The Ashley Madison hot mess

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If I may quote Monty Python, “And now for something completely different.” Today’s op-ed offering from me will not be about American race relations, politics, gender equity, warfare, peace, education, or immigration reform – or the utter lack thereof. By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the festering sinkhole that is the Ashley Madison website. It’s a mess. In fact, it’s a hot mess (pun fully intended).
 
Some of you good people may not know what Ashley Madison actually. If you’re a member of that group, you may consider yourselves [1] very smart, [2] principled, and [3] quite fortunate. Ashley Madison is a website owned and operated by Avid Life Media for the purpose of facilitating extramarital affairs and/or sexual encounters. Since 2001, tens of millions of married men and women have joined this particular site to participate in what Ashley Madison promised as “the online personals & dating destination for casual encounters, married dating, discreet encounters and extramarital affairs.” Its official motto is: “Life is short. Have an affair.” Damn.
 
The following statistics are jaw-dropping. As of July 2015, Ashley Madison.com had nearly 40,000,000 active users. This website received upwards of 125,000,000 hits (visits) every month. Apparently, every member on Ashley Madison.com has a profile. Presumably, every member’s profile must have a photo of some kind on it, right?
 
Here’s the portion of my op-ed where we take a reality check. On which planet within the universe did somebody/anybody thought that being a participating member of Ashley Madison was a good idea? It certainly wasn’t earth. Like you, I’m not perfect. Like you, I’ve said things I wish I hadn’t. I’ve done some wince-inducing things, too. Having said that, I never ever would go on a website like this one. Nothing good could ever come from it. AshleyMadison.com is the closest thing to Pandora’s Box made real as anything I can think of.
 
One angry hacker. One heartbroken person. One faithful spouse who has been cheated on by way of this website. Any one of those human beings is the difference between calm and chaos, peace and purgatory, romance and revenge. Last month, the Ashley Madison website was hacked by blackhats. In case you wondered, blackhats are the bad guys within the intrawebs. They don’t hack to right wrongs or to release previously secret information for the benefit of their fellow man. No. These citizens of the dark web use their prodigious computer skills to intimidate, frustrate, and excoriate. That sucking sound you heard a few weeks ago was the gasp from the tens of millions of paid Ashley Madison members freaking out. Since then, they’ve all been waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop. Since then, they’ve been hoping for the best while preparing for the worst. In full view of the computer world and the media, the band of hackers who took down AshleyMadison.com – aptly named Impact Team – issued a concise threat. Impact Team threatened to release the stolen meta-data – the names, physical addresses, email addresses, credit card numbers, and sexual fantasies – of every Ashley Madison subscriber unless Avid Life Media shut the website down permanently. To prove they were serious, Impact Team released the initial batch of meta-data on July 22nd. If its demands were not met by August 20th, the Impact Team hackers declared that all Ashley Madison members would be exposed publicly.
 
Avid Life Media refused to capitulate. The parent company even doubled down by offering to delete its members profile data for the nominal fee of $19 per person. On August 20th, all members of AshleyMadison.com were indeed exposed – including and especially those who actually believed that $19 would somehow protect them from being revealed as cheating spouses paying a monthly fee in order to get lucky.
 
As a direct result, hundreds of government workers have been exposed as being unfaithful. These folks – from both political parties – even used government computers to log onto the AshleyMadison.com website. Josh Duggar – yes, him – has been exposed… again. Even as you’re reading this, enterprising journalists are pouring over the leaked meta-data to determine if any actors, politicians, musicians, philanthropists, and celebrities of any kind will be shamed within this massive data dump.
 
Whatever happened to the institution of marriage in America? We all used to take concepts like “love, honor, and cherish”, “’till death do us part”, and “forsaking all others” very seriously. Nowadays? Not so much, it seems.
 
As the urban phrase goes: “You do dirt, you get dirt.”
 
I submit to you that the AshleyMadison.com hack was not only to be expected, but inevitable. The only people happy about this sad episode are divorce attorneys and comedians. For them, this will be a windfall. As for those who were exposed, they will soon have to deal with the consequences of their membership on a married, hookup website professionally, martially, and financially.
 
As I said before, it’s a hot mess.

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