Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon and the Washington Post, shocked the world yesterday by disclosing an effort by AMI (the National Enquirer publisher) to blackmail him with salacious text messages they had uncovered, including sexually intimate photos. Yes, these photos even included the now quite common “d…k pix.” Ami was trying to get him to back off an intense investigation he had initiated to determine how they had intercepted his texts and emails. But Bezos did not play ball, declaring he preferred to “roll this log over and see what crawls out.” He admitted the shame of this experience but determined he would not be blackmailed and was willing to call the bluff of the National Enquirer. The National Enquirer and its CEO, Jeff Pecker (chuckle, chuckle) have been intimately involved with Trump, Pecker now having defected under pressure from Robert Mueller’s investigation of the President. Trump and Pecker colluded to pay off Trump’s hush money to a prostitute and former Playboy bunny.
My concern with this story is shame and its relationship with honesty. A sense of shame…a “healthy shame”…helps make us human, giving us the motivation to participate in the very necessary social fiction that makes us human. We keep things hidden and should do so. Not everything needs to be disclosed. But when “healthy shame” has been obliterated by toxic shame, it reveals that there is so much to hide that the individual will go to any extreme to keep the secrets of his heart hidden. Mr. Bezos, like all mortals, has sexual peccadillos fluttering about in his heart and mind and he “imbibed” of a few like most of us have. But he found the courage and stubbornness to not be blackmailed and owned up to the accusations, taking the “wind out of the sails” of the National Enquirer. (And, admittedly this “courage and stubbornness” was facilitated by the fact that he is one of the richest men on the earth.)
Life, i.e. “reality”, often pushes us into a corner where we are forced to admit things that are not pleasant. But when shame tyrannizes us into a façade that is not simply a persona but a prison, we cannot allow “truthfulness” to break out; sometimes we will go to any extreme to deny what we are accused of. Related to this machination, Trump introduced to us the term “fake news” as a simple term for, “whatever I don’t like or is unpleasant,” is not true.
This issue, given Trump’s intimacy with the National Enquirer, brings to my mind the question of what he and his compatriots have dug up on members of Congress. We all have stuff we don’t want to come out and it is now clear that if the intent is there to uncover it, it can be uncovered. Blackmail would explain some of the blind compliance with Trump’s whims that many noted Republicans have demonstrated; Lindsey Graham and McConnell comes to mind, to name but two.