A Swift Kick in the Ashley Madison

38 million people looking for love in all the wrong places are in trouble.

Perhaps the adage, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive” has never had greater meaning than right about now — at least for as many as 38 million people.

Ashley Madison, a website for adulterers, markets itself with the slogan, “Life is short. Have an affair.” The site recently had its database breached last month by hackers calling themselves the Impact Team (IT). Avid Life Media, which owns the Toronto-based cheating site, was given a simple message: shut down your site or “[w]e will release all customer records, profiles with all customers’ secret sexual fantasies, nude pictures, and conversations and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails.” IT allegedly wanted the site shut down for two reasons. First, the group claimed Ashley Madison was keeping customer data on file even when clients paid a $19 fee to have it removed. Second, IT insisted the company was creating fake female profiles for its nearly 90% male database.

Ashley Madison insisted those claims were inaccurate and refused to close. Last Tuesday, IT fired its first salvo, posting a 10-gigabyte file containing 28 million unique email addresses. A second dump occurred Thursday when 20 gigabytes were released, outing a list of cheaters that included Vatican workers, Big Apple bureaucrats, an English parliamentarian and at least one reality-TV star. Other users were from Harvard and Yale, the United States Postal Service, NASA, IBM, Bank of America, JPMorgan, Amazon and the White House (and we know there’s never been cheating there before).

Ashley Madison released an amusing statement, calling the hack “an act of criminality” and an “illegal action against the individual members of AshleyMadison.com, as well as any freethinking people who choose to engage in fully lawful online activities.” No doubt describing would-be adulterers as “freethinking people” is in perfect alignment with today’s cultural norms, where adding a shiny new coat of morally relative paint to formerly execrable behavior is now standard operating procedure. Yet one suspects the victims of such freethinking, as in spouses and children, might be inclined towards more traditional values.

An equally amusing statement was released by Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who promised us that the military services will be looking into the more than 15,000 email addresses potentially hosted on government and military servers because, he insisted, “conduct is very important. We expect good conduct on the part of our people.”

The military is only part of the government equation. According to the Associated Press, which traced the accounts exposed by the hackers back to federal workers, connections to the site emanated from “two dozen Obama administration agencies, including the departments of State, Defense, Justice, Energy, Treasury, Transportation and Homeland Security. Others came from House or Senate computer networks.” More specifically, two assistant U.S. attorneys, an information technology administrator in the Executive Office of the President, a trio of Justice Department employees, including a division chief, an investigator and a trial attorney, and two DHS employees, including a government hacker and a U.S. counterterrorism response team member, were exposed.

As for good conduct, such aspirations stand in stark contrast to reality. At the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a top-level employee caught watching pornography on his work computer — which contained 7,000 pornographic files — has yet to be terminated because the “administrative process” for such removal can take as long as two years. At the VA, only one person has been fired more than a year after it was discovered veterans were literally dying before they could get appointments, even as waiting lists for those appointments were being manipulated. Thousands of government employees signing up for adultery?

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the restoration of good conduct.

In fact, 38 million people looking for love in all the wrong places suggests society is in deeper trouble than we might imagine. While adultery is an age-old problem, one is hard-pressed to imagine it has always been as widespread (at least in America) as the numbers here suggest. Moreover, there is a new element in play: complete randomness. One is not having an affair with someone they already know or met face to face but shopping for a commodity much like any other online “purchase.”

Perhaps technologically enabled convenience makes such randomness inevitable, but also adds to the cheapening of values that is accelerating at a sickening pace. It should be noted that while this story has captured the public’s attention the latest Planned Parenthood (PP) sting video — revealing the harvesting of an intact brain from a baby boy whose heart was still beating following his abortion — remains largely below the mainstream media radar. That’s because in the midst of these barbarous revelations, 16 journalists were thrilled to accept PP’s Maggie Awards for Media Excellence. “Maggie” is short for PP founder Margaret Sanger, the Hitler-supporting racist who stated in 1921 that eugenics is “the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems.”

In a society where values are cheap and cheating is rampant, it stands to reason that being “unfaithful” to one’s readers is at least as easy as being unfaithful to one’s spouse.

A nation marinating itself in cheap values also goes a long way towards explaining why Hillary Clinton — a proud Margaret Sanger award recipient in her own right — remains a viable presidential candidate. The journey between living a lie and supporting a congenital liar for president is perilously short. In fact, the template for such support was established by Bill Clinton, characterized as “a president with a rare ability to compartmentalize his psyche,” when an equally bankrupt media sought to minimize his adulterous affair with Monica Lewinsky.

This is one American with no sympathy at all, not just for cheaters, but for those monumentally stupid enough give any information to a website promoting adultery. If there is one additional revelation emerging from this scandal, aside from increasing levels of cultural degradation it represents, it is a lesson: The term “secure website” is rapidly becoming an oxymoron. In other words, if one is going to cheat, one may have to do it the old-fashioned way — or maybe not at all.

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