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Understanding Weinergate

How social media felled a rising star, and how his Jewishness was involved

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Anthony Weiner at his press conference yesterday.(Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Last October, sportswriter Bill Simmons tweeted the following message: “Moss Vikings.” Having not meant to send this to the world—having, rather, meant to send it as a private “direct message” to just one person—he deleted that tweet, and then, realizing that at least one of his literally more than one million followers may have seen it, he tweeted a mea culpa: “Sorry that last tweet was supposed to be a DM [direct message]. Rumors swirling about a Pats-Minny trade for Randy Moss.” Everybody quickly began reporting on what would have made for the blockbuster trade of the football season. The following day, the New England Patriots traded Moss to the Minnesota Vikings.

For those of us who remembered this story, it was not shocking at all when Rep. Anthony Weiner, Democrat from New York and heretofore one of the brightest rising Jewish political stars, yesterday admitted that racy photos seemingly from him, which appeared on his Twitter account, all stemmed from a single instance in which he had, yes, meant to send a direct message to one follower and had instead tweeted the picture to the world. Which meant he has been lying for the past several days in saying vague things about his account having been “hacked.” He added that he had had similar exchanges with roughly six women, mostly before he was married (to Hillary Clinton adviser Huma Abedin, who is, notably to some in the Jewish community, a Muslim woman), some after.

Weiner is 46; Simmons is 41. Both lie in the sweet spot that makes them unusually prone to this sort of Social Media Age gaffe: Too young not to be fully engaged in this hyper-fast, hyper-linked world, but too old to fully, intuitively understand its hazards. Those like former President Clinton, whose extramarital dalliances were likely more prolific and certainly more severe than Weiner’s (the congressman actually had no sexual relations with these women, he claims), would never find themselves in this position because they do not tweet, and if they did, would never get remotely as advanced as Weiner (direct messages? uploading photos? meeting strangers? these are complicated Internet maneuvers!). And those of us younger than Weiner, even the ones who might want to send photos of their crotch to women not their wives, would be more careful than to even leave the chance of this sort of exposure. Those of us who grew up turning on a computer and surfing the Internet with the same familiarity with which our parents operated a television (as their parents fumbled with the dial) understand, in a way Weiner and his generation don’t, that the Internet is a place like any other, not some make-believe, less consequential virtual reality—understand this not just intellectually but instinctively. (People in this older group will ask, “Did you get my email?” People in this younger group never do, because of course you got their email.) While politicians have fallen into sexual scandal many times before, this was the first scandal that could only have occurred, or at least play out the way it did, in the past three or five years. That is its significance—that, and the fact that Weiner just postponed his hopes for Gracie Mansion, and probably foreclosed on those for the White House. Er, Russ Feingold for president?

There is one more thing to discuss, though if my mom wanted to stop reading this post now, I wouldn’t mind. A Nevada woman Weiner flirted with on Facebook told him that she understood herself to be good at giving oral sex and added, “i love doing it.” To which the congressman from Queens responded: “Wow a jewish girl who sucks []! this thing is ready to do damage.”

I’ll pause for your laughter. But this is also, believe it or not, yet another manifestation of a generation gap! Weiner is old enough to be of the generation that, brought up on Portnoy’s Complaint and its spawn, generalizes Jewish women as sexually cold, and specifically unwilling to perform blow jobs and inept at them when they can be reluctantly coaxed. But a younger generation has almost the exact opposite conception of Jewish women: They (again generalizing) see Jewish women as more willing than the average woman to give blow jobs and as especially skilled at the task. Contributing editor Rachel Shukert has written the definitive article about this (she discusses it here); the new stereotype became especially pronounced in the public consciousness, she argues, thanks to Monica Lewinsky. When that scandal broke, Weiner was almost 30.

Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that the single journalist most responsible for forcing this scandal into the open—who briefly hijacked Weiner’s press conference yesterday demanding an apology—is the conservative impresario Andrew Breitbart, who, yeah. Can you imagine if they had had Twitter in the shtetls?

Weiner Admits He Sent Lewd Photos; Seeks Not To Resign [NYT]
How A Bill Simmons Tweet Ended Up with Randy Moss Being Traded [Deadspin]
Weiner Used Jewish Stereotype to Facebook Sexting Partner [Radar]
Related: There She Is [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: Being Andrew Breitbart

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Sara Ivry says:

There are lots of generalizations about Jewish women. I would argue, if you consider the likes of Erica Jong, Anne Roiphe, that an older generation of Jewish women (in fact, exact contemporaries of Philip Roth) fall into the exact opposite of “Jewish women are sexually cold” category. That too is arguably a stereotype, but let it be said at least that the stereotypes about Jewish women and their sexual appetites run the gamut.

“Weiner is 46; Simmons is 41. Both lie in the sweet spot that makes them unusually prone to this sort of Social Media Age gaffe: Too young not to be fully engaged in this hyper-fast, hyper-linked world, but too old to fully, intuitively understand its hazards.”

That’s just nonsense. You are too quick to judge the social media savvy of many people their age and older.

fred lapides says:

The guy is a total asshole. Why blame social media for shabby behavior?
Perhaps it is now easier to detect morons doing dumb stuff, but previously we would have dumb stuff undetected.

Used to be very fond of what that guy stood for. Now I find him a jerk. And how long married? One year, I believe. Nice job, Anthony

Steph F. says:

Sorry, Marc, but this 41-year-old has to call you on the claim that we oldsters don’t get it and the younger generation does when it comes to protecting yourself from this sort of gaffe and its fallout. If what you say is true, then you wouldn’t hear about high school and college kids having sexts getting forwarded around or other related problems. As someone who works with this age group, I can tell you that being savvy about how to upload and share photos does not mean you have the sense to protect yourself from the unintented sharing of that information once it is out there.

Toni Kamins says:

And this 58-year old seconds that.

philip mann says:

You don`t have to be a neurosurgeon to figure it out-nothing personal or embarrassing goes on the net. Full stop.I still don`t have a facebook account. Living (almost) under the radar.

Allow me to stop slugging my Geritol and pressing my Clapper (NOT EUPHEMISMS) for a sec and respond: Marc, you dewy youthful off-base thing! I’m of the Weiner-SImmons generation, I use social media, and I would not tweet my genitalia because I’M NOT A DIMWIT.

Also, Portnoy’s Complaint? Dude, Simmons wasn’t BORN when it came out; Weiner was wee. It’s not a touchstone for anyone born in the 60s or early 70s. Everyone knows the schtick about Jewish women being frigid materialistic princesses; that’s what the Ween was riffing on. Showing awareness of a stereotype doesn’t mean you’ve internalized it.

It remains unclear to me what, if anything, Anthony Weiner has really accomplished in his political career. His House floor rants were entertaining, I guess, but beyond that there’s not much there. A real mitzvah would be Weiner and Breitbart teaming up to get Shirley Sherrod her old job back.

Garry says:

Weiner’s behavior is not normal. He should consider seeking psychiatric help.

david ben ari says:

“Weiner is 46; Simmons is 41. Both lie in the sweet spot that makes them unusually prone to this sort of Social Media Age gaffe: Too young not to be fully engaged in this hyper-fast, hyper-linked world, but too old to fully, intuitively understand its hazards. ”

With ageist comments like these no wonder Tablet decided to hire a real blogger. Ticking the days till Goldberg…

eli says:

Weiner acts like a self-centered and inflated politician. This has been evident in his political actions and speeches in the past and now in his tweeting/sexting behavior and his lies and obnoxiousness when denying it.

We learn more and more about his immoral behavior everyday – wonder if this is only the “tip” of the iceberg

Lisa says:

What’s with the age generalizations? I’ve got a year on Weiner, which I guess makes me ancient, but I could have told him that if it’s something you wouldn’t want advertised on a billboard, then keep it out of the digital slipstream. I don’t buy that he was too naive about media to understand the risks. He didn’t know these women, but he didn’t attempt anonymity. He was practically daring someone to out his behavior. Couldn’t tell you why, but at some level this guy wanted to sabotage himself.

Social media did not “fell” him; his own idiocy or, more kindly, his lack of attention did. I’m sorry, but his age has nothing to do with it. And anyone who is putting him/herself in the public eye should know, by now, the risks of using social media, plain old e-mail and even the telephone.

Social media has zero to do with it. In his 40’s, he is in no made up sweet spot or even wet spot. That is a silly hypothesis. He is one of the most technically literate and media savvy politicians. I would have believed your essay more had you said that Weiner sub-consciously wanted to be caught and politically destroyed, or written that it was the product of illegal steroid-induced rage. That is much more believable than any sort of sweet spot…. actually steroid use would explain his developed chest, his atrophied penis, and his rage filled outbursts in debates


Jason Jenkins says:

What a mass of gross and absurd generalizations you see the world through. I’m 51, I’ve been using PCs since 1982, and I’ve been engaged in social networking since 1993, beginning with CompuServe. Where in the world did you get your inane idea that today’s youngsters all mastered computing, the Internet, and social networking first, before anyone over 40 started even looking at these facilities? How the hell do you know how long Weiner or Simmons have been using Twitter? Does it occur to you that even after 15 years of experience with corporate e-mail, people still have to be careful not to hit Reply All when they want to reply privately to someone’s mass mailing? Experience doesn’t prevent the occasional screw-up. Maybe your emphasis was on the book’s “spawn”, but what would that be? In any event, don’t you think Anthony Weiner knows as much about Monica Lewinsky as your average 25-year-old?

To round it off, you’ve got Weiner in the “Portnoy’s Complaint” generation. Sorry, but Weiner was 4 or 5 when that book was published. I read it when I was 15 and picked it up off my parents’ shelf, but I bet Weiner’s never opened it.

Mikey says:

As a 46 year old I completely agree with Marc’s assessment, and think the other oldsters are are being a bit defensive. I know how to tweet, text, etc. But, I didn’t grow up with the technology, and I’ve spent a good amount of my adult life without a cell phone or internet. Sure, I’m tech savvy, but not like someone in their 20’s. Marc is dead on correct that no 20-something would have accidentally tweeted a picture of their penis. We in our 40’s can play the game, we’re just not as adept as those that grew up playing it, so we drop the ball more often.

betty says:

OK. I love tablet but this article was so full of generalizations and indefensible hypotheses that I surprised myself by reading to the end.
Weiner screwed up and stupidly did so via media that really is not best used for sexual dalliances especially of the type that might shame you.
And, the discussion about Jewish women and oral sex etc was hilarious and dumb as it would be regardless of which religious group the named gender belonged to. YIKES.

Bill Pearlman says:

He should pack himself, his perversions, and his Moslem wife. And hit the road.

daniel kelly says:

for once act like a man and stepdown you are a disgrace sir ….good by …so long and dont come back ….

Ron green says:

Hey…he was just a little wiener looking for a bun.

If I am not mistaken, Anthony Weiner’s mother is non-Jewish.

Based on what Joachim just told us, the Congressman should have taken his mother’s maiden last name.

Look at the comments for some chitchat about Weiner’s mother: .

Marisia says:

Per last paragraph: that’s right, blame the messenger, Andrew Breitbart, for “forcing” the story into the public. Nevermind that Weiner lied about Breitbart and was willing to ruin an innocent man. What else does Weiner lie about? Oh, I’m sure only about sex and his infantile, inappropriate behavior. Obviously, according to the Tablet, a liberal can do no wrong.

Two quick points: I believe the technology difference between the generations is correct. It’s not that my (older) generation can’t do everything the younger can, it’s that it’s second nature to the young and not to us. [If you learn to ski as an adult you will never be as comfortable as those who learned as 2-3 year olds.]
Second, for Mr. ben ari who longs for a “real blogger”, Mr. Tracy won this year’s Ellie from the Columbia School of Journalism and the American Society of Magazine Editors for the Best Blog in the Country.

Bill Pearlman says:

Joachim Martillo, shows up like foot fungus

I’m 26, & even I found some of these generalizations to be, well, overgeneralized. I’ve definitely tweeted things meant to be DMs – Twitter’s technology is set up such that it’s SO easy to @ instead of D when trying to respond to a private conversation. The fact that Weiner was dumb enough to tweet photos in the first place is what really felled him.

Weiner was more of a practicing AIPAC partisan than a practicing Jew. If he resigns from the House, he will probably have a job waiting at AIPAC.

Andrew G says:

Marc Tracy – apparently a dim witted petulant child. Are you kidding dude? Your moronically ageist rant might be more offensive than Weiner’s tweets.

Harrietb98 says:

Many people have done far worse than this, and still kept their seats.

I am troubled by the Jewish Democrats who are demanding his resignation, instead of fighting for him. They remind me of Judge Kaufman and the Rosenbergs.

For those who are Christian, “Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone” and “Judge not, lest ye be judged”.

For those who are Jewish, Remember King David, who impregnated a woman and had her husband killed, but kept his throne. What he did was far worse than anything Anthony Weiner did.

After Madoff, did we really need this? We take pride in achievements
from Einstein, Freud, Salk (polio vaccine), etc., etc., etc. And,
likewise, we are embarrassed by the Madoffs and the Weiners. Score
a minus for us on this one. We’re not perfect, but what group has
a better record than ours????

My hope is that Anthony will not resign and continue his good work in Congress.Itis is my belief that by doing so he will be affording the county a badly needed experience for both education and maturation. I have found the media coverage and hyperbole absolutely repaellet.

Solomon says:

I can’t think of another Jew named Anthony. What Jewish parents parents name their kid Anthony?

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Showing awareness of a stereotype doesn’t mean you’ve internalized it. For those who are Jewish, Remember King David, who impregnated a woman and had her husband killed, but kept his throne. What he did was far worse than anything Anthony Weiner did.

Hmm.. would this be the perfect act for a Politician that tweets on the sports scene?

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Understanding Weinergate

How social media felled a rising star, and how his Jewishness was involved

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