Why is Weiner’s behavior wrong?
(Update, 6:21 p.m.: More comments have been posted.)
Here is a huge issue in the Weiner story we haven’t touched on yet: Why, in our hyper-liberal society in which all consensual conduct between adults is allowed and is indeed a sacred right under the Fourteenth Amendment, does it even matter what Weiner did? Under the code of liberalism, what is wrong with having consensual online sex talk with a woman? Under the code of liberalism, what is wrong with sending lewd photos of oneself to a woman with whom one is having a “sexting” relationship?
Again we see the enormous power of the Unprincipled Exception. Liberals happily go along with and approve every kind of disgusting sexual and expressive behavior, both in media and in real life, under the liberal principle that people are free to engage in any behavior they like, so long as they don’t use force or coercion. But then, on the occasion of some other behavior which for some unaccountable reason offends them terribly, the liberals suddenly go “Yechh!!” and demand that that the person who did this disgusting thing be brought to account. There is no rationale to it at all. There is no evident reason why liberals defend and approve some consensual sexual behaviors, and condemn others. It all comes down to the instinctive, inarticulate “Yecch!” factor. That “Yecch!” is the Unprincipled Exception, by which liberals maintain some element of morality in society when their own liberalism has gone too far and they suddenly feel the need for limits. Being liberals, they cannot assert limits by adopting a non-liberal principle such as traditional morality, because that would be a violation of liberalism. Instead, they assert limits though an instinctive reaction that does not pose a principled challenge to liberalism. Thus liberalism is allowed to remain intact and in charge.
To illustrate my point, notice that none of the people who have condemned Weiner has stated why his behavior was wrong. They just assume that everyone shares the conviction that it was wrong. That’s the way the Unprincipled Exception works—by instinct and mob consensus.
Also, on the rare occasion when a critic does articulate why Weiner’s behavior was wrong, it turns out that it was wrong because it was anti-liberal. See Kirsten Powers’s orthodox feminist indictment of Weiner for “not respecting women”!
Now it could be said that Weiner is married, and that’s what made his interactions with women wrong. But, as Weiner has pointed out, there were no physical relationships here, just exchanges of words and images. Since he did not commit adultery with his online partners, what, then, from a liberal point of view, did Weiner do that was wrong?
It could also be said that the problem was not his behavior, but the fact that he lied so extensively about it. But why did he lie? He lied because (here I’m using the argument a liberal would use) the hypocritical standards of society—which license all consensual sexual behavior, but then for no good reason suddenly condemns some particular consensual sexual behavior—forced him to lie. Which from a liberal point of view is entirely understandable and the man should get a break.
My purpose—and I believe this should be the purpose of conservatives generally—is to take away from liberals their ability to resort to the Unprincipled Exception, so that they would be forced to face, without any escape, the true nature of their liberal code, how it leads to moral chaos that even they could not abide.
I should add that those liberals—you occasional see them on blogs and hear them on talk radio—who have been saying that Weiner did nothing wrong and that society owes him an apology for intruding in his private life and forcing him to lie about it, have a point. They are being consistent in their liberalism. They have no problem with the moral chaos which proceeds from their liberal principles, and they don’t cowardly seize on the “Yecch” factor to escape from it. But such consistent liberals are a minority and none of them is in the establishment.
Charles T. writes:
You have raised probably the most important question in this sordid affair.LA writes:
Maybe Weiner could use help from the Naked Therapist, who helps clients get control over their “arousal brain.”James P. writes:
You wrote,Thucydides writes:
You are perhaps giving liberals more credit than is deserved with the idea that Rep. Weiner’s conduct has shocked them into making the “unprincipled exception” to normal liberal non-judgmentalism. Their “Yechh” threshold is probably much higher (or lower?) than this.Jim C. writes:
Why his behavior was wrong:LA replies:
The sheer number of possible wrongful components in his behavior, several of which are suggested by you, is what makes it difficult for there to be any common agreement on what exactly he did wrong that merits loss of office. To get to the bottom of the issue it would be necessary to construct a series of hypothetical scenarios so as to separate out what was wrong and what wasn’t. For example, if he wasn’t married, but all the other facts were the same, what would be his wrongful behavior? Or if he had done exactly the same behavior, but had admitted it truthfully as soon as it came out, what would be the wrongful behavior? Or if he had done exactly the same behavior, but instead of being a congressman he was a celebrity athlete or businessman, would would be the wrongful behavior?Samson writes:
Briefly: In light of what’s been said about Weiner and liberal moral inconsistency, I want to promote blogger Mark Shea’s concept of “eupocrisy.” As a Catholic, Shea believes that human beings often act hypocritically because we are all fallen sinners—that is to say, we act worse than our professed beliefs would dictate. But, Shea says, sometimes we cannot help acting better than our stated beliefs, because we carry in our hearts the moral code of God. So, for instance, a liberal who argues that there is “something wrong” with Weiner’s behaviour is in fact a “eupocrite.”LA replies:
I’m not crazy about Shea’s eupocrisy, at least in this context, because it means celebrating and empowering liberals whenever they opportunistically resort to an unprincipled exception, thus enabling them to continue in the lie and delusion that their liberalism has a moral component and is a sustainable philosophy.Robert W. writes:
Why to the liberal mind is lying about something worse than the actual deed? Where does the liberal get his moral sanctions against lying? In fact, in a morally relativistic universe, why would lying outweigh adultery (physical or mental)? For that matter, how does a liberal know how to distinguish a lie from a truth? How does lying come to acquire an absolute moral attribute when adultery doesn’t?LA replies:
I think a liberal would answer that lying is worse because it falls in the realm of professional ethics as distinct from personal or traditional morality. Liberals like ethics, because it is purely utilitarian and does not appeal to any transcendent moral principles. Instead, a professional corporate body decides what behaviors are wrong according to the rules and needs of that particular profession.Thucydides writes:
Liberals might consider lying about misconduct worse than the behavior because of their commitment to what they think of as authenticity. In a world where there is no objective truth, only matters of opinion, all of which deserve equal respect, the concept of truth is undermined. What is valued then instead is sincerity, that is, the authentic presentation of self. This is the liberal substitute for virtue, which would require an inadmissible common acceptance of the good, of shared moral values, that would impose constraints on personal autonomy.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 09, 2011 10:20 AM | Send