Sunday, October 08, 2006
Thoughts on Mark Foley
Well, I don't mind a reasonable amount of trouble,
Trouble always comes to pass
But all I care about now
Is that I'm seeing the real you at last.
-- Bob Dylan, "Seeing the Real You At Last," Empire Burlesque
Mark Foley. Republican. Member of the U.S. Congress until he stepped down two Fridays ago. Known to be gay for years but in the closet. Newly announced alcoholic. With a fondness for young men who haven't yet reached the legal age of consent.
It's all the press can talk about. And, judging by polling, for some voters it's had the effect of allowing them to see the real Bully Boy, the real GOP at last. So it's accomplished something.
But there's also been a hysteria (we're sure some of it is mock outrage) and we're going to focus on that with a few thoughts.
Mark Foley is called a pedophile. Considering that none of the female teachers sleeping with underage men (and often getting pregnant by them) approximately the same age as those Foley pursued were called "pedophiles," we're curious as to the usage of this term. We also raise an eyebrow because we're fully aware that, for the bulk of the priest scandal coverage, The New York Times tended to use pedophile and homosexual interchangably.
This is especially popular and those posting comments to ABC's news page seem to be demanding that a MySpace investigation be launched because, surely, if Foley contacted former Congressional pages, he's trolling for guys on MySpace as well!
He may very well have. There's nothing in the public record thus far that indicates that but possibly the use of the term "internet stalker" makes some sure that there must be more?
It's interesting because most are aware that someone apparently trolled for young, underage women and got into legal trouble over that. He's considered a respectable source now, his books promoted by various left sites. If we're really concerned with Foley's behavior, shouldn't we be concerned about ___'s behavior as well? Or, are we all supposed to take a pass, due to the fact that his court records were supposed to be sealed but became public in an effort to smear ____? ____ tours the country and doesn't get asked about it.
We'll certainly buy that the legal issue (arrest) came to light as part of a smear campaign but we're having a hard time buying that in June 2001, the government decided to silence ___ and orchestrated a sting operation as a result. ___ has stated publicly that there was nothing to it and if there really was nothing to it (which other reports contradict as do statements of the district attorney), the easiest way to end the controversy is to ask that the court records be unsealed.
The Ick Factor
We have to wonder how much of the "ick factor" is at play? Foley's probably not the dream date of many (regardless of gender or age). He's also gay and there's always a special panic when 'gay' enters the discussion. If some of the loudest critics of Foley, who use terms like pedophile and internet stalker, are truly appalled by his actions, shouldn't they have stopped providing promotional space for ____? Or, in ___'s case, is it the fact that he was a man allegedly pursuing young, underage women somehow "redeeming"? Is that the difference? No ick factor when it comes to heterosexuality even if it involves jailbait? (In 2003, on CNN, ___ complained about people digging a whole year into the past! Oh, well if it's a year -- actually a little over a year at that point -- old, let's just all forget about it! Is that the thinking?)
Breaking The Laws
Foley's probably broken seveal laws (courts will determine that) which likely include corrupting minors. His behavior, besides illegal, was also shameful. Some accounts date complaints about him to 1997. That the Republican Party didn't address that then, when they should have, does demonstrate poor leadership and lack of accountability. If it can be proven (we don't doubt it can) that they allowed this issue to go on, people need to look to Denny Hastert and his staff because there are laws about reporting incidents such as these and, since the legal authorities appear to have been out of the loop for years, those laws do not appear to have been followed.
We're sure that there are genuine victims who were too intimidated to come forward publicly and that they go back for years. We're also sure that some "victims" weren't victims and some were "self-made."
Foley contacted guys whom he'd met. (Thus far, there's no public record that he was contacting strangers.) He contacted them after they departed from the Congressional page program. He was not their boss, they were not working for him.
If you don't enjoy the likes of Foley telling you that you look hot or requesting that you drop it down to your boxers while you i.m. or text message, you stop the conversation right there.
We're sure that some might be afraid to. We're also sure that some of the 'victims' got a kick out of it. Maybe because they thought it was funny, maybe because they thought it could be useful, maybe because they were exploring their own sexuality, or maybe all three.
With regards to i.m. (instant messaging), anyone utilizing that technique for communication should be aware of the "ignore" button. Don't want to hear from someone, click on the button and they can't contact you anymore. They're blocked. Why wouldn't you use that button?
You could be someone truly afraid of what you saw as someone very powerful, we're aware of that. But we don't buy the assumption that this is a description that describes the average sixteen-year-old, miles away from Foley, and with no need to ever see the man again.
We firmly believe it likely that some thought they could play along for their own good (possibly to get a reference), play along for kicks or play along because they were curious.
Regardless of why the communication continued, Foley broke laws and disgraced himself. But let's not kid that your average sixteen-year-old that's offended doesn't know how to break off communication. Let's also not kid that the average sixteen-year-old is unaware of sex. (Though some mainstream commentators seem to have forgotten their own teen years, the bulk of us participating in the writing of this feature didn't see the sixteen marker over twenty years ago and can easily remember those days.)
The Net Nanny Nation
That's important because of all the hand wringing and talk of "the children." Foley communicated as Foley ("Maf54"). He didn't pose as a young woman or man. What he was proposing (including, apparently, providing alcholol to minors) was illegal. But this talk of "the children" already has some politicians screaming about the need for new laws online. We're not sure what new laws they're thinking of. Nothing would have prevented Foley from contacting the former pages because he knew them already.
This wasn't a case (by public record thus far) of some adult going into chat rooms and pretending to be a teenager, setting up a meeting and then raping. The laws that are in place should be more than enough to deal with Foley.
Most of the reports deal with communication. (We've yet to read a report of penetration.) They're the equivalent of dirty phone calls with, presumably, the intent to act out the fantasies. We must have missed it because we thought we saw all the communications but the term "explicit" keeps popping up. Foley's comments that we've seen didn't pass for suggetive or explicit. They were very cut and dry (and they were sexual and inappropriate). Said by a female character, even an adult to a juvenile, every one of them could have appeared in a PG rated film. (Said by a male adult to a male juvenile, they would have gotten an R rating but we don't see anything that would get stamped X.)
Bill Clinton has nothing to do with this scandal. Why some people feel the need to drag him into this is beyond us. He was never involved with a Congressional page, he was never involved with an underage female (while he was an adult, we're sure as a juvenile he had the same affairs that most of us do). He didn't text message or i.m. anyone about sex.
Bill Clinton was involved with Monica Lewinsky who, for the record, was an adult. Lewinsky never made complaints to anyone about the involvement while it was going on.
Newt Gingrich and Blaming the Democrats
As with any scandal (see "Mutha Cokie and the Blind") the GOP playbook tells you to go into attack mode and begin questioning how the news got out?
If you can make the issue about the exposure, you don't have to address the actual deed. Among those attempting to play that game currently is Newt Gingrich who stated on Saturday that he just had to know which Democrats knew what when?
Knew what when? Since some accounts emerging trace Foley's illegal actions back to 1997, it bears noting that Gingrich was Speaker of House from 1995 to 1999. The position Denny Hastert now holds. If complaints were being made in the last half of the nineties, Gingrich should have been aware of him. Before the next press outlet repeats Gingrich's attacks, they might attempt to determine exactly how far back the Republican's knowledge of Foley's actions goes?
Those are our thoughts and concerns. If all the talk about Foley has resulted in the GOP taking a hit in the polls, that's fine. But we do have serious concerns (even when a speaker offers the disclaimer, "It's not about anyone being gay") that a lot of it is, indeed, about the fact that Foley's gay. We didn't see the same revulsion over the female teachers giving birth to their underage pupils' children. We didn't hear "pedophile!" bandied about. Long after this election, gay people will still be fighting for their rights and we think that those who want to discuss this issue should keep that in mind. That requires more than a "It's not about being gay" note tacked on.
We're also aware that the "ick factor" probably includes more than his sexuality -- again, he's no dream date. The glee factor over this also goes to the fact that someone who was a Congressional foe to gay rights got taken down and was revealed to be a hypocrite.
But the "pedophile" term just rubs us the wrong way. It hasn't been hung on Elvis Presley and followed his image around. It wasn't hung on ___. Had the term "chicken hawk" been used, we wouldn't have batted an eye, let alone raised an eyebrow.
For those wondering ___ had been referred to as "___ " not to protect him. We're quite sure the average reader knows whom we're referring to. However, we've made it a policy, at all the community sites, not to mention his name again. Those who are truly outraged that Foley was sexually interested in sixteen-years-olds, should also be truly outraged by what was reported about ___. The fact that something was unearthed to smear him doesn't change the fact that ___ apparently had something worth unearthing for his opponents. Practicing denial on the topic makes one no better than Denny Hastert who appears to have inherited the problem (from Newt Gingrich) and done nothing but look the other way and cover up.