Salon still angry at Richard Cohen!


Despite that, offers pointers about the ways a good person can talk: Over the last year, Salon has been transformed into a deeply instructive intellectual wreck.

Today, Katie McDonough continues to flail at Richard Cohen, who criticized Miley Cyrus this week for her now-famous VMA performance.

“[L]et me also suggest that acts such as hers not only objectify women but debase them,” Cohen wrote near the end of his piece. “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.”

Could fiercely independent artistic performance of a type which is quite widespread in the culture really encourage sexual exploitation and/or mean casualness among young, dumb, impressionable teen-aged boys? Might such deeply principled artistic presentations perhaps inspire teen-age males to feel and display contempt for young women? To “objectify” teen-aged girls? To perceive them as sexual objects, and perhaps as nothing else?

To say the kinds of things about teen-age girls Cohen quoted teen-aged boys saying in Steubenville?

We don’t know how to answer that question, but it doesn’t strike us as a crazy idea. Presumably, people are widely influenced by the culture around them. Presumably, that would even include young, dumb teen-aged boys surrounded by dumb-assed sleazeball culture, of the kind which is designed to separate them from their money.

Today, though, McDonough is still writing peculiar things about what Cohen said in his column. In her new piece, the endlessly helpful Salonista shares five “pointers” (that word comes from Salon’s headline) concerning the right way to talk about rape.

“Writing about sexual assault with accuracy, empathy and common sense is really about taking the time and forethought just to be a good person,” McDonough thoughtfully says. She then instructs us in “five ways to start.”

This is the way she starts explaining her second “pointer:”
MCDONOUGH (5/5/13): Female sexuality does not invite rape, ever (ever, ever, ever, ever, ever).

On Tuesday, the Washington Post ran a piece by Richard Cohen suggesting that Miley Cyrus might be somehow responsible for the crimes committed in Steubenville. And while it’s tempting to dismiss Cohen as an out-of-touch man with a horrible track record of saying deeply misogynistic and racist things on the Internet (all of which is also true), he’s not the only one blaming female raunch culture for sexual violence.
We’re sorry, but the highlighted claim is just weird. Obviously, Cohen did not “suggest that Cyrus might be somehow responsible for the crimes committed in Steubenville.”

This is a minor point in a much larger scheme which McDonough thoroughly manhandles. But why do writers at Salon say things which are so weird?

Did Cohen “suggest that Cyrus might be somehow responsible for the crimes committed in Steubenville?” Please. Cyrus performed at the VMA last week. The crimes in Steubenville—and the associated conduct Cohen discussed—happened in August 2012.

Why does McDonough keep writing that Cohen said the event from last week was somehow responsible for the events from last year? Whatever he did, he didn’t do that. Does McDonough know how to make sense?

We think Cohen was careless (or something more) in a few of the things he said. But he didn’t say that Cyrus somehow caused the events in Steubenville, and he also didn’t say that “female sexuality invites rape,” except inside McDonough’s head, where many people say many vile things, and where it’s perfectly A-OK to toss major bombs all around.

Sorry, kiddos! When you accuse people of saying “deeply misogynistic and racist things on the Internet,” you need to pick up your jacks and your ball for a minute and offer a few examples. Has Cohen been saying “deeply misogynistic and racist things” on the web? Our McCarthyistic culture lord needs to explain what they are.

No such luck! With her R-bombs and M-bombs at her side, McDonough’s a budding Stalinist and a rambling wreck. As she continues, she also hammers Joanne Bamberger for a “story” in USA Today:
MCDONOUGH (continuing directly): In a story for USA Today, Joanne Bamberger took a similar position on Cyrus, this time blaming her, bizarrely, for gross failures of accountability from the criminal justice system. While Cohen believes Cyrus is guilty of “debasing” women and girls and effectively inviting teenagers to sexually assault other teenagers, Bamberger cites the pop star’s onstage writhing and grinding as the reason that judges like Baugh think girls like Rambold’s victim are “as much in control of the situation” as their assailants...
We decided to read the “story,” which turned out to be an opinion column. We’re sorry, but Bamberger had a lot of perfectly sensible things to say about the ways creepy corporate institutions sell tricked-up images of girls, perhaps helping to build an unhealthy sexual culture:
BAMBERGER: Even outlets like New York Times have responsibility for a growing cultural view that girls entice inappropriate sexual advances. One 2011 article about an 11-year-old girl who was gang-raped in a small Texas town suggested that she provoked the attack by her provocative attire.

The increased media sexualization of young girls isn't just anecdotal. A recent study by The Parents Television Council found a "very real problem" of teen girls being shown in sexually exploitive ways that are often presented as humorous.

Whether there is a connection between these images and teen sexual abuse isn't clear, but according to the Department of Justice, one-third of sexual assaults victims are ages 12-17, and those ages 16-19 are three-and-a-half times more likely to be sexually assaulted or become victims of rape than the general population.

In light of these statistics and the Parents Television Council's study, it doesn't seem to be a huge leap to suggest that with young girls increasingly sexualized in the media, teen victims of sexual assault may be judged more harshly because too many see a child as being "in control."
Are young girls “increasingly sexualized in the media?” If so, might that not be a problem? Might this encourage mixed-up men, of which there are some, to get stupid thoughts in their heads?

Bamberger is asking sensible questions from a perspective most people would think of as feminist. But McDonough is one of her journal’s new Stalinistas. Such people will give us pointers about the ways, the only ways, a “good person” is able to talk. If you say one thing that rubs her wrong, she will fly into a rage and she will open her bomb bays.

McDonough doesn’t know how to paraphrase well. She tends to hear what she tends to hear. She tends to throw away the rest. In this and several other ways, Salon is becoming a wreck.

(Ironically, this is almost surely being done for commercial purposes, though we don't suggest in any way that this is McDonough's motive.)

One last point about McDonough’s Stalinism: In her first pointer about the correct way for a good person to talk, she tells us this about the two teen-agers who were convicted of digital penetration of the equally young victim in Steubenville:

“It isn’t a tragedy when people who commit crimes face consequences. It’s actually called justice when that happens.”

When McDonough gets a little older, she may even get a bit wiser. To slightly older people, it is a tragedy when dumb, impressionable young people fail to get the help they need—from their parents, from their coaches, from their community, from the rapacious institutions which peddle sexy-time candy at their slowly developing brains all across the culture.

Presumably, it’s bad for girls when Hollywood does that; presumably, it’s bad for boys too. It's bad for all people in various ways. As a general rule, it’s done to separate teens from their parents’ money, not for fiercely independent artistic purposes.

Surely we all understand that.

It is a tragedy when teenagers end up doing something which is tremendously dumb, though much less transgressive than it might have been. (They didn’t have intercourse with the victim, a more serious legal offense, an offense which can lead to the unwanted outcome called pregnancy.) Their conduct was very, very dumb—and, as Cohen writes, it was surrounded by ugly behavior on the part of some of their peers, ugly behavior which suggests a teen culture built upon very shaky values.

But they were only 16 years old, and a whole lot of people refused to guide them. Salon, with its silly declamations aimed at people who are denouncing misogyny, will only make the world worse.

McDonough makes a joke of life itself with her ridiculous junior high dicta. Let us draw one more S-bomb from our own bay:

For the most part, Bamberger and Cohen made sensible comments. Their comments were worth discussing fairly. Stalinism of this emerging type rarely helps the world.

We're sure McDonough is a good person. But good God! Let’s put bombs away!


  1. The most sensible sentiment I've heard on this aspect of the culture is that a woman's happiness is inversely proportional to the amount of skin she shows publicly.

    That thought might not hold up to an overly literal interpretation, but it certainly rings true.

    I wonder why the girls at the party weren't intervening on behalf of the abused female. I've been to blow-outs in my time, where stupidity reigned right along with crass swagger, but we girls would have demanded that these guys stop. We wouldn't have sat back and done nothing.

    Cyrus' performance strikes me as a big middle finger extended to daddy. That was the true finger prop.

    Miley is accounted for. Just what is making so many other women so complacent with degrading treatment. What is making them so unhappy?

    1. So afghan women in full religious sheets (idgaf what they're called) are the happiest of them all? Huh?


    3. I said that this wasn't to be taken too literally, Marcus.

    4. Hieronymus, there's a certain satisfaction and sense of self that comes from being iconoclastic (no matter how worth-while the exercise) that may translate to porn stars, pop celebrities, and more briefly to young women kicking daddy in the teeth.

    5. Or it could be that young women get a great big fat kick out of being sexy and augment that rush by doing what they can to advertise it.

    6. Well, since most women aren't would-be porn stars, I thinking you're voicing something more reflective of your longings, than of theirs.

  2. OMB

    So what makes McDonough's R and M bombs any more inappropriate than BOB's S bomb? Exactly how does inarticulate gibberish aimed at the writing of others
    equate to behavior comparable to one of the 20th Century's more despotic and murderous rulers? Did she commit the literary moral equivalent of putting an ice pick put in Cohen's head. Are her pointers for rape references best described as the forced collectivization of Fat Kulak columns?

    EB (GOTT)

    1. Stalinism, is defined as "Totalitarianism, by extension from the rigid governing methods of Stalin." Methinks Bob is saying that Ms. McDonough's thinking is rigid, and inflexible, with a tendency to interpret things in a predisposed, predetermined way: "She tends to hear what she tends to hear. She tends to throw away the rest."

      Of course, I could be wrong.

    2. Yes indeedy. The first thing I think of when I think of old Uncle Joe is rigidity.


    3. theguildofcalamitousintentSeptember 6, 2013 at 1:13 AM

      could this be the beginning of another crackpot somerby theme to add to witchery and zombieism? i.e. stalins mass murders as a stand-in for eugenics implications or soft genocide inclinations?

    4. Calling some forms of political talk "Stalinist" is quite old by now, hardly an invention of Somerby, and carries exactly the implication Feathers stated.


    5. So Mr. S is a copycat "S" bomber?

    6. Stalinists set up strict rules for acceptable ideas and expressions. They police speech in general and use social opprobrium to punish and stifle dissent.

    7. And what, pray tell, do apologists do?

  3. "Presumably, that would even include young, dumb teen-aged boys surrounded by dumb-assed sleazeball culture, of the kind which is designed to separate them from their money."

    Okay, I haven't done a research paper, this is entirely anecdotal, but they're also amazingly naive about recognizing things that are "designed to separate them from their money."

    Russell Banks is the only author I've read who pays any attention to this. They're just swimming in marketing. They don't even recognize a sales pitch, because 90% of what they hear is a sales pitch.

  4. I'm pushing 60 and I have to tell you that ever since adolescence I've been hearing about how young women are becoming increasingly sexualized and how dangerous this is supposed to be. I've also heard, frequently from feminists, that this is encouraging rape and sexual assault even though reports of rape and sexual assault have been declining for the last 20 years.

    Adolescent males have traditionally not been tried as adult because it's recognized that young people do stupid shit because they are not fully mentally developed. The Steubenville kids might never have done anything else so worthy of revulsion or criminal prosecution and gone on to live healthy productive lives but now they're hopelessly screwed forever. A certain amount of compassion is not out of order.

    When you consider feminism's egregiously hateful track record of making outrageously false claims for years on end (i.e., men typically enjoy masturbating to movies of women being genuinely murdered, domestic violence spikes 40% on Super Bowl Sunday, 95% of all domestic violence is men beating on women) you'd think they might have some compassion for a brief, if vile, mistake. Or you might if you could somehow overlook their obvious compulsion for indicting one sex while evincing a seemingly infinite capacity to forgive, excuse and justify the actions of the other.

    Way too many liberals confuse fighting bigotry with hating white men. I remember when this type of left-wing idiocy helped create Rush Limbaugh and his ilk. Looks to this boy like they're going for another crack.

    1. My God, Hieronymus, what an incredibly piercing and insightful observation.

      One of these days, you might consider opening a sock puppet account.

    2. Well said.

      The target audience for the brainless palaver that Bob accurately characterizes as Stalinism are the masses of undereducated Internet users who have been exposed to the rudiments of a few ideas out of Sociology 101. These stunted and hysterical ramblings of an underdone intellect define the current "progressive" movement.

      You don't have to be a college freshman to join the fun, you can be a ridiculous old blowhard on MSNBC as long as you enjoy the pleasures of launching M,S,R,B bombs and shooting cringe inducing spots in which you loudly declare yourself an advancer of the dream.

  5. Does TDH realize that there are more important media issues than defending doddering Cohen's waste of WaPo column inches? One would think the US was not holding a public debate on the merits of a military offensive in the Middle East. But, outside of TDH-World, that's what is happening.

    Good luck trying to improve your google analytics with this one, Bob.

  6. OMB (Flailing edition)

    Today BOB continues to flail at the flailing Katie McDonough, branding her with the SS label ( Stalinesque Salonista) for picking on poor Richard Cohen for the second day in a row.

    Where could this young Generation S writer get such an idea that she could do multiple posts attacking a media figure by implying that person said things he did not say. Why from the old codger himself, Boomer BOB.

    Now BOB chastises Katie for not giving examples when she labels things Cohen wrote. Forget Bob for gives no examples of Stalinist thinking when he throws labels on his own, he demanded examples and your humble Emeperor
    will oblige him.

    Quite recently BOB wrote a piece on Hanna Rosin's discussion of the wage or earnings gap between men and women. BOB used the post as an opportunity to again flail away at Rachel Maddow, who was not mentioned in Bob's piece. But Bob flailed at Rachel three times on the issue just a little over a year ago and used Rosin's piece to flail again.

    Unfortunately, in his attack on Maddow, Bob did exactly the same thing he faults McDonough for. He made up something Rachel said. Actually he did worse than that. He used a direct quote from a journalist, Rosin who put quotation marks around words she attributed to Barack Obama. Unfortunately for Rosin and BOB, when you follow Rosin's link, you find out the quote is not from Obama, it is a not totally accurate paraphrase or words used in an Obama ad by an announcer.

    BOB, however, pats himself on the back for his year old triple truth squadding of Maddow, repeats the quote, and says:

    “Women are paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.” Rosin was saying that this familiar statement is false.

    We fact-checked that claim in May 2012. Here’s why:

    Rachel Maddow had made the familiar claim on Meet the Press."

    The facts behind the quotation are indeed false. But so is the attribution of it to Maddow. She never said it.
    And neither did Obama. Bob took the initiative to create
    part of the quote to fit his narrative. This from the man who has spent decades in denial that Al Gore said something stupid and decades flailing at those who took his words, altered them slightly, and made him look like a pompus buffoon instead of just a pompous self aggrandizer.

    BOB says when McDonough gets a little older she may get a little wiser. When Bob gets a little older he may wear
    protective undergarments and be able to notice his shit stinks too.

    Emperor B, Grasper of the Tusk

    1. Sorry. I meant to say Maddow was not mentioned in Rosin's piece. Of course she was mentioned in Bob's piece. She makes millions and tries to endear herself. How could we have overlooked that.

      EB (GOTT)