If Anthony Weiner had resigned at his press conference earlier this week, I would be happy to give the subject a rest. It is unedifying and unpleasant. Yet a few loose ends remain.
In the voluminous commentary that I have seen on Weiner’s case, I have been struck by the lack of an awareness or description of his problem. His problem is not that he is indiscreet, or rude, or monstrously egotistical, or obnoxious and untruthful, or all of the above. Based on everything we know, I think it is safe to say that Weiner represents a newfangled throwback to an old-fashioned syndrome. He is an exhibitionist using the social media to ply his wares. He gets his thrills from exposing himself to women.
When Weiner claimed in his confessional press conference that he had tweeted the infamous photo to the Seattle coed as a joke, he was lying. That is, he was still lying, continuing the ruse he had maintained when he asserted that his Twitter account had been hacked. At that time he alleged that the photograph constituted a joke on his name played by the perpetrator. Not true. Weiner himself tweeted the photograph to the young lady because it gave him a sexual thrill to do so.
Thus the claim of Weiner’s left-wing defenders that Weiner’s conduct raises a privacy interest is absurd. The public element of his behavior is essential to its nature, as it is for the man who stands undressed in a raincoat waiting to expose himself to a woman in a public place.
If I am right, Weiner’s assertion that he had no physical relationship with the women to whom he exposed himself is undoubtedly true. He had no more physical relationship with his female correspondents than the man in the raincoat has with his audience. A physical relationship is not the point of the behavior.
What is the point? Exhibitionism is a psychiatric disorder. Weiner appears to present a classic case, updated for the digital age. Among those suffering from the disorder, however, exhibitionism is supposed to abate after age 40. Perhaps Weiner has an additional contribution to make after all, if only in a different field than the one he is pursuing at present.
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