Monday, October 5, 2009

Blackmail for Dummies

Forget Letterman. What about all those people who are dying to be blackmailed, even though they’re not hiding any sexual peccadilloes, and in fact have no sex life at all? Imagine blackmailing some lonely widower whose sole enjoyment in life is watching “The Wire” while eating a Salisbury steak TV dinner. Wouldn't a good blackmailing add a little zing to his life?

From a moral standpoint, it’s easy to become a talk show host and have sex with staff members, while making wisecracks about the sins of rollers high and holy. It’s about as easy as playing Eliot Ness while employing the services of a VIP escort service. Client 9, aka Eliot Spitzer, met Ashley Alexandra Dupre, his rock n’ roll hooker, in room 871 of The Mayflower, the legendary Washington Hotel where Daniel Ellsberg's Pentagon Papers were handed over to Alaska Senator Mike Gravel. Talk about a lack of sophistication.

To get blackmailed, it’s necessary to be on a search, and not the kind of search that motivates Bix Bolling in Walker Percy’s classic novel The Moviegoer. Bix, like Meursault in Camus’s The Stranger and Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishement, seeks something that goes beyond the gratification of the senses. People who commit philosophical crimes, even if they’re accompanied by murder and mayhem, should be exempt from blackmail.

It’s easy to get blackmailed if that is what you’re after. Go to a serious prep school and then some Ivy League colleges and law schools, become a governor in the Northeast, or make it as a network talk show host, or become a Republican senator from a Western state. Perhaps even mouth off about how William Buckley’s God and Man at Yale didn’t go far enough. Getting blackmailed is easy. Just do all of the above and then “shit where you eat.”

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