The dueling M-bombs fly: In our view, Richard Cohen said some good things in his most recent column.
He discussed the Steubenville rape case, which was revisited by Ariel Levy in a lengthy New Yorker report. In our view, one of the good things he said is this:
COHEN (9/3/13): The New Yorker piece was done by Ariel Levy, a gifted writer. When I finished her story, I felt somewhat disconcerted—unhappily immersed in a teenage culture that was stupid, dirty and so incredibly and obliviously misogynistic that I felt like a visitor to a foreign country.Does Levy’s piece describe a teen culture, perhaps just within that one town, which was “stupid, dirty and incredibly and obliviously misogynistic?” It would be hard to say that it doesn’t! Cohen writes this about the events Levy described:
COHEN: A teenage girl, stone-drunk, was stripped and manhandled. She was photographed and the picture passed around. Obviously, she was sexually mistreated. And while many people knew about all of this, no one did anything about it. The girl was dehumanized. As Levy put it, “[T]he teens seemed largely unaware that they’d been involved in a crime.” She quoted the Jefferson County prosecutor, Jane Hanlin: “ ‘They don’t think that what they’ve seen is a rape in the classic sense. And if you were to interview a thousand teen-agers before this case started and said, “Is it illegal to take a video of another teenager naked?,” I would be astonished if you could find even one who said yes.’ ”Cohen goes on to compare what happened to the notorious Kitty Genovese case except, as he notes, that case didn’t happen in the way the New York Times falsely described.
Illegal is sort of beside the point. Right, proper, nice, respectful, decent—you choose the word—is more apt. This is what got me: a teenage culture that was brutal and unfeeling, that treated the young woman as dirt. “ ‘She’s deader than O.J.’s wife. She’s deader than Caylee Anthony,’ ” one kid exulted in a YouTube posting. “ ‘They raped her harder than that cop raped Marsellus Wallace in “Pulp Fiction.”. . . She is so raped right now.’ ”
By any description, the Steubenville case sounds like a free-floating nightmare. Would you want to say that the culture enacted that night was “incredibly and obliviously misogynistic?”
We’re not sure what would be wrong with that claim. For the most part, we stay away from M-, S-, R- and B-bombs here, for reasons which may be apparent below. But the conduct exhibited here was repellent. In our view, it started with the unfortunate fact that a bunch of very young people were hanging around, very drunk, with no adults around. But then it went downhill from there, in much the way Cohen describes through the use of that M-bomb.
Very young women who get very drunk will often get abused in such settings. Very young men who may be very drunk may end up going to jail. A lot of other very drunk people may exhibit very unpleasant attitudes and behavior. More often, it will be the young woman who gets slimed by the community in the weeks that follow, not the male football stars.
It’s hard to know why anyone would get mad at Cohen for complaining about these events, or for calling the culture misogynistic. But the increasingly pitiful Salon quickly swung into action, mainly complaining about other things Cohen said in his column, including some things which were at least unclear.
Who was worse, Salon or Cohen? For starters, these are the headlines under which the Salon piece ran:
No, Miley Cyrus did not cause SteubenvilleHeadlines are sometimes meant to attract attention. But obviously, Cohen didn’t say that Cyrus’ VMA performance caused the events in Steubenville. This is what he did say, at the end of his column
Richard Cohen draws a dubious link between Cyrus' VMA performance and the Steubenville rape case
COHEN: I run the risk of old-fogeyness for suggesting [Cyrus is] a tasteless twit—especially that bit with the foam finger. (Look it up, if you must.) But let me also suggest that acts such as hers not only objectify women but debase them. They encourage a teenage culture that has set the women’s movement back on its heels. What is being celebrated is not sexuality but sexual exploitation, a mean casualness that deprives intimacy of all intimacy.Cohen didn’t exactly “draw a link” between Cyrus’ performance and the Steubenville case. He did something slightly different—he pointed a finger at “acts such as hers,” “suggesting” that they “encourage” the type of teen culture which was displayed that night.
Whatever you think of Cyrus’ right to express and explore her fierce and unquenchable integrity as an artist, is it possible that modern Hollywood culture might possibly “encourage a teenage culture” of the type on display that night? We’d have to say that it possibly is, which isn’t exactly the same thing as saying that it’s the fault of some fiercely independent artist whose ferocious artistic integrity can’t be curtailed or restricted.
Meanwhile, did Steubenville display a teen culture “that has set the women’s movement back on its heels?” We’re not sure why a person would disagree with the general thrust of that statement. Here’s part of the conduct Levy describes in the New Yorker:
LEVY: Cody Saltsman, an ex-boyfriend of the girl from West Virginia, had uploaded a photograph on Instagram of her being carried by Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays. Richmond holds her ankles, Mays grips her wrists; her head droops backward, so that her hair trails on the floor. Mays is grinning. Along with the photograph, Saltsman tweeted, “Never seen anything this sloppy lol."What a great ex-boyfriend! Plainly, something is less than perfect with that Steubenville culture. We’d start with the abundance of alcohol and the absence of parents, but something like misogyny seems to be mixed in there too.
Another Steubenville student tweeted, “Whores are hilarious.” A boy named Pat Pizzoferrato—who had joked at the party that he’d give three dollars to anyone who urinated on the girl while she lay vomiting in the street—tweeted, “If they’re getting ‘raped’ and don’t resist then to me it’s not rape. I feel bad for her but still.” Another boy tweeted, “Some people deserve to be peed on,” and Trent Mays re-tweeted the line.
The Salon piece was written by Katie McDonough, one of the people the magazine has hired to undermine progressive interests for the next thirty years. @We're not sure why McDonough wouldn't agree with Cohen that a bit of misogyny may have been on the scene that night, but she headed down a different path, defining a thrilling new culture.
Whose piece was worse, McDonough’s or Cohen’s? Here’s how McDonough started:
MCDONOUGH: Richard Cohen says that he really liked Ariel Levy’s account in the New Yorker of the Steubenville rape case, which is strange because he clearly did not read it.Did Cohen read Levy’s piece? We’d have to say that he did! In that passage, McDonough quotes a poorly explained part of his column. But rather plainly, Cohen is working from this part of Levy's essay, in which Levy and the local prosecutor offer similar thoughts about the bogus information on TV and the Internet:
In a Monday column for the Washington Post, Cohen uses Levy’s piece—which examined how social media and media spectacle shaped and distorted original reports of the assault and its impact on the victim, her assailants and a small Ohio town—to argue that “just about everything you do know about the case from TV and the Internet was wrong.”
LEVY: In versions of the story that spread online, the girl was lured to the party and then drugged. While she was delirious, she was transported in the trunk of a car, and then a gang of football players raped her over and over again and urinated on her body while her peers watched, transfixed. The town, desperate to protect its young princes, contrived to cover up the crime. If not for Goddard’s intercession, the police would have happily let everyone go. None of that is true.Cohen should have explained what he meant when he said that “just about everything you do know about the case from TV and the Internet was wrong.” That said, he did cite two things he seems to have meant.
“What happened to the girl is atrocious,” [Steubenville prosecutor] Jane Hanlin told me. “But what they’re putting out there about her is worse—and false.” Nobody urinated on the victim. She was not “brutally gang-raped.” At the trial in March, Mays and Richmond were accused of putting their fingers in her vagina while she was too intoxicated to give consent. There is no evidence to support the claim that the entire football team was present when the assault occurred, or that “dozens of teens witnessed the events,” as a recent Glamour article had it. “The narrative that goes through these stories is: there are dozens of onlookers; she’s taken from party to party; she’s raped at multiple locations,” Hanlin said. “Understandably, people are outraged when they read that, because it makes it look as though there is a whole group of kids here who watched and heckled and laughed and participated. That’s not true: there are five that behaved very badly. But five is less than eighty.”
“The first thing you should know about the so-called Steubenville Rape is that this was not a rape involving intercourse,” Cohen wrote. “The next thing you should know is that there weren’t many young men involved—just two were convicted.”
Cohen is right when he says that intercourse wasn’t involved. But, by using the word “so-called,” he seems to suggest that this was a “rape” at all. (In some jurisdictions, it wouldn’t be a “rape,” though it would still be a crime.)
He’s also right that only two young men were convicted. This may be part of what Levy meant when she explicitly rejected the claim that the victim was “brutally gang-raped.”
In our view, Cohen should have explained what he meant by the word “so-called.” But then, this is what McDonough wrote, part of her ongoing attempt to doom progressive values and interests for the next forty years:
MCDONOUGH: Levy’s piece is a thoughtful and at times controversial examination of how rumor, Internet vigilantism, the ambiguities of consent and the cultural biases and blind spots engendered by rape culture shaped the narrative around the sexual assault of an unconscious 15-year-old girl at the hands of two high school football players. While she questions how some of the facts were misrepresented early on in the case (a phenomenon not unique to sexual assault cases or the social media age) and the motivations behind some of the individuals leading the online campaign for accountability, Levy’s extensive reporting uncovers the same facts reached during the trial. Namely, that Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond penetrated a teenage girl who couldn’t consent to such an act. That a rape occurred that night.By now, McDonough is picking and choosing pretty good, especially about the things Levy said. Beyond that:
Levy also goes to great lengths to communicate that rape culture is not “an empty term or imaginary phenomenon,” and that the persistence of sexual violence against women and girls “would be impossible without a culture that enables it: a value system in which women are currency, and sex is something that men get—or take—from them.”
Did Levy’s extensive reporting “uncover the same facts reached during the trial?” Yes, it did! But what Cohen said was different—he said you would have encountered bogus facts on-line or in the press.
It’s true that Mays and Richmond “penetrated” the victim. But McDonough is too piously scripted, too dogmatic and culturally pure, to specify with what. She simply asserts that a rape occurred—which is of course true. This may make her readers feel pious, though it may also leave them less than completely informed.
Now we reach the most important point:
Does Levy go to great lengths to say that rape culture “would be impossible without a culture that enables it?” Not exactly—she never specifies how the wider culture enables rape culture.
But Cohen is saying the wider culture enables rape culture through stupid shit like Cyrus does, in the course of her fierce artistic explorations. McDonough finds this notion absurd, then adds a pitiful slander:
MCDONOUGH: The thrust of Cohen’s argument is that Cyrus’ explicitly sexual performance is the reason that men like Mays and Richmond rape unconscious teenagers, then boast about it online. Which is to say, Cohen seems to agree with Mays’ defense lawyers that Steubenville’s young victim, in her willingness to drink to excess and follow Mays and Richmond from one party to the next, was “asking for it.”Do “men” like the two teens in question put their fingers in the vaginas of unconscious teens, then boast about it on-line, because of the moronic, sexually explicit performances that are widely found in the culture? We’d have to say that’s a definite possibility, though such cultural causalities are impossible to prove. It doesn’t seem to have entered McDonough’s scripted head that this could possibly be true. And note the truly ridiculous claim she makes right after that:
Does Cohen seem to think that Steubenville’s young victim, in her willingness to drink to excess and follow Mays and Richmond from one party to the next, was “asking for it?” That’s really just completely inane; it's defiantly ugly and evil. It’s also completely absent from Cohen’s column, though not from McDonough’s deeply unhelpful head.
Do you mind if we make a note about Salon and about McDonough’s general writing? McDonough simply isn’t real sharp, like a lot of the scripted young ninnies to whom Salon has handed the franchise, no doubt for marketing reasons. That claim about Cohen is just inane; it comes straight from The Golden Book of Scripts. But then, this highlighted claim also seems to be bogus:
MCDONOUGH: More than just that, Cohen is unwilling to concede, despite a jury’s conviction, that a rape even occurred that August night in Steubenville. He bemoans the “arrest of the innocent,” and calls the rape “manhandling.” He says Mays and Richmond “treated the young woman as dirt” and “sexually mistreated” her. But he won’t say that they raped her. Because, as he notes early on, the “so-called Steubenville Rape” was not a “rape involving intercourse.”Cohen should have been more clear about his apparent questioning of the term “rape.” But when he refers to the “arrest of the innocent,” he probably doesn't mean the arrest of Richmond and Mays. Once again, this is what he wrote before McDonough stripped it down:
COHEN: The New Yorker piece was done by Ariel Levy, a gifted writer. When I finished her story, I felt somewhat disconcerted—unhappily immersed in a teenage culture that was stupid, dirty and so incredibly and obliviously misogynistic that I felt like a visitor to a foreign country. That country, such as it is, exists on the Internet—in e-mails and tweets and Facebook, which formed itself into a digital lynch mob that demanded the arrest of the innocent for a crime—gang rape—that had not been committed.Cohen goes on from there. But in that passage, he seems to be referring to the demands from on-line sleuths that other people should be arrested—arrested for the “brutal gang rape” Levy says didn’t happen.
If McDonough had read Levy’s piece, she might have understood what Cohen probably meant. In this passage, Levy discusses the leading on-line Javert who helped create the misinformation about the events of that night:
LEVY: [S]he left a message for Ed Lulla, a friend of hers who used to be a Steubenville cop and is now an agent with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations, presenting the evidence she’d found online. “I gave him thirty-six hours to respond,” she said.This person attracted a national following. Is that what Cohen meant when he talked about the digital lynch mob demanding the arrest of the innocent for a crime that didn’t occur? We don’t know, and he should have been clearer. But McDonough is also an on-line Javert. She only considers the possibility that fits the bright shining (and very dumb) New Stalinism.
When she didn’t hear back, she gathered screenshots of all the tweets and Facebook posts she’d discovered and posted them on Prinniefied. She was outraged that only two boys had been arrested. “There were more guys there,” she told me. She estimated that fifteen people had “brutally raped” the incapacitated victim. “Do they think because they are Big Red players that the rules don’t apply to them?” Goddard wrote online. As she kept posting about the case, more people began to pay attention. Her blog, she told me, “not only is shining a light on the case. It’s shining a light on the whole little dirty football culture that exists in their town.”
We hope McDonough is very young. We say that because her overall work is very bad, this well-scripted piece included. But then, the new Salon has been handed to a very undistinguished young group, who are defining a new generational culture, as generations sometimes do.
Does Cohen think a crime was committed that night? He should have been more clear. But lord, how the M-bombs do start to fly once the M-bombs start flying! Cohen attacked the misogyny of those teens, for fairly obvious reasons. But when he did, McDonough moved to top him. In her reply, she accused Cohen of writing a column which was “deeply misogynistic.”
Can a person be deeply misogynistic, even as he accuse others of being incredibly misogynistic? You see the way the modern world gets when we pseudos let our bombs start to fly.
Starting in the late 1960s, the rise of similar trends from the pseudo-left ushered in the age of Reagan. Who knows? Salon’s impressively scripted new breed may be laying the groundwork for groaning defeat over the next fifty years!