The New York Post, never known as a paragon of good taste, is enduring another round of abuse for a questionable editorial decision. The tabloid is under fire for publishing a sext sent by the sext-addicted, perennially embattled and disgraced New York politician Anthony Weiner, whose now-estranged wife, Huma Abedin, is vice-chairwoman of Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Of course, this isn’t Weiner’s first time through the sext mill. In 2011, he was famously forced to resign as a U.S. Representative when he mistakenly broadcast a revealing photo which he intended to send by direct message, but tweeted instead. Then, he famously botched a planned political comeback when another ill-advised sext went public.
Clearly, Weiner has a little problem with taking pictures of his junk and sending them to strangers, which is, generally speaking, not something politicians should do with great frequency. But this time is different, because the selfie in question — in addition to Weiner’s seemingly inescapable fabric-covered genitalia — also features his sleeping 4-year-old son.
While the mere existence of yet another Weiner selfie is debatably newsworthy, many critics expressed outrage that the NYP saw fit to drag a helpless bystander, and a child at that, into the political swamp. One media observer, sociology professor and New York Times writer Zeynep Tufekci, summed up the gist of the critique: “Having a misbehaving parent doesn’t give anyone else license to expose a little child to years of bullying and worse.”
It’s not hard to imagine some potential responses from the Post’s defenders, if any exist.
First, no one can deny that it was Weiner himself who initially erred, displaying bad judgment (yet again) by sending a picture including his son to a total stranger. One might also argue that it is his lack of good sense, crystallized by the offending picture, that is most newsworthy, especially given Weiner’s proximity to a highly risk-averse presidential campaign.
But while all this may be true, it doesn’t mean the NYP had to actually publish the photo. Wouldn’t a simple description of the image be enough to convey the father’s reckless, narcissistic disregard for his own children’s welfare? Does the tabloid really have to make the harm to the child real, burdening him forever with his father’s poor decisions, in order for it the harm be recognized?
Images are admittedly more vivid than words, but in some cases, words should be enough.