The Anthony Weiner case is grossly annoying for many reasons — first, of course, because Weiner himself is so annoying. He’s disclosed such a natural, startling talent for bared-faced lying, he’s bound to be a contender for the world championship in the middleweight liar division or wherever he chooses to compete.
Of course we all know that e-mail and related technologies are treacherous and slippery. They sucker you into saying things you regret because they make words so utterly cheap — no need to hear, much less face the people you’re writing to — that they’re disorienting. In the Cybersphere you experience a sort of intellectual weightlessness, as if you were speaking and trying to control the loudness and tone of your voice without being able to hear yourself. I’ve used e-mail nearly every day since the early 1980s, and I’ve sent dozens (maybe hundreds) of e-mails over the years that I’ve regretted, usually because I said something too sharp or harsh or abrupt. I’ve been on my guard for many years now, and I still make mistakes.
Children who have grown up with the technology will find it easier to modulate their tone correctly — or will give up and modulate society’s tone downward instead, to allow for increased harshness, tactlessness, and thoughtlessness in communication. In the interim, we might all cut each other a little slack.
Which brings me back to Weiner. Weiner didn’t commit adultery or anything near adultery. He committed tasteless stupidity, and there’s no law against that. When reporters first asked him about the expose reports, he should have said “Butt out.”
The biggest offense in this case is the dirtying of the public airwaves and news-waves with ugly, trivial junk; it’s an offense like the one that used to be popular a generation ago with “urban youths,” who would carry around giant boom boxes and play music (or whatever it was) at deafening volumes.
For my part I couldn’t care less what sort of pictures or messages Weiner has been sending around the Net, and it’s an imposition to be required to care; to be unable to avoid the topic. I find that I have no interest in Congressman Anthony Weiner’s sex life or virtual sex life whatsoever. And I’ve heard enough tearful on-camera contrition to last me the rest of my life. I don’t want to hear Weiner’s apology. It’s got nothing to do with me, tells me nothing I want to know; the cable news media, conservative and liberal, would do the public a favor if they would agreed to a blanket tearful-apologies ban effective this instant. And in the future, let Weiner and everyone else who has done some trivial stupid thing that no one actually gives a damn about keep his apologies to himself.
— David Gelernter is author, most recently, of Judaism: A Way of Being.