Yesterday I expressed my exasperation over liberal elites who profess to be indifferent to Anthony Weiner’s conduct, if not outraged at the rest of those covering the story. Meagan McArdle at the Atlantic has an interesting take:
A lot of over-35’s, including me, view this behavior as pathologically reckless. A lot of under-35’s are saying “meh, what’s the big deal? Lot’s of people do it!”
Maybe so. But here’s the thing: Anthony Weiner is 47, not 24. Like the rest of us fuddy-duddies, he grew up with a strong taboo against mailing naked photographs of yourself to strangers. Whether or not college students really distribute naked photographs of themselves as indiscriminately as their email address, middle-aged married people do not regard this as a slightly less formal way to say “have a nice day.”
So I don’t find the argument that “it’s normal” very convincing -- not for a man of Weiner’s age and position. It was obviously pretty reckless, even if the only standard you use is that obviously, if these pictures became public, he would have to spend a lot of time explaining himself.
Unfortunately, there are some over-35’s who seem clueless, but her essential point on age is telling and sad.
In all the rush to embrace perfect sexual equality (not comparability but the bizarre notion that gender is irrelevant) and the holier-than-thou rejection of 1950s prudishness have we encouraged piggish, adolescent men to rewrite the rules between the sexes? Maybe the Weiner-obtuse under-35’s have been systematically stripped of what they view as the artifacts of a bygone era — chivalry, shame, discretion. They view the world and the opposite sex through an amoral lens that, for example, no longer can spot the “big deal” in the Weiner scandal.
Weiner doesn’t warrant our sympathy. But perhaps those who can’t figure out what the “big deal” is should. And this is not, alas, purely a male problem. If you’ve waded through the sludge and read the transcript of Weiner’s communications with one woman, you readily conclude that the malady affects both sexes. In obliterating those artifacts of restraint we have, as conservative blogger Rachel Abrams put it to me yesterday, witnessed that “the whole fabric of relations between the sexes, young men and women are scarred.” Maybe we should worry less about the loathsome Weiner and more about the generation that can’t figure out what the “big deal” is.