The Internet Hates F. Scott Fitzgerald . . .

. . . who said "There are no second acts in American lives."

Yet on the internet offers all sorts of second acts in what passes, if one squints from a distance, for a life.

Hence Slate — which you'd have to call "very prominent and reputable" in internet terms, thus illustrating how the internet irretrievably degrades such measures — can hire Elliot Spitzer. Spitzer is a man who spent a career as a public scold with a gun in one hand and a subpoena in another, decrying immorality real and imagined whilst simultaneously concealing the financial transactions by which he hired expensive prostitutes marketed to pathologically insecure men ("Five Diamond!" VIP!") to service him bareback before going home to his wife. Slate hired him to opine professionally, apparently judging that its readers should want to listen to what he had to say, shortly after he learned he would avoid federal charges, at least for this course of conduct.

Granted, Slate is the sort of place that likes to offer frequently out-of-context an sometimes dishonestly presented quotations of the President as an inspid feature, so it's not like Elliot is taking up a slot that otherwise would have generated trenchant commentary or anything. But though I believe, as an aspiring Christian, in forgiveness, it's a little bit unnerving to have the guy who shat in your soup last week come back this week to sell you spoons.

On a different scale, consider Jack Thompson. Jack Thompson is a career lunatic, a man who has careened from officiously demanding that Janet Reno state her sexual preference all the way to being disbarred for a course of hysterical anti-video-game litigation that amounted to the jurisprudential equivalent of finger-painting with his own feces. Yet shortly after the State Bar in Florida — a state with a rather generous attitude towards eccentricity — booted him for a breathtaking campaign of dishonesty and harassment, he managed to land a gig at conservative website Human Events, which has concluded that a disbarred lawyer has something worthwhile to say to serious conservatives about Republican politics. Given the state of Republican politics recently, that might just be true. Once again, even though I consider Human Events to be an unserious place — they like to list dangerous things breathlessly, like the most harmful books of the 20th Century — it's still alarming to see that a place that at least poses as a journal of serious conservative thought has given a soapbox to someone who is so clearly deranged, dishonest, and disreputable.

I might be more indifferent to this if I thought it were truly about redemption — about people having paid their debt to society, accepting responsibility for their actions, and slowly earning respect again. But it's rather clearly not. It's more about the internet ethos. It's a sign of the the belief by sites like Slate and Human Events — possibly a correct belief — that since the net is already such a foul brew of depravity and unmedicated craziness, their readers won't blink when they hire riff-raff, and that in fact their readers may find it merely amusing or piquant.

That's not a good sign for the medium.

Last 5 posts by Ken White