Well, our long-ish national nightmare of having to hear and care about Anthony Weiner is finally over. Put your jokes and puns away. Put your Carlos Danger costume back in the garbage, where it belongs. The New York mayoral primary concluded Tuesday night with Weiner pulling in just 30,000-ish votes, possibly all from people whom he was sending personal images to at the time.
Weiner has vanished from the public eye, finally, offering the finger to photographers as he disappeared into the night. He’s been stuck in the public eye for much too long, always in periods of slow news, in all his underpants-bombing glory.
It’s been noted that this was a uniquely Internet phenomenon. People were idiots before the Internet, lovers of attention, philanderers, but it required a little more effort. You couldn’t do it from the comfort of your couch, next to your cats. At one point in the Weiner scandal Part A or Part B, you heard people sighing, “Why can’t he just commit adultery quietly on the side like a NORMAL person! Why does he have to be so — gross about it?” We got over Mark Sanford! But that was because Sanford didn’t leave a trail of weird pictures.
Sure, there may have been a promising Tammany Hall politician or two who was hoist by his own petard after sending a daguerreotype of his personal regions by pony express, but — it wasn’t possible to satisfy our curiosity about it. And that was what made the difference. What took Weiner from “Well, this is mortifying for him, but a personal matter,” to “This is a NATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT” was not the fact that he’d been able to send those pictures and messages in the first place, but the fact that we were all able to see them. That’s the side where the Internet was most damning. The part of the story that took place above sea level — jokey headlines, finger-wagging and disapproving editorials — depended on the vast iceberg of Not-So-Official Outlets where Weiner and all his most embarrassing bedroom banter were on full, flagrant display.
Are there any lessons to take from this? I guess we can thank him for giving us the opportunity for not one, but two large, normative discussions about How Many Pictures Of Your Privates Is It Acceptable To Send To Internet Strangers? (A: Zero, especially if you’re married, you twerp.) Except that possibly we protested a little too much. One of my general rules for life is that there is no one alive whose browser history, if broadcast, would not fill the world at large with shock and horror. But now pretty much everyone is on the record as saying that Those Pictures Of Weiner We Clicked On Are The Kind Of Thing Only A Weird Deviant Would Even Think Of Sending.
But save that discussion for next time. The Weiner era is mercifully, I hope, closed, although you can never rule out some kind of further run. It’s like the end of the “Matrix,” when the machines agreed to go away, even though it seemed like there was nothing preventing them from coming back except that it would make everyone deeply sad and disappointed and no one was going to pay for a third sequel.
So savor these moments, before Weiner inevitably rears his head on cable news or just starts Facebook messaging you out of the blue under a new alias or — something.
In the mean time, though, ding, dong, the Weiner’s gone.