I confess that I have never heard of the website AshleyMadison before reading Kathryn Jean Lopez’ column at National Review Online today. The online dating service has targeted what it must see as an underserved niche in Internet matchmaking — married people. Lopez wrote her column after seeing this execrable ad on television:

While watching the president of the United States declare that we can legislate away hardship during his health-care address to a joint session of Congress, I was lured away from my hyper-blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking analysis by a commercial for AshleyMadison.com.

To the soundtrack of a snoring woman in bed with a man, the announcer says: “Most of us can recover from a one-night stand with the wrong woman.”

The narrator continues: “But not when it’s every night. For the rest of our lives.”

The husband gets out of bed and heads, presumably, to the computer. We see a cartoonish wedding picture. We are made aware of what this restless spouse must be craving: an online-dating site for those who are married but itching for something carnally more, with someone else.

“Life is short. Have an affair” goes the motto for this no-frills facilitator. There’s no need for confession or guilt. It’s all straightforward and out in the open, at least to those in the know. (Maybe not to the parties who didn’t realize “in sickness and in health” does not cover sleep disorders.)

Be sure to read all of it, but that’s pretty much the set-up for this service, which has been debated on CNN, the View, and other media outlets — all of which delights AM, of course. After all, the entire site is based on flaunting infidelity rather than hiding it through dishonest web-dating ads. In that sense, and perhaps only in that sense, does AM do any kind of public good, in that it gives creeps of both genders a place to afflict each other rather than the unknowing.

That’s about the extent of the social and ethical good that this service provides.  Otherwise, its service promotes sexual promiscuity, which hastens the spread of sexually transmitted diseases — and in this case, victimizes unsuspecting spouses.  It undermines families, which creates greater social costs.  The entire enterprise feeds off of misery and unhappiness, not by helping to alleviate it, but by taking an active role in making it worse.

There’s nothing illegal about it, and I’m not arguing that there should be.  However, it deserves ridicule and scorn, and we can openly wonder at the values of the people who enable infidelity for profit.  They should be ashamed of themselves, but unfortunately, shame is getting passé.

Of course, I’m biased.  My wife and I have been volunteering the past ten years to help keep marriages together at Twin Cities Marriage Encounter.  I’m sure the people responsible for the Ashley Madison service will get rich from it, but if you have a few dollars to help support marriage rather than seeing other people undermine it, TCME could certainly use the help.