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Alas, a Blogroll
- Today I Am A Man
- The Incidental Economist
- Nuclear Unicorn
- Disability and Representation
- The Overthinker
- Mythago Performs A Blog
- The Fat Nutritionist
- The Feminist Librarian
- The Dirty Normal
- The Hathor Legacy
- This Is So Gay
- Geek Feminism Blog
- Long Story; Short Pier
- Red No. 3
- Let Them Eat Pro-SM Feminist Safe Spaces
- Adam Becker: Freelance Astrophysicist
- Election Law Blog
- Closet Puritan
- The Bad Men Project
- Female Gazing
- Art at the Auction
- Kelly Thinks Too Much
- Gloria Mundi
- Feminists Fighting Transphobia
- Spherical Bullshit
- The Debate Link
- Not Sorry Feminism
- The Closet Puritan
- The Pervocracy
- We Hunted the Mammoth
- Fannie's Room
- The Beheld
- Muslimah Media Watch
- A Feminist Challenging Transphobia
- Today I Am A Man
Dear The Stranger, Free Speech is a thing – even for off-duty cops.
Unless you have real evidence that this person is letting his politics interfere with his work, or spending time on Facebook when he’s on the public clock, then this really shouldn’t be a story.
The idea of employers – or the press – monitoring worker’s Facebook pages for “wrong” political opinions is far more horrifying, and far more of a threat to freedom, then anything some jerk cop writes on Facebook.
Let me note that in this post, when I refer to “freedom of speech” I’m referring not to First Amendment law, but to what I’d call a “free speech culture,” by which I mean a culture in which people can feel free to speak out on controversial issues without facing unreasonable and disproportionate reprisals. I worry that in our current culture – in which partisan hatred and fury has become so ordinary (on both sides) – only those with the thick skins and secure positions will feel comfortable speaking out.
Although there’s no government censorship going on here, we can and should want more for free speech than just “no one was thrown in jail.”
An example of what I mean by a “unreasonable and disproportionate reprisal” is having a well-known newspaper comb through your Facebook feed in order to cherry-pick the worst-sounding quotes.1 This reporting includes calling your bosses to inform them of what you’ve been writing on your Facebook page, and getting them to “consider… a formal investigation into” you.
Suddenly your Facebook activity is exposed to thousands of people you never expected to be scrutinizing your words, the pages you’ve linked, and what you “liked.” Total strangers on social media and in the Stranger’s comments are questioning your intelligence, your competence, and your worth as a human being.
It’s a seriously unkind thing to do, and newspapers like the Stranger shouldn’t do this lightly. There are obviously cases where someone is enough of a public figure so that any political opinion they express, regardless of context, is a reasonable news story. But “police Sergeant”simply isn’t in that category.
Now, there are cases in which reporting on the political opinions of a police officer might be important because they directly call into question if Hall is a suitable person to be a police officer. For example, if Sergeant Hall had called for police to engage in illegal beatdowns of civilians. But Hall didn’t say anything of the sort; he just spouted the typical opinions one hears every day from law-and-order Republicans. And just being a right-winger is not enough to mean someone can’t be a cop.
I really can’t think of any reason why it’s the public’s business to know what Hall’s opinion of Obama is (a point the Stranger emphasized in the headline). I don’t want that sort of thing reported about right-wing cops in newspapers, any more than I want that a left-wing cop hates George Bush to be reported in the National Review.
I’m not saying that free speech can or should mean freedom from consequence. But the consequences should be proportional. If the people who read Hall’s Facebook feed criticize him, think less of him, argue with him, or even decide they don’t want to be friends with him anymore, that’s fine. I’ve seen conservatives treat criticism as if it were censorship, and that’s ridiculous.
But when ordinary citizens – including midlevel cops – can’t yak about politics on Facebook without worrying that reporters will be searching for cherry-picked quotes or calling their bosses, that’s unreasonable. It’s disproportionate. And it’s not helpful to a free speech society.
- For example, reporter Ansel Herz highlighted two ugly-sounding quotes from a Facebook comment Hall wrote, but didn’t highlight this much more reasonable quote, although it’s in the same comment: “If it turns out that Officer Darren Wilson shot Michel Brown while he was surrendering, then he should be prosecuted for murder. I don’t think that will be the case, but I’m willing to see it as a possibility.” [↩]
Ick. What a horrible situation. And if the information we have now is accurate – and obviously, it’s possible we don’t have the complete story – it so needlessly escalated. (Bleeding Cool has a bunch of the tweets, mostly from Jennifer Williams, the fired employee).
The manager who made the “we call this the rape room” joke could have apologized. Or the owner of the story could have been taken the manager aside and told him very firmly that jokes about rape are never acceptable in the workplace, and extra-double aren’t appropriate for a nervous new female employee on her first day. Either way, the new employee could have walked away with a feeling that her objection had been taken seriously and there would be no more rape jokes.
No need to fire anyone. The manager could have learned some basic etiquette that he should already have known, and Jennifer Williams could have felt like the store’s owner will support her and be willing to listen if harassment occurs. And Harrison’s Comics would not now be known as that comic book store where the manager jokes about a rape room.
Instead, Jennifer Williams was fired for no clear reason – which sure looks like she was fired for reporting a hostile workplace environment. And not only this store but all of comics culture looks – not for the first time – like a misogynist boy’s club culture full of guys who don’t have the basic social skills needed to understand “maybe I shouldn’t be telling rape jokes to the brand-new female employee who I barely even know.”
Aaargh. So much fail.
In the comments of the Jezebel story, a reader related a similar story about racism in a comic book store:
Shared this with a friend from across the country who actually works at a comics shop and also happens to be black, and has many amusing stories about casual nerd racism. He had a pretty good comment I’m going to paraphrase here.
Him: “Okay, so if my shop had a room that everyone called ‘dead nigger storage’, think they’d fire me if I complained? No. Because that’s fucked up if you have employees dropping n-bombs casually. Nobody cares if its just a Pulp Fiction reference, you don’t say that shit casually, especially around a black dude who’s a co-worker you don’t really know that well. This kind of the same idea.”
Me: “Did that actually happen to you?”
This post is a transcription of a handwritten letter I received from Robert. All typos I made should be blamed on Robert, because that’s what so cool about him not being here to defend himself. As with last time, I’ll forward any comments people leave in this thread onto Robert. –Amp
Dear Barry -
Thank you so much for your gracious letter of 8/13. I read it with a beaming smile on my face. It’s very easy to get “closed up” in prison, to forget that you have friends and loved ones on the outside. Letters like yours break that illusion, and do a lot of good.
You are correct that my robbery was unarmed – no gun involved. (“I just don’t see the point of those things.” -Buffy) Also, that I could be out in a year. Actually, I could be out on “community corrections” (i.e., a halfway home with supervised living and work release – not freedom, but a damn sight better than prison) right now – but that process can take up to 6 months. So I’m expecting quasi-freedom by February 2015 and actual freedom (though with parole) around July 2015.
“Expecting” is too strong a word. “Hoping and planning,” perhaps. Because they don’t have to give community corrections, or parole. They generally do but these are grants of privilege, not rights. So, bird in the hand and all that.
If anyone would like to write me, their letters would be most welcome. My DOC # is 165970 and my current status and mailing address can be seen at the Colorado Department of Corrections website. Note that parole eligibility and release dates are listed there, but these dates are “worst-case” dates that do not account good time, earned time, etc.
For those who have progressed past the material plane and communicate only electronically, there is a website called Jpay.com that allows you to send an e-mail message to me. I receive the message as a letter – they print it out here at the facility. There is a charge for the service but I believe it is competitive with postal rates. All you need is my DOC number.
JPay can also be used to put funds on an inmate’s account, for the purpose of hygiene items, food, and other lifestyle items. Far be it from em to solicit in my own behalf, but I feel obliged to note that as left-liberal dupes, you are all morally bound to support convicts in unearned, undeserved luxury. I’m just sayin’. (Come on, convict-hugging suckers! Daddy needs that flatscreen TV!)
In seriousness, though, I have recognized that my behavior was unacceptable, and my thinking prior to my crime had spiraled into a very dark place. Barry’s preferred cartoon, the “I’m already hurt” one, did not spark a smile on this end because the joke isn’t a joke; it’s reality. Robbery puts a human being in fear. One can rail against the banks 24/7 and get no argument from me; banks are the devil. But tellers are not the devil, they are young men or women who have done nothing wrong other than going to work one morning. And tellers have no way of knowing that a given robber has no actual intention to harm them. I made no threat or show of force; I was at pains to be polite. But Ms. Prudhomme (the teller) was trembling in fear the entire time.
That is indefensible. That is monstrous. I should be, and am, ashamed of that. The bank will get its money back; where does Ms. Prudhomme go to get her sense of safety, her security, her ability to go to work unconcerned, back?
She can’t, and that is 100% on me. So, fuck me. Fuck that guy.
Not self-blaming or self-hatred, just recognition of where the moral responsibility for outcomes lies. Right here.
Well, that got heavy. Let’s go to the mailbox and respond to the comments.
G&W: Incorrect. Tellers are under instructions per bank policy to give money to anyone vaguely engaged in robber-like conduct. They make no assessment or assumptions about the threat. The robbery statutes in Colorado do make that assessment; robbery requires force, threat of force, or intimidation. Use of a weapon is an aggravating factor. that makes it a more serious felony.
Thank you beyond words for giving me the opportunity to be a pedantic lecturer with a 0% chance that a 240-pound man named “Crush” will become aggrieved and destroy me. I’ve missed it.
Brian: I do in fact remember you. Thank you for the good and wise advice, even if stolen. If you’re going to steal, steal from the best.
Elusis: It’s the “incredibly handsome” one. Please make a note of it.
Ben: People who are as wrong as you as often as you should learn to be grateful for correction, not ticked. You keep that up, you’ll wind up in prison.
Jake: Laugh while you can, lackey of the Pop-Tart fascist movement. One day the people will stand up to your imperialist running-dog false state and then it will be your turn against the wall.
True fact: in El Paso County Jail you can get Pop-Tarts on the commissary ordering system. The only available flavor: blueberry.
Grace: I remember that exchange. Damn it, if we can’t apologize when we fuck up, what good are we to anyone? I’m glad you cot value out of the the conversation. I did too, as I always do from you.
Well, that sums up my comment responses. Again, thank you all for taken a moment to brighten my day.
One last word. I plan on getting my life together, starting with my thinking. As a wise fellow inmate told me, “this is the department of CORRECTIONS.” I appreciate all of your honesty and kind wishes, and look forward to returning to Alas in a year or so, to explain to you all once more how you’re wrong etc. I love you guys.
Except for Jake. Jake will b urn forever in the special Hell reserved for Pop-Tart sinners and heretics. (You burn for 30 seconds, then pop into the air, flip around, and descend back into the Hell for 30 seconds on the other side. Repeat until you acknowledge the divine suzerainty of strawberry.)
In “Story 16” in “Padeshahan,” or “Kings,” the first chapter of Sa’di’s Golestan—the stories are simply numbered; they are not given titles—the protagonist is having a hard time earning enough money to support his family. He has become so poor, in fact, that he’s begun to think about trying to find work in another country, where no one would know him and he could take whatever job might along, no matter how shameful the work might be. Before taking that last step, however, he asks the story’s narrator, who has royal connections–he is a fictionalized version of Sa’di–to get him a job in the king’s palace.
“Listen,” the narrator replies, “working for the king is a mixed blessing at best.” On the one hand, he goes on, “You will earn more money than you could otherwise hope for. On the other hand, the politics of the royal palace can cost you your life.” The risk, he concludes, is not worth the money.
What follows is a debate between the two friends about who will win out in a place like the king’s palace, someone with a clear conscience, who does his or her work honestly and with integrity, or the enemies and competitors the person with a clear conscience doesn’t yet know she or he has, the schemers who are waiting to sabotage anyone who threatens their standing even before that person starts doing her or his job.
The protagonist thinks the narrator’s cynicism is unwarranted. He says,
If you want to see your enemies embarrassed
by every slur they’ve tried to taint you with,
wear the mantle of your office modestly
and carry out your duties pure of heart.
Do this and you’ll have nothing to fear when you leave.
The king’s launderers beat against stones
only his most deeply stained garments.
In response, the narrator tells “the story of the fox who, when people asked him why he was running away from the palace, explained, “I have heard that camels are being forced into the king’s service.”
“Don’t be foolish!” they replied. “You are not a camel; you don’t look anything like a camel; how could anyone possibly mistake you for a camel?”
“Shh! Keep your voices down!” The fox looked warily from side to side, as if he might have been followed. “If my enemies tell the king’s guard that I am a camel, and the king’s guard catches me, who will dare to speak in my defense? Which guard will have the courage to trust his own eyes an release me? I would be like the man who was bitten by a cobra, waiting, while the poison worked through him, for the antidote to come from Iraq. I’d die before it reached me.”
“Stop thinking about a career in government,” the narrator concludes. “You’re better off accepting your situation as it is.”
The protagonist rejects the narrator’s advice and, as you might expect, in the end, things transpire just as the narrator predicted. One of the protagonist’s enemies accuses him of treason before the king, who does not order an investigation because he chooses to believe the accusation. Once the king’s position becomes clear, everyone who had supported the protagonist turns their backs on him and he is left even more destitute than he was when the story started.
I doubt that anyone reading this works in a royal palace, but I have no doubt that we all recognize the workplace politics that Sa’di describes. As well, I am sure we all work with people who are more like the fox than the protagonist, that we all have colleagues who could be any one of the enemies mentioned in this story, and that we’ve all had bosses like the king whose capriciousness ended the protagonist’s career. The past few years at my own job have been trying ones for a whole range of reasons, but each one would seem to bear out Sa’di’s cynicism when it comes to workplace politics. Nonetheless, despite evidence to the contrary that I have seen with my own eyes, I remain, like Sa’di’s protagonist, an optimist, though I admit this optimism might come more easily to me than to others, given that I am a tenured full-professor.
At the end of the story, Sa’di’s narrator says, basically, I told you so. “You should have listened to me when I compared working for the king to traveling the ocean [in search of treasure]. Each is simultaneously profitable and dangerous.”
Either you’ll walk to the shore with gold-filled hands
or the waves will deposit you there, dead as gold.
The protagonist took that risk and lost. What about you? Do you share his optimism? Are you a risk-taker at work? Why? Why not? Under what circumstances?
You Won’t Believe How This New York Observer Article about Vox Media Taking On @SavedYouAClick Over Sopranos Spoiler Gave Freddie deBoer Cardiac Arrest
Remember the 1955 movie “Marty”? It was a respected oldie when I was a kid (it’s one of only two films to win both the Best Picture Oscar and the Cannes Palme d’Or), but it’s now pretty obscure. I saw the movie in the 1980s as part of a screenwriting class.1
“Marty’s” title character, plain-faced, chubby, and not great at talking to women, despairs that no woman will ever love him. The screenwriter, Paddy Chayefsky, thought of the “Marty” story after he saw a sign posted in a ballroom, which said “Girls, Dance With the Man Who Asks You. Remember, Men Have Feelings, Too.”
Marty eventually meets a wonderful woman and begins a relationship, although he has to overcome the resistance of his jealous mother, and of friends who mock him for dating a “dogface.”2 In pop culture, everyone – or at least, everyone who isn’t a terrible human being – eventually meets someone wonderful and falls in love.
But in real life, that’s not how things always work. Some people don’t want romantic love at all. Others want romantic love but will never find it. That’s life. I’m beginning to accept, at age 45, that probably “true love” will never happen for me. I have a bunch of factors working against me – I’m physically conventionally unattractive, I badly lack confidence, I’m sort of a weirdo, as I get older I meet new people less often, etc..
To tell you the truth, I resent the situation. It’s not an all-consuming bitterness or anything – on the whole, I’m a happy guy3 – but I irrationally feel cheated of a fundamental human experience.4 And although I’m happy for my friends who are in great relationships, there’s also some ugly jealousy in me on the subject. And I’m really fucking sick of movies and TV about the sad troubles of stunningly attractive people who somehow can’t find love until they meet some other stunningly attractive person, blah blah blah complications ensue and are overcome happy ending credits roll.
I don’t bring this up to ask people to feel sorry for me, or to ask for dating advice. (GOD NO!!! Please don’t give me any dating or romantic advice, folks; if I haven’t specifically asked you for it, I don’t want to hear it.) I bring this up because I feel my ability to enjoy complaining about my single state has been ruined by MRAs and anti-feminists.
Because in human culture, we do something called “signaling” a lot. And, on the internet, men complaining that they don’t have the romantic success they want, that they feel they should be more attractive to woman then they actually are in practice, etc., have all become signals used to indicate alliance with the manosphere.
When I read someone from the manosphere talking about their lack of dating success, I always
emphasize empathize. How could I not? They’re pretty much describing my life story. Except then they keep on talking, and suddenly the repulsive bitterness towards women or feminists (or both) comes out. And the empathy is now accompanied by a strong desire for a shower.
I don’t want to be even momentarily mistaken for part of the manosphere. Because while not everyone in the manosphere is a bitter, angry woman-hater, lots of them are. And those who aren’t overtly woman-hating seem to find the misogyny among their comrades either invisible, unobjectionable, or excusable.
Those hatebags have directed abuse at me personally – fat jokes, “you’re just trying to get laid,” name-calling like “Mangina,” and so on. I’m not bothered by such insults, but it sure hasn’t endeared their community to me.5 I get off relatively easily; the abuse directed at well-known female internet feminists (Amanda Marcotte, Jessica Valenti, and Anita Sarkeesian are the most obvious examples, but the ever-moving hatefest is always seeking new victims) is stunning in quantity and vileness.
Gore Vidal once groused that the once-useful word “turgid” now belongs to the porn writers, because it has become impossible to use the word without sounding like a porn writer. The manosphere has done something similar to unattractive men’s romantic problems. They’ve flooded the discourse with misogyny and anti-feminism, and it’s nearly impossible to rescue discussion of being male and unwanted from their bitter waters.6
- Actually, I’m not positive I’ve ever seen the movie – I may have seen the 1953 television play that the movie was based on. [↩]
- Marty’s love interest, played by Betsy Blair, was too pretty to be plausible as someone men would label “dogface” at a glance. But nearly all “ugly” female characters are played by pretty actresses because Hollywood. [↩]
- Seriously, don’t worry about me, folks. I’m not lonely, I’ve got lots of good friends, I’ve got a great job. My life is good. [↩]
- What’s irrational about it is feeling “cheated,” rather than merely “lacking.” [↩]
- Actually, one time my feelings were hurt. I attended a blogger dinner, where I was seated next to an anti-feminist who had clashed with me online. We had, I thought, a terrific conversation. He offered me a ride home after the dinner, and we agreed that we should meet again sometime. The next day, in a forum he didn’t know I read, he wrote that I clearly wasn’t into feminism to get laid, because I was (he said) so fat no woman would ever have sex with me. The insult was too pathetic to hurt, but that he was so extraordinarily two-faced stung. [↩]
- Said waters are no doubt made up of male tears.
To tell you the truth, I don’t feel natural making that joke – see Ally Fogg – but I’m making it anyway, because I hope it’ll get the goats of people who had vapors over Jessica’s sweatshirt, while remaining silent about the immeasurably worse comments Jessica receives from anti-feminists on a daily basis. [↩]