The Global Grapevine

A Sociologist Explains Rumor

Weiner Redux: The “I’m Special” Rule

When politicians think the rules don't apply, they're in trouble

By Gary Alan Fine

     Shame on Anthony Weiner for fooling me. Have I ever said anything snippy about him before his Twitter imbroglio? Yet, despite having studied Congressional scandals for decades, I was persuaded that he had been hacked and simply made a mess of his pressers. No one is that much of a goof. He couldn't quite bring himself to lie  enough to persuade us to move on. If he had only denied, denied, denied that the photo was his, he might, just might, have gotten away with it. Tell us Anthony that they couldn't be yours, since you never wear underwear. Sure he would be lying, but he was lying when he claimed that he was hacked. Do it in style. He wanted wiggle room with his half-denials about the provenance of those briefs. As any worm can attest when you wiggle, you can get hooked.

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     Now the Congressman has a choice: will he resign or will he be a punchline? And what will his buddy Jon Stewart have to say tonight? I can hardly wait.

     Apparently this ambitious and combative politician who dreamed of being mayor of New York City chose to fritter his life away on Twitter, sending flirtatious messages and photos to young women, even after his marriage to a politically well-connected wife. If stupidity were a crime . . . well, thank god it isn't, considering the prisons we would have to build.

     Weiner embraced the "I'm so special law." After his New York Congressional colleague Representative Chris Lee was forced to resign over his hunky photo, one might imagine that politicians would recognize that at least "that" deviance was off-limits. But now, Anthony Weiner knew, just knew, that the rules didn't apply to Queens. He could be the Democratic Knight in Shining Pecs and be elected as Mayor Topless. Perhaps not every politician is caught in the act. Who knows the improprieties of which we never learn?

     To be sure neither Lee nor Weiner quite reach the charmed scandal circle of Arnold or Dominique or Eliot, much less the Sultan of Slime John Edwards. These congressional sins are venial, not mortal, but still they rank high on the ick scale.

     The worst deception occurs when you believe that the same moral standards that apply to everyone else do not apply to you. God is laughing. I just received His tweet.

Gary Alan Fine is a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow and the author of Difficult Reputations: Collective Memories of the Evil, Inept, and Controversial.

 

Gary Alan Fine, Ph.D., is a Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University and co-author of The Global Grapevine: Why Rumors of Terrorism, Immigration, and Trade Matter. more...

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