The AMI-Jeff Bezos scandal is set up to dominate headlines for a while. Who knows where it will lead? In the third world, an oligarch-president proxy war playing out in public like this usually presages a coup.
If this were Thailand or Uruguay, bookies would already have odds on a Bezos-Mark-Zuckerberg-Sundar-Pichai junta being in power by May.
This scandal will at least drag us through unprecedented legal and ethical conundrums. Can the president use the surveillance powers of the state to go after political enemies? Can a billionaire intelligence contractor and administrator of one of earth’s largest private data collections — including the so-called “Secret Region” cloud — fight back using his own surveillance trove through a newspaper he owns?
This story could blur the lines between public and private power to the point of meaninglessness. America could very well find its fate decided by a series of pre-dawn phone calls, after which we’d wake up to find Trump flying to Switzerland, Amazon lieutenants in the Joint Chiefs office and the presidency replaced by an executive board.
At the center of all of this: a dick pic.
Nothing could be more American than the fate of our democracy now hanging (!) on what Enquirer editor Dylan Howard euphemistically describes as a “below-the-belt selfie.”
Seemingly since the birth of the Internet, celebrity jackasses have felt the urge to take pics of their naughty bits and send them, often unsolicited, on the electronic superhighway. One study suggests as many as four in 10 young women have received an unsolicited nude photo from a man.
The dick-pic scandal really became a thing between 2010 and 2011, with the (listed below) Brett Favre and Anthony Weiner stories. Since then, it’s become so common for men to put their junk online that it really only makes headlines if it’s accidental, political or a slow news day. From Greg Oden to Tyrann Mathieu to Jude Law to countless others, there are so many famous penii online that the headlines have become more interesting than the stories (i.e. “Canada’s Dick Pic Scandal Gets Bigger All the Time”).
A few recent incidents, however, have become relevant major news stories. In declining order of cultural importance, here they are:
10. Brett Favre
What should a wealthy, married professional athlete do when he’s feeling the urge? Obviously send an unsolicited photo of what looks like half a stale donut to a married co-worker. Poor Jenn Sterger probably thought she was the first person in history to receive a dong shot from a med school cadaver, but it got worse when she realized the infamous picture belonged to the Jets’ franchise quarterback. The sideline reporter was subjected to horrific media treatment after that — she actually had to go on TV to say she was not flattered by pictures of Brett Favre’s dick. The Favre incident ended up being a template in many ways for future scandals of this type. The Bezos story already fits on the “selfie-taking male must immediately act like he’s the victim” front, while the “gross-out picture always ends up getting released in NSFW form no matter how hard lawyers try” part of the story is yet to come.
9. Joe Barton
The Republican chair of the House Energy Committee has long had a reputation as one of the meanest people in Washington, like LBJ without national ambition. The Texan has also long been one of the most pious peddlers of aw-shucks, hand-over-heart “family values” claptrap in recent history — among other things he was one of the fiercest critics of Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky scandal. So there was a powerful cosmic justice angle when Barton was caught sending retch-inducing selfies showing him tugging sausage below his giant pink under-cauldron. He added a text message: “I want you so bad, deep and hard.” The selfie-taker-as-victim narrative kicked in quickly, as it’s been suggested Barton should be protected by a new Texas law against “revenge porn.” Of note: despite being a Republican and just as graphically compromised as his Democratic counterpart, Barton has not been dumped on as much either in Washington or in the national press as Anthony Weiner. This might be because Weiner’s preening and bottomless self-regard was extremely funny, while Barton is just a gross wanking old dude. It might also be a telling indicator of how loathed Weiner was during his time on the Hill.
8. Kimberly Guilfoyle
The former Fox anchor — and reputed willing Donald Trump, Jr. paramour — left work last summer amid rumors of bizarre in-office behavior. The Huffington Post, which did a major investigation interviewing 21 unnamed sources, noted: “Six sources said Guilfoyle’s behavior included showing personal photographs of male genitalia to colleagues (and identifying whose genitals they were).” The story also said Guilfoyle frequently complained Jeanine Pirro is too old. So it’s possible people at Fox were shown pictures of a Trump penis against their will. The alleged female dick-pic flasher was a new twist on the usual scandal format.
7. Tony Clement
The Canadian version of the Anthony Weiner scandal was, predictably, basically the same story as the American prototype, only less interesting. The Conservative MP exchanged explicit pictures with someone he thought “was a consenting female” but was, he claimed, in fact “an individual or party who targeted me for the purpose of financial extortion.” Vice reported that Clement was a serial Instagram lurker who went on “deep timeline liking sprees” late at night. Though nothing will ever top Weiner’s decision to try “equine therapy” for his sexting addiction, Clement also went into “treatment” for his behavior, holding to what’s become a pattern (my money is on yoga, dolphins, and Alexa lullabies when Bezos inevitably chooses a sexting cure).
6. Lars Ohly
In proof that junk-shot scandals are survivable, Sweden’s former Left Party leader Ohly emerged unscathed after he accidentally posted his packaging. Apparently he was trying to show off a tattoo.
“Ha, ha, I accidentally posted a picture on Instagram that showed more than intended. Now corrected,” he wrote, and that was it.
No scandal, no horse therapy, no freakout, no major-release documentary. Is everything in Europe easier?
5. Kanye West
It’s now officially more embarrassing to be photographed arm in arm with Donald Trump than it is to have your junk on the Internet. Obviously, it depends a little on the picture.
4. Hulk Hogan
It wasn’t really a dick pic, but the verbal penis-boasting of the famed wrestler — named Terry Bollea in real life — became a central issue in a landmark case that sank a media empire. Hogan’s attorney Shane Vogt scored crucial points in the lawsuit against Gawker for publishing a sex tape of Hogan sleeping with his best friend’s wife. Former Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio answered “no” to the question posed by Vogt, “Mr. Bollea’s penis had no real news value, right?” This case not only resulted in the devastation of Gawker Media (now a shell of itself under the name Gizmodo Media), but it forced Bollea, who had bragged to various radio personalities that Hulk Hogan was carrying a monster in his speedo, to say “I do not have a ten-inch penis,” on camera. It’s on YouTube forever. Note: Hogan’s son Nick is said to have been the first male victim of the hack-and-leak scandal called “the Fappening.”
3. Robert Mueller’s extremely rumored, extremely alleged possession of Individual 1’s selfie
In February 2018, Special Counsel Robert Mueller to great fanfare indicted 13 individuals and three companies connected to the Russian “Internet Research Agency.” It was widely assumed none of the defendants would appear to contest the charges, but one, Concord Management and Catering, did, showing up announcing a willingness to go to trial. Mueller asked permission to delay his own prosecution and was refused, a fact few outlets noticed. Mueller then commenced a long battle over discovery he seems to be winning, successfully arguing to a judge that the Russians are not entitled to what their lawyers call “millions of pages of non-classified discovery.”
As part of the motions in this case, Concord argued, “Could the manner in which [Mueller] collected a nude selfie really threaten the national security of the United States?”
This one sentence for the first time attracted real press attention to the case, as reporters ignored the anomaly of Mueller’s seeming reluctance to present evidence in his own case in favor of the remote possibility that he might have a Trump selfie in his possession. Although clearly, the public would have mixed feelings about the existence of such a picture.
As (again) The Root put it, “Please, for the love of god let this not be a photo of President Mushroom Cap. No one needs to see that. No. One.”
2. Anthony Weiner
It was bad enough that a sitting congressman named Weiner was sending unsolicited “nether region” pics to women around the country; it was worse when he did it again after leaving office, this time to a 15-year-old girl. What’s even worse is Donald Trump might now be president because of it. In late 2016, why is the FBI up on Weiner’s laptop if he’s not sexting with a teenager? Do new Hillary Clinton emails come out just before Election Day that year if Weiner wasn’t so proud of his photography? As an excuse for why the Democrats lost, emailgate has always seemed pathetic, but viewed purely through the lens of individual consequences, the butterfly effect of Weiner’s eroto-narcissistic addiction has been amazing. Not only did he help launch Breitbart into national-power status through his humiliating public prostration before the gloating form of Andrew Breitbart himself, but he threw a massive wrench in the 2016 presidential election by exposing his wife’s boss to political tormentors at just the wrong time. There’s not much to say beyond, what an asshole.
1. Jeff Bezos
The Bezos story is proof that there is no disincentive that could be invented to prevent men from taking pictures of their penises. Under Washington state law, Bezos’ wife MacKenzie in a divorce could collect half of his 79 million shares of Amazon stock, worth north of $130 billion. She could also massively dilute the worth of Amazon stock by forcing Bezos to sell off his shares to pay her in cash. This means Bezos at some point aimed a camera at his unit, snapped, and thought: I’m gonna risk $65 billion to hit send.
MacKenzie, a novelist, informed Bezos of her plans to divorce two days after being told an upcoming Enquirer story about his affair with Lauren Sanchez that included “raunchy messages and erotic selfies.”
Mercifully, we haven’t seen the actual photo yet, but we do seem to be mere minutes from a constitutional crisis.
So that’s awesome. What’s the over/under on dick-pic scandals in the 2020 race? I put it at two and I’m taking the over. You heard it here first.
This post has been updated to more accurately reflect the details of Brett Favre’s sexting scandal with Jenn Sterger. We regret the error.