Advantage Denton

June 3, 2011

Is Discussion of Weiner’s Tweet Bad?

Filed under: Melissa Denton Posts — Melissa Denton @ 12:58 pm

Is it bad manners or unwise to read or participate in discussion of the foibles of prominent people? This is interesting to me right now because of two different embarrassing events I’ve seen chatter about recently.

One of these stories is the nation-wide discussion of US House of Representatives Member Anthony Weiner’s Twitter account having sent a picture of a man’s underwear clad body in a public Tweet to a 21 year old college student who does not personally know him and who happened to be one of his many followers.

The other discussion is on a lawyers only listserv about a Seattle lawyer who was caught with a “bait” car as he scratched it with a key and left a nasty note as he had done with other incorrectly parked cars in the same garage at his work.

In the first story, I’ve seen fairly clumsy denials by the accused (doubtless with the assistance of his advisors). Some very astute media folk and comedians have gleefully analyzed the evidence thus far and have concluded that Weiner did actually send the tweet. I also saw a very interesting analysis that seemed like a conspiracy theory, but contained compelling arguments, nonetheless. It implied that someone supportive of Justice Clarence Thomas is behind this cyber-error because the tweet happened on the same day that Justice Thomas’s financial disclosure was made public and Weiner has been a very public critic of Thomas’s conflicts of interest lately. A sexualized, race tinged (the tweet designee is black and Weiner is white) discrediting effort is eerily reminiscent of Justice Thomas’s Senate confirmation hearings.

The second, embarrassed lawyer car defacing discussion, is interesting because of how lawyers are talking about talking about it. A few lawyers brought the issue up and provided links to a news story on this colleague. A few lawyers (who did not personally know this chap) made some mildly pithy comments. A few lawyers chided the others for gossip and for kicking a man when he is down and stressed. Someone pointed out that judging another is risky business and yet another lawyer pointed out that this sensitivity seems to be reserved only for colleagues and friends.

Is it just human nature to discuss others’ problems? Is it a baser part of our nature that we should strive to replace with nobler instincts? Unkind discussion of another person’s error certainly makes you a candidate for closer examination of your own mistakes. Should we ever find satisfaction in the misfortune of others? How about when “poetic justice” seems to have been served or when someone gets “hoisted by their own petard”?

It would be just peachy if I could reduce this moral conundrum to a clear maxim to police myself by. For the moment, however, I will make do with trying to make decisions that I think are reasonable and kind, in deeds, in words, and in my own thoughts. It does not seem outrageous to me to be curious about the apparent errors of others and it is abhorrent to me to pass judgement on others when doing so is not necessary to decide my own course of action. I find this interesting. Do you?

Update: On Monday after I wrote this blog post on Friday, Representative Weiner admitted that he had posted the underwear clad picture and had sent many other sexually oriented pictures and messages to women he did not know on the internet. Wow. Ick.

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