It has been an October of surprises, from the Billy Bush tape and the accusations of sexual assault and harassment that followed, to last Friday’s revelation that the FBI’s probe of Hillary Clinton’s emails may not be over, after an investigation into Anthony Weiner’s inappropriate online relationship with a teenage girl uncovered a trove of emails. With only eight days until the election, the FBI’s intervention is a very big deal indeed.
But as Variety’s Sonia Saraiya noted in a very sharp piece, no one really knows what the investigation is really about. Are the emails new? Maybe! Maybe not! Are these the near-mythical 30,000 emails that have gone missing? Doesn’t seem like it. Did Hillary Clinton do anything at all that deserves blame here? Again, it doesn’t seem like it, though Clinton really should learn how to print her own emails. Could any or all of these things become true, over the course of the FBI’s investigation? Yes, but none of them appear to be true now.
To an extent, the “email scandal” has always been something of a cipher—it was more a stand-in for Clinton’s issues with secrecy and trust. But the latest developments in this story have turned it into something suitably postmodern, a twist whose significance is so obvious even Umberto Eco would think twice before using it. It has become a pseudo-scandal with no real merit or electoral impact that nevertheless will eat up hundreds of hours of media coverage. There is no there there, making it the perfect scandal for our era of unending spin. Maybe at the end we’ll come to realize that the real email story was inside of us all along.