Sunday, June 12, 2011
The Fast and the Furious
You're never gonna believe it -- no, really, I mean, who could've possibly seen this coming? -- but Anthony Weiner is checking himself into rehab. The exact reason, no one knows and, let's be honest, barely matters.
Believe it or not, this latest development more than anything else that's happened so far in this completely by-the-numbers scandal makes me think that Weiner needs to go away and not show his face anywhere near a position of power for a while. Yeah, what Weiner did was colossally stupid, but I was with him as far as the argument that he should be allowed to let the people of his district decide his fate. Trying to cheat that fate, though, by hauling ass off to treatment as the pressure mounts against him -- because he knows full well that no one's going to try to oust him as long as he's "sick" and if he can make the case that none of this was his fault -- is something more than just dumb; it's craven cowardice, bald-faced opportunism, and it shouldn't be tolerated. Tweeting naked pictures wasn't a symptom of some sort of disease that he needs to get help for -- it was just an asshole narcissist loving the fact that he could regularly stroke himself to all the attention he was getting from hot co-eds who wouldn't give him the time of day if he were nothing more than Dr. Weiner, DDS, from Boerum Hill.
But if you believe Weiner, once he gets out of rehab and can presumably claim that he's "clean," he's not going anywhere but back to Capitol Hill. And really, why shouldn't he? Why should Anthony Weiner heed all those calls for his resignation, the ones coming from the GOP and from his own party's leadership, if he doesn't want to? Morally and ethically, sure, he's damaged goods and the scandal may be political kryptonite to him for a while. But Weiner understands something that inexplicably seems to escape the millions of other people who happen to also be living in the year 2011; coincidentally, it has everything to do with the nature of the very social networking tool that got him into so much trouble.
People will forget -- and they'll forget quickly.
Weiner knows that all he has to do is ride out the rapids for a little bit and eventually the waters will calm because, quite simply, our collective cultural consciousness will move on to something else. Our psyches have been trained by the hyper-fast nature of the modern media not to dwell on anything for too long; as the speed with which we can connect to each other increases, our attention spans naturally decrease. Weiner understands this very well because he was availing himself of a form of communication that forces us to think only in 140 character fragments when he got busted. He slipped up precisely because he was moving too quickly, reacting unconsciously, doing without thinking; he hit one wrong key on a keyboard and accidentally sent a picture of his crotch out to the entire world. Imagine that, the kind of power each of us can wield without even thinking, with the push of a couple of buttons and within the span of five seconds.
But that's exactly the point: The more it becomes commonplace to think -- or not think -- this way as a society, the less of an impact anything will have. The news cycles grow shorter, our cultural ADD becomes more pronounced and intractable, our ability to fixate on anything for too long vanishes.
Wait a little while and everyone will forget about the Weiner scandal. The first sign of a new, shinier car that drives up the block and the lapdog press will go after it and all but ignore the one they've been relentlessly chasing for the past couple of weeks. America as a whole? Hell, a lot of us have already moved on from Weiner's escapades, chalking them up to business-as-usual in the swamplands of DC and going right back to our lives or to whatever next big thing is on the verge of grabbing our national attention. Maybe it'll be the new Rebecca Black -- who went from nobody, to Twitter-mocked laughingstock, to huge star, back to nobody in the span of a couple of weeks. Maybe it'll be Golden Voice Homeless Guy -- who went from desperation, to revelation, to sensation, to inspiration, to investigation and vilification, also within the span of a couple of weeks. Story arcs that used to develop over weeks and months now take mere days.
Again, Weiner knows this.
He just has to hang on and make it through this patch of rough weather. If he can do that he'll be fine. And not to worry -- it won't last long.