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Posted at 08:19 AM ET, 06/09/2011

Anthony Weiner: Character flaw meets design flaw

Weinergate refuses to go away. There’s always a new Tweet, a new graphic photo, a new stain upon the congressman’s character. Another e-ffair surfaces. The vultures circle overhead. He’s finished, pundits declare, yet he clings to his job. This is the Death Watch, made all the more entrancing because the story is prurient. No, don’t pretend it’s just about power, it’s mostly about sex, and we are hard-wired to be unduly fascinated by the grunting shenanigans of other people (since everyone else is, at base, a genetic rival, threatening to spread genes more widely or in more fecund ground).

What strikes me, beyond the obvious piggy behavior of Rep. Weiner, is the way the story exposes a basic flaw with Twitter. Here we see a character flaw meeting a design flaw. The mistake was Weiner’s – he hit the wrong key, an “@” instead of a “D,” and thus sent the lewd photo to tens of thousands of people instead of one. But a good technology assumes operator error, and has built-in corrections or failsafes. A robust system presumes that dopes will grab the controls.

Taking a cue from the car ignition systems that require a breathalyzer test before the engine will start, Twitter needs to create a system in which Weiner and his ilk cannot tweet unless they first pass some kind of test or hurdle that indicates they are not in a state of concupiscence.

What kind of test might that be? I don’t know – this is why we have technologists and entrepreneurs. It might some kind of blood test or saliva test or breath test that measures the amount of testosterone in the would-be tweeter’s body at that precise moment. Too much T and the twit can’t tweet.

Or perhaps it’s a pop quiz: Quick, answer this, who would you rather sit next to at a state dinner, Henry Kissinger or Christina Aguilera? You have two-tenths of a second to answer Kissinger or else you can’t tweet.

Would you rather have a conversation with Margaret Thatcher or Barbarella?

Bzzzttt....sorry, no tweeting for you!

The real design flaw, of course, is “the male.” The question of the moment is, how much longer will women put up with men? Isn’t there a workaround?

Evolution is not, contrary to popular belief, a maximizing and perfecting process in which our flaws and quirks are smoothed away over time. Evolution create kludges (the armadillo, the anteater, Newt Gingrich), which work well enough in certain environments but are not ideal in every regard. And thus, from the rib of woman, was fashioned the male.

Bigger, physically stronger, meaner, better at certain kinds of spatial imagination, less prone to getting sidetrack with all that “feelings” nonsense – this is the hormonally mutated variation of the species we call a male. The problem is that many of the male traits that were useful during our long, prehistoric journey as hunters and gatherers are not as useful in an increasingly matriarchal society.

Politics is a form of sex by other means (didn’t Clausewitz say that?). If you disagree, I have two words for you: Bill Clinton. It takes discipline for a politician to realize that the seduction has to remain metaphorical. The new social networks that enable retail politics on an individual level are traps for narcissists like Weiner.

These guys say: Look at me. Look at me. Look at me. And the weak and the flawed and the stupid don’t know when and where and how to stop.

By  |  08:19 AM ET, 06/09/2011

 
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