As the sad story of Rep. Anthony Weiner and his salacious online interactions come to a close, so begins the traditional media-watching hand-wringing: why make this a story? Wasn’t there anything more important to cover? Isn’t this all between his wife and him and doesn’t this have no bearing on his work as a lawmaker?
Both The Atlantic’s MeganMcArdle and The Economist’s Will Wilkinson make great points as to why this stuff actually matters, and are worth reading, but I’d like to add a perspective from someone who just saw the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair unfold.
Obviously there’s an enormous difference between what DSK and Weiner did. DSK allegedly committed a heinous crime, and what Weiner did is arguably not even adulterous. But what the DSK scandal has really exposed, beyond a man, is a media sphere that, by treating politicians’ private lives as sacred, has created a climate where politicians feel they can get away with very serious crimes, up to and including (allegedly) attempted rape and (allegedly) pedophilia.
Privacy and transparency are both important values. Both the US and France recognise that they’re important and (hopefully, by now) recognise that both can be taken to sad extremes. Unfortunately, there is no perfect system and in the real world we have to choose the least bad outcome.
But if there’s anything that the media treatment of the DSK affair in France and in the US has taught me, it’s that I would much, much rather have a media that goes crazy for a few days about a congressman’s underpants than a media that overlooks serious crime allegations in the name of “privacy.” It would be nice to think that we can strike some sort of “balance” between those “extremes” but in all likelihood we can’t, because that’s not how the real world works. In the real world, you will either have a media that is too tame, or a media that is “too” fierce. And the DSK affair has convinced me that the latter is extremely preferable.
The US media is vigorous, often to the point of ruthlessness. Sometimes the results are messy, but it shouldn’t distract us from the bigger picture. We should wish that it stays that way.
- The French Elites’ Reaction To The DSK Affair Is A National Embarrassment →
- The Stunning Reason For The Shameful French Media Silence About DSK →
- In France, If You Know What’s Good For You, You’ll Shut The Hell Up →
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