The story of the downfall of Jeffrey Toobin because he was caught maturbating during a video call interests me, because not for the reasons you might expect. What’s fascinating to me is the reaction of his colleagues to Toobin’s behavior during this infamous Zoom call, not Toobin’s own colossal lack of judgment.
A Colossally Ordinary Story
Toobin was indiscreet, for certain. He made a mistake. There’s a time and a place for everything, and a Zoom call with high-level members of the media is neither the time nor the place to masturbate. And he got caught.
He thought he was leaving the Zoom call during a timeout. He thought the camera was off. Oops. He went to another site, evidently a porn site, and watched enough to get aroused.
It is unclear whether “touching himself,” as the media delicately put it, constitutes ejaculation or not. Or even whether ejaculation, or the lack thereof, matters. Masturbating, regardless of the outcome, apparently was enough of a crime.
This story is not even sordid. Toobin considered what he did to be a private act. For those of you who think that celebrated media personalities don’t pleasure themselves in private, I have news. These people are as human as we are. The story is just so colossally ordinary.
Here’s What Should Have Happened
What strikes me as extraordinary, and indeed slightly sadistic, is the reaction of the colleagues who were on the call with him. Jeff comes back online as though nothing has happened, and indeed, nothing public had happened. He didn’t do anything his colleagues hadn’t privately done.
But what do the colleagues do? Do they say, “Ummm, Jeffie, do you mind telling us what that was all about?” Or, “ Jeff, we don’t mind sharing your pleasures, but there is a line . . . ?”
No. The colleagues say nothing, as if they are mortally shocked by the behavior. Please. And the opportunity to nip this toxic little blossom in the bud is lost.
The call ends, and all hell breaks loose. Of course, the sadists tattle about what happened during the call. The New Yorker, CNN — all the media outlets whose coverage over the years Toobin had elevated with his wit and learning — abandoned Toobin. “Personal reasons,” you know.
The “#MeToo gang” won’t lose the opportunity to lynch this latest specimen of “white male privilege.” The sanctimonious virtue-signalling will be awful until . . .everybody loses interest. But that won’t happen before Toobin’s career has irrevocably ended, and that strikes me as unnecessary.
The Scandal Was Handled Badly
This is what the media consultants of big companies all know you should do, in the wake of a scandal: You instantly put out the full story. Hold nothing back. Soon the media will lose interest and go back to covering Ivanka’s hair colouring.
But, through their silence, the colleagues denied Toobin the opportunity to show that he was better than United Airlines (which notoriously held back on the story of the passenger’s being violently dragged off a plane). Toobin didn’t have the chance to present his side of the story before it acquired wings. He didn’t even have a chance to apologize for his technical failure. (Who, among us, knew or cared how to use videoconferencing software until recently?)
And so now he’s in now for a public hanging. The punishment seems disproportionate to the crime.