Monica Lewinsky begins her return to the public arena by describing one of her many humiliating moments a decade ago, saying that today it “would have gone viral on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, TMZ, Gawker. It would have become a meme of its own on Tumblr. The viralness itself would have merited mention on the Daily Beast and Huffington Post.”
None of those existed, of course, when the White House sex scandal exploded back in 1998. So now Lewinsky is seeing what it would be like to analyzed, dissected and ripped apart in the modern world of social media—by reviving and reliving the global embarrassment that will always define her.
That lead anecdote involved an HBO taping in which she was asked about being a “BJ Queen.” Lewinsky has obviously decided that in order to move past her humiliation, she first has to recycle it—and own it.
The onetime White House intern tries to meld her plight with the vast array of people who have been mocked online: “No one, it seems, can escape the unforgiving gaze of the Internet, where gossip, half-truths and lies take root and fester.” True, but in Monica’s case, most of what was said about her was true.
Now that I’ve read the entire Vanity Fair piece, I don’t quite get the conspiracy theory that the Clintons wanted this out and disposed of. First, the accused looney toon is not favorably disposed toward Hillary Clinton: “She wanted it on record that she was lashing out at her husband’s mistress…I find her impulse to blame the Woman—not only me, but herself—troubling.”
Second, Lewinsky knows that by resurfacing after a decade, she is putting the focus back on Bill Clinton’s misdeeds, and his wife calling out the “vast right-wing conspiracy.” And whatever mistakes the thong-flashing, can’t-keep-a-secret Monica made, it was her boss, the president of the United States, who engaged in a classic abuse of power and misled the country about it.
Lewinsky even takes a whack at feminists for failing to give her “girl-on-girl support,” giving her paramour a pass because Clinton was “a president ‘friendly’ to women’s causes.”
Is there a self-serving element to all this? Of course. Lewinsky, single at 40, understandably frustrated by her failure to land a good job, is trying to turn her notoriety in her favor.
Besides, she says, her attempt to lay low has failed: “Every day I am recognized. Every day.”
Still, why now? Lewinsky says that everyone else is talking about her, so why should she stay quiet? She knew her White House exploits would be debated during a Hillary campaign—indeed, Rand Paul has already pressed the issue—and decided she wanted her voice heard.
The question now is whether Vanity Fair is just phase one of her media comeback. We could soon be seeing Monica Lewinsky making the television rounds, trying to move beyond her tawdry past by talking about it again and again.