Today, we no longer fear men in raincoats lurking on street corners. Instead, we have, at the sinister end of the spectrum, adolescents filming each other’s sexual exploits, posting them on the internet and in some cases driving each other to suicide (as in the case of the Rutgers student)... and at the ludicrous end, Cyber Flasher Anthony Weiner, member of the august House of Representatives sending images of his crown jewels to tens of thousands of his Twitter followers.
Though some have argued that Weiner’s actions are not criminal and have, in effect, “done no harm,” (the same “No one died” argument a French minister used to defend alleged rapist Dominique Strauss-Khan), it’s time for Mr. Weiner to follow my mother’s advice and the President’s not so subtle hint to resign his seat.
Can we hold the Rutgers students (arguably teenagers with the excuse of underdeveloped prefrontal cortexes, who, as a joke, filmed their gay roommate having sex) responsible for his death and yet allow a grown man (whose pre-frontal cortex is presumably fully developed) who took lewd pictures of himself on they taxpayers’ dime and time to remain in his job as a lawmaker?
Demanding his resignation does not represent a knee-jerk puritanical response. It’s a necessary establishment of consequences.
How can we teach our young people to respect the line between private and public, to “think before they film,” when from the Kardashians to the admittedly brilliant Eliot Spitzer, they’re learning that the wages of scandal and full frontal nudity are fame, fortune, and your own TV show? What incentive do they have to “follow the rules” of basically decent behavior (and you don’t have to be a Christian fundamentalist to think that the private parts of our nation’s leaders should be kept off the national airwaves, otherwise, let’s just send CSPAN to the Congressional latrine), when time and again we show them that if you’re powerful and connected enough, you can get away with almost anything?
As for Mr. Weiner, he can find solace in the fact that when he leaves Congress, he will probably be tapped to appear on “Dancing with the Stars.” As former Congressman Tom DeLay can assure him, a good rhumba does wonders to restore a sullied reputation.
Susan Fales-Hill is the author of "One Flight Up" and is a famed TV writer and producer who worked on both "The Cosby Show" and "A Different World."