When the news went out that New York’s most famous Weiner was resigning, I emitted a silent prayer of thanks. Now that he was gone, there would be no more of the metaphorical cakes and ale of Lewd Grainy Pictures of Powerful Men, and we could finally be virtuous and talk about that budget.
Then I clambered up a mountain to try to find the God of the Internet. ”Give me some clear and simple commandments,” I said, “so that this will not occur again.”
“Control Z,” he suggested, unhelpfully, then sighed. “Of course it’ll occur again,” said the God of the Internet. “That is what the Internet was designed for.”
“I thought it was so we could share information and knowledge and our impressions of the world and push forth the boundaries of mankind’s knowledge and feel less alone,” I mumbled.
The God of the Internet shook his head. “If it were not simultaneously an ideal medium for sending images of certain anatomical??????? bits, it would not have taken off.” He sighed. “I have no laws for you. I have simply one truth. If people are not using the Internet to search for lewd images, it is only because they do not know how to use it properly.”
Then he had to go back to deity duty, and I was left to chisel out laws on my own. I came up with 10, but then I dropped one of the tablets, so here they are: There is no context. There is no privacy. There is no forgetfulness. And there is no mercy.
The first law of the Internet is that it strips away all context.
“That sex video was the product of a courtship lasting 23 years!” people shout. Tough. You worked slowly and delicately toward that picture? The Internet does not care. It lets us dispense with the pleasantries. It is the embodiment of the human impulse to skim the index for the naughty bits.
There was little subtle about the pictures Weiner sent to women on the Internet, and the spelling in the accompanying captions was truly deplorable. But upset about them as we’ve gotten, Weiner wasn’t darting around in a public park forcing this image on totally unsuspecting strangers. There was more to it than that. We weren’t even tweeting seductive things to him — and look how interested we were.
There is no privacy.
Online privacy is an oxymoron. All Internet indecency is public. Murder may out. Trouser pics? Those will definitely out.
The Internet does not forget. It is steadily putting elephants out of a job.
It is the wishing well that surreptitiously archives all our wishes. Through simple omission on our part, our chats are logged, our IP addresses monitored, our search histories not cleared. Coverup? What coverup, you fool? It is all there.
And there is no mercy.
You were hacked? Don’t embarrass us. We know better. That is our infernal pride in our own ability to elude capture, to do what you do without being caught.
It is the giant orgy we pretend we don’t attend. “The Internet is for porn,” the muppets sang in Avenue Q. And this is statistically true. As Good magazine reports, 12 percent of all Web sites are pornographic. Twenty-five percent of all search-engine requests are pornographic. Every second, more than 20,000 people are viewing pornography.
Sex is the most-searched word on the Internet. AdultFriendFinder.com has millions more visitors daily than the New York Times.
“Never!” we exclaim. “Shame!”
It is the naughty party where you Didn’t See Anyone You Knew.
That’s the most disgusting part of this whole affair.
This scandal has been marked by all the prurient vehemence of the hypocrite, the high schooler who denounces to his parents Those Other Kids Who Are So Terrible And Go Out Drinking And Hooting And Hollering And Carrying On while the flask cowers at the bottom of his own backpack. It is not that we don’t sin. Emphatically not. It is that we haven’t been caught.
But if the Weiner scandal were good for anything — and it won’t be, because as long as we view his sin as Getting Caught After Idiotically Sending The Picture To Everyone Rather Than Just Someone, we won’t mend our ways — it would be for puncturing the delusion that we can get away with things online that we could not get away with in real life. Sure, online sins are comparatively venial. The Internet, as Shakespeare’s porter said of drink, provokes the desire but takes away the performance. But they are infinitely more public. Before, we only heard what you had done. Now we have pictures, and added to the thrill of watching Weiner fall is our thrill at not being caught. “How dare he do that?” we laugh knowingly. “The fool! Who sends such lewd images?” More people than you’d think. Married. Single. In-between. On the Webcam network ChatRoulette, one in four cameras is aimed at the same anatomical region that Weiner favored.
So if you even for a second pretend to have no idea what possessed Weiner to send such images and What Gentleman Would Dare Send A Picture of His Weiner?, there is a special circle of Internet hell reserved for you, probably next to Rebecca Black. The arc of the Internet is long and double rainbowed, but it bends toward justice.
Stop the loud denunciations. We all have a wiener problem.
To mangle a quote from W. Somerset Maugham, there is no one whose browser history, were it made broadcast, would not fill the world at large with shock and horror.
At least, we’d say it did.