Being slammed left, right and center, the unprincipled gossip site Gawker, which published a slimy kiss-and-tell account by an anonymous creep who shared a night of passion, if not as passionate as he expected, with Christine O’Donnell, issued its official defense. It can be summarized as “she’s a judgmental, hypocritical prude and she deserved it,” which is really a stand-in for the real motive, which does something like, “we’d publish the private secrets of our own grandmothers if it would get us more traffic.”
The hypocrisy argument is nonsense. O’Donnell advocates a chaste lifestyle as a goal. The story shows that she has not always achieved that ideal. So what? The accusation that anyone who advocates standards of conduct disproved their position when they cannot meet their own standards is not just illogical and demonstrably untrue, it is destructive. Those who assert that only the perfect and infallible can argue for good behavior would make any standards of conduct impossible; they are literally the enemies of ethics.
Gawker justifies its publication of this non-scandalous scandal—the fact that O’Donnell behaved like most single adults at some point in their lives—with the claim that O’Donnell is trying to impose her sexual morality on others. How exactly does a U.S. Senator get to impose sexual morality? She could advocate and argue for particular conduct, but impose it? She has a legitimate, if extreme, position in the ongoing debate over what is right and wrong conduct in our culture, and if she persuades the culture to change on the merits of her argument, that is the way cultural standards evolve. Interestingly, the account of Dustin Dominiak, and the fact that her one night stand “dominiaked” her, is powerful evidence in support of O’Donnell’s thesis. If this is the kind of louse one’s pursuit of sexual gratification before marriage gets you involved in, chastity looks pretty good.
Gawker’s ethical “reasoning” is pretty much summed up in this head-scratcher of a passage:
“A good deal of the reaction to the piece was governed by revulsion at the voice of Anonymous, who certainly comes off as a dick. So yes, we will grant you that the 25-year-old guy Christine O’Donnell drunkenly pursued, and bedded, on Halloween night three years ago is not a gentleman. We wish she had better taste in guys. But our publication of his account wasn’t intended as a celebration of his character. It was intended to expose the lies and hypocrisy of a U.S. Senate candidate and prominent Tea Party conservative who uses her own purported chastity and righteousness to market herself and gain political power. So no, we don’t think there’s anything wrong with what Christine O’Donnell did on Halloween three years ago. We think there’s something wrong with what she’s done every day since, though.”
So… 1) the author of the piece Gawker published was “a dick” to write it, but somehow Gawker wasn’t a media mega-dick for making sure as many people read the piece as possible; 2) they published the piece to expose “lies” that don’t exist (the incident not only doesn’t prove O’Donnell’s current views on sex are not sincere, but in fact may explain why her convictions since the incident have become stronger; 3) though she didn’t do anything wrong, Gawker still thinks it is fair to embarrass her by publishing a rude and mean-spirited account of purely private conduct between consenting adults…because Gawker doesn’t like her political and social views. You know…it’s okay to be unfair to someone if you don’t like them, right?
In Gawker World, this is ethical conduct.