course. Mostly, however, the coverage has been the same kind of prudish outrage that Taibbi is peddling. But I feel certain that soon the old Taibbi will be back and Weiner, at least for a while, will be gone.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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