The 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.