By Karen Leigh Jones
I posted as my Facebook status, “Bill Clinton, John Edwards, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, New Jersey Gov. John McGreevey: Anybody want those guys?”
This caused a downpour of comments from my Facebook friends. We took jabs at all the extramarital affairs and labeled the men as “indiscreet,” “not trustworthy,” and “sloppy.” Politicians, like celebrities, have had their marital problems picked over and strewn about for public consumption. The media has covered their personal calamities for weeks, months — years. There has been criticism that the media should not be wasting their time on personal concerns of public servants; it’s an invasion of privacy.
Nevertheless, when a scandal breaks, it permeates households across America and, too, becomes Facebook fodder. I think it can have no more value than being dirty laundry for us to poke around in, but it can also offer realistic insight in to how people genuinely behave, famous or not.
Those who think that the media should handle the politicians’ personal lives with kid gloves suggest that it isn’t newsworthy. If President Barack Obama, they could argue, had fifty mistresses, it would still have no significant consequence for the public or the job of leading America. This argument says that the only person who should care about his hypothetical mistresses would be his wife, Michelle.
Those who prefer that the personal, negative antics of public figures should remain private worry that the “real news” is somehow being neglected and that the only thing that the media is concerned about is how much profit will come in from running the salacious stories.
With as many options available for a news source, logic seems to support that somewhere out there, the real news is still being reported. First, take into consideration the number of the American broadcasted news outlets, like ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, CNN, and all the talk and news radio options. Second, as far as American print news goes, just to name a few, there is The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. And third, the Internet also provides news from the broadcasted channels, the printed news, news aggregators, like Google.com, and, yes, even blogs. As many choices as are available to receive the “real news,” a hard-news-seeker can find his fix.
Tonia Bennett and Alexander Adams, posted in the Spring 2003 edition of the Bowling Green State University website, BGSU.com, an article, “Sex Sells…No, really,” The article stated, “Hypothetically speaking, the more promise of sex appeal a product has, the better it will sell. This is fact, as the numbers prove that products that utilize sexual imagery sell substantially better than comparable products.” In this free market, news is a product that must sell in order to survive. Throwing sex stories in the mix is good for business.
Furthermore, politicians’ marital foibles can have significance for the public and are newsworthy. The website, WomanSavers.com, which provides a data base for women to “Research & Rate [men] B4U Date,” offers that, “Controlled cheating surveys are scarce … 22 percent of men and 14 percent of women admitted to having sexual relations outside their marriage.” Assumingly, more people cheat on their spouses than are willing to admit it. So, it is not impossible to believe that those percentages are much higher in reality.
Seeing that a politician is not necessarily any better than the non-famous-cheating-suburban-husband-next-door may offer a “reality check” to those who believe that famous people are somehow better at following society’s rules. Therefore, former President Clinton can more accurately be viewed as, well, a former president, and not as a trophy husband or any other kind of moral superhero.
People are held to a higher standard when job seeking, applying for special programs, or being seen as a media darling. With things like social networking sites and blogs, regular people are showing off their lives, and being publicly scrutinized, too.
For example, Western Michigan University’s website, WesternHerald.com, posted an editorial on March 24, 2009, stating that with a having a Facebook account, “For those graduating and moving on into the world, it may be a big red ‘A’ stamped on their forehead … that big job in the sky will have their HR people trying to find an online profile to get a little more insight into the applicant pool. That pic of you taking down a beer bong will probably not show well.”
Because of that, many people are choosing to “sanitize” their social accounts to make it appear as though they never drink or ever have sexual thoughts. It is absurd to think people should perhaps only post pictures of themselves in church, at the mosque, or working in the homeless shelter’s soup kitchen.
Publishing or broadcasting the private sexual indiscretions or other examples of politicians’ poor judgments can be newsworthy if it serves the public in some way. Regular people make bad decisions and sin, as do those in the limelight.
The news media and the self-editing social networking junkies and bloggers, together, display how the “world goes ’round.” Perhaps with all this insider knowledge, one day we can all stop hiding from ourselves.