Friday, February 23, 2007

The Duke Three: No angels = rapists?

A reader's tip directs me to this mini-rant by the ex-Edwards-blogmaster Amanda Marcotte (the gift that keeps on giving), in a comments thread on her blog where someone brought out false accusations of rape and specifically the Duke case:

People who continue to wax on about the Duke rape case: People don’t respond because you’re right. (sic) They don’t respond because they know from experience that anyone who defends men who write thing like this:

tommrow night, after tonights show, ive decided to have some strippers over to edens 2c. all are welcome.. however there will be no nudity. i plan on killing the bitches as soon as the walk in and proceding to cut their skin off while cumming in my duke issue spandex.. all besides arch and tack please respond

Hates women and would defend a rapist who was caught in the act on videotape. No one talks to you because you are rape-loving scum. If you think otherwise, you are mistaken. Your beloved boys who scream “nigger” at black women and joke about killing and raping them may escape the worst charges, but they are not angels. You know it, we know it. That you defend them makes you such lowly, sleazy scum that it’s no wonder no one talks to you. They’re afraid by acknowledging you, they will catch the evil. Know this. Absorb it. Hope you enjoy sleeping at night, you sick, hateful bastards.

I'm not sure this hate-filled outburst, which borders on the deranged, deserves a response; I can only marvel that someone capable of producing such a screed can be considered a legitimate voice in the blogosphere. I will, however, point out that "defending" the Duke lacrosse players in this contex hardly means defending them as models of virtue and sterling moral character. It means, simply, arguing that they are probably innocent of charges of rape and sexual assault. And it is deeply ironic that the same feminists who quite rightly insist that a woman's character flaws should not be used against her in a rape case when she is the victim hold a completely different standard for a man when he is the acccused. We've been told again and again that a woman who has been raped shouldn't have to be an angel to deserve sympathy and support. Apparently, a man who has been false accused of rape should be.

Let's, for a moment, put the shoe on the other foot. Let's say that a woman going through a contentiuos divorce says she has been brutally beaten and raped by her estranged husband. Then it turns out that a few days earlier, she had regaled friends with a "humorous" fantasy of tying said estranged husband to a chair and castrating him with a rusty knife. (Jokes about genital mutilation as punishment for male misbehavior are not uncommon in female repertoire; Katie Kouric actually made such a joke on the air, on The Today Show, in 1997.)

Let's even say the woman's email also expressed the not-so-humorous hope that, in the absence of opportunities to fulfil her castration fantasy, she would be able to make the bastard suffer in court. Admittedly, such an email would raise serious questions about the woman's motive to lie, but let's say that the physical evidence strongly supported her claims (and that a co-worker of the husband's had heard him confess). Wouldn't Marcotte be the first to defend this woman against anyone who tried to discredit her charges or to suggest that she was asking for it? And can you imagine a prominent male blogger ranting that anyone who would defend the author of such an email is a man-hating bitch who ought to be shunned by decent people everywhere?

(Ed.: In the comments, Revenant correctly points out that the author of the offending email, Ryan McFaden, is not one of the men accused of rape. So actually, the analogy would be more accurate if the email had been sent not by the victim herself, but by her best friend.)

But of course, we're not supposed to put the shoe on the other foot because to do that is to ignore the inequality and system oppression of women and blah dee blah dee blah. (And I can't think of too many arguments that are actually more offensive to women than this blatant call for a double standard based on female "powerlessness.")

The email is disgusting, and the guy who sent it sounds like a nasty jerk. But frankly, I find Marcotte's invective against people who dare to side with men (apparently) falsely accused of rape -- even nasty jerks falsely accused of rape -- far more revolting and far scarier than that email.

Marcotte is not alone to use the "no angels" trope. See this post on the Feminist Law Professors' blog, titled "Not Innocent" and arguing that regardless of the legal outcome, the lacrosse players are at least guilty of racism and sexism. See also K.C. Johnson's dissection of her post.

More: In the comments, colagirl asks:

Suppose Marcotte were to be falsely accused of murdering a white male Republican. Should people then rush to condemn her because of the hateful rhetoric she has spoken about them on her blog? Or argue that anyone who would defend her would "defend a woman caught murdering a Republican man on videotape"?

Excellent question.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

And now, the other foot

The other day when I wrote about the Liberal Avenger comment alteration brouhaha, I was frankly disappointed by the eagerness of some on the left to dismiss this behavior (and to dismiss its "victim", Carlito, as a "troll" when his behavior on the thread in question seemed much less trollish than that of the regulars). Equally irksome, however, is stuff like this, in response to my post:

LA's attitude is apparently that it's all no big deal and we shouldn't be dinging them/him/her for it. Typical way left lying bastard thinking.

Or this:

A normal, sane, mature person would ask why the editor was even editing someone else's words except to correct formatting or to censor profanity. A typical left-liberal on the other hand, finds it entirely acceptable to edit a "wingnut's" words to sound "more intelligent," which is to say, more agreeable with the left-liberal's beliefs. Then, when all else fails, the left-liberal shouts indignantly about how they should be regarded as the hero of their own catastrophe. ...

Not every leftist is like this, but then not every Nazi had a stomach for genocide.

The generalizations about "typcial" leftists and liberals wouuld be bad enough even without the Nazi analogy.

Meanwhile, a blogger who goes by Daffyd uses the Liberal Avenger's comment alteration to argue that the hateful, ugly, misogynistic emails and blog comments directed at Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwen (the feminist bloggers briefly hired by the John Edwards campaign) may well be fakes and that Patterico was too hasty and credulous in expressing regret over this outpouring of vileness from the (frings of the) right. Then, Daffyd goes on to explicitly admit to a double standard:

And given the demonstrated penchant on the part of both women to invent straw-man attacks, demonize Republicans and the religious, and the unhealthy fascination of both women with the sexual organs... I'm simply not willing to extend them the same benefit of the doubt I give, e.g., Michelle Malkin.

(Malkin also claims to have received obscene, threatening e-mails from lefties; but in Malkin's case, since she has shown herself throughout her career to be sane, rational, and honest, even when we disagree, I believe her.)

Of course, we all know that Michelle Malkin would never invent straw men, or demonize liberals or secularists. (What an unhealthy fascination with the sexual organs has to do with inventing hate mail, I have no idea; for the record, I have no idea whether McEwen actually has such a fascination.) For examples of Malkin's sanity, honesty, and rationality, see here, or here, or here, or here. See here for Malkin's relentless flogging of the tissue of lies that was the "Save Terri Schiavo" campaign. For a final touch, see this June 2005 post about the Terri Schiavo autopsy: Malkin accuses the "mainstream media" of distorting the autopsy report by pointing out that the autopsy found no signs of trauma before Schiavo's collapse in 1990, yet neglecting to mention the report's statement that no such signs could have been found after all this time. (At issue are the completely unfounded allegations that Terri's husband Michael Schiavo may have put his wife in a coma by choking her.) But Malkin herself leaves out a highly relevant passage in the report immediately before the one she quotes: "No trauma was noted on any of the numerous physical exams or radiographs performed on Mrs. Schiavo on the day of, in the days after, or in the months after her initial collapse." In this manner, the insinuations that maybe there's something to that abuse/murder story after all are kept alive.

Why am I dredging up a 19-month-old post? Simply to point out that anyone who fulminates at The Liberal Avenger and the ex-Edwards bloggers while giving Malkin props for honesty, sanity, and rationality is so partisan, it's not even funny. True, Malkin has never tampered with a comment on her blog (she has none), but neither have McEwen or Marcotte (who do have them). And there is simply no reason I can see, other than partisanship, to believe her claims of having received vile, bigoted hate mail while disbelieving theirs.

Unfortunately, this kind of partisanship is pretty much the order of the day in the blogosphere.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Liberal Avenger non-scandal, cont'd

Pandagon co-blogger Ilyka Damen responds to my post on The Liberal Avenger's now-admitted alteration of a comment on his blog with sophomoric sarcasm, or actually, more like junior high school sarcasm ("I am astonished that such deceit could be countenanced anywhere, let alone on the internet. Goodness gracious! Where’s the integrity?"). To the extent that Damen and her supportive commenters make actual points, they are as follows:

1. Everyone knows that blogmasters have the ability to edit comments, so what's the big deal.

The big deal is that we trust them not to do so, at least not in a malicious manner, and if that trust is broken, the result (not to sound like a broken record) will be to damage the exchange of ideas in the blogosphere. Newspaper can easily alter a letter to the editor in a way that makes the letter-writer look like a jackass, but we trust them not to do it. (Edits for spelling, grammar, or space are a different matter.) To use an analogy from a different sphere of life: everyone knows that the cook or the waiter at a restaurant has the ability to spit in your food. However, we trust them not to do it. And I would assume that if a cook or a waiter actually got caught spitting in a customer's food, initially denied it, then admitted it and justified it on the grounds that s/he thought the customer was acting obnoxiously, people would be strongly discouraged from attending said restaurant unless the offending cook/waiter was fired.

Also mentioned in the thread was some bloggers' practice of inserting their own editorial remarks in comments by their posters -- for instance, in response to a point made by the poster. But these editorial remarks are always identified as such; typically, they are bracketed and italicized. There is simply no comparison.

2. There was no harm done because anyone reading the comment would have known that it was edited and that Carlito did not actually casually admit to an incestuous affair with his sister. Liberal Avenger's prank was no different than commenters on left-wing blogs spoof-posting as "Ann Althouse."

Yes, I assume any sane reader would have known that Carlito's tale of sibling sex was not true, but they could have easily thought that Carlito was a troll making an extremely tacky joke, or (since the incest story was supposedly meant to demonstrate why abortion is sometimes necessary) ridiculing his pro-choice opponents by painting them as sister-humping perverts.

The "Ann Althouse" comments are pretty juvenile, but they are obvious spoofs, not alterations of actual posts by Ann Althouse. (The names used are often variations such as "Althoos.") Do the people at Pandagon see no difference? When Hustler ran the infamous Campari parody ad in which Jerry Falwell described having drunken sex with his mother in an outhouse, that was political satire protected by the First Amendment (and in fact the ad carried a parody disclaimer in small print). Would anyone find it funny, or ethical, for a liberal editor at a newspaper or magazine to take an actual interview with Falwell and spike it with a similar "confession"? I have a sinking feeling that the people at Pandagon would, because, after all, Falwell is one of those subhuman "wingnuts" toward whom anything goes.

3. There was no harm done because the altered post was deleted in a few hours, and it's "wingnuts" like Patterico and yours truly who are keeping the text of the altered post on the Internet. (The Liberal Avenger webmaster even says that we should apologize to Carlito.)

Nice try. If Carlito asks me to remove this post, I will. By the way, according to Patterico, the edited comment was removed only after he emailed Liberal Avenger about it.

Meanwhile, over on Patterico's blog, Liberal Avenger offers this defense:

What sort of penance do you folks think I should do?

Would you like me to apologize to Jamail Hussein on your collective behalf for destroying his life in a war zone?

Maybe you guys could pass a plate to raise some money for one of the firebombed-yet-not-actually-destroyed mosques in Baghdad, and I could deliver it on your behalf and help them rebuild?

Because, obviously, the war in Iraq has so much to do with altering comments on a blog.

Several people have told me that this story is a non-scandal because who cares about small fry like The Liberal Avenger. There is some truth to that, but I still believe this incident raises some important questions about blog ethics. It also highlights the all-too-widespread tendency in the blogosphere (not limited to any political persuasion) to dehumanize opponents.

More: Another left-wing blogger, Thers of Whiskey Fire, chimes in with an "oh, get over it" admonishment:

The reason it is not a "blogosphere scandal" is that nothing that ever happens or has ever happened or ever will happen in a blog comments section is worth getting upset about for more than two minutes.

After all, Thers remind us, there are people dying in Iraq.

This is from the same person who, less than a week ago, devoted his only post for the day to Ann Althouse attributing a negative blogpost about her to the wrong blogger, and then being mean and rude to said blogger in her comments section when he showed up to expose her error. Something tells me that post took more than two minutes to compose, especially since it even includes a YouTube video clip for humorous effect.

And this is from the crowd which thinks that if some of Michelle Malkin's blogposts are written by her husband, that's very serious business indeed.

Imagine that, in a discussion related to rape, Ann Althouse altered the post of a commenter she found annoying and added the following:
Of course, rape isn't always a totally bad thing. When I was a college student at the age of 19, a bunch of guys at a frat party got me drunk and then took turns raping me for 10 hours straight... [lurid, obscene description of various sexual acts follows] I kept saying "no" and "stop" the whole time, but damn it felt good -- I never had so many multiple orgasms in my life! I still get horny every time I think about it.

Suppose that, caught in the act by a left-wing blog, Althouse brazenly denied altering the comment, then admitted it and said that her earlier denials were just meant to tease the moonbats, and added that the reason she altered the comment was that the commenter was spouting predictable leftist crap. Suppose, too, that it came to light that the commenter was particularly upset by the alteration because she was in fact raped in college, and that after finding this out Althouse still refused to apologize and told her critics to "stop taking themselves so seriously."

The same people who are now willing to give Liberal Avenger a pass would be calling for her head. And that's pathetic.

PandaGate postscript

I wasn't going to devote any more blogspace to Pandagon blogger Amanda Marcotte's brief tenure as blogmaster for the Edwards campaign, but Marcotte's self-pitying and self-serving confessional inspired me again. Predictably, Marcotte portrays herself as a victim of sexism and "pure misogynist emotion," and her downfall as a frightening message to young feminists. (Maybe the lesson to young feminists is to avoid hate speech posing as feminism.) Reading her lament, I was reminded of an icon created by LiveJournal blogger mcity, in this thread last September, to poke fun at Marcotte's buddy and Pandagon regular ginmar. Since the icon is too small to have a visual effect in a blogpost, I took the liberty of recreating it in larger size with full credit to its author. I think it's perfect for the occasion.

Marcotte has had some unpleasant experiences these past couple of weeks, and it would be ungracious to mock her if she didn't make herself such an inviting target. But she loses what sympathy one might have by refusing to take responsibility for her extremism. For instance, here is her explanation of the dust-up over the Duke post:

I announced that I was taking the job on Jan. 30, and the same week, I noticed a small flare-up of oddly aggressive and misogynistic comments in my moderation queue over a short, irritated post I wrote about the coverage of the Duke lacrosse rape case on CNN. I assumed that some anti-feminist blogger had linked me and so, in frustration, I went and rewrote my by-then week-old post to mock the commenters by spelling out my views in childish, easy-to-understand language.

Really? Here is the original comment, about being stuck at the airport:

In the meantime, I’ve been sort of casually listening to CNN blaring throughout the waiting area and good fucking god is that channel pure evil. For awhile, I had to listen to how the poor dear lacrosse players at Duke are being persecuted just because they held someone down and fucked her against her will — not rape, of course, because the charges have been thrown out. Can’t a few white boys sexually assault a black woman anymore without people getting all wound up about it? So unfair.

And the rewrite:

Since people are determined to make hay over this quick shot of a post, I’m deleting it and here’s my official stance. The prosecution in the Duke case fumbled the ball. The prosecutor was too eager to get a speedy case and make a name for himself. That is my final word.

So the second version of the post spells out the views expressed in the first one in "childish, easy-to-understand language"? Seems to me that Marcotte's stance in the original post is much more accurately summed up as: "Anyone who thinks that the Duke lacrosse players may be innocent, and is concerned about their ordeal if they are falsely accused, must be an evil racist and misogynist who believes white boys are entitled to rape black women." Evidently, Marcotte translates her own posts as creatively as she does those of others.

On another topic, Marcotte sarcastically notes in the piece:

Also, shockingly for a would-be Democratic staffer, I had often said negative things about Republicans on my blog.
I will leave it to the reader to determine whether "saying negative things about Republicans" even begins to describe this response from Marcotte to Patterico on her blog.

Speaking of which: Patterico, agree with him or not, is a class act. See his post on the resignation of the second Edwards blogger, Melissa McEwan:

As for the Shakespeare’s Sister blogger: I have a very vague memory of her piling on me once, but it’s a memory so distant that it means nothing to me now. [UPDATE: Apparently I’m wrong about this, as she notes in the comments.] Other than that, I know nothing about her other than that she once used the term “Christofascists” — which, by itself, is (I think) a completely insufficient reason for anyone to oppose her working for Edwards. Maybe there was more, but I haven’t seen it.

I think it’s a shame that she’s not working for him, and a bigger shame that so many people apparently sent her ugly e-mails and comments. I do in fact denounce anything like that without hesitation, and I am going to send her a friendly e-mail of condolence. I have no idea how it will be received, but hopefully it will help, in some small way, to counterbalance the ugliness she has faced.

By the way, for examples of such ugliness, one need only look at the comments thread on McEwan's post announcing her resignation: for instance, here and here. The woman-hating jerks who spew this vileness are not only disgusting human beings who take pleasure in hurting others; they also also a gift to the equally hateful radical feminists who are always looking for proof that misogyny permeates attitudes toward women in America. Never mind that the overwhelming majority of men, liberal or conservative, would be appalled by such vulgar invective.

I've criticized Shakespeare's Sister before, and may do so again. But her commentary contributes to civil discourse and exchange of ideas in the blogosphere; and in that, she is the opposite of Marcotte. I join Patterico in expressing my sympathy to Melissa McEwan. I am not suffciently familiar with her writings to judge whether or not the Edwards campaign made a good deicision in hiring her; but I do know that the verbal abuse she has endured is repulsive, and is truly an embarrassment to the right.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

With avengers like these...

Patterico covers what should be a blogosphere scandal but isn't, for some reason.

A few days ago, a conservative commenter who uses the handle "Carlito" got involved in a debate about abortion on the Liberal Avenger blog. He then contacted Patterico, on whose blog he is a regular poster (as "carlitos"), to say that one of his comments on Liberal Avenger, in this thread, was altered (by someone with admin privileges on the blog) to include this lurid passage:

Still, there are some valid and acceptable reasons to have abortions - reasons I think we can all agree with. For example, when my sister and I were in Junior high school we used to experiment sexually - you know, the usual stuff that horny, young brothers and sisters do: rimming, finger-fucking, dry humping, etc. We practically spent the entire summer between 7th and 8th grade in bed - it was great. Of course, by the end of the summer my sister was pregnant. Given our age and maturity levels, we knew she had to get an abortion. Fortunately at that time our state still recognized women’s health as an important social service and access to safe, inexpensive abortions was easy. To this day I wonder what our lives would have been like had my sister carried our baby to term.

After Patterico emailed Liberal Avenger to ask him about this, the comment disappeared completely. However, a screenshot of it was preserved, and Patterico posted it on his blog on February 13 at 6:51 a.m.

Liberal Avenger responded (February 13, 11:03 a.m.):

I don’t know what the big deal is. The comment appears to be gone. I never saw it. I have no reason to believe that it ever existed in the first place. Patterico’s screenshot is meaningless as by its very existence it had to have been manipulated by Photoshop. I’m not saying that he made it up, but I’m saying that in order for somebody to take a screenshot and crop/reduce it to post on their blog it has to be pulled into Photoshop or another image editing practice. Once that happens, the content of that image belongs to Patterico - not me. I’ve learned this through the course of reading countless shrill wingnut blog posts about image manipulation over the past year.

Further, Patterico edits peoples’ comments all of the time. Usually he adds his own comment italicized in brackets and signs them with a “-P,” but not every time. How do we know which comments have been “tuned” (as he likes to call it) on his site vs. which ones are “virgin?” The fact that he engages in that practice makes everything that appears on his site suspect.

Now I’m not saying that he edited the comment in question here. I’m merely pointing out the fact that:

1. Patterico is notorious for editing comments

2. Patterico manipulated an image of a screenshot of this thread

3. Patterico has a motive for doing this and stirring up trouble

Don’t believe everything you read, kids.

I’m closing this thread to commenting. Patterico - shame on you!

On Patterico's site, Liberal Avenger posted:

Yeah, I’m not too concerned about carlitos suing me because of something Patterico made up.
A few hours later, Patterico posted a full screenshot of the altered comment (which he had previously cropped for size).

Liberal Avenger then admitted in Patterico's thread that he had personally altered Carlito's comment, and offered a charming defense:

carlito wasn’t interested in rational debate.

The comment in question as originally written by him was an elitist swipe at poor/minority women. It was yet another bogus collection of facts and innuendo to support the racist/classist opinion that most women seeking abortions use abortion as a casual means of birth control. His argument consisted of several variations on the old “the bitch had an abortion because she didn’t want pregnancy to interfere with her fabulous ski vacation” canard.

Actually, Carlito had posted information from this birth control website about women's reasons for having abortions. He also says that he actually made fun of the "ski trip" rationale. But let's say, for argument's sake, that Carlito's comment was a collection of putrid ideological clichés. Does that really make Liberal Avenger's "prank" okay? Would it be okay for, say, Jeff Goldstein to edit a comment by a poster spouting clichés about The Evil Patriarchy to include a lurid description of her secret fantasy of being dominated by a big, hairy, musclebound, hung-like-a-horse male chauvinist?

Even more charmingly, Liberal Avenger now claims (February 14, 5:37 a.m.) that he was just kidding when he said that the edited comment may never have existed:

It’s hilarious that they can’t tell when they’re being teased.

I can’t imagine that anybody here on this blog really believed that I was really accusing Patterico of editing that guy’s comment on this site - or that I was really accusing him of creating a dummy screenshot in Photoshop. They believed it all, however, which is even funnier than the idea that “carlitos” would have actually confessed to diddling his sister in the first place.

There are a bunch of wingnuts out there who’ve been taking themselves just a tiny, tiny bit too seriously of late.

Well, if there was any trace of humor in Avenger's "Patterico -- shame on you!" February 13 post, I certainly couldn't see it.

There's another, ghoulish twist to this story. In his follow-up post, Patterico revealed that the rewritten comment was especially disturbing to Carlito because his only sister died several years ago. Admittedly, Liberal Avenger was unaware of this fact when he altered Carlito's post. However, he is aware of it now, and he has yet to offer an apology. Instead, he and his left-wing friends continue to treat this as a big joke on his blog, and he continues to tell Patterico and his commenters to "stop taking yourselves so seriously."

Also in Patterico's comments thread is this contribution from "Alpha Factor":

You guys are so fucking pathetic. For years you’ve made paper-thin campaign rhetoric and smear-tactics your bread&butter. Where do I start…? Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Tom DeLay, the Swift Boat pukes, or the mere insinuation that there’s something wrong with being a West Coast Liberal a la Nancy Pelosi?

And now, when you’re on the receiving end… You start whining that it isn’t “rational.” Somehow, I don’t feel sorry for you. Liberals offer plenty of rational and reasoned sentiment. It’s just that since your positions are messed-up, the only way you can trade blows is by name-calling: ergo, your bread&butter.

This kind of "they started it!" kindergarten logic is fairly common on the left these days. (It can also be found on the right.) And, as this debacle makes clear, it can easily become a justification for atrocious behavior.

It's a shame, really, because I have encountered Liberal Avenger quite a few times on Eric Muller's Is That Legal blog and elsewhere -- he first came to my attention in debates over Michelle Malkin's odious book In Defense of Internment -- and have generally found him to be a reasonable and interesting commenter. I'm saddened and disappointed that he has both compromised his integrity -- first with the alteration of Carlito's comment, then with the attempted cover-up -- and played into the worst right-wing stereotypes of liberals as intolerant of conservative dissent. With avengers like these, liberals don't need enemies.

Liberal Avenger's "prank" is not only juvenile, unethical, and offensive; it is also dangerous to blog discourse. If people know that a blog administrator can tamper with comments at will, it could have a truly chilling effect on speech in the blogosphere. Any blogger, liberal or conservative, should take this very seriously indeed.

Shorter version cross-posted at Hit & Run.

PandaGate and anti-male bigotry

I'm coming a little late to the farewell party for Pandagon's Amanda Marcotte as blog coordinator for the Edwards campaign. Now, Marcotte's sister-in-arms, Melissa McEwan of Shakespeare's Sister, has stepped down as well. Over on the New York Times political blog, The Caucus, Katie Philips avers that she takes no sides in the matter but sounds quite sympathetic to the two beleaguered bloggers:

Well, both women — whose feminist writings were deemed anti-Catholic by Mr. Donohue and at times offensive by others and many not (sic) — at first allowed Mr. Edwards’s campaign to publish statements by them saying their personal views or past writings would not color their work on the campaign. And they both asserted they were not denigrating any faith or any person of faith.

That didn’t stop conservative bloggers from flogging the issue. And that didn’t stop bloggers on all sides from posturing on one side or the other. And it didn’t stop even our readers from objecting on one side or the other, sometimes to the point where we couldn’t publish their obscene remarks.

The epilogue to this? I’m not sure. Some will indeed claim victory; some will counsel that political campaigns have to vet and vet and vet any staff; others will feel doomed in defeat of what was seen as an arm around new — especially rare female — voices in the blogosphere by politicians.

That's some convoluted prose, but is Philips saying that Marcotte and McEwan's assertion that they weren't denigrating faith should have been sufficient to shut up the bloggers and others? Besides, deploring "obscene remarks" and incivility in the blogosphere -- as Philips does in her post -- is richly ironic in a discussion of Amanda Marcotte, who once penned a post-Katrina Pandagon post titled, "Dear racist fucks who complained about the looting..."

Some, such as my Reason colleague David Weigel, are concerned that the Marcotte/McEwan brouhaha may backfire against all bloggers who "dared not to write like a political hack all the time." I think the worry is misplaced; outspoken bloggers have nothing to fear unless they aspire to actually become paid political hacks. (Andrew Sullivan has a good comment on this, adding that he finds "the whole idea of bloggers as an integral part of political campaigns a little creepy.") What I find more troubling is that the criticism of Marcotte has focused so much on her swipes at Catholicism and Christianity in general, and so little on her brand of feminism -- a cult of female victimhood rife with militant anti-male bigotry.

A number of publications have quoted her sarcastic comment on the Duke alleged sexual assault case: "Can't a few white boys sexually assault a black woman anymore without people getting all wound up about it? So unfair." But it's hard to appreciate the full flavor of that comment without its full context:

Naturally, my flight out of Atlanta has been delayed. Let’s hope it takes off when they say it will so I don’t miss my connecting flight home.

In the meantime, I’ve been sort of casually listening to CNN blaring throughout the waiting area and good fucking god is that channel pure evil. For awhile, I had to listen to how the poor dear lacrosse players at Duke are being persecuted just because they held someone down and fucked her against her will—not rape, of course, because the charges have been thrown out.

Can’t a few white boys sexually assault a black woman anymore without people getting all wound up about it?

So unfair.

This is the post that Marcotte scrubbed from her blog after it attracted unwanted attention in the wake of her new job with the Edwards campaign. It seems she also deleted some of her comments in the thread, preserved here. Even with Marcotte's posts gone, the thread remains quite revealing: Marcotte's like-minded regulars (particularly ginmar) verbally assault, insult, and mock anyone who dares question what one commenter called their "apparent religious belief in the guilt of anyone accused of a specific crime, regardless of circumstances." (That's exactly what it is.) At one point, responding to a feminist blogger who says she is a survivor of sexual assault herself but questions the guilt of the accused Duke lacrosse players and is concerned about fair treatment for them, ginmar offers this gem:

Natalia, I don’t think anybody cares if you’re a rape victim and you toe the party line when it comes to “But what about the menz!”

(Yes, I know that ginmar is not Amanda Marcotte, but ideologically they're pretty much peas in a pod.)

As one commenter in the thread wryly noted,

I do not think that a malevolent knuckle-dragging reactionary seeking to promote a Limbaughesque, strawman vision of feminism could have penned a more effective weapon than this thread.

A sampling of Marcotte's other posts on the Duke case can be found on this page. Anyone who questions the guilt of the accused players, in her book, is a "rape apologist." In this post, she fumes:

Kathleen Parker has been writing about almost nothing else, but instead building a long case that unless the victim is 9 years old and a virgin and white and blonde and her attacker kills her and he mutiliates her body, then rape isn’t so much a crime as a feminist plot to put all men in jail so that we can, I don’t know, wear sweatpants more or something.

Here are three Kathleen Parker columns on the case, discussing the "rush to judgment" in the Duke case and the hasty presumption of guilt toward the players. In the last of these columns, Parker actually expresses concern that the alleged victim may be seen as less deserving because she's not a paragon of chastity:

A disturbing portion of the American public -- at least judging from my mail and some commentators -- doesn't believe the Duke stripper deserves our sympathy or even our suspension of judgment. She's a stripper after all. A radio interviewer put it to me just that way.

I'm sorry, but I can't go there. A woman raped is a woman raped, no matter what her ill-chosen profession.

Marcotte's crude "satire" is far worse than a caricature of Parker's views. A caricature is an exaggeration of truth. Marcotte's summary of Parker's position is an outright, slanderous lie.

I should add here that I have been on the receiving end of the Marcotte method of polemics myself. On July 25, 2005, Marcotte made a post at Pandagon titled, Cathy Young to battered wives–”Stop hitting yourself!” This in reference to my Boston Globe column on the Violence Against Women Act. Marcotte quotes this paragraph as "the most putrid part of the op-ed":

In fact, some aspects of the act promote covert gender bias. For instance, the legislation requires states and jurisdictions eligible for federal domestic violence grants not only to encourage arrests in domestic assault cases, but also to ‘’discourage dual arrest of the offender and the victim.” This provision is based on the false belief that in cases of mutual violence, one can nearly always draw a clear line between the aggressor and the victim striking back in self-defense. While the language is ostensibly gender-neutral, the assumption is that the aggressor is male; the feminist groups which pushed for this clause made no secret of the fact that its goal was to curb arrests of women.

Marcotte's translation:

Won’t someone have sympathy for the wife-beaters? My god, do you know how hard it is to bruise your knuckles on someone’s face and then see that person being treated like a victim or something by those man-hating cops and EMS workers? And some victims actually fight back, which is class A man-hating behavior. So, women, if someone starts hitting you, don’t flail or scratch and bite to try to get him off you. Just take it and hope that he doesn’t kill you or else you’re just as guilty as he is.

Since Marcotte includes the full text of my actual words in her post before proceeding with her bizarre reading of them, I have to conclude that she's not a liar; she's delusional.

Marcotte also weighs in with a comment about the same Globe column here at Feministing:

She is an apologist for abusers, as long as they are male. She has written articles complaining that men are arrested when they commit violence she finds to be acceptable methods of fighting/control of their women. Basically, if it doesn't leave a bruise or if he doesn't ball his fist, she thinks the government should stay out of it.
While she tolerates a certain amount of violence from men, however, there is no amount of violence for women that she will tolerate for any reason. In this article, for instance, she calls for arresting women who act in self-defense, even if it's just flailing around to escape someone who is beating them.

Presumably, Marcotte refers to this 1998 article in Reason discussing overzealous domestic violence prosecutions -- for instance, in cases where the "assault" consisted of a man grabbing a woman's arm during an argument, or where the man physically restrained a woman who was violently lashing out at him, or where the couple was involved in a mutual scuffle. Actually, in my book Ceasefire on page 132, I discuss the fact that women have been targets of overzealous "zero tolerance" domestic policies as well (e.g., a Milwaukee case in which a middle-aged woman with a heart condition was jailed for slapping her teenage son). Where Marcotte gets the idea that I think battered women should be prosecuted for "flailing around to escape someone who is beating them," I don't know. Somewhere off the planet, probably. Ultimately, whehter she is delusional or a liar doesn't matter; the effect is the same.

And finally, best for last: an October 19, 2006 post in which Marcotte explains that there's no such thing as man-hating feminists. She's particularly unhappy with the "made-up word 'misandry.'" (Actually, the word "misandry," or "hatred of males," appears in the Webster's Encyclopaedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language [1996] and its origins are traced to 1945-50. That patriarchal conspiracy sure is insidious!) Sayeth Marcotte:

This is a word that was made up by men on a victim trip because they don’t get to abuse and oppress women as much as they’d really like to, and it’s an attempt to pretend there’s a tradition of man-hating so severe it deserves a word of its own. It just doesn’t seem fair that there’s an actual word for woman-hating just because misogyny is a very real thing.

I agree. I wish misogyny wasn’t a social problem that required a name of its own. As it stands, of course, attempts to create a false equivalence are about the worst sort of victim tripping imaginable. It wasn’t the girls that were sent out of the room so boys could be raped and killed in recent school shootings.

Marcotte, I assume, is referring to these two cases that took place last fall. The horrific actions of two severely disturbed men become her paradigm for male attitudes toward women in our society. (Was serial killer John Wayne Gacy a self-hating misandrist male because he killed only boys?)

Marcotte also notes that the Dixie Chicks' song Goodbye Earl, about a woman who kills her abusive husband with help from her best friend, is often accused of "man-hating" when it's really "wife-beater-hating": the only way it can be seen as anti-male, she reasons, if you think all men are batterers. Fair enough, but would feminists see misogyny in angry male songs about unfaithful or gold-digging girlfriends? Sure they would, as this Pandagon commenter points out (though the same commenter also thinks that "'Goodbye Earl' isn’t problematic is because we live in a profoundly patriarchal/kyriarchal society," dontch'a know). And, considering the lyrics say, "Wanda looked all around this town and all she found was Earl," I don't think it's all that far-fetched to suggest that the song contains some negative stereotyping of men.

Marcotte's conclusion:

The phrase “man-hater” is more an insult to men than to feminists. Anyone who uses it generally means that the person thus accused is a rapist-hater, abuser-hater, sexist-hater. And when you call someone a “man-hater” who is actually hating on sexists, abusers, and rapists, you imply all men are these things. And they are not. So who are really the man-haters when that phrase is being wielded? It’s not the feminists; it’s the men implying that hating rape or hating abuse is the same thing as hating men.

Or maybe the person using the phrase "man-hater" means that the person thus accused is ready to presume any man to be a rapist or abuser at the drop of an accusation, no matter how non-existent the evidence. For a stark demonstration of such bigotry, look no further than the Marcotte/ginmar lynch-mob mentality in the Duke case.

(Shorter version cross-posted at Hit & Run.)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Lee Goldberg's war on fanfic

The February edition of Reason has my column on fan fiction, "The Fan Fiction Phenomena: What Faust, Hamlet, and Xena the Warrior Princess have in common," in which I discuss fan-written stories based on television, film, and book characters. (As I mention in the column, I myself have been writing Xena: Warrior Princess fanfic for the past six years.) I also discuss some of the critiques directed at fan fiction. One of those critics, writer Lee Goldberg, now argues on his blog that I misrepresented his position.

Here's what I wrote in my column (for context, I give the full paragraph):

The concerns that anti-fanfic hard-liners express about the appropriation of their characters are understandable. But Hobb’s idea that readers may mistake Robin Hobb fan fiction for her own work borders on the paranoid, and some arguments advanced by fanfic’s foes make little sense. Thus Hobb exempts from her scorn professionally written Star Trek novels licensed by the copyright owner—even though the license comes from the corporation, not the creators of the characters. (Corporate-licensed works are also hobbled by content restrictions that favor blandness.) The vehemently anti-fanfic writer Lee Goldberg, who blogs at, is the author of several authorized novels based on the TV shows Monk and Diagnosis Murder—a contradiction he defends on the grounds that he does it only for the money.

Says Goldberg:

I have written extensively on my blog about fanfiction, particularly my view that the practice of publishing it in print and on the Internet infringes on the original author's creative rights (not to mention the trademark and copyright issues). I've argued that fanfiction writers should get the permission of the author or rights holder before distributing their work. If the original author or rights holder has no problem with fanfiction based on their work, then I don't either. I have also said that licensed tie-in fiction, which I have written, differs significantly on ethical and legal grounds from fanfiction because it is done with the consent, participation and supervision of the original author or rights holder. At no point have I *ever* expressed the views that she incorrectly (and I have to assume deliberately) attributed to me.

Now, I assume the views I have allegedly misattritubed to Goldberg are, (1) that he is vehemently anti-fanfic, and (2) that he has defended his authorship of tie-in novels on the grounds that he only writes them for the money.

On the first count, I think that a read-through of Goldberg's blogposts on fanfic will suffice to prove my case. While Goldberg does in fact state in a number of posts that in his opinion, fan fiction violates copyright and intellectual property, he devotes far more space to jeering at the moral degeneracy and weirdness of fanficcers, focusing on such fringe phenomena as kiddie porn fanfic, a fan who surfs the Web searching for masturbation fic, male pregnancy fanfic, one fan's fantasies about Roy Orbison and cling-wrap, real-person slashfic in which actors, singers, and other celebrities are depicted in homoerotic sexual situations, and the like. (By the way, it's hard not to notice that Goldberg seems especially incensed by gay-themed fanfiction.) He constantly engages in gross generalization; a post about a self-professed Harry Potter smut aficionada is entitled "The Fanfic Mind." If Goldberg has ever said anything positive about fanfic writers in fandoms where the copyright holders and creators have explicitly allowed and even encouraged fan fiction -- such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter -- I have found no evidence of that on his blog. I have, however, found such statements as:

Money and copyright aside, what an incredible waste of creativity. Why toil on characters you don't own in a world that's not your own? It's not even literary masturbation. It's more like the literary equivalent of having sex with an inflatable woman who looks like Halle Berry.

In another post, mocking an email correspondent who asks him for a link to some fanfic he has mentioned, Goldberg says that it's "sort of like asking a Jew to direct you to some really rocking anti-Semitic screeds." Wow, Mr. Goldberg. Tell us how you really feel.

It was not my intent in my column to extensively discuss Lee Goldberg's views on fan fiction, or the debate about fanfic and copyright/intellectual property laws (an issue I briefly mentioned in my discussion of fantasy writer Robin Hobb's attack on fan fiction). I would say, however, that "vehemently anti-fanfic" sums up Goldberg's stance pretty well.

Now, on to the second part. Did Goldberg ever defend his tie-in novels on the grounds that he only writes them for the money? Sure he did, on the very same blog where he now claims to have been misrepresented. In fact, he devoted an entire post to this point on June 16, 2005:

[S]omeone asked what the difference is between someone who writes tie-ins and someone who writes fanfic... beyond the fact that tie-ins are written with the consent of the author/right's (sic) holder.

There's a big difference.

I was hired to write DIAGNOSIS MURDER and MONK novels. It's something I am being paid to do. It's not like I woke up one morning with a burning desire to write DIAGNOSIS MURDER novels, wrote one up, and sent it off to a publisher (or, as a fanficcer would do, posted it on the web). The publisher came to me and asked me to write them.

I would never write a book using someone else's characters unless I was hired to do so. It would never even occur to me because the characters aren't mine.

Given a choice, I would only write novels and TV shows of my own creation. But I have to make a living and I take the work that comes my way...and that includes writing-for-hire, whether it's on someone else's TV show or original tie-in novels based on characters I didn't create. Ultimately, however, what motivates me as a writer is to express myself...not the work of someone else.

That's the big difference between me and a fanficcer.

Given a choice, fanficcers "write" fanfic.

(The numerous italics are all in the original.)

More recently, Goldberg returns to this theme in a September 20, 2006 post, "Am I a Fanficcer?" While he does stress that his TV show-based novels are published with the consent and involvement of the owners, the "I'm only in it for the money" defense rears its head again:

What I do isn't comparable to fanfiction -- which is using someone else's work without their consent or involvement and distributing on the Internet. I don't do it as my personal artistic expression -- it's a job, one that I do to the best of my ability.

Like a fanficcer, I am writing about characters I didn't create and that are not my own. But, as I said before, unless approached to do so, I would have absolutely no interest or desire to write about someone else's characters. Why? Because...and let me repeat this... the characters aren't mine. I didn't create them. They don't belong to me. I much prefer to write totally original work and if I could make my living only doing that, I would.

In fairness to Goldberg, I should have said that he defends his tie-in novels partly on the grounds that he only writes them for the money. I singled out this argument because I found it particularly bizarre -- it's the first time I have seen paid hackwork held up as morally superior to an unpaid labor of love -- and because I had already mentioned the "fanfic is intellectual theft" argument in my comments on Robin Hobb. If that gave a misleading impression of Goldberg's views on fanfic, I will readily offer my apologies. However, I certainly did not put any argument in Goldberg's mouth that he did not repeatedly make on his blog.

Since we're on the subject, I will answer a question Goldberg poses in his September 20 post:

What I have yet to see any fanficcer explain why they won't to ask the creator or rights holder for permission before posting and distributing their work. Or why fanficcers adamantly refuse to follow the expressed wishes of creator/rights holders (for example, Rowling has approved fanfiction based on Harry Potter as long as it's not sexually explicit...but that hasn't stopped thousands of people from writing and posting Potter slash, disrespecting her and her wishes ).

I know the answer, of course. Fanficcers are terrified of officially being told NO... and identifying themselves in case they decide to blithely violate the author's wishes anyway.

On the second point: I and most other fanfic writers and readers strongly disapprove of Harry Potter (or any other) fanfic featuring underage characters in sexual situations. I also personally believe that the wishes of any writer who has asked people not to write fan fiction based on his or her work -- or has set specific guidelines for such fan fiction, like Rowling or Anne McCaffrey -- should be respected. (Since a pro-Goldberg blogger indicts me for "absconding with characters" created by others, I will mention that the producers of Xena actually hired one of my fellow intellectual thieves, fanfic writer Melissa "Missy" Good, to write scripts for the show.)

On the first point, I can only say: Is Goldberg kidding? He knows perfectly well that his "ask for permission first" requirement would mean the end of fan fiction, and NOT because copyright owners would say no. Would original fiction writers be willing to spend hours every day answering emails asking them if it's okay to post a fanfiction based on their work? With movie- and television-based fanfiction, the situation would be far more complicated. Does Goldberg expect studios to hire a staff just to field requests for permission to post a fanfic? And to whom should the request be directed anyway? The corporation? The creator of the characters? What if the characters have multiple creators? (In the case of Xena: Warrior Princess, it was apparently unclear at one point who owned the rights to the characters, holding up a possible big-screen movie project.)

Furthermore, both writers and studios or other corporations which have no objection to fanfiction based on their characters and settings may well be skittish about actively granting their permission for the publication of specific stories. "Authorized" stories would appear to have the writer's or owner's imprimatur. Moreover, the writers or the studio personnel would have either to read the stories submitted -- which would be not only incredibly time-consuming but legally problematic -- or to authorize them unread.

I do think that it would be an ideal resolution to the legal dilemma of fan-created works if the authors or creators/copyright holders were to state upfront that they do not object to non-commercial fan endeavors -- be it fiction, art, or music videos -- and, if they wish, to stipulate rules by which they want the writers and artists to abide. (Or, if they do object, to issue a "no fanfic" directive. The vast majority of fans will respect it, for both ethical and legal reasons.) In the absence of such explicit statements, given that the widespread existence of fan fiction is by now no secret to anyone, I think that silence may be presumed to equal consent.

Finally, since we're on the topic of misrepresentation: In a post on October 12, 2006, Goldberg suggests, on the basis of a New York Times profile of fanfic writer-turned-pro Naomi Novik, that Novik has revised her previously "liberal" views on fanfic and copyright now that she is a commercially published author herself. As some of his commenters point out, Novik has in fact specifically said that this is not so. Goldberg has yet to issue a retraction in the body of his post or even to acknowledge his error in the comments, despite having posted in the comments thread several times.