In reading all the stuff about Anthony Weiner and his foolish tweeting escapades, I can't help feeling the media has once again expanded the significance to gain ratings. Don't get me wrong. I don't condone what Congressman Weiner did and think it was dumb. But on what scale? Was it criminal? Hardly, unless he knew he was dealing with someone underage.
Regarding his lying: did he lie about congressional business, national security or was it to protect himself and his family from what is little more than gossip about his idiosyncrasies?
And the real question is why did he feel he had to lie? Was it perhaps because he knew the media jumps on such matters and blows them out of proportion unlike the treatment such news receives in more sophisticated countries, as in Europe. Which is to say nothing at all.
In any event, should he have 'fessed up and taken his media hit and the ensuing embarrassment like a man? Of course. Wouldn't the whole thing have dissipated pretty quickly, instead of the carnival-like atmosphere currently in abundance? Absolutely. But the fact is our national media spawns this sort of reaction, engendering enormous fear in the wrongdoer providing the need to cover up personal mistakes lest they be transmitted out of proportion -- mistakes that do no one any harm except for one's immediate family, the only people who should truly be concerned about what he's done.
On a somewhat larger periphery, the only other folks to cast judgment ought to be his constituents, who will have to determine whether in the aggregate his performance as a congressman regarding constituent services and legislation he promotes weighs more heavily than their disappointment about what he legally does in his private life.
This isn't an Eliot Spitzer situation, because, even though what he did while governor of New York was hardly horrifying -- as in taking bribes or some such -- prostitution is rightly or wrongly still a crime. And it isn't even akin to the cases of Senators Vitter or Ensign, who were ganged up on not so much because they had an affair or did something kinky, but because of the hypocrisy of said person, who'd been holier than thou on many occasions about "family values" and railed against those who are pro-choice or are for gay unions.
None of this relates to the Weiner case. A closer fit is Bill Clinton. And of course we didn't remove President Clinton from office, though some tried, and he had lied about his apparently much more graphic sexual activities on the national media and in a courtroom setting. We didn't remove him, because it was clear it had nothing to do with his constitutional duties. And we didn't remove him even though some of his dalliances were in his office and thus utilized government facilities.
And what about using government facilities, one of the criminal aspects confronting Weiner? Suddenly we can't use government stuff for personal use? Maybe in its purest form and certainly not for financial gain. But if such a "Got Ya" were applied to Weiner, then every call from a civil servant or official to a spouse or child, or every personal note used with a government pen would allow a political foe to cry foul. Not to mention, God forbid, surfing the Internet using a government computer to check for airline/hotel rates or stock quotes while on "company time."
It's time for our national media to grow up and not go after such things with a vengeance as is currently done by our broadcast and cable networks, newspapers and magazines. Did it really rate a lead story on Brian Williams' newscast on NBC or on Anderson Cooper's show on CNN? Scott Pelley made his debut at the helm of the CBS evening news and placed it third, putting the story in a somewhat better perspective.
And what kind of perspective should that be? Well, for starters we shouldn't be magnifying a stupid lapse of judgment over essentially nothing, while so-called moral men who may indeed be faithful to their wives are not damned for actions which hurt others severely. They seek legislation and court decisions to deny equality to their fellow men and women, whether it be discrimination about where they can live or work, the loving relationships they pursue and the manner in which they can control their own well-being on pro-choice matters or, worse, whether they can decide when to end their lives, rather than living in a vegetative state or in agony.
These "moral" men and women also hurt citizens in important areas such as education and the environment or lie about the administration's health care bill, and even promote conspiracy theories about where our president was born. Why not go after the congressmen who don't tell the truth about those things? To me these transgressions affect a lot more people than Congressman Weiner's sordid blunder and should be damned by all responsible people.
But until Chris Matthews on MSNBC, Diane Sawyer on ABC and the conservative pundits on Fox News care more about what's really important to its viewers, tabloid-type reporting of the Weiner sort of lying will continue. And when will it end? When America matures and in essence tells the media no longer to titillate us with nonsense by denying them ratings when they attempt to do so.
Again I'm not defending Anthony Weiner, just putting what he did in a proper context. While his actions are hardly laudable, in today's media climate they are actually understandable, even if he was foolish to think he could hide the otherwise innocuous evidence in an age of Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
The main thing I draw from this incident is that the greater shame is in our puerile culture and how the media feeds the frenzy. On its own face their actions are ludicrous and the well-paid media honchos should be equally ashamed.
Michael Russnow's website is ramproductionsinternational.com