Voxjacked

Two days ago, Ezra Klein, the editor of Vox.com, penned what may be the most repulsive article yet on the subject of affirmative consent laws. Klein’s argument in a nutshell: yes, these laws are overbroad and will probably result in innocent men being expelled from college over ambiguous charges. Which is good, because the college rape crisis is so terrible and the need to change the norms of sexual behavior is so urgent that this requires a brutal and ugly response. Or, as Joe Stalin was fond of saying, “When you chop wood, chips must fly.” That’s the Russian equivalent of “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.”

Toward the end, Klein writes:

Then there’s the true nightmare scenario: completely false accusations of rape by someone who did offer consent, but now wants to take it back. I don’t want to say these kinds of false accusations never happen, because they do happen, and they’re awful. But they happen very, very rarely.

I only just found out, from this column by James Taranto, that the link in this passage goes to my recent piece on Slate XX.

The whole point of which was to rebut the idea that false accusations of rape are so infinitesimally rare that they needn’t be a serious factor in deciding whether laws dealing with sexual assault are unfair to the accused.

I repeat.

I wrote a piece (extensively fact-checked, I might add) arguing that wrongful accusations of rape (either deliberately false or based on alcohol-impaired memory and mixed signals) are not quite as rare as anti-rape activists claim, and that we need to stop using their alleged rarity to justify undermining the presumption of innocence in sexual assault cases.

And Ezra Klein cites this very piece in an article that justifies, pretty much, throwing the presumption of innocence out the window.

Is there a word for having one’s writing hijacked to support (in an egregiously misleading way) the very point you are arguing against?

I suggest “voxjacking.”

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Emma Watson and the B-word

Bossy.

What did you think I meant? ;)

Anyway, if you’re here, you’ve probably seen my column on Emma Watson, #HeForShe, and my proposed alternative — #SheAndHeForUs (or #HeAndSheForUs).

A quick side note:

I appreciate that in her U.N. speech, Watson emphasized that she has never been “oppressed” or treated as a lesser person because of her gender. She did, however, make this claim:

I started questioning gender-based assumptions when at eight I was confused at being called “bossy,” because I wanted to direct the plays we would put on for our parents—but the boys were not.
Is it very uncharitable for me to doubt this story? It just seems too conveniently tied to Sheryl Sandberg’s recent “Ban Bossy” campaign. And honestly, given how commonly girls are found in leadership roles at school in recent years, I find it hard to believe that a girl would get negative pushback just for wanting to direct school plays. One possibility is that it was something about Watson’s personality. Another is that whatever happened back then is now perceived by her through the prism of the recent campaign to reframe “bossy” as an antifemale slur.
Tangential evidence supporting my doubts:
In the past, Watson has repeatedly used the b-word to refer to her Harry Potter character, Hermione Granger. At the age of 11, when she first started playing Hermione, she told Entertainment Weekly, “I reckon she’s very, very bossy.” Sometime later (I haven’t been able to find the original source of the quote, but it’s posted on this fan page which was made in 2004 when Watson was 14), she said in one of her interviews, “Now that I’ve played the snotty, bossy, posh Hermione Granger, I’d like to play some American high school girl. I want to play something totally different.”
Somehow I think that if Watson had actually found it hurtful to be called “bossy” at eight, she wouldn’t be using the word to describe her film character a few years later. Again, I don’t think she’s making it up — I just think she’s processing it through her perspective as a 24-year-old feminist.
(Comments are open but filtered. Any comments bashing either gender collectively, or containing personal abuse toward any individual including Emma Watson, will remain forever in limbo.)

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Russia, Ukraine, and fascism revisited

The idea that the pro-Western Ukrainian government is actually some kind of front for neo-fascist/neo-Nazi forces of darkness has been assiduously flogged by the Russian propaganda machine from the start of the conflict and has also been flogged by the Putin regime’s Western supporters. It still has currency on fringe anti-Western sites, partly aided by the fact that there really are some unsavory, ultranationalist, and in some cases neo-Nazi elements among the paramilitary groups involved in the Ukrainian government’s military operation against the insurgency. (Needless to say, the insurgency and the need to fight it helps empower those marginal elements.)

Of course, the people who profess to be very concerned with the fascist problem in Ukraine tend to ignore the well-documented involvement of Russian ultranationalists, neo-fascists, and neo-Nazis in the pro-Russian insurgency in Eastern Ukraine. I’ve written on this issue more than once.

And now the latest: Pavel Gubarev, the former “People’s Governor” of Donetsk and one of the earliest separatist leaders to gain prominence, bragged on his Facebook page the other day about a “real Italian fascist” joining the rebel cause to fight against “the wrong kind of Nazis — the pro-American ones.” Gubarev himself is, as I have written, a longstanding member of Russia’s neo-Nazi “Russian National Unity” movement, which has a lovely logo and equally lovely uniforms:

Anyway, Slon.ru, an independent Russian online magazine, interviewed Gubarev a few days ago about a lot of issues related to the insurgency, including the “real Italian fascist.” There’s a write-up in Moscow News, but that part of the interview is so darkly hilarious it deserves to be reproduced in full.

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Izvestia crosses into Der Stürmer territory

You may recall the Russian writer Alexander Prokhanov, the notoriously anti-Semitic, Stalinist ultranationalist who has of late migrated from the margins of Russian public life to the officially approved mainstream. He caused something of a stir back in March when he opined on Russian state TV that the Jews were “bringing a second Holocaust on themselves” by backing the Maidan revolution in Ukraine (prompting the host of the program to remark that “they brought on the first one, too”).

Well, now he’s at it again, this time in the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia, with a surreal article about the common struggle of Donetsk and Gaza as “hero cities, martyr cities, twin cities”–“two stumbling blocks in the path of universal evil.”

Universal evil, apparently, has a rather specific character:

Netanyahu and his spiritual brother Kolomoisky, both stiff-necked, merciless, obsessed with a monstrous messianic idea, are incinerating mosques and churches, hospitals and maternity wards.

It’s rather remarkable that Prokhanov pairs Netanyahu with Kolomoisky–not a head of state but merely a regional governor, and not even the governor of the Donetsk region, who plays no role in the anti-insurgent operation. Why not Petro Poroshenko, the President of Ukraine, or Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the Prime Minister? What do Netanyahu and Kolomoisky have in common? If you’re thinking “they’re both Jews,” you’re correct: Kolomoisky is the most prominent openly Jewish Ukrainian politician. (Actually, Yatsenyuk has a partly Jewish background, but he identifies as a Christian and downplays his Jewish origins.)  A later paragraph does mention Poroshenko, but again in conjunction with Kolomoisky, whom Prokhanov evidently regards as the real leader of post-Maidan Ukraine.

The rest of the article is a bizarre ode to “the heroes of Hamas and the warriors of Donbass,” concluding with a gloriously demented vision of “the day when the people of Gaza and the people of Donbass reunite at a victory celebration, clasp each other in a fraternal embrace, and glorify God’s truth in their verses and songs.” There’s even a mention of red and white roses. But what’s most remarkable about this rhapsody is the virtually undisguised stench of anti-Semitism in an article published in a leading, quasi-official Russian newspaper. Apparently, “Jew-haters of the world, unite!” is an acceptable slogan in today’s Russia.

 

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Welcome to Putin’s Russia, land of the tinfoil hats

According to Russian historian Boris Sokolov, writing for Grani.ru (an independent website that has been blocked in Russia since March by orders of the prosecutor’s office for allegedly promoting “extremism”), the other day Russia’s TV-1–the country’s main channel–marked the anniversary of World War I with a documentary titled “Alternative Version: The First Shot of World War I.”

Its thesis: Archduke Ferdinand’s real assassin was not Gavrilo Princip but a British sniper, a Freemason acting on behest of the international masonic conspiracy which had set out to start a world war in order to gain world domination. Later on, the same masonic conspiracy engineered the Russian Revolution so that Russia would not emerge as one of the war’s victors.

Who knew that the old adage about lunatics running the asylum could come true quite so literally?

 

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How not to respond to Women Against Feminism

Just to make it clear: I’m not a part of Women Against Feminism. I’m on the fence about whether the term “feminism” can be reclaimed, but that’s a question for another time. (In case you missed it: here’s my Time.com article on the subject.)

But some of the responses to WAF just make me roll my eyes.

Here’s an example:

First of all: a recurring theme on the Women Against Feminism site is that feminism fought important battles in the past, but those battles have been won and feminism has morphed into something counterproductive. Whether that view is right or wrong, to say that today’s fourth wave (or whichever wave it is) feminists are entitled to women’s allegiance because of the rights previous generation of feminists have won for women is, as my friend Brian Carnell has observed on Twitter, a bit like saying that blacks must be forever loyal to the Republican Party because it was instrumental in ending slavery.

Secondly: while it is certainly true that women pre-feminism generally faced far greater obstacles than men of the same class when it came to intellectual pursuits, the idea that women (at least in the West) were barred from expressing opinions and denied all voice is preposterous. Christine de Pizan wrote books, including ones that defended women against misogynist caricatures, all the way back in the 14th-15th Centuries. There were plenty of other women writers, including popular pamphleteers, whose work long predates anything like an organized feminist movement. In fact, if women had been denied the right to have and publish their opinions, how could (first-wave) feminism even have happened? Mary Wollstonecraft and Olympe de Gouges, two women who can probably be justly called feminist pioneers, both published their work at the end of the 18th Century. (Both, it should be noted, had written and published extensively on other subjects before turning to advocacy of women’s rights.) Feminists certainly did not make it possible for them to get published and reach large audiences.

It is true, however, that women authors–particularly ones who wrote on feminist topics–were often singled out for ridicule and disparagement. They could be mocked as ignorant and stupid, or derided as mere conduits for men’s ideas (because, after all, women couldn’t possibly have the brains to come up with intelligent arguments!), or slandered as immodest and unchaste…

… which is exactly what some feminists are now doing to Women Against Feminism.

 

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Russia: strange bedfellows, stranger degrees of separation

Remember Alexander Dugin, the Kremlin’s crazy (like a fox) ultranationalist guru? The one who sees Russia as the bulwark of “Eurasian” civilization, locked in eternal conflict with “Atlanticist” powers, and the country destined to lead global resistance to “Western liberal hegemony” which seeks to force its values of “the free market, free trade, liberalism, parliamentarian democracy, human rights, and absolute individualism” on other cultures? Alexander “Fascism has never been properly tried” Dugin? The favorite Russian of American white supremacists? (I wrote about him here, here, and here.)

Alexander Dugin speaks at a rally in Moscow yesterday urging a Russian invasion of Ukraine. The banner over his head says “FOR RUSSIA-IN-DONETSK!” and “RUSSIANS FOR RUSSIANS!” Photo by @EvgenyFeldman.

Well.

It turns out that I kinda, sorta know Mr. Dugin’s ex-wife and the mother of one of his children.

But wait.

It gets better.

Dugin’s ex, Evgeniya (Genya) Debryanskaya, is a pioneering Russian LGBT activist who also has a long history of activism in the pro-democracy movement. She co-founded Russia’s first gay rights advocacy group, the Association of Sexual Minorities, in 1990; she was also a co-founder of the Russian Libertarian Party and was involved in the Democratic Union, the small party led by Valeria Novodvorskaya (the remarkable Russian pro-freedom activist who died last month, and about whose life and work I wrote here). I met Genya in 1990 on a trip to Moscow, while doing interviews for an article on women in Russian politics. I think we met twice. The second time, she gave me a letter to her American girlfriend to mail in the US, not wanting to entrust it to the Soviet postal service. (She also asked to borrow $50, promising to repay it on her upcoming trip to America. “She’ll never pay it back,” said a Russian friend who knew her. “Consider it your donation to the Russian gay rights movement.” The friend was right.)

I’m not sure exactly when Debryanskaya and Dugin were married, but they have a son born in 1985, named Arthur at birth and christened as Dmitry in the Russian Orthodox Church. (Amusingly, Dugin’s bio on his website gives the date of his son’s birth but makes no mention of the mother’s identity; the only marriage mentioned in the bio is his second marriage, in 1987, to philosophy professor Natalia Melentieva, with whom he has a daughter.)

Debryanskaya later drifted away from politics, though she was arrested at a gay rights protest in Moscow in May 2006. (According to an article in the Russian edition of Newsweek, she and her fellow protesters shared a police van with several counterprotesters from Dugin’s Eurasian Youth Union, who were also arrested; when one of the “Eurasian” boys began to grumble about having to “ride together with these stinking fags,” Genya rendered him speechless him by mentioning that Dugin was her former husband.)

But here’s the latest twist. When I tried to find out what Debryanskaya has been up to lately, I was stunned to learn that she has caught the ultanationalist bug, big-time.

In March, she wrote on her Facebook page, “If Vladimir Putin returns Crimea to Russia, he will write his name into HISTORY, thus justifying his third presidential term. If not, he will be remembered as the head of a gang of corrupt scumbags and a destroyer of freedom.” While it appears that she later deleted this post, her page is filled with exhortations to fight “fascism” in Ukraine (on April 16, she shared a post asserting that “Russia today has turned out to be the sole  guarantor of resistance to fascism”; a May 3 post laments, “Putin would need a couple of days to drive all this fascist scum to the other side of the Dnieper, so what are we waiting for?”). She has even reposted a TV interview with Dugin.

Gays for homophobic nationalists?

To quote from the Slavophiles’ favorite 19th Century poem by Fyodor Tyutchev: “You can’t grasp Russia with the mind.”

 

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