Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Mail Instinct

Of course, the big digital rhetoric story of the past twenty-four-hour news cycle has been the tearful admission of Republican Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina's teary confession to being in Argentina with a woman other than the state's first lady. One of the region's remaining newspapers managed to get an exclusive scoop on the story and also published an item about how "E-mails detail intimate affair," which included some of the actual e-mails to be read by the curious public. (They trumpet the print version of their front page in which electronic epistolarity plays a major role.)

Many will be drawing attention to more salacious passages, such as the following example:

I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificently gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines or that I love the curves of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of night’s light — but hey, that would be going into the sexual details we spoke of at the steakhouse at dinner — and unlike you I would never do that!

What I find interesting is evidence of the governor's everyday rhetorical style, which is often manifested in his e-mail. For example, at one point he seems to organize his message to his paramour "Maria" into the form of a memo:

Three thoughts in one note now that I have a moment. One the travel schedule is about to get real busy (and this distresses me for the way it may well make it more difficult to get your notes over the next few weeks), two unfortunately all the feelings you describe are mutual, and three where do we go from here?

Each of these points is given a paragraph in the prose that follows. He even lapses into office speak about "further discussion" of his "last point" at the end of this purple passage:

Got back an hour ago to civilization and am now in Columbia after what was for me a glorious break from reality down at the farm. No phones ringing and tangible evidence of a day’s labors. Though I have started every day by 6 this morning woke at 4:30, I guess since my body knew it was the last day, and I went out and ran the excavator with lights until the sun came up. To me, and I suspect no one else on earth, there is something wonderful about listening to country music playing in the cab, air conditioner running, the hum of a huge diesel engine in the background, the tranquility that comes with being in a virtual wilderness of trees and marsh, the day breaking and vibrant pink coming alive in the morning clouds — and getting to build something with each scoop of dirt. It is admittedly weird but one of my more favorite ways of escaping the norms, constant phone calls and formalities that go with the office — and it probably fits with my weakness in doing rather than being — though you opened up a new chapter last week wherein I was happy and content just being. Last point worth further discussion.

Traffic to Sanford's official web page is jammed, so it is difficult to see how he is handling his formal online mea culpa. His Twitter feed, which his staffers dutifully updated while he was AWOL doesn't seem to have any posts since the scandal.

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