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June 11, 2011

Here's What I'm Currently Thinking Happened

As a preface, there are three types of possibilities: Those you can prove, those you suspect might (or might not) have happened, and those you just want to be the case.

Bear that last one in mind. I know a lot of people want Weiner led away in irons, and sure, I don't think I'd mind that myself, but the fact that kind of validation might be nice doesn't make it actually true.

What was proven, and is now confirmed by media which bothered to ask the question (finally), is whether Weiner privately contacted a 17 year old girl. He did. He says he did. He says he contacted her privately "at least five times."

For what? Currently he refuses to divulge the contents of these messages, but he wants us to know they're innocent.

Are they? Well, I'll believe it when I see it. I think they'll turn out to be flirty and familiar.

But that's just what I suspect. Given that he could clear this up immediately by releasing them, I'd say there's a pretty good chance that he doesn't want people seeing the familiar, inappropriate tone with which he bantered with other people's children.

The possibility that he had actually taken the reckless, begging-for-jail step of writing something lewd to her was always a lower-possibility thing.

First of all, it's insane, but yes, I know, it happens anyway. But Weiner had several birds on a wire here, and could afford to keep it relatively clean with one member of the cyber-harem he was building.

As I said in the last post, based on the New York Times' reporting here, I find the whole tone the report suggestive of a precautionary police action, not of them having some strong evidence and just needing that one last bit of data to lock Weiner up.

For one thing, if the cops had found anything, I think we'd get some hint of that. Sure, maybe it's coming late, but we're talking about probability here.

When I wrote about Patterico's evidence, while I was pretty sure it proved 1, private DMs, which are already inappropriate, and 2, further inappropriateness by chatting with girl who says she "loved" him and whose other tweets showed a propensity for dirty-talk.

But I also noted that of the two possibilities, "murder" -- or actual lewd communications with a minor, was less likely, and "manslaughter" -- breathtaking inappropriateness -- was more likely.

Sure, I thought, as I still believe, an investigation needs to be had -- if this guy, with a history of cybersex and shock photos, is talking privately to a 17 year old girl who "loves" him, yeah, I think we need an investigation.

I trust him about as far as I can spit a truck.

But some investigations come up dry. Sure, I would have been happy -- in a "aren't I so smart?" way -- if the evidence did demonstrate the maximum offense conceivable.

But it was always the case that the "manslaughter" charge was more likely. And I think by focusing on the unlikely charge, and wishing it to be true, that tends to diminish the other one.

Like, right now, Weiner's sort of in a relatively good position if he can say "Well at least I didn't sext a minor."

Then that makes what he did do -- which is incredibly, expulsion-level inappropriate -- seem like it's no big deal.

But it is. I spent a lot of words trying to make this case: That even if he restrained himself enough to cross no criminal lines, the question must still be asked, "Then why is he bantering with children who have a romantic or even sexual interest in him in private, parents-don't-know DMs?"

And did the parents know? No, the parents did not know. I guess he forgot to get the parental permission slip.

A member of the girl’s family who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her identity characterized the messages as “harmless” but expressed concern that Mr. Weiner had communicated privately with the teenager, a high school junior.

The family was aware that there had been exchanges between Mr. Weiner and the girl but assumed that all of their conversations had taken place on a public Twitter feed.

This girl's parents assumed that all of her communications with Weiner were occurring publicly.

Why did they assume that?

Because it is the natural assumption of almost everyone that to contact a smitten, lovesick 17 year old via private, I-think-we're-alone-now DM is blazingly, incandescently inappropriate.

What's his defense here? "I was just getting off on the idea this 17 year old girl loved me so much, but I never actually suggested anything sexual"?

Now, obviously, if this were a movie, and you wanted the dramatic ending, you'd write the ending where he does do something criminal.

But getting fixated on that Hollywood ending -- which was always fairly low probability, and seems even less likely now -- distracts from just how inappropriate this is.

Okay, he didn't sext her. So he did nothing wrong?

I don't think so. Like most other men in the world, I keep a decent distance from underage girls. Even your parents' old rule -- the door must be cracked open at least six inches -- isn't nearly enough.

Why doesn't Weiner? What does he find so compelling about these young, attractive, starstruck, lovestruck girls that he has to communicate with them privately?

As I suggested before, I think because he's getting off on it. He doesn't have to actually do the deed to enjoy the thrill. Just knowing he's got a cute girl here who's in love with him... well, that's pretty thrilling.

Particularly if you're an insecure narcissist like Weiner, needing constant affirmation and validation.

So, you betcha, I think he did something wrong. I think he was grooming his little cybernetic love-harem. Some of the girls were for sex, some of them may have just been for... toying.

But this is why I don't think he actually crossed the line, and why I think that insisting that he did cross the line will wind up in disappointment and "win" for Weiner:

The family member said: “I am angry. This is surreal and unbelievable. It is absolutely crazy. We are just regular people who go to baseball games and basketball games, as ordinary and plain as can be.”

In the past few days, the girl and her family have become subjects of intense interest in the news media. On Friday, the local police arrived at their home and asked the girl and her mother to bring the girl’s phone and computer to the police station so they could be checked to make sure no crime had occurred.

The family member said the family complied, and did not expect any further action to be taken.

Maybe that's wishful thinking on the part of a parent who wants it to go away; but my idea is that if the cops were dire and fearful, the parents would have picked up on that, and would not now expect the investigation to conclude.

People are smart about stuff like this. People know when they're in trouble, and when they're in the clear. People have a built-in danger radar. The sense I get is that the parents honestly think they're not expecting any bad news, and if they think that, I have to wonder why.

If they think there's no problems ahead, then I think they have a good reason for that. Not every detail has to be spelled out in a report; you can read a lot from tone and subject reaction.

These parents are mad at the intrusion, not at Weiner, and not thinking there's any further police in their future.

I don't think we can blow that fact off. You can argue around it or say "Well they could just be brave-facing it or denying reality," sure, but I think any bit of evidence you have must be assigned some value.

Sure, I can argue away any evidence if I wanted. But this is evidence, and I don't see why I should discount it, except for the possibility that I have a secret, ugly desire that the evidence were otherwise. But that's not logic. That's just wishcasting.

So to me, as it stands, I have to think the parents are straight when they call these messages non-explicit.

I don't take their word for it that they're "harmless," because I actually do suspect Weiner of speaking in a manner I would consider a violation -- too flirty, too familiar, too friendly, as if he's just a friend of hers in high school. Adults are not supposed to confuse the situation by acting like other kids. Tends to cause.... misunderstandings.

That's what I suspect, at least.

But right now, I don't suspect the worst possible scenario. And I think to insist on that scenario, as if only that scenario demonstrates Weiner's misbehavior, basically lets him off the hook.

The Obligatory Addition: One thing that didn't occur to me initially when I saw police had contacted the girl -- I was out, and saw it on my phone, and really wasn't engaged -- was why did the police come out there?

Allah asked that, I saw later.

See, the cops' interest I initially took as confirmatory. An additional independent investigation which had come to the same conclusions.

But was it? Was it independent?

Or was it based on the same evidence we already knew of, that is, the tweets presented at Patterico's?

If it's the latter, then it's not confirmatory, as we can no longer imagine the cops had other evidence, independently discovered, pointing to the same (tentative) conclusion.

Further, based on what now looks to me like a cautionary, routine check by the cops, it's pretty possible that a blog-reader alerted the police to the possibility. Or a cop himself was a blog-reader. Hey, I've met them. They exist.

There's nothing wrong with that -- if you think there's a crime, especially one involving minors, you call the cops.

But if that's what happened, then it's not true the cops had an independent evidence-evaluating process which resulted in a visit to the house. In that case, it would still be the same evidence we already knew of. Alarming and suggestive evidence, true, but still the same evidence we knew of, with no hypothetical pile of additional evidence we don't know of.

So the entire visit to the house would not, then, be considered a confirmation. It would just be a consequence of persuasive, alarming evidence initially presented.

So at 6pm I thought "Holy Mackerel, even the cops think he's dirty!"

But now, eight hours later, I just think "Oh, well, given some very alarming evidence, they had to check into it."

Doesn't mean Weiner's innocent, but it also adds nothing to the pile of data suggesting he's guilty.

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posted by Ace at 01:27 AM

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