Yes, there are indeed second and third acts in American public life -- even for voter-terminated farces. In the latest sign of how notoriety pays off in 21st century America, former Democratic Congressman and unsuccessful New York Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner has won a new gig as a monthly political columnist for the online site Business Insider.
In case you’ve been on Mars and (mercifully) missed his epic saga, Weiner, who used the online name “Carlos Danger,” was an assertive, impressive spokesman for liberals on cable news, but ended up a comedian’s punch line, Democratic party embarrassment, and a Godsend to cartoonists everywhere. The reason: he admitted sending to a woman sexting messages that had been widely circulated on the Internet after repeatedly, passionately denying it. He resigned from Congress, then ran for mayor of New York, and seemed to be making a comeback until it emerged that he had sent more sexting images of what he considered his body’s naked better half. After this, he publicly insisting he had changed and apologized to his wife. His NYC bid flopped, and Weiner went out giving half a peace sign.
“The Carlos Danger circus, after a dizzying day, finished its New York run with a one-sided loss and a one-finger salute,” the ever-lively New York Daily News reported. “Anthony Weiner’s three-ring comeback campaign, crippled by his cyberspace adventures, bizarre behavior and voter disgust, limped Tuesday to a fifth-place finish in the Democratic mayoral primary.”
Weiner has written some columns for the Daily News but that really isn’t what Business Insider’s hire is all about. It’s about “the get,” where a news organization tries to get someone who has attained lots of media attention and interest in order to increase audience share.
As proof, consider the name Business Insider is giving the column: “Weiner!” Why the exclamation mark? Because Weiner is outrageous, he has an instantly recognizable brand and persona. He wasn’t hired because he was simply one of the best, most perceptive, most respected thinkers that could be found to write the column.
The nearly giddy announcement by Business Insider that Anthony Weiner would be their new columnist led some to truly think it was written by The Onion, or perhaps by someone who prematurely published the site’s April Fools’ column. But, no, it was life imitating satire.
“Business Insider is very pleased to announce former New York City mayoral candidate and Congressman Anthony Weiner will be contributing a new monthly column to our politics page,” the announcement said, noting that the column would “feature Weiner’s thoughts on the top political issues of the day imbued with his unique insider’s perspective.” Weiner? An “insider?” Once upon a time, but not now.
The announcement cited his “unique combination of brashness and wonkiness that made Weiner one of last year’s most memorable candidate” (oh, was THAT why he was famous?) plus his expertise on health care reform, the many ideas he offered during his mayoral run, then declared: “For his part, Weiner is excited to engage with the site’s readership.”
Hopefully not too excited if his camera is out.
Cut away all the corporate speak, hype and plausible deniability and the reality is Weiner got the column because his name was in the news, on cable, and was made a national cultural figure by comedians. If Sarah Palin has caused fact checkers to apply for workmen’s compensation, Weiner has given many comedy writers carpel tunnel syndrome. He was “high concept,” instantly recognizable branding.The lesson? Attention former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner: stay near your phone and check your emails ASAP. You could get a nice media gig. After all, you’re a big name, you have a grasp of issues and have shown you could be outrageous. They’ll title your show or column: “Filner!”
The “get” will continue to happen. The media getting it won’t.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. He also writes for The Week’s online edition. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/joegandelman