I don’t know how many teenage girls I am following on Twitter, mostly because Twitter doesn’t have bouncers who card people before they can get in. Now there is one woman I followed initially because of the bounteous amount of cleavage always displayed on her avatar, but she has turned out to be a pretty smart tweeter with a rapier wit. You can click the “follow” button on a person’s account for any reason you choose—how they look, their screen name, or the content of one of their tweets. None of this really matters, though, since I am not running for Congress.
There is no little irony in the juxtaposition of Representative Anthony Weiner’s picture and photos of former senator and former presidential candidate John Edwards on several political sites yesterday. Edwards has been indicted for conspiracy, illegal campaign contributions, and the ubiquitous charge of making false statements. It is the threat of the false statements charge that has the power to reduce Weiner, one of the brashest, most direct members of the House, to conceding that he cannot say “with certitude” that a lewd picture purportedly tweeted to another Twitter user is not a picture of him.
This is one of the stories you cannot avoid if you spend any time at all in the political blogosphere. So many Twitter users and bloggers have been conducting their own investigations into the ease with which practically any savvy internet user could post a picture to someone else’s yfrog account that yfrog suspended its users ability to use email to upload pictures. Independent cell phone photo experts have examined the metadata accompanying the lewd picture and determined that it was not taken by a Blackberry, the brand of phone Congressman Weiner has used for all of the other photos he has transmitted via his Twitter account. Internet bounty hunters have dissected entire Twitter timelines on a tweet by tweet basis to track down clues about the real life identities of @goatsred and @patriotusa76, hauling in mug shots of one of them and interviewing the other via—what else?—the internet.
Meanwhile, the cable news network shows, who will blame their lack of staff or lack of budget—everything but a lack of journalistic integrity—for the lack of information in their broadcasts have all clamored to interview the disreputable Andrew Brietbart, owner of the very same Big Government website that is notorious for repeatedly publishing manipulated videos, often obtained from dubious sources, as if his websites are legitimate sources of verifiable news. The first thing I did when hearing Brietbart was involved was type www.Quantcast.com into the address bar of my browser to see what kind of traffic he’s had lately. Sure enough, the Quantcast estimates for BigGovernment.com show a steady decline in traffic the past few months. It looks like Breitbart’s lack of TV facetime since the Shirley Sherrod case has hurt him more than he is willing to admit.
Many members of the public are willing to conclude, after hearing the kind of vague answers Weiner has been giving the last few days, that his inability to provide direct yes or no answers to questions about his internet activities are a sure sign of guilt. But in a modern world, the applicable corollary is not “the truth will set you free” (see Arnold Schwarzeneggar), but rather “legally defensible statements keep you from serving time” (see John Edwards). Right now, the worst case scenario for the situation Rep. Weiner finds himself in would reveal that Weiner did indeed intend to send a picture to Gennette Cordova, and the person in the picture is him. An embarrassing situation to be sure, but it would be one between adults that breaks no laws, the kind of thing that happens all the time in the tweet of the night.