Monday, June 20, 2011

At what point does a coarsened culture collapse?

Op/Ed in the HuffPoconsiders with Anthony Weiner's fall really tells us. And it ain't pretty.
The fact that Weiner was one of the left's most effective warrior's against the legitimately vile purveyors of rightwing horseshit is now seemingly forever lost in the bloodlust that defines our cultural landscape...

As the media now fully embraces the bully-tactics of the more outrageous quasi-journalistic hecklers, schadenfreude has supplanted integrity. And since so many Americans take their behavioral cues from the sensational shows they watch and the churning, angry propaganda they listen to, classic Judeo-Christian tenets such as humility, self-awareness and mercy have become quaint, corny concepts that elicit a snicker and a roll of the eyes.

How did all this happen? What brought this nation from the beginnings of true social awareness in which people were put before profit to a sneering mob at a tawdry sideshow?

The cultural baseness that we have descended to matches the attack launched by the corporate capitalist crazies who equate higher social consciousness with lower financial gain.....

By consistently grinding human responses down to the cowardly and the cruel, the jeering media are digging a hole from which the nation has a decreasing chance of recovery. Americans should not take such pride in excoriating a fellow human being who has revealed himself to be a schmuck (by having revealed his schmuck). As unsavory as The Weinerscapades have been, the utter lack of compassion displayed by the multitude gathered to watch has been way more obscene.


Anonymous said...

Weiner would never have even been asked to resign if his seat weren't so safely Democratic.
And don't ask me to pity a man who propositioned a teenager when his wife was pregnant.
Weiner got himself into this mess. Just like the idiot with a "wide stance" and the bag carrier did.
And "I have sinned!" preachers did.
If you've got something to hide, don't get into the spotlight.

Harold said...

All four parts are worth watching.

Brother David said...

Do you have a link to back that claim? I was not aware that there was any evidence that minors were involved, just the titillation over a week ago that a young woman was questioned.

I am also unfamiliar with your definition of propositioned. It was my understanding from here in Mexico that no laws were broken, just emails were exchanged. There appear to be no "victims". Do you also have a link for this claim?

Fred Schwartz said...

Do you find that most men expose thier genitals to young women on a regulart (or even semi-regular) basis? Whether all the laws were broken or some of the laws broken or none of the laws were broken this guy, because of his position of power, beleived he could do something was is morally and ethically reprehensible. There is no excuse for that. Schmuck doesn't even come close! Links, urls and websites be damned, what he did was wrong and what he did after that was even wronger. He needs to grow up and get a real job. better yet, get some real morals.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

I call bullshit on this one.

Weiner is a sexual harasser. As such, he has no business being in any position of power. I am totally ready to show compassion to Mr. Weiner's victims. Why I am expected to show compassion for Mr. Weiner himself is beyond me...

Brother David--Weiner messaged a 17-year-old girl (whom he KNEW to be a high school student because she told him she was) and made some pretty suggestive remarks. Nothing overt, but certainly reading them now, there are sexual overtones that are distinctly disturbing: (NY Times)

Mr. Weiner sent UNSOLICITED sexual photos of himself to at least one woman--that is the definition of sexual harassment. Why do you assume that there are "no victims" here? (NYT)

IT said...

And David Vitter frequented prostitutes, which is actually a real crime, and what happened?

Nothing. He's still a senator.

And the financial malfeasance of Sen John ensign has disappeared.

Look, I agree Weiner is a creepy schmuck, but he did not actually commit, you know, a CRIME. And in most states, there's a recognized difference between talking to a 17 year old girl and 12 year old.

When my step-daughter was 17, the knowing-ness of her and her friends was pretty scary (they didn't get that from OUR sexual morality). her set loved sexy internet talk which they considered just "talk" as long as it seemed distant and light (yeah, I don't get it either).

Sorry, I am NOT going to say that any powerful man sending a message to any not-powerful woman is sexual harassment. I will NOT make women into fragile flowers and automatic victims who must be protected. Did he stalk them when they told him to piss off? I haven't heard that. That would make a difference to me. But simply saying he sent suggestive messages ain't enough.

But, hey, let's go after a tawdry virtual sex scandal with salacious details and self-righteous indignation-- and ignore the massive dishonesty and manipulation of those who benefit from this. After all, Weiner was looking into the ethically challenged Justice Thomas when his world collapsed.

Again, I'm not defending HIM per se, he's a schmuck and I'm glad he resigned because we should keep to a higher level. But it's not at all clear to me he rose to harrassment. And I'd have liked to see some of this applied to the Republican sex scandals which alas are teflon. I think Diaper-Dave Vitter is much more disgusting.

JCF said...

I mainly can't believe how STOOPID Weiner was.

Over at the (predominantly gay-male) site Joe.My.God., the common refrain was "Who among us hasn't done this?"

...but this is gay men sending naked photos to other gay men---and here's the key part---usually w/ reciprocation and approximately equal social status.

A Congressman to a Vegas card-dealer is NOT equal status (and even if she'd sent back naked pics of herself, who would care?)

I don't think Weiner's behavior was unusual for a man (even a straight man).

But unusually STOOPID for a Congressman!

If you want to legislate over us, you gotta keep it zipped (well, unless you're a Rethuglican like Vitter, of course. IOKIYAAR).

Fred Schwartz said...

This is not about sex, this is about power. It has always been about power, that is why there are sexual harassment policies in virtually every work place. Power is the abuse and the powerful are abusers. It is not about fragile anyone or whatever. It is about I can do tyo you what I want because I am more powerful than you.

Let's get this straight, this is a married man wo is/was in a powerful position. He used that power in an unethical and immoral manner. It was not sexual harrassment because the woman(men) were not employed by the Congressman but the issue is still one of pwoerful versus less powerful.
Let me say this one more time -- it is abuse.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Seriously, IT? You are going to use the "Vitter Standard"?

I'm disappointed. Bitterly disappointed...especially that you would accuse women who are trying to fight a culture in which sexual harassment/assault are endemic of trying to turn other women into hothouse flowers.

Excuse me, but I'm trying to fight a RAPIST CULTURE here. You are not helping.

The only "coarsened culture" I see is the one that excuses sexual harassment by anyone--regardless of their politics. I am truly sickened by this whole debacle...more by the reactions of my "progressive" friends than by what Weiner did. I expect powerful men to abuse women. I will never get used to intelligent women excusing it...

As for Vitter--it was up to his constituents to hold him accountable. They did not. Wonder why? Could it be that people think that sexual crimes and abuse are not really "serious" and that holding on to their seat in Congress is more important that the way their representative behaves toward women?

Wonder where I've heard THAT lately?

It was not sexual harassment because the woman(men) were not employed by the Congressman

Fred--Wrong. Weiner sent UNSOLICITED sexual photos of himself to a woman. That *is* sexual harassment.

Just like being cat-called in the street is sexual harassment. It creates a climate in which women never feel safe.

And that doesn't make us hothouse flowers who have to be protected. We ought to be able to walk down the street without having someone make sexual comments to us--or open our e-mail/Twitter feed/whatever without having someone thrust unsolicited photos of his penis at us.

(I can't believe I even have to type that in 2011...)

When this crap is done by a powerful person, there is just an added layer of abuse.

Weiner held himself out as a champion of women--while sexually harassing them. I don't need or want him on my "team." We can--and should--do better than that.

IT said...


We are not as far apart as you think.

1) I re-read your comment and see the 17 year old TOLD him she was 17. I agree, at that point she should have been radioactive as far as he was concerned. What doesn't surprise me is 17 year olds engaging in anonymous internet sex talk.

2) I agree with JCF that Weiner's massive recklessness was stupid (as I wrote below) and I agree he needed to resign.

3) I think where the difference is, is in the answer to the following question:

Is a man sending a sexually suggestive photo to a woman harassment?

I hear you say, YES, ALWAYS.

I say, MAYBE. (I think it's always gross, BTW, I just don't think it's always harassment).

It depends on the context, surely. Husband to wife? Boyfriend to girlfriend? Sent unsolicited? sent even though told not to? Sent as part of a suggestive sexting conversation? Sent repeatedly? Sent upon request? I don't think it's a bright line.

And I don't think all those contexts contribute to a "rapist culture".

I do think a coarsening of culture that plays sex up above everything else with salacious interest does.

I think a media that tells girls they are nothing unless they dress like tramps and garner explicit sexual attention, and encourages boys to sexualize them in this way, is contributing to that culture.

I think a media that chases cheap sex stories to the exclusion of real journalism does too.

But I don't think a sexual exchange between consenting adults necessarily is contributing that that culture. Even if the picture was not explicitly asked for.

What concerns me is what I hear you say, which may be not what you mean... that you are presuming that the woman cannot freely consent to this, or can't be expected to "say no" and tell him to eff off and be done with him. That he has a unique responsibility in an otherwise consensual relationship. That she must be protected in advance.

As I said, gross, yes. representative of a coarsened, hypersexualized culture, certainly. But harassment? I don't know enough to make the call with certainty.

Fred Schwartz said...

At great risk and with tremendous trepidation, I wade in one more time. If, by sexual harassment, you mean a powerful person abused his power in a sexual way for personal gratification, I absolutely agree with you. However, in the strict legal definition (take to court) I believe there has to be an employee employer relationship. Within that context, any time there is a superior dfoing this type of thing to a subordinate it is classified as unwarranted and therefor sexual harassment. But I stand by my statement, this is about power or more correctly, the abuse of power.

IT said...

@Fred, yes, there is a power difference, formally. But AFAIK, she is no where in his sphere of influence....not an employee, or in any way dependent on his good will.

Is there no difference between Newt Gingrich having sex with his intern (or Bill Clinton with his, let's be bipartisan), and sending sexually explicit messages to a woman who has nothing to do with government? (For the record, I think both Newt and Bill were sleazeballs. I'm just not convinced it rises to the level of impeachment.)

So are you saying it is not possible for a woman not in government to have a consensual relationship with a COngressman, because of the power differential?

I'm just saying context matters.

So does consent.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

IT--I have capped the word UNSOLICITED every time. I'm not sure how much clearer I can get, but let me try...

People who are in a real-life relationship with each other can send all the sexy photos they want, assuming they have both agreed to do so.

People who are NOT in a real-life relationship with each other have an obligation to ASK the other person before sending sexy photos. Either "Would you mind if I sent you photos?" or "I would like to see photos if you care to share them."

What concerns me is what I hear you say, which may be not what you mean... that you are presuming that the woman cannot freely consent to this, or can't be expected to "say no" and tell him to eff off and be done with him. That he has a unique responsibility in an otherwise consensual relationship. That she must be protected in advance.

I don't think a woman should HAVE to "say no and tell him to eff off."

I don't think ANYONE should have to do that--female or male. People need to obtain consent BEFORE doing this crap--not assume it, which then puts the person who received the unwanted sexual photo in the position of having to do the policing.

You have good reason to know that I am happy to support whatever consenting adults do in the privacy of their homes/relationships. It's the CONSENT part that concerns me...

Fred--I really don't care about the "legal definition" of sexual harassment. As someone who has dealt with it all my life, I don't need a court to tell me what it is, that it has a negative impact, and that men need to stop doing it.

And with this, I'm out of this discussion. I cannot believe how angry--and depressed--I have gotten over this. The thought of my daughter having to navigate in this culture makes me ill....

IT said...

Doxy, I think where we differ is pretty minor. I think we are both dismayed at the hyper-sexualization and cheap salaciousness of the culture where we even have this conversation.

But I simply cannot agree that sending a sexualized picture or note unsolicited is ALWAYS, by definition, harassment ( or abusive, to use Fred's term).

Crude, vulgar, disgusting, unappealing, or gross, maybe. But harassment? Always? Just can't go there.

JCF said...

Can we unpack "UNSOLICITED" for a moment, Doxy?

Do think a recipient has to say "Send me a picture of your penis!" before it IS "solicited"?

Or sexting ala {I cringe as I type} "Ooh, you turn me on! I bet you're big---are you hard for me?" at least constitute a gray area? [Which a Congressman should treat like gray PLUTONIUM and skedaddle from, post-haste!!]


Re 17 year-old (I told this story over at MP's):

About 7 years ago, I (briefly) went through a period of "IM'ing" (Instant Messaging. I think via AOL messenger), putting my IM address out in several public forums.

Some of these IM conversations turned flirtatious.

Someone I got exchanged a few flirtatious IMs with, told me she was *15*.


I immediately disconnected the conversation, on-the-spot . . . but because I was a computer dork (using a format I never was comfortable with---and became less so!), I didn't do it correctly. The 15 year-old re-opened the conversation on her end, and made my disconnect part of her game!

I then figured out how to TOTALLY end the convo, and *blocked* the 15 year-old from reaching me (good thing she didn't try to reach me from another address!).

That was a serious Live&Learn... :-X

Fred Schwartz said...

Doxy, IT, JCF

I am going to try this once more and then I am going to leave it where it lays. What this guy did was absolutely, positively ethically and morally reprehensible. It does not need to be defined by legal or other means. This type of "conversation" should NEVER happen. Certainly any perosn of any stature knows that this is wrong. It is not cute, not sexy, not funny, not flirtatious! It is wrong. This type of behavior should never happen. It demeans both parties. IMHO this should not happen even between lovers, seethearts, friends, neighbors or worst enemies. It treats people as less than human beings. The second commandment is "treat your neighbor as yourself" and if you have no greater love for yourself than this one really needs help.

Now, I am done.

JCF said...


IT, did you tweak the site avatar again? This time, I think it is less successful. I'm guessing that's supposed to be TEC's red cross in it? IMO, it makes the whole thing, at first glance, look uncomfortably like a swastika! :-0 I recommend an "Undo".

IT said...

Yeah, it's hard to know how it will look till it's up. I'll put it back.

Brother David said...

Doxy, this is an example of why I do not have a good experience with you.

I asked for simple links to point me to more information because I stated that the story I was hearing in Mexico was very tame and pretty harmless. Stupid, shameful, behavior of a putz, but nothing illegal.

And you sort of go overboard like I am some kind of fool for asking.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

JCF--everything I have to say on the subject is on my blog. The links are important.

"Brother David"--I really have no idea who you are, and I don't exist to serve as your own personal research assistant. Despite that, I tried to be helpful by giving you what you asked for and then I asked you a question, which you have conveniently refused to answer. And that's treating you like a, exactly?

Next time, do your own damned research, and then you won't have to worry about having a bad "experience" with me.

And now I really AM done....

IT said...

Okay folks please let's chill on this one. This is FOJ and we pride ourselves in keeping civil even when we disagree. Our readership is mostly Episcopalian after all so please strive to show Christian forbearance, or at least follow the Golden Rule.

Brother David said...

Doxy, you do know me, I am Hermano Dah•veed, in Mexico and you have even exchanged email with me in the past about the way you treat me. (It is my fault that you did not recognize me with the adjustment of moniker and avatar.)

I felt that my request for links was to the first anonymous poster who was making truth claims that I had not heard from outside the USA. I am sorry that I failed to be more clear. I did not ask you to be my personal research assistant, you seem to have assumed that upon yourself.

I did not assume that there were no victims here, I was led to believe so by Rachel Maddow's coverage of the situation. I get her podcast of her show through iTunes daily and her assessment has been that he was an ass but that there were no laws broken, there are no victims, all involved in the sexting are adults, etc.

And she felt that he should not have been pressured to resign. And she did so while evoking Senators Vitter and Ensign, as well as others. And she and a guy for the Young Turks made a case for the idea someone else mentions, It Is OK If You're A Republican.