Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Ari Adut on The John Edwards Scandal

Ari Adut

Yes, there's a chapter on presidents.

True, I’m no expert. Don’t worry, I found one.

Dr. Adut sends his apologies, he was abroad when the whole thing broke, and I commented on it earlier with his book in mind.

But he has a few comments that cut directly to some of the sociological implications of scandal that we overlook during all the drama. Most striking: public moral outrage comes not at the behavior, but on behalf of the family. Whether they want it or not.

“The Edwards thing seems to have cooled off, but maybe there will be evidence linking him to the baby. My informal, fast take on this scandal: There is nothing illegal in Edward’s conduct and he is not running for any office either. So those who attack him attack him in the name of his wife. But they almost willfully ignore that the scandal (which is not his adultery but the publicization of the adultery) hurts the wife and children as well – this is one of the main points in the book, the third party-effects of scandals.”

Yes, you see this a lot. Articles with titles like “how can she still stand by her man?” Well, she’s known about it for two years, so is it really that surprising?

“And people tend to forget that privacy is often not an individual thing but a group thing, and here it seems that the privacy rights of the Edward’s family (the right to deal with this problem internally and with confidentiality) are ignored. Interestingly Americans for quite a long time no longer trust families to deal with many of their problems by themselves, so third-party interventions (marital therapists, school counselors, press for famous people etc.) seem all legitimate.”

Interesting. Why do you think that we get so overwhelmed by something like “lack of communication” in marriage? Why can’t we deal? Does the industry create the demand through fear-mongering, or do we create the demand by some sort of present-day alienation?

Your thoughts?

About The Author

Ari Adut

Ari Adut is the author of On Scandal: Moral Disturbances in Society, Politics, and Art (2009). Adut is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. He hol...

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