While the Weiner Incident is actually a non-incident, the media has been busily stoking (or stroking, if you want to go there) the matter in the hopes of keeping the attention of the American public.
For those who are not aware of the incident, a shot of a man’s underwear covered groin was sent, via Anthony Weiner’s Twitter account, to a woman. Weiner denies that he sent it, though he does not deny (with certitude) or confirm that the groin is his. He claims that he was hacked. The media (especially bloggers) have turned this into a major battle. As I see it, this matter is largely a non-issue in itself, but does indicate some interesting things about the media. Before getting to that, I will address the incident directly.
Obviously, there are two main possibilities: Weiner sent it or he did not (and was presumably hacked). Hacking Twitter is obviously a very real possibility and it also makes sense that someone would try to prank Weiner with a wiener shot. It is also possible that the shot is really of Weiner and was taken from his computer. Naturally it is a bit odd that he is not denying that it is him, but perhaps he is the sort of guy who has pictures taken of his groin and hence cannot be sure that it is not him. In my own case, I would be rather certain about any photos purporting to be of my groin.
If Weiner were hacked, it really is not a big deal. Twitter is hardly a high value account and while sending such a photo is wicked creepy, it is probably not a crime. After all, the image can be shown on TV and is no worse than an underwear ad. Hacking Twitter might count as crime, but perhaps not-the legality of such things can be a bit fuzzy and much would depend on how the alleged hacking was conducted and with what intent.
If Weiner Tweeted the image, intentionally or (much more likely) accidentally, it is also not a very big deal (at least for anyone not directly involve). As noted above, the image was tasteless but tame and hence probably not a violation of any laws. Also, Weiner has been rather cautious in his claims (which lends credence to the claim that he sent the Tweet) and hence it would be harder to claim that he lied about it not being his wiener. After all, he has not (as of this writing) claimed it was not his with certainty.
While Weiner is clearly a smart guy, smart guys do stupid things all the time. Even me, although I have never sent out any Junk Tweets (or Jweets)). Elliot Spitzer and Bill Clinton are both smart guys, but they did exceptionally stupid things when it came to sex. As such, it is certainly possible that Weiner sent the Tweet. If he did send it, then he would have shown rather poor judgment in sending the Tweet and then trying to do damage control by attributing it to a hack or prank. He is, however, right to claim that it was not significant. However, if he did send it, then his defense could end up creating a situation that is, in fact, significant.
One of the most interesting aspects of the incident is how the media has handled it. While Weiner has given them some openings, the media folks have done their very best to make this into a story by interpreting Weiner’s actions and claims in ways clearly calculated to create the appearance of a cover up or controversy. Interestingly, this is exactly the sort of thing that conservatives generally criticize media folks about. Of course, Weiner is engaging the press rather than trying to avoid them. This, in some ways, plays into their hands. After all, if he engages with the media, then it creates the impression that it is something important enough for a congressman to spend his time dealing with. However, if he did not engage, then some media folks would take that as a sign that he had something to hide.
While the media folks should be criticized when it creates controversies over nothing, keeping tabs on public officials is part of their job, be those officials Republicans or liberal Democrats.