Sociopaths. American Royalty.

NEW SLAUGHTERThe best thing about the Anthony Weiner/”Carlos Danger” circus is that it gives American media something new to concentrate on other than “the royal baby”. Newsrooms make editorial decisions based largely on what they believe their audience is most interested in. That said, the assessment that Americans can’t get enough medieval/celebrity pageantry affirms the worst cynic’s view of our “lamestream” information-delivery system. More specifically, the gooey, fawning coverage of everything “royal” is a calculation on the interests of American women who are far and away the primary audience for morning TV, where the most shameless fawning always takes place. One of my fonder hopes is that some day there is an insurrection among the “Lean In” crowd against this kind of pandering.

But until then … we have the latest episode of shameless sociopathy in Anthony Weiner/”Carlos Danger’s” sexting escapades. As summer news fodder goes, this thing is a chartbuster. Once again, tabloid headline writers and late night comics fall to their knees thanking whoever/whatever they worship for the gift of something so right into the wheelhouse of what the public eats up … sex, the lust for fame and power, hypocrisy and, for the female demo, a beautiful, poised wife. This particular episode is so over-the-top, hilariously squalid it will live in infamy until the sun implodes. I mean … “Carlos Danger” … and the dialogue of those texts … in New York City?

Weiner/”Danger” is obviously one seriously screwed up, pervy dude. To the point, where I think sensible women are quickly moving toward the question of why the lovely Huma bothers with him at all? Yes, there’s the Hillary and Bill precedent, and that’s entirely plausible explanation. You have to know Hillary has offered counsel. But does even Huma believe Weiner/”Danger” has Bill Clinton’s political prospects? If she does, her standing among the “Lean In” ladies drops by about 80%.

But more interesting to me is the sociopathy of Weiner himself. There’s a book out, “Confessions of a Sociopath: Hiding in Plain Sight”, purportedly authored by a Mormon woman — writing under an alias — partly explaining, partly defending her status as a sociopath, which as I’m led to understand it, is the preferred, 21st century name for what we used to call a “psychopath”. Her definition of herself is this: “I am generally free of entangling and irrational emotions, I am strategic and canny, I am intelligent and confident and charming, but I also struggle to react appropriately to other people’s confusing and emotion-driven social cues.”

Weiner/”Danger” is a textbook “sociopath”, at least if you can contort being free of “irrational emotions” to explain a near complete lack of impulse control. But as I got into in a recent post on Eliot Spitzer, there’s a much broader realm of this kind of behavior than guffaw and snicker-inducing sexual hijinks. A number tossed around by psychologists in the context of sociopathy is 4%. As in 4% of us can be described as having a chronic, “lack of remorse, a penchant for deceit, and a failure to conform to social norms.” A heavy proportion of the prison population qualifies as sociopathic. But “Confessions” (which hasn’t been all that well-reviewed, in part because of the author hiding behind an alias), is about the sociopaths among us and the weird allure sociopaths have to the general population.

Again, this is way … way … too deep for the morning chat shows or the headline media to get in to. The newsroom assessment being that their viewers are busy people getting their families out the door. They don’t have time for turgid psychological babbling, because … “Oh, look … Buckingham Palace … the Queen’s beautiful horses … and the window … where any minute now the Princess will appear with her baby … .”

But the cult of sociopaths in the context of contemporary political and celebrity figures hogging the spotlight, blotting out rational conversation and clotting the public narrative to their own selfish ends (Michele Bachmann, Donald Trump, the Kardashians, etc.) is something that ought to prey on the newsroom conscience a lot more than it does. Moreover, as I said in Spitzer piece, a savvy media consumer, like the “Lean In” audience, should exercise intense skepticism over the scant attention paid to forms of sociopathic behavior other than sexual buffoonery.

Pop quiz: Can you identify Dennis Kozlowski? Joe Cassano? Angelo Mozilo?

Local media tycoon Stanley Hubbard will never be mistaken for a hand-wringing liberal, but several times in conversations with him he’s asserted his belief that “5% of CEOs are sociopaths”.

5% … 4%. The similarity is striking. But like Bachmann, Trump, the Kardashians and countless others, as long as that 5% produces the right numbers they can be assured treatment fairer than they deserve.

Hell, they’ll be treated like royalty.

Screw the Weiner. Give Me a Real Scandal!

I believe I’ve mentioned that going into the last presidential election cycle I was a big fan of John Edwards. As campaign messages go I thought that his “Two Americas” bit was dead on and very saleable. (And it still is, maybe more than ever.) Plus,I assumed that after his ’04 run with John Kerry he was fully geared for the absurdities of the campaign trail … and, frankly, I thought what the Democrats needed was a slick, smart trial lawyer to counter-attack the usual Karl Rove-style selective outrage crap. Also, I figured he might do okay with the female vote.

Lately I’ve also admired the work of Anthony Weiner. In a world of sawdust dull Harry Reids, Henry Waxmans and, well, John Kerrys, I saw some value in a guy who was both on target legislatively and politically and could deliver a steady stream smart bombs on GOP hypocrisies with a satirist’s wit. (Hence the voracity with which he’s being gutted.)

So, in the realm of understatement, last week was a tough one, what with Edwards indicted for kiting campaign money into the care and keeping of his astral-crystal lover mama and Weiner exposed as — what else do you call it? an utter, compulsive idiot — for cyber sexting female fans. Right now I can’t remember where I read or heard someone who knew Edwards pre-’04 talking about the “astonishing transformation” that came over the guy after he got a killer dose of the idolatry that comes from intense public exposure .,.. in a fevered partisan environment. . The phrase “down to earth” was even used. If Anthony Weiner has undergone something of the same, I don’t know, except of course that Jon Stewart considers him a friend and Stewart doesn’t strike me as a guy who readily embraces wanton douche bags.

But this latest … epic scandal, a mostly obscure congressman from Queens/Brooklyn flirting with women to whom he is not married, but as far as we know not breaking any laws … got me thinking again on the Republicans’ singular failure over the past three years. Namely, the inability to hang anything … anything … on Barack Obama. And by “anything” I mean some kind of sexual scandalpalooza. Something titanic. Like, you know,  Paula Jones via the earth-shaking Whitewater real estate deal. What could possibly give? Even if Obama has managed to keep his pants zipped and his fingers off his Blackberry camera all of his career, the likes of Andrew Breitbart should have made something up by now. The Presidential equivalent of a Shirley Sherrod moment. Get video of Obama with Mrs. Sarkozy, Carla Bruni, feed it back and forth through an Avid editing deck and voila! insinuation of scandal and a news cycle dominating story that knocks the Paul Ryan budget debacle, and the looming establishment GOP v. Tea Party crusaders brawl deep into the background.

The book “Game Change” by Mark Halperin and John Heileman, (soon to be a major movie), was a great read for all the head-slapping bungling, back-stabbing, second-guessing, desperation and craven-ness of everyone on the ’08 campaign trail … except Obama. Point being again, we elected the right guy in terms of someone fully committed to doing the job he was elected to do, and considering the quality of the candidates the Republicans have been swooning over, Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain and our own “courageous”, budget-balancing choirboy, Tim Pawlenty, he should get elected again.

But now I am wondering, what with the string of all the anti-gay Republicans caught flagrante delicta with male hookers (and worse), Nev. Sen. John Ensign’s “C” Street Bible Study Group/hot chick clearing house, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Edwards and Weiner how much the public really cares anymore about the sexual compulsions of influential men swamped with constant, easy access to “somethin’ somethin'” on the side? How soon does this kind of … historically routine … behavior hit the tipping point equivalent  of having smoked a few joints in college? The point where you just can’t care that much … about something that matters so little to you?

If I were to advise Weiner on a career path, I’d suggest he follow Eliot Spitzer’s lead and move to better paying job with a bigger megaphone for attacking the real scandals of our age … the stuff that actually does matter, a hell of a lot, to everyone whether they’re being reminded of it hourly by the mainstream press or not.

Do I have to remind you that as of this date not one key person involved Wall Street’s world economic collapse home mortgage derivatives scandal, (a real scandal, albeit one lacking any naked pictures), has yet gone to jail, and the government is being successfully stymied in pressing indictments against Goldman Sachs for what appear to be beyond flagrant acts of fraud? Weiner on cable news could for example get New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin (author of “Too Big to Fail”) on with Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi to discuss their competing views of the veracity/duplicity of Goldman, Sachs’ management team. (Sorkin’s Tuesday column is essentially a public response to Taibbi’s piece of May 10, and here Taibbi responds to Sorkin.)

It ain’t exactly beefcake on Twitter, but I for one am a lot more taken with the gravity of that scandal than this latest Tale of the Weiner.