Entry from May 24, 2011

An Interesting Juxtaposition. Just as the British press is full of excitement and indignation about superinjunctions — that is legal gag orders obtained by various celebrities to stop the media from publicizing the details of their sexual peccadillos — it is also full of news and comment on two high-profile cases of sexual misbehavior not subject to superinjunctions. These are of course the arrest in New York on sexual assault charges of the head of the I.M.F., Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and the break-up of the marriage of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver over the revelation that he fathered a child years ago with the couple’s housekeeper. That these two stories have also been reverberating for days in the American media affords us an opportunity to look at the exact nature of the loss to the world that those superinjunction-issuing British judges would have effected, if only Twitter had not found the way around them.

Here, for instance, is what may be the all-time worst lead to an opinion piece ever written — by Matt Miller in The Washington Post. “What is it with men and sex?” He asks. As if he didn’t know. As if everyone didn’t know exactly what “it” is with men and sex. Nor is the posture of innocence merely a rhetorical device, an opening gambit leading into more serious matters. Amazingly, Mr Miller’s piece gets worse as it goes on. The guy actually interviews his wife, Jody, “whose maddeningly astute insights into male shortcomings (or at least my own) have been the object of my grudging admiration for nearly two decades.”

“The problem with men,” Jody says, “is that too often it looks like once they are in a position to take advantage of women, whether it’s because they’re celebrities, they’re rich, or they’re powerful — they do — and they do it in the most disturbing ways. So you begin to ask yourself, are they really bad at the core?” In other words, are Arnold and DSK just a few bad apples — or is there something bigger, badder and fundamentally difficult to control going on inside men?

Gee, I wonder. On the same page two days later, Ruth Marcus sought to meet the public’s demand for top-quality opinion on Arnold and DSK by spotting a subtler way into the subject:

I write often about the problem of entitlement spending. Today’s topic is the problem of entitlement behavior. Judging from the headlines, both are out of control. By entitlement behavior, I mean the apparent belief of too many political figures — make that too many male political figures — that the ordinary rules of acceptable conduct do not apply to them. Exhibits A, B and C are former International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Nevada Sen. John Ensign. Their alleged or admitted actions differ, but these episodes are linked by more than improper sexual activity. These men seem to have thought they could get away with this behavior — not despite their celebrity and power but, at least in part, because of it.

Entitlement behavior! Brilliant! It’s because they’re powerful and famous, see? And when people who aren’t powerful or famous do the same things? Well, why shouldn’t they feel entitled as well? As Simon Sebag Montefiore observed (pay wall) in The Times of London, “Leaders sometimes enjoy their power and abuse it for the same reason as everyone else does — because they can.” It seems banal even to notice the banality of such commentary, but where would we be without the media to express their fake surprise and indignation on our behalf at the behavior of our betters? Clearly, those British judges were never going to get away with depriving us regular people of our sole remaining opportunity for public moralizing, through the media.

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