Ok, I realize that the topic of politicians doing all kinds of nasty things will be in the air for at least a couple of days until Spitzer resigns, but this article from today’s New York Times is just dead wrong and I will not stand idly by when a rather ingenious argument is being presented as a possible explanation of politician’s desire to violate the rules of decent conduct [shaking fists, smoking a bit of pot, paying the prostitute, reload my gun, posting about Jesus on my secret blog]:
N. R. Kleinfield begins his piece with a rather usual statement: “It keeps happening. Recklessly, shamelessly, cavalierly — as if this time they’re the ones who will somehow manage to get away with it all. But they don’t.” What follows then is a number of quotations with some comments, quotations that are trying to understand why politicians would be involved with illicit sexual activity – the assumption is, right away, that people in power get much more excited about sex, cheat on their wives, hide their sexual preferences and do the nasty in some strange way, the assumption, one must say, that is not based on much factual data, just some of emotional ‘how many times did we hear about it?’ argument. Kleinfield then cites this guy: “I think biologists could tell you this has something to do with natural selection — the person who acquires power becomes the alpha male,” said Tom Fiedler, who teaches a course in press and politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School.” Ok then, so it must be biology and evolution and natural selection that is responsible, right? Mr. Jerk himself is clearly innocent, it’s not his fault that he is biologically predisposed to inseminate every female in sight! He is all that is man! Notice how it is not a biologist how says it, but a dude who teaches about “press and politics” referring a biologist who would say it, maybe, I’m not sure, I’m not a biologist – talk about “press” here! Who cites a source like that? Tom Fiedler? This Tom Fiedler?
Next quotation is again telling us nothing really evaluative about the actions themselves, but that “there is a broader anxiety about what is private anymore,” said Paul Apostolidis, a political science professor at Whitman College and the co-editor of the book “Public Affairs: Politics in the Age of Sex Scandals.” “It’s not that politicians are behaving more badly. We’re just learning about it more often.” In other words, these things have been going on for a long time, and if we didn’t pay that much attention to them, no one would be interested in learning these details. Only, one might wonder, we are learning so much about these things because the public is constantly bombarded with politicians’ cries for decency and morality! We’re told that they will behave like super-moral men and women, that they will raise the standards, that they will clean things up – where does the public expectation that the politicians behave come from? I remember that during Clinton-Lewinsky saga most Russians were quite confused about the whole thing and could only understand it a bit when the issue of lying under oath came up, otherwise, since most of them back then did not expect their politicians to be sexually pure, just effective, no one really thought it was a big deal…
Some more quotes:
Psychologists mention the sense of entitlement felt by those who attain political standing that blinds them to the consequences of their actions. And they say that ambitious politicians are invigorated by risk and feel impervious.
Dr. Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University, said that many politicians are what he calls Type T personalities, with T standing for thrill-seeking. “Politics is an uncertain business,” he said. “You’re at the whim of the electorate. There’s no tenure. It’s often hard to know what the criteria for success are. It’s either all or nothing — you either win or you lose. And so it inspires a risk-taking person to go into that line of work. But on the public side, they’re supposed to show stability and responsibility, and so this risky nature may show itself more on the private side.”
Not uncommonly, she [Dr. Judy Kuriansky]said, politicians speak out vigorously against the very behavior that they then indulge in, as is the case with Governor Spitzer. “You project wrong onto others that is symptomatic of your own behavior,” she said. “It’s called a defense mechanism. Basically, it’s unconscious.”
and my favorite quote that concludes the piece:
“I’ve never seen it,” said Dr. Farley. “I don’t believe it’s a factor with these people. It’s just in their nature to push things. I don’t think they have a death wish. I think they have a life wish. They just love all aspects of life — some of it too much.”
Sure, I love life too, does that mean I am justified in supporting a prostitution ring and indirectly financing a trafficking ring because I cannot just have an affair with a secretary, right? My love of life leads me to DC to an expensive hotel where I pay someone I know is being exploited by others to provide sexual services – but nothing I can do about it! An alpha male’s gotta do what an alpha male’s gotta do, right? BULLSHIT!