DEATH BY NOVEL: In truth, the text is profoundly flawed!

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2019

Let us count (some of) the ways:
We should have just said it from the start—judged by any normal standard, the text in question, however well written, is a major hot mess.

For the record, the text to which we refer is the new memoir about an act which a jury unanimously found to have been a sexual assault. It's natural to seek to give deference to the author of such a memoir—to the victim of that assault.

It's natural to do that. But in the end, this keeps us from seeing the problem with that person's text. Much more significantly, it keeps us from marveling at the way this text has been reviewed by our upper-end news organs.

What's wrong with Chanel Miller's text? Let's us count a few of the major ways this text, if judged by normal standards, would qualify as a startling fail:

She doesn't know what happened: The problem starts with a basic fact—a basic fact which Miller never begins to acknowledge:

Because she was, by her own account, "blackout drunk" on the evening in question, Miller doesn't actually know what happened on that unfortunate night.

Brock Turner says that Miller agreed to leave the frat party with him. He says they agreed to go to his dorm room, each of them very drunk.

He says she consented to sexual conduct once they got outside. He says that he, being drunk himself, didn't realize that she was too drunk to give consent.

We have no way of knowing if those statements are true. But Miller, who was blackout drunk, also doesn't know what she said and did, and she never begins to come to terms with this basic fact.

Using her obvious talent as a writer, she constantly advances the impression that she didn't do and say the things described by Turner. In fact, she doesn't know if his statements are false. She simply keeps suggesting they are, often in ways which are remarkably fraught.

She respects no other viewpoints: Has any author ever shown so little ability to respect the plausible viewpoints of others? Throughout the book, Miller directs fury and contempt at everyone who doesn't instantly voice agreement with her viewpoint of the moment.

She assails the (bald) male judge, whose sentence was too lenient. She assails the (female) probation officer who recommended the sentence the bald male judge imposed.

(She also misparaphrases this female probation officer in an invidious manner. We know this because we took Miller's advice and read the actual probation report, comparing it to the baldly unbalanced account offered in Miller's book.)

She assails the defense attorney when he engages in the most obvious types of courtroom behavior during Turner's trial. She confronts us with images of her own victimization when these obvious bits of behavior occur. (Examples below.)

She ridicules the academic who appears as an expert witness on blackout drunkenness. She assails the character witnesses who testify on Turner's behalf during the sentencing hearing. She assails Turner's family members, angrily denouncing his father when he doesn't apologize to her on behalf of his son during this hearing.

She assails the Washington Post, citing an article whose contents she flagrantly misrepresents. She assails the Stanford rep who offers her $150,000 to pay for her therapy and for the therapy of her sister (!). She gives this rep a mocking nickname, even after her family's Stanford professor friend tells her the rep in sincere.

Regarding Turner's family and friends, she shows no sign of understanding an obvious fact—they may believe Turner's account of what occurred that night, an account she herself is in no position to contradict.

They may believe him when he says that Miller agreed to go to his room and consented to sexual activity when they got outdoors. They may believe him when he says he didn't realize that she was impaired.

We don't know if his claims are true, but Miller doesn't know either. But she's never able to put herself in the place of these others, to imagine what they might understandably think and feel.

Advertisements for self: Miller's book starts with a lengthy advertisement for self. It's presented as a chronicle of her alleged shyness, but it also positions her as the world's most thoughtful person.

These advertisements continue throughout the book. Speaking about her "baby sister," she offers this at one point:

"One time she became ill on a plane, lurching forward, and I held out my hands to catch her vomit before it could hit her lap."

Who knows—that could even be true! Other examples are offered.

Starting in her Introduction, these self-descriptions sometimes take the form of noble claims that she's only trying to help Brock—that she doesn't want him or the judge or anyone else getting hurt. These claims are hard to reconcile with the overt hostility aimed at all comers throughout the course of the book.

We could go on and on with this recitation. Miller's flippant attitude about her own drunkenness is often striking, but she never accepts a fairly obvious supposition—except for her own massive drunkenness that night, there is no reason to think that any serious misconduct ever would have occurred.

It isn't wise to get so drunk that you first become "blackout drunk," then lapse into unconsciouness. This is a blindingly obvious fact, but Miller is never willing to acknowledge even that.

Then again, neither have the increasingly ridiculous voices of our own liberal world. As the complications of our world has increasingly become "this now too much for us," we have increasingly turned to the realm of the novel, the fable, the fairy tale to let us "be whole again beyond confusion."

We simply discard the unwanted facts which make our experiences complex. We end up with a bald male judge who is outrageously sexist. In most cases, we disappear the two female probation officers whose recommendation he followed.

This is the way our tiny minds work. It's known as (intellectual) death by novel. It's being practiced by our tribe and by our increasingly hapless upper-class news organs.

ALSO THIS—Almost burned at the stake: Again and again and again and again, Miller is surprised by the way our legal system works. In one striking example, she writhes in pain as Turner's defense attorney and the judge engage in what seems to be the most obvious courtroom conduct.

In this sequence (see pages 165 and 166), Miller describes three incidents in which her statements on the witness stand are struck down as hearsay. The objections by the defense attorney seem completely obvious, as do the judge's rulings.

That said, Miller betrays no understanding of this fact. Instead, she paints herself, in overwrought ways, as a victim of physical violence as these rather obvious objections are sustained.

In the first instance, she writes that she was "struck silent" by the judge's ruling. After the defense attorney's third objection, she says "the interruptions felt like being hit."

In her somewhat peculiar Introduction, Miller tells us that she will only be telling us how various incidents felt. This is her account of how it felt after the second of these rulings:
MILLER (page 165): Defense: Objection. Move to strike. Hearsay.

I was suddenly aware of the defense's palm wrapped firmly across the top of my head, holding me underwater, saying, Don't you come up again.
That may be the way "it felt." But as an account of what really occurred, that can only be called a strikingly subjective fail.

It may not be surprising that an assault victim would write a book like this. But our major news orgs have cheered her on, as we'll note tomorrow with reference to a passage from The New Yorker.

Their conduct follows a decades-long pattern. Anthropologists, in the future, are calling this death by fable.

35 comments:

  1. Somerby continues to ignore the fact that Miller's book isn't about the assault itself but about the aftermath. He complains that she wasn't conscious during the assault and thus cannot know what happened. That isn't the point. The book is about what happened afterward, when she was conscious and does have access to her interior life.

    ReplyDelete
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  2. Somerby complains about Miller talking about herself, in her own memoir. That seems a bit ridiculous.

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    1. Go back and re-read the blog entry, but this time for comprehension. Sound out the big words if you have to. Maybe then you'll see who's ridiculous.

      Delete
  3. Lol. Thanks Bob, for making me laugh.

    "We simply discard the unwanted facts which make our experiences complex."

    That's nothing, dear Bob. A much bigger problem is your zombie cult constantly inventing fake 'facts'.

    "This is the way our tiny minds work."

    Zombies, dear Bob. Zombies. No mind, not even a tiny mind. Only reflexes.

    Oh well.

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    1. Somerby thinks Miller was unaware of her own drinking. Somerby is a moron.

      Delete
    2. Try to write a comment that doesn't tell us what Somerby thinks.

      Delete
  4. Basically, Somerby doesn't like Miller's tone. He accuses her of being flippant about her drunkenness and ridiculing the memory expert who testifies and ridiculing Stanford reps and so on. He seems prepared to dislike her, but much of what annoys him is, as he has mentioned before, her youth. This is how many young people talk about their lives, with a tone of irony, flippancy, and ridicule (including self-ridicule). But more than that, how is Miller supposed to react? If she adopted a tone of high drama or high dudgeon, Somerby would surely be put off by that too.

    Somerby complains that Miller doesn't appreciate that Turner's relatives probably believe his story (stories). It is too much to ask that she take her attacker's perspective. But it is striking how unprepared Somerby is to take Miller's perspective.

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    1. It is too much to ask that she take her attacker's perspective.

      Of course that would be too much. But TDH isn’t asking her to take her attacker’s perspective. He’s asking that she understand the perspective of her attacker’s family. Why, for instance, should she expect Turner’s father to apologize to her for his son’s behavior? Even if Miller had no insight into a parent’s regard for his child, of what importance can an apology have if it’s not delivered by the party giving offense?

      But it is striking how unprepared Somerby is to take Miller's perspective.

      What’s not striking, but common among Anonymous Ignoramuses like you, is how unprepared you are to consider TDH’s perspective and to mount a coherent argument when you think he’s wrong.

      Does Miller commit all the assailing and contempting and ridiculing and misparaphrasing that TDH attributes to her? I don’t know. I haven’t read her book. But if TDH characterizes Miller correctly, then what we have is a tragically ordinary story of a justifiably angry victim. In other words, a dog-bites-man story amplified by a bunch of dog-bites-man reviews of the story. Neither seems the stuff of the intellectual death of the world as we know it.

      You want to read an actually striking story of loss and an extraordinary response to that loss? Read about Brandt Jean and Amber Guyger. Brandt Jean is 18 years old.

      Delete
    2. @deadrat
      “if TDH characterizes Miller correctly”

      That’s a pretty big freaking “if” there deadrat. It’s fundamental to Somerby’s view of Miller, and yet, he provides no proof of his assertions.

      Delete
    3. “if TDH characterizes Miller correctly”
      That’s a pretty big freaking “if” there deadrat.


      Absolutely. And it’s why I wrote “if.”


      It’s fundamental to Somerby’s view of Miller, and yet, he provides no proof of his assertions.

      Absolutely. TDH quotes Miller only once, but he presents a list of about a dozen examples of what are in his eyes her failings. It is a weak argument that provides no direct evidence but only direct judgment. And that’s the reason that I’m agnostic on that judgment. But that’s not the kind of cogent counter-argument that I read here. Instead I find “It’s just about her feelings. Why does TDH not allow Miller the right to express her feelings?” or “Somerby hates women.”

      Now, I’m not going to demand that commenters do what I myself won’t do, namely read Miller’s “memoir.” But I’m going to call bullshit on bullshit arguments.

      Delete
  5. As Miller describes her emotional reaction to the defense attorney's interruptions, Somerby says that may be "how it felt" but it fails as a report of what happened. Here is the central problem with Somerby's reading of Miller's book. Her book is not an objective report of what happened. It is a highly personal, subjective book about her experience of what happened. And that is very different. Somerby never accepts her work on its own terms. I believe he is incapable of it. And that failure of empathy on Somerby's part extends beyond this particular book to encompass anything important to women, and maybe more broadly, to liberals. That failure of empathy has been characterized (by people like Jonathan Haidt, a political psychologist) as a key difference between conservatives and liberals.

    But for Somerby, everything is Miller's fault. Even when he gives lip service to her presumed suffering as an assault victim, he blames her for being too drunk to prevent the assault. He blames her for not remembering. He blames her for ruining Turner's life by presenting him with an opportunity to commit assault. He blames her for writing a flawed memoir. But he is actually blaming her for being such a girl.

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    1. Here’s what TDH says about Miller’s account of a defense motion to strike her testimony as hearsay:

      That may be the way "it felt." But as an account of what really occurred, that can only be called a strikingly subjective fail.

      What’s remarkable here is not that Miller felt that way, but that she writes as if she has no insight into why things happen the way they do. This starts with her failure to understand the contribution her drinking had to the unfolding of events, and it continues with her never considering that maybe the rules on hearsay are good things even when they frustrate her.

      Here’s the central problem with your comments (and here I justifiably equate one anonymous ignoramus with any other): you never criticize TDH for what he actually says. Instead you write a novelized account of someone you don’t know. You write about the blogger’s capabilities (or lack thereof), his failure of empathy, his problems with women, and all sorts of topics of which you can know nothing but have only your own baseless speculation.

      For TDH, contrary to your claim, nothing is Miller’s fault. He even exonerates Miller of any criminal liability when, in fact, her public drunkenness qualifies as a crime under the California penal code. It is possible to accept personal responsibility without admitting to blame. It is more than possible for a victim to write a flawed memoir without accruing blame.

      TDH claims that the fault lies with liberal reviewers who can’t or won’t see the flaws. In that he may be right or wrong. But blame also falls on those who misstate the claim.

      Delete
    2. @deadrat
      “It is possible to accept personal responsibility without admitting to blame.”

      That’s not a thing, at least not legally. Is that what Turner’s defense tried to argue? All those drunken rapists out there will be thrilled to hear about this novel concept.

      “It is more than possible for a victim to write a flawed memoir without accruing blame.”

      “Flawed memoir?” Why would you or Somerby characterize the memoir as flawed? It seems it is flawed in your views because it didn’t say what Somerby wishes it said, and Miller is self-centered and angry about the assault, (which after all, wasn’t her fault, right?) But that doesn’t make a memoir flawed. A memoir is supposed to be a highly personal view of oneself and one’s experiences. Assuming the anger is genuine, that makes the memoir honest.

      And it’s a contorted sort of logic that says “nothing is Miller’s fault”(your words, meaning the assault, one assumes) and Somerby’s “Does anybody actually think that the sexual assault in question would have occurred if Miller's hadn't been "extremely drunk" that night?”, and then criticizes Miller for not taking “personal responsibility” but not “blame” for being sexually assaulted, which wasn’t her fault, which is somehow supposed to make her memoir flawed.

      She felt violated by the guy. Most normal people aren’t in much of a frame of mind to forgive their attackers.

      Delete
    3. Not 12:20
      “But that doesn’t make a memoir flawed. A memoir is supposed to be a highly personal view of oneself and one’s experiences. Assuming the anger is genuine, that makes the memoir honest.”

      As been repeatedly pointed out, a memoir cannot really be honest unless the writer acknowledges that she can’t even remember the events leading up to her assault, because there are discernible facts leading up to such an occasion, namely in this case, she admitted to being blackout drunk.

      Did she ever bother to educate herself on why the various motions were granted by the Judge against her defense? For that matter, couldn’t her lawyer have explained it to her coherently, if she really wanted to know? If she did educate herself on those issues, shouldn’t that be included in the memoir? No? Not if it’s personal, genuine anger!

      Sure, apparently it appears to be a gripping memoir (hell, Bob even read it), but two points:

      1) Bob is making sense and
      2) You don’t like what he writes

      “Most normal people aren’t in much of a frame of mind to forgive their attackers.”

      Here’s an abby-normal for you. Forgiveness is one of humankind’s best evolutionary features, but too rarely practiced.

      This Muslim American was shot after 9/11. Then he fought to save his attacker’s life

      Leroy

      Delete
    4. @deadrat
      “It is possible to accept personal responsibility without admitting to blame.”

      That’s not a thing, at least not legally.


      Of course it’s a “thing” “legally.”

      If you use what are called “fighting words” and the result is that you’re assaulted by the person you provoked, your words aren’t going to provide your assaulter an affirmative defense, but they may well be responsible for mitigating his sentence.

      In civil law, contributory negligence in some jurisdictions may bar you from recovering any damages, even if a large majority of the blame belongs to another party.

      People involved in a crime can go to prison for felony murder even if they were nowhere near the scene of the homicide and even if the killing wasn’t intentional.

      It’s just not a “thing” “legally” in Turner’s prosecution. And, in any case, personal responsibility needn’t have anything to do with legal liability.

      Is that what Turner’s defense tried to argue? All those drunken rapists out there will be thrilled to hear about this novel concept.

      No, I think he tried to argue consent. Drunken rapists can’t excuse their actions by pointing to their victim’s failure to take steps to safeguard themselves. Drunken rapists can’t even use their own intoxication to escape criminal liability. Do I have to explain why, again?

      Why would you or Somerby characterize the memoir as flawed? It seems it is flawed in your views because it didn’t say what Somerby wishes it said,

      I’m not saying the memoir was flawed. I haven’t read it, so I can’t say. TDH has been telling you for over a week why he thinks it’s flawed.

      A memoir is supposed to be a highly personal view of oneself and one’s experiences.

      Sure, I hope you’ll buy my memoir. It’s a highly personal view of myself and my experiences fighting alongside Teddy Roosevelt at San Juan Hill.

      And it’s a contorted sort of logic that says “nothing is Miller’s fault” … and then criticizes Miller for not taking “personal responsibility”….

      Could Miller have done anything at all that night that would lessened Turner’s blame for his criminal liability in sexually assaulting her while she was unconscious?

      Could Miller have done anything reasonable that night that would have made her less vulnerable to sexual assault?

      I’ll bet you answered no to the first question and yes to the second. How much “contortion” did it take?

      Most normal people aren’t in much of a frame of mind to forgive their attackers.

      Sure. Who insists that Miller forgive Turner?

      Delete
  6. Somerby's book review is terrible, because it's not pointing out the fake "Colleges and Universities are too PC" hoax, being pushed by the corporate media.

    https://www.vox.com/identities/2019/11/5/20944138/oberlin-banh-mi-college-campus-diversity

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    1. And don't even get me started on cinnamon-raisin bagels.

      Delete
    2. 1:50"s argument is as valid as Bob bitching that Miller didn't write the book Bob wanted to read.

      Delete
    3. Go for it, deadrat. Your take couldn't possibly be any stupider than Bob's book reviews.

      Delete
    4. Go for it, deadrat. Your take couldn't possibly be any stupider than Bob's book reviews. explained Anonymous Ignoramus @11:48P.

      Are you defending cinnamon-raisin bagels from my disdain or Miller’s memoir from TDH’s analysis, or your fellow ignoramuses from my criticism of their comments?

      Or did you just want to call me stupid because you like cinnamon-raisin bagels, think TDH is a right-winger, or believe that I’m defending TDH’s point of view?

      Hard to say, since one Anonymous Ignoramus is pretty much like another.

      But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that none of you deserves, and I’ll disregard the bagels. Here’s a tiny challenge you won’t be able to meet: In no more than several sentences accurately summarize TDH’s criticism of Miller’s memoir. In two or fewer sentences accurately summarize my position on the memoir.

      You will lose points for guessing at motivations; you will gain points for direct quotes that support your summaries.

      Go ahead; it’ll be fun. I promise.

      And once you’ve figured out what TDH says and what I say, you can tell me how stupid TDH and I both are and why.

      Are you up for such an easy task?

      Delete
    5. I think basically to summarize his critique of the book, he is suggesting that one start on page 33 and proceed carefully from there. What do you think dead rat? Do you think one should start on on page 33 of the book and proceed carefully from there? To find out all the errors? As the world's biggest know-it-all/angry dickhead, what are your feelings?

      Delete
    6. " In two or fewer sentences accurately summarize my position on the memoir."

      You didn't read the book, so you have no position on the memoir. You're just here to defend Bob from criticism.
      ---------------
      BTW, I'm pointing out that your "If you don't like Bob's take, write your own blog" retorts, can be applied to Bob. Since he doesn't like Miller's take, he can write the book he wished she wrote instead of criticizing her work.

      Delete
    7. You didn't read the book, so you have no position on the memoir.

      Correct. Good start.

      You're just here to defend Bob from criticism.

      Oh, too bad. Points off for guessing at motivation. And you were doing so well.

      Why couldn’t you get close on this one? I actually don’t think that TDH has made his case on the memoir, that the world as we know it turns on the memoir, or that his handwringing about “liberal” response to the memoir is justified.

      As well, you didn’t even address the second part of the quiz. I’m afraid this is barely passing.

      ---------------
      BTW, I'm pointing out that your retort “‘If you don't like Bob's take, write your own blog’ retorts, can be applied to Bob.” can’t be applied to TDH, who’s writing a reasoned critical book review (albeit at an excruciating pace). Now his reasons may be wrong-headed, so I don’t mind, and indeed would welcome, reasoned critical comments on TDH’s review. But if all you’ve brought to the party is the weak tea of “I don’t like Somerby so I don’t like his review,” then you might as well just go ahead and write your own glowing review of the memoir for your own blog.

      The odd thing, though, is that I couldn’t remember telling anyone in the comment threads of TDH’s “DEATH BY NOVEL” series to write their own blog, so I went back and looked at my comments. Couldn’t find it. Perhaps I missed it. You could check, which would require a happy hour or so perusing my peerless prose.

      What I did find was this comment of mine from 10/24/19:

      TDH’s reasoning may be good, bad, or indifferent. If the last two obtain, why not heave yourself off your fainting couch and set him straight?

      To which an Anonymous Ignoramus replied

      Get off the fainting couch, set Bob straight, and ignore deadrat telling you Bob can write anything he likes on his blog and if you have a problem with it you can get your own blog.

      Was that you, Sparky? Did you just attribute to me your own incorrect paraphrasing of my position?

      If so, you get an F. At this point, you’re failing the course.

      Delete
    8. Oh, look! It’s my own personal troll @6:14A.

      So you got up at the break of dawn to say that I’m angry at the buffoonery I find here and to hurl an empty insult about a comment I made over two weeks ago.

      You may think that means you’re my toughest critic, but really, bitch, all it says is that you’re my biggest fan.

      Welcome back. I knew you couldn’t stay away.

      Delete
    9. 1:27,
      No. You'll have to go back to the dozens of times you wrote about Bob getting to write what he wants and if his critics complain, they can get their own blog.

      Pro tip: Set your sights to before Bob started on his "Poor Little Sexual Predator" shtick.
      I know you can do it, ratty.

      Delete
    10. ratty? Are we on a nickname basis, Sparky?

      I can probably do what you ask, but it’s your claim, so it’s your burden of production. Point me to one of my “get your own blog” comments, and I’ll either tell you why it was appropriate or apologize for being inappropriately dismissive

      Delete
    11. deadrat,
      Sorry. So many deadrat's on TDH, I can't tell you apart.

      Delete
    12. So many deadrat's on TDH

      Heh, heh. It’s funny, you see, because I complain about all the Anonymous commenters, uniform in their ignorance and their uncanny ability to miss the point.

      But there are at least two deadrats. There’s me — the original, accept no substitutes — whom you can always identify because I comment with a google id, which appears in a bold, green font and is clickable. Then there’s the other deadrat, who uses the Name/URL option from the “Reply as:” drop down, making the resulting name appear in a bold, black font that isn’t a link.

      I haven’t seen the faux deadrat for a while. All of his comments were off the wall, and when the spirit moved him, he could be on target and devastatingly funny. Here’s one of my favorites from last June:

      Let me type this out slowly so you can understand: I masturbate to Eric Estrada.

      Daily.

      And I don't even like men.

      I just thought given the emotional impotency of glyphs, we should deal strictly with facts. And as the suzerain of the comment section, it may be important for everyone to know.

      Peace.

      Delete
  7. As you (I'm assuming it's usually you) have been emphasizing, Miller presents her book as nothing more than her own reactions to what she experienced. Why cannot Somerby accept that that is all it is and leave it alone?

    I think the answer is that if that were all the book is being used for, it has little relevance to public policy. And yet, is the book being used as if it were relevant to public policy? Are we supposed to share Miller's horror at the behavior of judge, probation officers, defense attorneys and whoever else? Is the book being used (perhaps by commenters other than Miller herself) to argue that these actors should have behaved differently in this case, and that similarly placed actors should behave differently in future cases? That's not just, or even primarily, about Miller's personal, subjective experience. Miller's subjective experience is only one rather modest component of the policy analysis, and her personal feelings around the behavior of those actors, who were fulfilling much larger roles in the administration of justice, is almost completely irrelevant to it. I have not really paid attention to how the reviews of Miller's book have positioned it in relation to policy....but I do recall Ashleigh Banfield reading her victim statement from the trial as if it were relevant to the sentencing decision...even though that victim statement largely seemed to focus on Miller's anguish over her not remembering anything of the assault because of her self-administered intoxication.

    So....by all means accept Miller's book as an aid to healing for the victims of assault, but if it is going to inform policy, it's weaknesses and omissions as a policy document deserve scrutiny.

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    1. Why would it not deserve scrutiny if it was only an aid to healing for victims of assault?

      Aids to healing for victims of assault can be done poorly.

      Delete
  8. Somerby doesn’t like the way Miller felt and reacted after being the victim of an assault.

    Ergo, that makes her text flawed.

    Nice logic, that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gee, Sparky, I hope you don't mind if I disregard your judgment on what's good logic and what's not.

      Delete
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