Magazine | July 4, 2011, Issue

Virtual Manhood

Of Anthony Weiner and Internet scandal

Rodney Dangerfield, the late comedian famous for his “No Respect” routine, used to do a bit in his act about how to deal with the awkwardness of the morning after a one-night stand. A guy wants to get out of there as fast as he can, but he doesn’t want to look like he wants to get out of there.

According to Dangerfield, his method was foolproof. You simply turn to the young lady and say, in your best romantic voice, the following: “You know what’s great about today? It’s Wednesday. I don’t work on Wednesdays, so I can take the whole day off. You and me, babe, are going out to a simple coffee shop for a classic New York breakfast. Then, we’re going to stroll Fifth Avenue, go shopping, go to Tiffany’s, go to Saks, we’ll buy you something special. After that, a romantic lunch at the Boat House in Central Park, with pink champagne. And a stroll though the park hand in hand, in the afternoon as the sun dapples the leaves and the light turns golden. Then we’ll have a quiet drink at the Oak Bar in the Plaza, and then to the Rainbow Room for champagne and dancing, and then to a little dive I know downtown for a romantic late dinner. How does that sound?”

And she’ll say, “It sounds wonderful. But today is Thursday.”

And he’ll say, “Thursday??!! I gotta get out of here!!”

He races out. She’s convinced he isn’t really a cad, just a guy who loses track of the days of the week. Problem solved.

Notice, in this little story, what doesn’t happen. No one tweets. No one e-mails or IMs or sends a Twitpic. No one does anything that involves a smartphone or an iPad or Web connectivity. Rodney Dangerfield simply constructs a nice-sounding lie, which he then delivers to the woman in bed next to him, which men have been doing since the earth was lava.

You know where this is going, right? Compare Dangerfield Man to Weiner Man: Anthony Weiner, the sad and smutty congressman from New York, zaps pictures of his privates (clothed and unclothed) to any number of gals across the country. He brags about himself. He sends photos of his big gym muscles and his toned belly and his shaved chest. He tweets his ladies about the size of his manhood. He texts to them about how handily he’ll satisfy them. He texts and tweets and texts and tweets.

And then he quits his Twitter app and goes off to masturbate.

In other words, Anthony Weiner is the lowest, least impressive kind of man. He is a self-made eunuch. A bragging, swaggering virgin. A pathetic joke of a man, unfit to wash Rodney Dangerfield’s (no doubt) sweaty and threadbare boxer shorts.

Anthony Weiner may be the latest casualty in the skirmish politics of our day — you know what I mean: we get one of theirs, they get one of ours; one furious blog post results in a barrage of furious tweets and comments; it’s all utterly irrelevant to the political direction of the nation at large — but in the great cultural sense, he’s created a new kind of male archetype: the Weiner Man. He was caught talking about something naughty that he didn’t have the courage to actually do.

#page#Somehow, it would be easier to take if Anthony Weiner had actually cheated on his wife. In real life. Or, should I say, “IRL,” as “in real life” is known in online communities. IRL, Weiner is married to an attractive aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. IRL, Weiner is a trash-talking, aggressive advocate of liberal causes and positions. IRL, in other words, he’s got a lot going for him. IRL, there are probably dozens of temptations all around him, and with a wife who travels all the time, well, it’s wrong, of course, but it wouldn’t be surprising, or even newsworthy, if he had a little something on the side. He’d be a cheat and a liar and a bad husband — and I’m setting aside the larger question of whether being any or all of those things makes one unfit to serve in the United States House of Representatives — but he wouldn’t be a weirdo. He’d be just one more man who forgot his covenants. He’d be one more man who broke the faith of marriage. He wouldn’t be, as the kids say, a perv.

At least John F. Kennedy, when he cheated on his wife, was physically present in the room. Even Bill Clinton — who seems more and more like a bridge figure, spanning the gap between the confident cad JFK and Weiner — seemed moderately attentive to the social requirements of having a mistress. He bought her gifts. They were stupid gifts, but they were gifts. What did Weiner give to his online squeezes? Pictures of his penis.

It’s not news, of course, that the American male is becoming more narcissistic and body-conscious. Weiner liked to show off his muscles and his hairless chest in a way that suggests a genuine sex-role reversal: He’s doing the striptease, he’s doing the elaborate body maintenance, he’s the object of desire. Anthony Weiner was a porn freak, but he was the one making the porn! Aren’t I beautiful? his texts and tweets seem to say. Yes, yes, the gals replied. You are one beautiful congressman! LOL.

I’m surprised he didn’t try to charge them.

But of course they never met. It was dirty talk, then private time. iPhone abuse, then self abuse. It may make him slightly less morally corrupt. But it makes him immensely less manly.

But that’s the problem with RL. Unlike in the Web space, IRL you have to come face to face with someone. You have to notice how they look and how they smile. You have to accept that they have too many wrinkles or a braying laugh or little patches of dry skin. IRL, in other words, you have to see things for how they really are. It’s a place devoid of abstraction. No wonder a liberal like Weiner preferred the online version.

Rob Long — Rob Long, Hollywood writer and producer, started his career as a screenwriter for the TV show Cheers. He is a regular writer for National Review, Newsweek International, and the Los ...

In This Issue

Articles

Politics & Policy

Growing Pains

Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, is determined to be the presidential candidate for those conservatives who believe that Republicans have lately been concentrating too much on cutting the ...
Politics & Policy

Friends in Need

José María Aznar and his friends, when they talk about Israel, often use the word “normal.” Israel is a “normal country,” they say, and ought to be accepted as normal, ...
Politics & Policy

Virtual Manhood

Rodney Dangerfield, the late comedian famous for his “No Respect” routine, used to do a bit in his act about how to deal with the awkwardness of the morning after ...

Features

Politics & Policy

Growth Formulas

Cut Taxes ALAN REYNOLDS Federal spending is scheduled to remain above 24 percent of GDP, five percentage points higher than the 19.2 percent average of 1997–2007. Pushing the highest tax rates higher ...

Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

Grand Tours

In February 1825, a young graduate of Harvard College named Ralph Waldo Emerson paid a visit to the 89-year-old former president John Adams at his home in Quincy, Mass. Sitting ...
Politics & Policy

An Eye for the Real

The English geneticist J. B. S. Haldane, though an incorrigible commie pinko, was a tart and brilliant observer of life’s panoply. “My own suspicion,” he wrote, “is that the universe ...
Politics & Policy

The Way of Grace

When Terrence Malick returned to filmmaking in 1998 after a 20-year hiatus, no critic wanted to point out that the genius director’s re-entry had landed with a thud. So The ...

Sections

Politics & Policy

Letters

Womyn and Males Jay Nordlinger’s “War of Words” (June 20) prompted me to think of the loss of “ladies and gentlemen,” so common in my generation. Here is The New York ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ Newt Gingrich’s aides seem to be leaving him for a younger, more attractive candidate. ‐ American forces have routed the Taliban in its traditional strongholds in Kandahar and Helmand provinces ...
The Bent Pin

It’s Complicated

A postcard from Upgraded America, our new and improved country where everything that used to be simple has become as overcomplicated as possible . . . It began with reading glasses. ...
The Long View

The Republican Presidential Debate

Candidates’ thought-balloon transcript Extract: (page 23) MITT ROMNEY: Hair? Check. Teeth? Smiling. Upbeat, lofty attitude? Done. Don’t look at Pawlenty. Mitt’s a fighter. Mitt’s a fighter. Mitt’s a fighter. You’re about to mention ...
Athwart

Weiner’s Law

Language changes quickly, given the proper nudge. Three years ago the phrase “Weiner tweeted his schnitzel” would have made you think he’d invented a wind instrument out of a sausage; ...
Politics & Policy

Poetry

DUCKTOWN It had its origins in the sandy past Of Atlantic City, the old boardwalk And the short blocks, the brief alleys And small businesses with names Decalled over long empty windows. Pepper Alley they called ...
Happy Warrior

Coffee Crash

This fall marks the centenary of William Mitchell. You may not have heard of him, but in his day he was a big cheese. Indeed, he was a big processed ...

Most Popular

Culture

Courage: The Greatest of Virtues

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Or Listener), As the reporter assigned the job of writing the article about all of Sidney Blumenthal’s friends and supporters told his ... Read More
Immigration

My American Dream

This morning, at 8 a.m., I did something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I became an American. I first applied for a visa in early 2011, and since then I have slowly worked my way through the system — first as a visa-holder, then as a permanent resident (green card), and, finally, as a ... Read More
U.S.

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More