Daily Archives: 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.

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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.)

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