Anthony Weiner and the Question of Ethics

While political pundits from both sides of the aisle are tossing around their thoughts on the fact that Huma Abedin is finally separating from Anthony Weiner, there are some deeper issues that really need to be addressed. Oddly enough, one of them ended up hitting the pages of Rolling Stone. It might be enjoyable to ridicule Weiner, but doing so creates a double-standard that will be difficult to overcome.

Where do we draw the line for privacy when it comes to public figures?

The article suggests that even though it might make us feel good to say that when the private information is newsworthy it is alright to release the content to the public, that puts us on a slippery slope. What is newsworthy? What are just personal attacks? More importantly, who gets to decide? The recent demise of Gawker would imply that the courts decide what is newsworthy, but some have made compelling arguments that the site shouldn’t have been held responsible in the way it was for releasing sex tapes. Unfortunately, those arguments centered on anything but the concept that public figures can have private lives.

Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that the masses tend to view public figures as something that isn’t quite human. They are rich, lucky, privileged, or have any number of other qualities that on their face may seem to make them better. That is less than skin deep, since in reality, the masses equate those qualities with making a choice to give up having anything remotely close to privacy. That is the “price of fame,” or that is the excuse the public offers to justify treating the famous like caged animals in a zoo. They chose the spotlight, so we are entitled to knowing everything about them.

That is dehumanizing, and unacceptable.

But, Weiner’s latest problem isn’t just about him. It involves his son. Weiner obviously has some very serious problems when it comes to sex, but that doesn’t mean that the public should be viewing all of the horrible things he has done. While it’s reprehensible to take sexually charged selfies near a child, it takes a special kind of evil to publish those photos. The pictures depict something bordering on sexual abuse, and Abedin would be right to not only divorce Weiner, but also seek full custody. But, I didn’t need to see the picture to point that out. Merely knowing that the child had been captured in the frame is sufficient. Publishing that picture is no better than taking it.

The reality is that the child will grow up, and that picture will be out there. He didn’t choose to be famous, but now he can look forward to being infamous. No amount of graphic manipulation can undo the fact that the child is in that picture for all to see. The absolute lack of empathy in the media and among the masses is arguably the real problem. It is a collective mental disorder that is making the public think that it’s great to view the humiliation of others for sport. Now, we’ve opened the door to exploiting children in this endless hunger for humiliation and hatred.

Congratulations.

Photo: By Thomas Good – Next Left Notes (Photo Credit: Thomas Good / NLN), GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7187715

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