Who knows how long it would have taken to find out there were prurient details of Jeff Bezos’ divorce going around, if not for the people publishing scolding pieces about the coverage? Luckily the Atlantic threw the necessary links into its piece about “a gross media moment,” pointing the way to the National Enquirer, which had broken the story, and the Daily Mail, which had aggregated the Enquirer‘s details, along with every remotely relevant Bezos-related fact or file photo, to browser-clogging length.
Real grossness was largely absent, to the point where the tameness of the sex scandal became its own source of fascination: “I want to talk with you and plan with you,” the world’s richest man reportedly wrote, in the throes of passion. Or: “I want to fall asleep with you and wake up tomorrow and read the paper with you and have coffee with you.”
Still, there were details, and there was sex somewhere, so if you piled up enough details it was sort of like knowing about the sex. The Mail pushed its SEO-driven headline-and-subhead structure past all frontiers of human literacy, till its story presentation read like the inventory of an algorithm-built Amazon storefront:
The most memorable packaging, though, belonged to the Enquirer, which reserved the actual story for print customers who would pick up “a special edition of the magazine, on newsstands around the country.” It’s theoretically possible, as the Atlantic noted, that the whole Bezos story could be the result of a politically motivated vengeance scheme in which the Enquirer is doing the dirty work of the president of the United States, to punish the owner of the Washington Post for its coverage of him.
But the whole thing was also studiously old-fashioned, and nowhere more so than in the cover lines, in which yellow and white text on a red background shouted:
Text sex & wild romps on his PRIVATE JET!
Text sex! Whatever its journalistic or campaign-finance offenses may be, the Enquirer has a beautifully tuned ear for language. Let lesser outlets use the jokey and infelicitous “sext,” whose awkwardness only compounds when you try to use it in a story (sexting, sexted, the non-erotically tongue-twisting sent sexts). Sex via text is text sex.