The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

#WeinerGate: Where the Story Goes Next

Posted on | June 1, 2011 | 71 Comments

Weiner calls lewd photo
on Twitter a ‘distraction’

Washington Post

Lawmaker in Twitter Case Assails Reporters
New York Times

Yesterday’s televised meltdown was, I think, complete vindication for those of us in the online community who spent Memorial Day weekend trying to convince people that #WeinerGate was an honest-to-goodness genuine news story.

It’s not only real, it’s spectacular.

(Bryan Preston: “So, yeah, this story has gone mainstream.”)

A question I asked on Twitter last night: Does anyone still believe that Anthony Weiner was the innocent victim of hackers? Anyone?

Ace of Spades last night delivered a seminar to the “reality-based community” about the behavioral clues that made him so intensely suspicious of Weiner’s reaction to this alleged act of online identity theft:

I love how we’re all wingnutz because we’ve been out of the house enough to know how human beings behave. Like if they’re seriously victimized in a malicious crime, they tend to get rather angry. They don’t toss off casual jokes about it and try to change the subject right away. . . .

You should read the whole thing, because what else is the difference between conservatives and liberals, except our different understandings of human nature? Conservatism fundamentally involves a belief in the tragic permanence — the fixed and flawed quality — of the human condition. It is irremediable. There is nothing new under the sun, and people will tend to react certain ways under certain conditions.

Whereas, every day is a new day for liberals, who are always so surprised when an allegedly selfless humanitarian seeker of social justice turns out to be as flawed and corrupt as those mere mortals whom he professes himself capable of redeeming through his heaven-on-earth schemes.

What matters to the liberal is that he has good intentions. The conservative smiles at this, and asks the liberal if he knows where that road paved with good intentions proverbially leads.

OK, sermon over. If I’d wanted to be a moral philosopher, I’d have gone to grad school. Instead, I’ve spent the past 25 years in the news business and you know what? Experience matters.

When I arrived at The Washington Times as a 38-year-old newly-hired assistant national editor, I’d already spent nearly a dozen years in the newspaper business. So I knew news, and I also knew a good bit about politics and history and a few other things. What I didn’t know was how different journalism in Washington is from journalism in small-town Georgia.

So I started my new job in November 1997, and was doing pretty good, learning the ropes and applying my skills to this new situation when, two months into the job, Matt Drudge broke the news that Bill Clinton was sexually involved with a former intern.

Kinda changed my life.

Thanks, Bill. Thanks, Monica. Thanks, Matt.

Being the FNG on the national desk at the time, I picked up a lot of the routine news stuff while the more senior editors dealt with the Big Story on Page One. But I did my small share of minor LewinskyGate duty, and I was there every day at the newsroom meetings where the reporting was planned and the assignments were distributed.

Sort of a crash course, a boot camp, an ordeal by fire for a small-town journalist newly arrived in D.C. And after surviving 10 years in the seething cauldron of madness that is the newsroom of The Washington Times, I figure I’ve served my time in hell.

Since joining the blogosphere full-time three years ago, however, I’ve occasionally been irritated that some people — whose interest in the news is chiefly political — don’t credit my judgment when it comes to situations where news must be evaluated strictly as news.

A couple days ago, I wrote a post (and I’ve lost track of which one it was), in which I said that, even though it appeared that the MSM wasn’t taking much interest in the WeinerGate story, this was a temporary situation: Not a lot of top-drawer reporters and editors are sitting around newsrooms in D.C. and New York on the Saturday before Memorial Day. Once those top people got back from their seaside holidays, I boldly predicted, Anthony Weiner was going to have to answer some real questions.

Hey, did I call that one, or what?

So, here’s what to expect next: Today, reporters will be swarming Capitol Hill to buttonhole House members to get their reactions to yesterday’s Weiner meltdown, to ask them what — if any — consequences Weiner might face. Do members of the House ethics committee see any grounds for an inquiry?

By Thursday, the Washington Post and the New York Times will have lengthy stories that are basically trying to evaluate the political reaction. You’ll also have features on the history of sex scandals, and some buzzword-heavy stories about how social networking technology and online media have re-shaped how sex scandals happen and are reported.

Something else to expect: MSM reporting Wednesday and Thursday– as if they had discovered it themselves, an exclusive — stuff you were reading on blogs Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Also, the MSM will never give credit by name to Ace of Spades, Dan Riehl, Lee Stranahan, Pete Ingemi, et al., for the work they did in developing, analyzing and advancing this story. When the major networks and national magazines interview “experts” about Twitter and blogs played in the scandal, these will not be people who had a damned thing to do with breaking WeinerGate. They’ll quote some professor of political science or something.

Sic semper hoc.

So . . . after Tuesday’s press conference debacle, I’m thinking the clock is ticking on Weiner. Democrats are very conscious of how such scandals can hurt them. After all, Mark Foley’s scandal was a major boost to Pelosi and the Democrats taking the House majority in 2006. So either Weiner comes up with a more plausible excuse or else he’ll have to . . . tell the truth.

To repeat what I said Tuesday night, my money says Weiner issue a terse statement of admission late Thursday, go into seclusion and then turn up on Rachel Maddow’s show Friday for a friendly (but deeply regretful) interview.

Maybe he’ll “seek treatment” somewhere. I don’t think he’ll resign. But it should reach some kind of conclusion by the weekend, so that Sunday, I expect we’ll see a lot of “thoughtful” op-ed columns in the Washington Post and New York Times about What It All Means.

That’s the real kick in the head, the thing that galls me most of all: No matter how badly the major media fail — and none of them got the story right over the weekend — when all is said and done, they still arrogate to themselves the privilege of telling the rest of us plebian swine What It All Means.

It’s weird, you see: I hate the media just as much as anybody out there in Yokelsburg, Oklahoma. And yet, at the same time, in some sense, I am the media.

“Familiarity breeds contempt,” I suppose.

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