An opposition group, which is actively campaigning against Madison Cawthorn (North Carolina freshman congressman), released Wednesday’s video. It showed Cawthorn naked and pointing his groin towards another person. American Muckrakers PAC published the video in its entirety, ahead of the May 17th primary.
The video, which had been passed to the group by a “former supporter” of Cawthorn, has since trended across social media with the hashtag “madisoncawthornvideo.”
Video appears to have the 26-year old freshman congressman screaming as he presses his pelvis on an unidentified male. A second individual is suspected to have recorded the encounter using a smartphone. He could be heard telling Cawthorn that he should “stick it to his face” and laughing behind Cawthorn.
Rep. Cawthorn responded via Twitter to Wednesday night’s video (@CawthornforNC), “Another strike against me just fell.” This video was taken years ago by me and a friend. I tried to be humorous. The two of us were laughing and acting silly. That’s it. I’m NOT backing down. You were warned that there would be a drip campaign. The blackmail campaign will not win. We’ll.”
It is the latest scandal for Cawthorn who, for an incumbent congressman is currently facing a very crowded GOP primary. Last month several images of Cawthorn in women’s lingerie emerged online.
Career Ruining Moments?
Edwin Edwards (Democrat, Louisiana Governor) famously stated during a winning election campaign in 1983 that “The only thing I can lose is if I am caught in bed with either a deceased girl or a living boy.”
It was. LongBefore the advent of social media and smartphones, past actions and “deeds could be relived and haunt anybody.
According to Dr. Chris Haynes (associate professor of international affairs at the University of New Haven), “Today, social media and Internet can amplify a message such as this.”
Haynes cautioned that anything embarrassing can endanger a career, not only for politicians. Anyone with an iPhone is able to quickly capture something embarrassing or controversial and then send it out around the globe.
Cawthorn is certainly a hot topic, but he’s not the only one who has been criticized for his controversial statements and acts that have quickly made the rounds via social media.
Haynes thought, “This begs the deeper question of what we should expect from our politicians.” We want them perfect. “We also want them to stand out from others, but we don’t expect them to be authentic. That is an unrealistic standard.”
Social Media is Weaponizing the Past
Although it is not clear when Cawthorn and Cawthorn met, American Muckrakers PAC got the video. However, this isn’t necessarily the first instance of actions taken in the past being shared online.
Haynes said that “In this manner, social media revolutionized politics. For good and for bad.” We have witnessed a new generation of politicians that use social media to gain popularity. Social media is their lifeline.
Although it’s more challenging than ever for people to “keep the skeletons in their closet”, there is a question about whether politics should be about digging up even more dirt, particularly in an age where misinformation is rampant. It is easier than ever for technology to modify video. Cawthorn doesn’t doubt the authenticity of the video. However, we have already seen how Deepfakes or edited images are making the rounds on social networks.
Haynes warned that “anyone can manipulate the message” and should be worried. Haynes warned that once a story has been published, it will be impossible to conceal. It is also important to consider the potential dangers posed by actors from other nations, as well as those who are trying to start an information war. Because social media can be so immediate, it can prove difficult to preserve our freedoms when there is disinformation that can quickly spread.”
The other worrisome trend – whether it is a video of Cawthorn or tweets about Hunter Biden’s laptop – is that both sides have increasingly engaged in a scorched earth policy to use social media to destroy the other side. Instead of being focused on what a candidate stands for, the focus is shifting to finding and sharing the worst actions they have taken.
Haynes said, “It is sad that we are so divided that people won’t even think before posting the dirt about their political opponents.” It is about more than the country and our tribe. But, I do not know how to stop this age.