I'm a little late to the party on this, but not sleeping last night gave me several hours to catch up on this whole distasteful business.
So, unless you've been living under a rock the past few months, or you just avoid all news ever [which is...admirable, in a way] -- in the paper, on the internet, on cable television -- you've probably heard something about the Wikileaks scandal. This past October, something in the area of 400,000 documents on the Iraq War were leaked through the website, causing wide-spread, some would even say world-wide, outrage. Many called for one of the website's founder's head specifically, one Julian Assange, with many military and government figures in the U.S. and abroad shouting "Treason!" Some, such as the ever-dreadful, Moose-skinning Sarah Palin, said the man should be assassinated. Some hyperbole is to be expected in these situations.
Still, anyone would have to admit it was a little too convenient when suddenly Assange was arrested in London to be extradited to Sweden because of outstanding charges of rape. And I don't dispute that... hard to dodge outstanding warrants when the whole world wants a piece of you.
Which is probably why progressive, left-wing personalities Keith Olbermann and Michael Moore came out in support of Assange, with Moore going so far as to post Assange's bail [$20,000]. Moore explains why he's doing this here, and it's worth a look.
And since we're linking, let me go ahead and show you everything you should be reading before you finish this blog post. Or instead of this blog post.
Tiger Beatdown: "#MooreandMe: On Progressives, Rape Apologism, and the Little Guy" [Sady Doyle]
Tiger Beatdown: "Day One of #MooreandMe: Or, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Being Blocked by Keith Olbermann on Twitter" [Sady Doyle]
Salon: Keith Olbermann quit Twitter because of me. [Sady Doyle]
"Feminists Fighting for WikiLeaks" [Liz Henry]
"On Consent" [Leigh Honeywell]
The Washington Post: "What the Assange case says about rape in America" [Jessica Valenti]
Mediaite: "Olbermann Refuses To Correct Treatment Of Assange Rape Allegations On Twitter – Update [Tommy Christopher]"
"Some Shit I’m Sick of Hearing Regarding Rape and Assange" [Kate Harding]
Spilt Milk: "Who hears you, when you speak about rape?" ["Elizabeth" - via Lisa Gutierrez]
Tiger Beatdown: "SEXIST BEATDOWN: Until This FRENZY of HOOEY and ANTI-RAPE ACTIVISM Is STOPPED Edition" [quote: I love how many Swedish constitutional rape scholars have just wiggled out of the woodwork all of a sudden. - Amanda Hess]
zunguzungu: "If You’ll Pardon the Presumption" [Aaron Bady]
"We Have Some Points" [Silvana Naguib and Gayle Force]
The New York Times: Swedish Police Report Details Case Against Assange [JOHN F. BURNS and RAVI SOMAIYA]
Tiger Beatdown: "#MooreandMe: Four Days Outside the Tower. I’m Scared. I’m Tired. I’m Crying. And I Won’t Stop." [Sady Doyle]
"Why I’m On Board With #mooreandme" [Kate Harding]
Tiger Beatdown: "#MooreandMe, Five Days and Running: Run It All The Way Down (A Timeline of Relevant Quotes)" [Sady Doyle]
"Pro Tip" (Concerning the Presumption of Innocence and #mooreandme) [Jamie "Sententiola" Johnston]
"What Happens When You Accuse a Famous Man of Rape" [Kate Harding] - Quote/Link from The Guardian article "Julian Assange rape allegations: treatment of women 'unfair and absurd'" [Amelia Gentlemen]
Salon: "Olbermann still doesn't get it." [Tracy Clark-Flory]
"#mooreandme Day 7: Keith Olbermann’s got questions, I’ve got answers." [Kate Harding]
Tiger Beatdown: "A Week of #MooreandMe: Keith Olbermann and the Eternal 'If'" [Sady Doyle]
Before I go on, let me start by saying who I am. I am:
1. A leftist. A liberal, if you prefer. This means I am pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-equal rights no matter what your gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation is. I think marijuana should be legalized, as a matter of fact, I think most drugs should be legalized, along with other "undesirable" things like prostitution and gambling. I like capitalism fine, but think it works well in only specific cases, and tend to skew socialist, even communist at times. I am pro-government oversight [though sometimes I believe it fails, or oversteps its bounds], and an atheist [sometimes agnostic]. I consider my beliefs, or lack thereof fairly boring however, and like to hear about other people's faith. Sincerely. But I also want God far away from my government. Honestly, the bits on our money freak me out a little.
2. A feminist. I have always sort of identified as this. In the past few years, I have been trying to be a better one, with much study done on my own. It's a process.
3. A proponent for free speech. I am anti-censorship, in all its form, sometimes even when it disgusts me what is being said. Thankfully, just as it is your right to say it, it is my right to bring it to your attention that you might be wrong, or ask for apologies or clarifications when you've offended. I support transparency of government and freedom of information -- I've read too much about the Cold War to know that selling secrets and playing spy games only ends in horrific crimes made all the more horrific because no one is ever told about them until long after the fact.
4. A white, middle class male in my 20s. This, for some people, will be the most important. That's sad, but not entirely unfair. There's a lot of privilege in being that. I went to a liberal arts school, and am currently only freelancing sparingly.
So that's what I am. I also support Wikileaks, but like I could support the troops during the war in Iraq, but not support the war, I choose to support the website, and not the accused rapist. I think Wikileaks is quite a bit larger, quite a bit more important than one man, certainly a man like Julian Assange [there is even a part of me that feels, if Assange is truly altruistic in his motives, that he should perhaps separate himself from the site completely, divorce himself of any association with it, out of the understanding that these accusations, whether proved true or false, could damage the good Wikileaks can do].
I also, until all of this, considered myself a fan of Keith Olbermann. I liked having a mouthpiece for my side of things, someone who looked at things and put them in plain terms, and shame-on-you language. He also seemed to enjoy his job a great deal, and that meant a lot to me too, in a weird way. But his dismissive attitude and erroneous statements on Twitter, along with general insensitivity towards those who dared to call him on it [and his eventual Twitter "apology"], for me, are seriously petty, but his unwillingness to admit he was mistaken is just a deal-breaker, especially since retractions are a fairly common and forgivable part of being a reporter. I'm not sure there's any getting me back after this, Keith.
Michael Moore. Well. Most people know I'm not a fan. But, "Roger and Me" is an amazing documentary film, one of the greats of its time, maybe of all time, and I respect that. I respect Moore's resolve to seek out the truth. Sure, I thought "Bowling for Columbine" was a fucking hatchet job that made leftists look like idiots, but... they did bring people around. Maybe not BOC so much, but I can't tell you how many folks I've found who genuinely changed their opinions on political issues because they saw "Sicko" or "Captialism: A Love Story." That's powerful stuff, and changes, I believe, that were for the better. Plus, many other film makers I respect -- Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino -- they've vouched for Moore, made good points about his relevance, as have many of my friends. I guess what I'm saying, Mr. Moore, is while I have respect, I was never your biggest fan and still I feel let down.
So that's what I am. What I feel.
What I'm not is an expert on a lot of the topics and questions being raised by all this. I'm not a journalist. This is not a area I feel comfortable yet. I am only, at best, an in-training self-taught feminist, and most of the teaching has been done through online blogs and early 90s punk music. That's not the best pedigree for this, though I'm working on it. Naturally, I feel unqualified to properly present the problems people are currently having with Moore and Olbermann's support for Assange. I wish Harriet J. were around*, then I could just link her, she would put this all more intelligently and elegantly than I would. My summary here is not going to be enough, and I want to point out the important part of this post is the links I provided. Go, and read those. Ignore me, ignore my ranting. Most is catharsis. You decide for yourself where you stand on this controversy.
Many are calling Olbermann and Moore "rape apologists." I think, personally, that this is fair. I say personally, because around two years ago, a conversation came up with a friend where they admitted to me that a mutual friend of ours had nearly raped them. Now, they did not use the word "rape" or "nearly raped," just presented the situation as it happened, in a fairly banal matter considering the subject matter. And my first reaction was to defend the offender, because he was my friend too, because that was "just the way he was," because... well, clearly I was an idiot.
Having that conversation in my head, rolling it around between my ears on one of my many sleepless nights, it became perfectly clear what had happened, and what I had done. In that moment, me, the supposed feminist, had played the part of rape apologist. I know what it looks like, I know how "good" the intentions behind it can be. But it was stupid of me, clearly, and I decided then and there to apologize to my friend who I had the gall to do that too, and then, as some religious persons might put it, to "get right with god" -- that is, stop calling myself a feminist until I actually sat down and knew what the fuck I was talking about when it came to feminism, rape culture, and the patriarchy. If I read something that felt accusatory, that pissed me off... I dug deeper, because it felt like there was a good chance the offense I was taking could be because I was guilty, at least in some way of thinking. Giving myself the benefit of the doubt, this was not always true. But still.
So yes, I think I know what rape apology looks like when I see it. To use a mangled, folksy saying I grew up with "Once you've stepped in shit, you'll always know what it smells like." And I think Moore and Olbermann are stepping in it, perhaps because they were poorly informed [I am reticent to say any outright lying has been done], like I was, or perhaps because when faced with two issues important to the people they claim to represent [the left], they made a judgment call. A fairly bad one, and an entirely unnecessary one, but still, they made it. I think they owe a great deal of people an apology, a real apology, or at the very least they should engage their detractors, who have legitimate concerns in a far more open and mature way -- if nothing else, to keep those who may find justification in Olbermann's insensitivity, or Moore's silence.
Let me end by saying that yes, Assange is only accused of the crime, and though I know little of the Swedish court systems, I will continue to work on the idea that the man is innocent until proven guilty. That is not the matter I take issue with -- rather, it is the idea that, because of who Assange is, because of what he's connected to, perhaps even because of how society and the rest of the world view rape, his accusers should not be taken seriously. Accusations of rape should always be taken seriously, no matter what the circumstances.
I'm disabling comments for this post, mostly because I do not feel this is a very good place for a discussion about the topic, considering the nature of the things I post to this blog. Also, because I have participated in #mooreandme on Twitter and seen the comments on other sites, and have no desire to moderate any vulgarity that might show up here because my post pops up in Google's search results. If you'd like to be a part of the conversation, I encourage you to participate in #mooreandme, even if it's just to send your own entreaty to Moore himself [huh... almost said "The Man himself" ...weird].
Also, if you are reading this, and happen upon any articles I've missed and you think are relevant, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll add them to this post.
And thank you for taking the time to read this.
ADDITION [12/16/10 - 10:35 PM]: Along with the Spilt Milk link provided by Lisa Gutierrez, I'd like to stress that this post is more to get the word out about #mooreandme and the above linked articles, than it is my own feelings. I editorialized, because that's me, and if you'd like to respond you're as welcome to e-mail me as anyone with another article. But my intention was more to point you to this thing happening, inform, maybe get you involved if you were so inclined.
ADDITION [12/16/10 - 11:07 PM]: I've also changed some of the passage on Olbermann, so as to be less vague, and utilize less hyperbole. I'm not sure it's fair to hold my initial feelings of disappointment against him in such an impassioned way. As I said, I was a fan.
ADDITION [12/17/10 - 6.28 PM]: Link to Tiger Beatdown's Friday SEXIST BEATDOWN article. Also, if Twitter isn't your style, fight another way: Donate to RAINN.
ADDITION [12/17/10 - 7:56 PM]: Added Aaron Bady's "If You'll Pardon the Presumption" article.
ADDITION [12/18/10 - 1:30 PM]: Added "We Have Some Points" from the blog "Unnatural Forces."
As we get into Day 3[ish] of #mooreandme, and more people get involved in the protest, things are being said that I don't entirely agree with/think stray from the simpler points that got me angry in the first place -- named persons being dismissive of rape allegations [in a way that I believe is rape apologism], and my general shock and disappointment of who those named persons were. Also, feeling like maybe they should admit they were out of line, or at least, misspoke. Some of these articles I've linked I don't entirely agree with, but they are related, and valid, though I admit to identifying as a part of this protest and feeling protective of it. But as "We Have Some Points" says, nuance is important [though I'm not sure if that article is "nuanced," and I just hope nuance doesn't tear like-minded folks apart], and despite my own spirited editorializing, I'd just like to say again, I did this post to call attention to those links and articles, and to what was going on, so you can read and make your own decisions.
ADDITIONS [12/19/10 - 12:28 AM]: Added two more links; the Kate Harding article "Why I’m On Board With #mooreandme" which pretty well sums up my support for the protest, though in a significantly clearer way since I've been attempting to link all relative articles concerning the movement, even if they didn't entirely line up with my thinking about it.
The link before it is the newest Tiger Beatdown "#MooreandMe: Four Days Outside the Tower. I’m Scared. I’m Tired. I’m Crying. And I Won’t Stop." Like Harding put it, "I’m not much for yelling and screaming at people who clearly don’t want to listen," especially on the internet. I'll exhaust myself, and I don't have that in me. But Sady Doyle does. She's sticking it out, she's not stopping, and in the very temporary world of Twitter she fighting to keep #mooreandme in the spotlight. That level of passion and dedication deserves to be recognized and respected.
ADDITION [12/19/10 - 12:50 AM]: Added Sady Doyle's Salon article. From a couple of days ago, mostly redundant information, but felt the sudden need to be thorough.
ADDITION [12/19/10 - 5:58 AM]: *Today, I got my wish - Harriet J. on her blog Fugitivus, with "Love for Sady, love for survivors." Goes without saying, this is a must read [though really, everything linked here is], and if you're so inclined to take Harriet's advice, you can donate to Tiger Beatdown [right sidebar].
Also added The New York Times article detailing the case against Assange.
ADDITION [12/20/10 - 12:45 AM]: Added the article "#MooreandMe, Five Days and Running: Run It All The Way Down (A Timeline of Relevant Quotes)." -- The Management.
ADDITION [12/20/10 - 3:35 AM]: Added "Pro-Tip" by blogger Jamie Johnston, which concerns some of the legal language being tossed around currently. Brought to my attention by Kate Harding on Twitter.
ADDITION [12/21/10 - 2:58 AM] Added "What Happens When You Accuse a Famous Man of Rape" on Kate Harding's blog, and linked to the article it links to: "Julian Assange rape allegations: treatment of women 'unfair and absurd'" by Amelia Gentlemen.
ADDITIONS [12/21/10 - 7:00 PM] Added the Salon article from yesterday, "Olbermann still doesn't get it" though it is worth noting that through Twitter, Olbermann has posted at least a partial retraction. Also added the newest Tiger Beatdown by Sady Doyle, and Kate Harding's "Keith Olbermann’s got questions, I’ve got answers," both reflecting on 7 days of #mooreandme, both with comments particular to Keith Olbermann.