Gossip posing as moralizing

Gossip posing as moralizing

by digby

I have often said that nobody should ever judge another's marriage especially those that are long term over many years. It is the most complicated relationship of our lives and it requires privacy in order to survive and flourish. I wrote that back in the day when everyone and their mother was weighing in on Clinton's indiscretions and publicly judging both him and his wife and I still feel that way today. (It's my original reason for hating Joe Lieberman, although he gave me plenty of others over the years.) If you want to destroy the institution of marriage one good way to do it is to force everyone to expose theirs to public scrutiny.

Anyway, I think this Ashley Madison hack is nothing more than sophomoric gossip parading as moralism. I don't even care that Josh Duggar cheated on that poor wife of his --- I assume that all those patriarchal moralists do that. It's one of the perks. I feel sorry for his wife both because of what he did and the fact that she now has to be publicly humiliated all over again. I'm sure he deserves to be held up for ridicule for his hypocrisy, but in the end the whole thing is just a sordid, small town gossip fest.

Anyway, Greenwald's been following the story and wrote this up today and I thought it was very poignant:

Ever since I wrote on Thursday about the Ashley Madison hack and resulting reactions and consequences, I’ve heard from dozens of people who used the site. They offer a remarkably wide range of reasons for having done so. I’m posting below one email I received that I find particularly illuminating, which I very lightly edited to correct a few obvious typographical errors:

Dear Glenn,

Thank you for the kindness and humanity you have manifested to those of us whose data is now a source of public mockery and shame on AM.

I am female, hold a job with a lot of responsibility, have three kids, one with special needs, and a husband with whom I have not been intimate for several years due to his cancer treatments.

I also used to write about marriage law policy, encouraging traditional marriage for the good of children. My institution has a morality clause in all contracts.

Mine is a loveless, sexless, parenting marriage. I will care for my husband if his cancer spreads, we manage good will for the sake of the children, but we cannot talk about my emotional or sexual needs without him fixating on his death and crying.

I went on AM out of loneliness and despair, and found friendship, both male and female, with others trapped in terrible marriages trying to do right by their children.

My experiences have led me to soften my views of marriage as my own marriage is a deeply humbling, painful longterm commitment.

I expect to be ridiculed by colleagues, to lose my job, and to be publicly shamed, especially as a hypocrite. Yes, I used a credit card. In my case, I will get no sympathy from the right or the left as I do not fit into either of their simplistic paradigms.

I have received email from Trustify that I have been searched, and it is soliciting me to purchase its services. And I am receiving lots of spam with racy headings

That is my story. When my outing happens, I suppose I might as well take a stand for those who are trapped in bad marriages. Many of us are doing the best we can, trying in our own imperfect way to cope with alienation, lovelessness, and physical deprivation.

I do not want to hurt my children or husband. I truly wish I had a good one and I want happy marriages for others. I did what I did trying to cope. Maybe it was a bad idea but again, I have met some very decent people on AM, some of whom are now dear friends.

Thank you again.


As I argued last week, even for the most simplistic, worst-case-scenario, cartoon-villain depictions of the Ashley Madison user – a spouse who selfishly seeks hedonistic pleasure with indifference toward his or her own marital vows and by deceiving the spouse – that’s nobody’s business other than those who are parties to that marriage or, perhaps, their family members and close friends. But as the fallout begins from this leak, as people’s careers and reputations begin to be ruined, as unconfirmed reports emerge that some users have committed suicide, it’s worth remembering that the reality is often far more complex than the smug moralizers suggest.

The private lives and sexual choices of fully-formed adults are usually very complicated and thus impossible to understand – and certainly impossible to judge – without wallowing around in the most intimate details, none of which are any of your business. That’s a very good reason not to try to sit in judgment and condemn from afar.