Opinion
Apr 19, 2018
11:22 AM
When We Think About the Pee Tape
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We have lived with the idea of the pee tape for so long that it almost feels as if we have already seen it.
By Naomi Fry FROM The New Yorker
Last Thursday, in the late afternoon, I checked in on Twitter and discovered that the end-of-the-day, almost-end-of-the-week, almost-end-of-the-American-empire-as-we-have-known-it lethargy that had, moments earlier, characterized my feed had lifted. The mood was suddenly buoyant, almost giddy. In the past fifteen months, I’ve learned that such energy can be reliably generated by only one thing, and this moment proved no exception: the New York Post had just published a passage from the former F.B.I. director James Comey’s new memoir, “ A Higher Loyalty,” and, as a result, #peetape was trending again.

As Comey continued his media blitz through the weekend, the jokes poured forth. “Oh, my God, it’s real!” Seth Meyers hooted on his late-night show. “The Daily Show” tweeted a doctored version of the current Time magazine cover, with Trump grimly sitting in a storm of urine. On Sunday, during BeyoncĂ©’s spectacular, career-defining performance at Coachella, the Vanity Fair writer Richard Lawson summed up the collective excitement when he tweeted, “She’s going to show the pee tape at the end, isn’t she?”

Since January of 2017, when BuzzFeed published the dossier compiled by the former spy turned private investigator Christopher Steele, the spectre of the pee tape has titillated America. The dossier, which has been vociferously denounced by the President and his Administration, suggested that, as of 2016, Russian officials had been “cultivating” Trump for five years, in part by retaining compromising records on him that might be used for the purposes of blackmail. Among the material that could be used as kompromat, Steele’s sources suggested, was a recording made in 2013 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Moscow, where Trump, fuelled by his hatred of Barack Obama, had paid “a number of prostitutes to perform a ’golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him” on the bed in which President Obama and his wife, Michelle, had once slept during a state visit.

As Jane Mayer wrote in her profile of Steele, Christopher Burrows, Steele’s business partner, expressed reservations about mentioning the tape, “worried about the impact that the sensational item might have.” And indeed the tape – infamous and not proved to exist – has not just provided joke fodder for Twitter and talk-show hosts but has come to occupy a crawl space in our collective imagination, filled with bits and bobs plucked from a variety of sources: pulpy airport Russian-spy novels from the late Cold War era; that episode of “Sex and the City” in which a brash New York politician wants Carrie Bradshaw to pee on him as part of sex play; the question of whether it’s possible that the current President enjoys so-called water sports given his professed germophobia, and whether it would be considered, in today’s parlance, “kink shaming” to fault him for that; that thing a friend once mentioned to us about how much it reallycosts to deep clean a mattress.

At this point, we have lived with the idea of the pee tape for so long that it almost feels as if we have already seen it, or at least stills from it. A friend told me that, when she envisions the scene at the Ritz Carlton, she always pictures Trump in an undershirt and boxer shorts, with sock garters and brown shoes. Another friend, a bit abashed, said that worrying over the tape has brought him to ponder whether pee fetishists prefer clear or dark-yellow urine. A third, exacting friend said that it bothers him when people get it wrong and claim that the prostitutes peed on Trump rather than on the bed. To me, the oddest detail of all is the idea that defiling the bed after rather than before the Obamas occupied that Moscow suite – a years-late voodoo ritual – might count as taking revenge on the then President and First Lady. It is this bizarre logic that in fact seems most like Trump, with his crazed rage at perceived enemies and fixation on old offenses – chronology be damned! – and it is what might ultimately count as the true perversity here.

In his book, Comey notes that Trump has seemed obsessed with the tape; he even suggested that the F.B.I. investigate the claims, supposedly to put his wife Melania’s mind at ease. (“Chivalry isn’t dead!” Stephen Colbert tweeted last week, in response to this.) In the context of this Presidency, in which Trump often seems hysterically consumed by the completely wrong thing, the pee tape, Comey’s book implies, is a rare case in which we are all looking in the same direction. But, then again, could it be that the tape is, in a noir-ish twist, just a MacGuffin? That Trump, whose preoccupation with, say, Hillary Clinton seems so clearly a placeholder for some other hurt, is captivated by the tape as a metonym for something worse, something infinitely more degrading that the Russians have on him?

In an interview with ABC on Sunday, Comey painted a suggestive picture of his own psychic crawl space. “I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth,” he said, “but I don’t know whether the current President of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013. It’s possible, but I don’t know.” Even if the tape were to be proved real and released, it’s too easy by now to imagine the depressing fallout: the outright denials, the claims of doctoring, the blame that would fall to the Democrats and to Clinton. It’s often seemed to me that living through the Trump era is not unlike sitting through a nineteen-nineties introduction to postmodern theory class. Did you know that there’s no one single truth anymore? That we’re living in a simulation? That late capitalism has turned savage and dystopian? In such an environment, hearing the former F.B.I. director speaking in plain terms about the pee tape reminds us of the deep hunger for something analogue – for the straightforward physicality of reliable evidence that would offer, if only for a moment, some measure of relief.

Last Thursday, in the late afternoon, I checked in on Twitter and discovered that the end-of-the-day, almost-end-of-the-week, almost-end-of-the-American-empire-as-we-have-known-it lethargy that had, moments earlier, characterized my feed had lifted. The mood was suddenly buoyant, almost giddy. In the past fifteen months, I’ve learned that such energy can be reliably generated by only one thing, and this moment proved no exception: the New York Post had just published a passage from the former F.B.I. director James Comey’s new memoir, “A Higher Loyalty,” and, as a result, #peetape was trending again.

As Comey continued his media blitz through the weekend, the jokes poured forth. “Oh, my God, it’s real!” Seth Meyers hooted on his late-night show. “The Daily Show” tweeted a doctored version of the current Time magazine cover, with Trump grimly sitting in a storm of urine. On Sunday, during BeyoncĂ©’s spectacular, career-defining performance at Coachella, the Vanity Fair writer Richard Lawson summed up the collective excitement when he tweeted, “She’s going to show the pee tape at the end, isn’t she?”

Since January of 2017, when BuzzFeed published the dossier compiled by the former spy turned private investigator Christopher Steele, the spectre of the pee tape has titillated America. The dossier, which has been vociferously denounced by the President and his Administration, suggested that, as of 2016, Russian officials had been “cultivating” Trump for five years, in part by retaining compromising records on him that might be used for the purposes of blackmail. Among the material that could be used as kompromat, Steele’s sources suggested, was a recording made in 2013 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Moscow, where Trump, fuelled by his hatred of Barack Obama, had paid “a number of prostitutes to perform a ’golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him” on the bed in which President Obama and his wife, Michelle, had once slept during a state visit.

As Jane Mayer wrote in her profile of Steele, Christopher Burrows, Steele’s business partner, expressed reservations about mentioning the tape, “worried about the impact that the sensational item might have.” And indeed the tape – infamous and not proved to exist – has not just provided joke fodder for Twitter and talk-show hosts but has come to occupy a crawl space in our collective imagination, filled with bits and bobs plucked from a variety of sources: pulpy airport Russian-spy novels from the late Cold War era; that episode of “Sex and the City” in which a brash New York politician wants Carrie Bradshaw to pee on him as part of sex play; the question of whether it’s possible that the current President enjoys so-called water sports given his professed germophobia, and whether it would be considered, in today’s parlance, “kink shaming” to fault him for that; that thing a friend once mentioned to us about how much it reallycosts to deep clean a mattress.

At this point, we have lived with the idea of the pee tape for so long that it almost feels as if we have already seen it, or at least stills from it. A friend told me that, when she envisions the scene at the Ritz Carlton, she always pictures Trump in an undershirt and boxer shorts, with sock garters and brown shoes. Another friend, a bit abashed, said that worrying over the tape has brought him to ponder whether pee fetishists prefer clear or dark-yellow urine. A third, exacting friend said that it bothers him when people get it wrong and claim that the prostitutes peed on Trump rather than on the bed. To me, the oddest detail of all is the idea that defiling the bed after rather than before the Obamas occupied that Moscow suite – a years-late voodoo ritual – might count as taking revenge on the then President and First Lady. It is this bizarre logic that in fact seems most like Trump, with his crazed rage at perceived enemies and fixation on old offenses – chronology be damned! – and it is what might ultimately count as the true perversity here.

In his book, Comey notes that Trump has seemed obsessed with the tape; he even suggested that the F.B.I. investigate the claims, supposedly to put his wife Melania’s mind at ease. (“Chivalry isn’t dead!” Stephen Colbert tweeted last week, in response to this.) In the context of this Presidency, in which Trump often seems hysterically consumed by the completely wrong thing, the pee tape, Comey’s book implies, is a rare case in which we are all looking in the same direction. But, then again, could it be that the tape is, in a noir-ish twist, just a MacGuffin? That Trump, whose preoccupation with, say, Hillary Clinton seems so clearly a placeholder for some other hurt, is captivated by the tape as a metonym for something worse, something infinitely more degrading that the Russians have on him?

In an interview with ABC on Sunday, Comey painted a suggestive picture of his own psychic crawl space. “I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth,” he said, “but I don’t know whether the current President of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013. It’s possible, but I don’t know.” Even if the tape were to be proved real and released, it’s too easy by now to imagine the depressing fallout: the outright denials, the claims of doctoring, the blame that would fall to the Democrats and to Clinton. It’s often seemed to me that living through the Trump era is not unlike sitting through a nineteen-nineties introduction to postmodern theory class. Did you know that there’s no one single truth anymore? That we’re living in a simulation? That late capitalism has turned savage and dystopian? In such an environment, hearing the former F.B.I. director speaking in plain terms about the pee tape reminds us of the deep hunger for something analogue – for the straightforward physicality of reliable evidence that would offer, if only for a moment, some measure of relief.

SOURCE: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/when-we-think-about-the-pee-tape?mbid=nl_Daily%20041918&CNDID=11493100&spMailingID=13346992&spUserID=MTY5NjQwNjYzNjY5S0&spJobID=1381705763&spReportId=MTM4MTcwNTc2MwS2

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