On Wednesday, a group working to get rid of North Carolina’s freshman Congressman Madison Cawthorn released a video showing the Republican lawmaker naked in bed and putting his groin toward another person’s head. Before the state’s primary on May 17, a political group called American Muckrakers PAC, which is said to run the “Fire Madison Cawthorn” website, put out the video.
The group got the video from a “former supporter” of Cawthorn. Since then, the hashtag “Madison Cawthorn Video” has become popular on social media.
The video seems to show the 26-year-old congressman yelling and chanting as he pushes his pelvis against a man who is not named. Someone else, who may have been using a smartphone to record the event, could be heard laughing in the background and telling Cawthorn to “stick it in his face.”
Rep. Cawthorn responded to the video on Wednesday night with a tweet from his verified social media account (@CawthornforNC): “Just now, a new hit was made against me. In this video from years ago, I was trying to be funny by being rude to a friend. We were being silly and joking around. All done. I’m not going to give up. I told you there would be a campaign of small steps. Blackmailing will not work. We are.
This is the latest problem for the congressman, who is running in an unusually crowded Republican primary against an incumbent. Last month, several photos of Cawthorn dressed in women’s underwear were shared on social media.
During a successful election campaign in 1983, the late Democrat Edwin Edwards famously said, “The only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.”
That was obviously a long time ago, before smartphones and social media, where people’s “deeds” or “actions” from the past could come back to haunt them.
Dr. Chris Haynes, an associate professor of international affairs and political science at the University of New Haven, said, “Social media and the Internet can spread a message like this today.”
Haynes warned that anything that could be really embarrassing could end a person’s career. “Anyone with an iPhone can quickly record and send around the world something that is controversial or embarrassing.
Even though Cawthorn has become a lightning rod for controversy, he is not the only lawmaker to get in trouble for questionable actions and comments that quickly go viral on social media.
Haynes thought, “This brings up a bigger question: What do we expect from our politicians?” “We want them to be perfect and better than the rest of us, but we also want them to be real, which is a very high standard.
Social media is turning the past into a weapon.
It’s still not clear when Cawthorn and the other person may have met or how American Muckrakers PAC got the video, but this isn’t the first time that someone’s actions from the past have come to light and been shared on social media.
“Social media have changed politics in this way, for good and for bad,” Haynes said. “We’ve seen a new type of politician who used social media to increase voter turnout.””They live and die by how well they do on social media.”
Even though it’s harder than ever to keep “skeletons in the closet,” we should ask ourselves if we want politics to be about digging up more dirt on the other side, especially in a time when fake news is so common. Technology is also making it easier than ever before to change videos. Cawthorn didn’t say that this video wasn’t real, but we’ve seen that fake news and photos that have been altered have been shared on social media.
“It should worry us that anyone can change the message so easily,” Haynes said. “Once a story gets out there, it can’t be stopped.” We also have to worry about bad actors, including those from other countries, who are already trying to start an information war. “Because social media is so fast, it can be hard to keep our freedom when false information can spread so quickly.
The other worrying trend is that both sides are increasingly using social media to destroy the other side, whether it’s a video of Cawthorne or tweets about Hunter Biden’s laptop. Instead of focusing on what a candidate stands for, more and more people are looking for the worst thing he or she has done and telling everyone about it.
Haynes said, “It’s too bad that we’re so divided that people don’t even think before they tell the public what they know about their political enemies.” “More than our society and country, it is about the tribe.” “Still, this is the time we live in, and I don’t know how to stop it.
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