ANTHROPOLOGY NOW: "Fictitious times!"

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2017

Part 1—The mental styles of a species:
Long ago and far away, a certain famous fellow named Moore made his greatest statement.

"We live in fictitious times," the famous fellow said.

We aren't referring to Roy Moore, the craziest candidate yet. We aren't even referring to Roger Moore, of 007 fame.

We aren't referring to either Wes Moore. We're referring to filmmaker Michael Moore, who made his insightful statement during his unruly speech at the 2003 Oscars.

Moore's film, Bowling for Columbine, won for Best Documentary. We thought of his statement this very morning as we thumbed through the Post and the Times.

As we did, we imagined another documentary film—a film called Anthropology Now. This film would explore the mental styles of one animal species, our own, the species called Homo sapiens.

Anthropologically speaking, major elements within this famous species tend to seek out, and create, Moore's "fictitious times." Scientifically speaking, we especially think of the specimens described as upper-end journalists.

Live and direct from Alabama, Professor Wilson has helped us see that the social behavior of ants is a great deal like that of our own famous species.

Like ants, our species' professional journalists are strongly inclined to work in groups. Behaving in neatly choreographed ways, they tend to produce novelized versions of public events, thereby helping to create Moore's "fictitious times."

Is it time for a documentary called Anthropology Now? For our money, press coverage of the just-concluded Alabama Senate campaign was one of the most interesting recent press events.

Anthropologically speaking, the journalists displayed a wide array of their most basic predilections as they covered, or pretended to cover, this high-profile Senate campaign. According to scientific observers, those predilections were these:
Hard-wired predilections of the species in question:

1) An endless desire to talk about sex and various sexy-time topics;

2) A potent desire to avoid discussing "matters of substance;"

3) A powerful inclination to produce false, embellished or misleading claims to help create novelized stories about favorite topics;

4) A powerful inclination to focus on irrelevant facts, or to disappear relevant facts which undermine such stories;

5) A strong inclination to pursue and promote the individual's career self-interest at the expense of normal truth-telling or reporting behaviors.
Do we live in fictitious, novelized times? Does Moore's Dictum still hold true, even when the fictitions and the novelized stories have been designed to serve "progressive" interests andends?

Scientists tell us the answer is yes! Having received that assurance, we saw novelization and fictitous claims all over this morning's press. We thought of the need for a feature film, a film called Anthropology Now.

Our misery started with the opening minutes of Morning Joe, in which the children staged a remarkable display of hiss-spitting and gossip. Since producers have had the good sense to drop those embarrassing minutes from the videotape they've posted, we'll move ahead to some of the more striking fictitious claims and novelized presentations.

Good lord! Opening the Washington Post, we were met by this headline:
Democrats see hope for 2018 in huge black Ala. turnout
In fairness to Weigel and Scott, they never claimed, in their report, that there was a "huge black turnout" is Alabama this Tuesday. Apparently, this novelized claim was the work of a headline editor.

In fairness to this species member, he or she was trying to drive a story line designed to serve progressive interests. But as those scientists assured us, such good intentions don't necessarily mean that a pleasing claim is sensible or true.

Was there any such "huge turnout" this Tuesday in Bama? Today, we're able to look at fuller numbers concerning Tuesday's turnout.

Below, we'll show you basic turnout data from Tuesday's Senate election, along with the corresponding data from last year's presidential election.

Was there a "huge black turnout" on Tuesday? The numbers look like this:
2016 Alabama election:
Total votes cast: 2,123,372
Percentage of total votes cast by blacks: roughly 28%
Total votes cast by blacks: roughly 595,000

2017 Alabama election:
Total votes cast: 1,346,147
Percentage of total votes cast by blacks: roughly 29%
Total votes cast by blacks: roughly 390,000
Let's think about those numbers:

Last year, 595,000 black Alabamians turned out to vote. This Tuesday, 205,000 fewer black Alabamians turned out, in a high-profile election.

By the norms of many western democracies, last year's turnout rates around the nation were sparse. Are we perhaps "defining democracy down" when we describe Tuesday's turnout as "huge?" Are we possibly making a claim which is novelized and maybe misleading?

Anthropologically speaking, such questions don't arise! As you will see everywhere you look, our mainstream journalists have agreed that they will tell that heartwarming story, full and complete anthropo-freaking stop!

Given the wiring of our species, you're going to see that story told, in various misleading/inaccurate ways, again and again and again and again in the next few days. As ants are programmed to work together in building the anthills in which they will live, our journalists are programmed to work together in telling the stories they like!

Over the course of the past five weeks, the journalists agreed to view the Bama Senate race through a particular lens. Perhaps somewhat strangely, they focused on aspects of Roy Moore's sexual and/or social behavior from forty years ago.

In the course of telling the story this way, they tended to avoid discussions of Moore's crazy behavior and ludicrous statements as a public official in the past twenty-five years. On cable, they focused on this somewhat peculiar topic even as they tended to ignore the impending passage of a major "tax reform" bill.

Republican tax scams took a back seat. Roy Moore's dating in the 1970s came first!

According to major anthropologists, this group behavior no longer seems strange when we consider the hard-wired impulses of the species in question. As noted above, Homo sapiens is wired to display "an endless desire to talk about sex," along with "a potent desire to avoid discussing 'matters of substance.'" Throw in that "powerful inclination to produce false, embellished or misleading factual claims to help create novelized group stories" and you start to understand this passage from Margaret Sullivan's feel-good column in this morning's Post:
SULLIVAN (12/14/17): Enough voters—especially black voters—decided that they believed the highly credible accusations against Moore. They voted their consciences, and in some cases went against their own voting histories, putting a Democrat in office in ruby-red Alabama.

What did it mean?

“There are standards. There are limits,” was how Jake Tapper put it minutes after CNN called the race for Democrat Doug Jones.

He was talking about voters’ reactions to the harrowing stories of sexual misconduct that four women told The Washington Post in mid-November—that Moore, as a man in his 30s, had preyed on teenage girls and, in one case, molested a 14-year-old, Leigh Corfman.
Scientists will call attention to Sullivan's (and Tapper's) inclination to present a highly simplistic, "feel-good" story in which, by one percentage point, right has conquered wrong.

That said, they'll call special attention to Sullivan's account of that initial report in the Washington Post. They'll cite her account as an example of the species' tendency to embellish, misstate and mislead.

Is it true? Did the four women in that original Post report make "accusations against Moore" in which they told "harrowing stories of sexual misconduct?"

Today, that stands as Sullivan's account of her own newspaper's famous report. But how accurate is that account?

Without any question, it's reasonable to say that Leigh Corfman told such a story in that Post report. But how about Gloria Thacker Deason, another of the four women?

Deason said she dated Moore for several months when he was 32 and she was 18, then 19. (She was a college student.) She said her mother felt that Moore was "good husband material." She told the Post that "their physical relationship did not go further than kissing and hugging."

Was that "a harrowing story of sexual misconduct?" Was it an "accusation" at all?

Don't even ask! According to major anthropologists, Sullivan's species is programmed to see Deason's story as such within the extremely narrow warrens of their tribal "ant hills." So too with the story told by Debbie Wesson Gibson, who said that Moore kissed her twice during the several months when they dated, once again with her mother cheering the relationship on.

Did Gibson tell "a harrowing story of sexual misconduct?" Within the anthill, yes, she did, these anthropologists tell us. Professor Wilson failed to respond to a request for comment, though we feel entirely sure about what he would have said.

Is it possibly time for a film named Anthropology Now? We picture Michael Moore standing over the Washington Post, making some such wry observation as, "I love the smell of bullsh*t in the morning."

Would such a documentary sell? Almost certainly not, the anthropologists say. The particular species under review has always loved embellished stories, especially tales about sex.

Meanwhile, back at the press corps:

As the children fretted about past kisses, they largely ignored Roy Moore's ludicrous conduct as a public official. "Too boring," their editors reportedly said.

Especially on "cable news," they pushed coverage of that Republican tax bill way down the list of topics. Last night, they had to obsess about Omarosa before they could rush through such fare.

That said, they've behaved this way for decades now. This helps explain the ludicrous budget and health care systems under which the American people labor. Such problems may seem pretty minor to corporate "cable news" millionaires!

The scientists point to other recent phenomena. That sprawling report in yesterday's New York Times about test scores in Chicago?

It will go completely unmentioned by liberals, the scientists insist. According to these anthropologists, these liberals aren't wired to care.

That confession of twenty years of self-serving silence offered by Dahlia Lithwick at Slate? "Liberals will praise her for her 'courage,' " the scientists quickly predicted, even before such comments began appearing on-line.

Gail Collins' silly cite of the latest script,
in which Senator Heroine was in Bible class when Donald J. Trump so horribly slimed her? "They're going to eat that pap with a spoon," one wry scientist said.

In our next few reports, we'll continue to outline the structure of this major new film. We'll especially focus on the silences which surround so many current news topics—the sounds of the silent generations who have, again and again and again, chosen not to speak in service to their careers.

Is the time right for Anthropology Now? The long, dumb history of "fictition" says the answer is no.

Our species has always loved a good story, these scientists tell us. A good story, the dumber the better, garnished with plenty of sex.

Tomorrow: The silent generation

31 comments:

  1. Perhaps ants as well but there's a study of rats that were provided every material need and their reaction to it. Worth reading and considering the social implications.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behavioral_sink

    "Many [female rats] were unable to carry pregnancy to full term or to survive delivery of their litters if they did. An even greater number, after successfully giving birth, fell short in their maternal functions. Among the males the behavior disturbances ranged from sexual deviation to cannibalism and from frenetic overactivity to a pathological withdrawal from which individuals would emerge to eat, drink and move about only when other members of the community were asleep. The social organization of the animals showed equal disruption. ...
    The common source of these disturbances became most dramatically apparent in the populations of our first series of three experiments, in which we observed the development of what we called a behavioral sink. The animals would crowd together in greatest number in one of the four interconnecting pens in which the colony was maintained. As many as 60 of the 80 rats in each experimental population would assemble in one pen during periods of feeding. Individual rats would rarely eat except in the company of other rats. As a result extreme population densities developed in the pen adopted for eating, leaving the others with sparse populations.

    ... In the experiments in which the behavioral sink developed, infant mortality ran as high as 96 percent among the most disoriented groups in the population."

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    1. a pretty good summary

      https://io9.gizmodo.com/how-rats-turned-their-private-paradise-into-a-terrifyin-1687584457

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  2. "5) A strong inclination to pursue and promote the individual's career self-interest at the expense of normal truth-telling or reporting behaviors."

    But Bob, this is not a characteristic of any species, nor is it an innate characteristic of the journo profession.

    Sure, some individuals (a small percentage, normally) are psychos, but then it's up to the political/socioeconomic systems to either keep them locked up - or to elevate them to positions of influence and power as journos, politicians, lawyers.

    In other words, it's not anthropology but a manifestation of systemic failure.

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  3. I thought Dahlia Lithwick's mea culpa yesterday (or what ever it was) was appalling.

    She can't have it both ways. If you ignore or evade the truth about someone's bad behavior -- and do nothing to correct it -- you can't turn around later on and piously condemn the same.

    Which she was clearly doing all throughout the article, despite her mangled qualifications.

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    1. Of course you can condemn it later. You pick your battles and in this one Lithwick was a bystander. She condemned it at the time privately and now she is doing so publicly but the judge was the wrongdoer here, not Lithwick.

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  4. Ugh, Somerby's gone so loony I just stop by to watch the wreckage of his brain in a tumble dryer. Hey Bob- pretty stank and deceitful of you to say wow, more people voted in a Presidential election last year than in a special election this year. Did you know Bob, that turnout is higher in Presidential elections?

    And seriously, "the dating mores of 40 years ago" didn't include grown men having 14 year old girls in their underwear touching their dicks. Or attempting to rape a 17 year old waitress in a car then brutally shoving her out when she resisted. Is that how you did "courting" back then, Bob? You really ought to mellow the f-ck out on this, you sound like a creepy perv, though I assume you are not one. Seems like you were rooting for Moore, out of sheer perversity I suppose though.

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    1. Bob roots for whoever the liberal press attacks (so for the most part, he roots for Trump, Moore etc.). He ignores the conservative press and those it attacks.

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    2. I don't know if ad hominem hurts or helps, but it is certainly the order of the day here, and, with more sadness than rancor, it is impossible to escape the fact Bob Somerby is an idiot.

      If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. And really, neither does Bob Somerby. He has some strange score to settle with evil wise guy liberals, and those who check back in from time to time to see this car accident get nothing but this kind of garbage. And YES, yes, soon enough we will look away for good. I promise.

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    3. I am making a loose fist, pointing my thumb toward you and in my best throaty Arkansas accent saying, “2:38, I feel your pain.”

      I guess the “analysts” changed their major, got their graduate degrees and are now promoted to “scientists.” Unfortunately, they remain dimwitted, misogynistic and blindered.

      “That confession of twenty years of self-serving silence offered by Dahlia Lithwick at Slate? "Liberals will praise her for her 'courage,' " the scientists quickly predicted, even before such comments began appearing on-line.”

      Here’s a test of your courage, Bob. Go call Dahlia Lithwick “self-serving” to her face with her husband or father or brother standing next to her. Real scientists predict that in a million years you would never have the guts to do that, just like a young female law clerk would be frightfully intimidated by a powerful bully judge.

      The place where one’s empathy resides has become a near vacuum in our dear blogger. I will grant only that he has an extremely unique perspective. 2:38, may I borrow “Ugh”?

      2:48, Greg: Yep, yep.

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    4. "And seriously, "the dating mores of 40 years ago" didn't include grown men having 14 year old girls in their underwear touching their dicks. Or attempting to rape a 17 year old waitress in a car then brutally shoving her out when she resisted. "

      Actually, they did. I was around back then and saw/heard about many events that were just like this. People didn't go crazy about it, either.

      But Bob has been EXCLUDING those two examples from his analysis. He's already said that about eight or nine times already.

      He's talking about the OTHER women who the media are treating like desperate victims of an elderly madman.

      Do you people know how to read? Or then think about the material?

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    5. Hey Dude, you can’t deny that her complicity was self-serving. Even at age 50, with her husband standing by, she had to kiss that beast?

      “But this was our deal. I’d always agreed to it.”

      She shouldn’t have touched him, or even been anywhere near that guy.

      Glad to know that she advised up-and-comers to stay away from The Judge. And glad to know that the movement has given her the courage to stand up. It is rather remarkable that it took her so long. Just sayin’.

      Leroy

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    6. “Hey Dude, you can’t deny that her complicity was self-serving.”

      Actually, I could a bit but I won’t. And in fact, Lithwick is at least obliquely fessing up to this. I stand by my contention that Bob was being unduly harsh on her. It fits a nasty pattern of his. Your other points are well taken, especially that she should have steered clear of the creep. Thanks.

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  5. Beware this blog; it will lead you astray.

    Somerby finds nothing good, nothing positive in anything he surveys. Thus, his blog has become an unrelenting onslaught of negativity. He seems unable to praise, to advocate positively, even to sympathize...except with Roy Moore.
    Michael Moore, who Somerby mentioned today, tweeted his praise and support of Salma Hayek. This is the attitude of a humane person. By contrast, Somerby attacks harassed or abused women for remaining silent for a time; he thereby sides with the abusers.

    But then, Michael Moore is a true liberal, who cares about liberal causes. He is also not consumed with misanthropy, like Mr Somerby.

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    1. Look up the definition of the word "cant."

      You'll find your picture there.

      You're also completely wrong about what Somerby's getting at. Selma Hayek btw is a phony and a hypocrite. She knew, and yet ... she didn't say.

      Almost all of "the women" are.

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    2. Selma Hayek should have used her 2nd Amendment Rights years ago.

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  6. "The scientists point to other recent phenomena. That sprawling report in yesterday's New York Times about test scores in Chicago? It will go completely unmentioned by liberals, the scientists insist. According to these anthropologists, these liberals aren't wired to care."

    I despise it when Somerby does this. He's done the same thing with health care. Here, he cites a report in the Times about test scores. But instead of praising the coverage of this by the Times, he insults liberals by saying they won't care. Normally, Somerby would excoriate the Times for never discussing test scores, but here they are actually discussing them. So, Somerby has to attack someone, so now it's liberals who won't care, because you know, liberals are horrible people, and that's from the Gospel according to Somerby.

    I have a suggestion: why doesn't *Somerby* discuss this, since he claims to have a certain amount of expertise in the field of education (unlike many of the rest of us who don't)? That would actually be of some benefit to the rest of us...but then again, we fiery liberals supposedly don't care about this. And isn't that convenient? Somerby's claim that liberals don't care conveniently means that he doesn't have to care about it either, beyond his attacks on the press/liberals. He thereby avoids getting off his ass and writing a cogent post about a difficult and controversial subject.

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    1. Liberals DON'T care about these topics. They're too hard, too dull, and too non-sexy.

      The fact that they don't care enough to talk about them on TV only proves how unconcerned they are about these basic concerns of humanity.

      So what DO they care about? And even better, why do they care about the other stuff?

      It seems to be all about hate now. And, feelgood intolerance and self-righteousness.

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    2. 637
      Are you liberal? Did you read the report? Do you have liberal friends? Did you discuss the report with them? What were their impressions about it when you spoke to them about it? Did any presenters on MSNBC speak about it? did any liberal blogs you read mention it? If so, who? I'll answer all these questions for you. None of them did. You didn't read it. You didn't talk about it. None of your friends talked about it. No one in liberal media talked about it because no one gives a s***. I'm liberal and I don't give a s***! For Christ's sake, be honest.

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  7. There's something that Somerby needs to wrap his head around concerning the Alabama election. Doug Jones was a good candidate. He was a federal prosecutor who successfully prosecuted the murderers of the young girls in Birmingham. He didn't try to hide his political convictions. He even quoted MLK in his victory. He would seem to be a candidate as Somerby might have dreamed up.
    But, aside from the fact that Somerby never said one word about Jones, Jones narrowly defeated Moore, despite being a strong candidate. This indicates how far gone into tribalism the right wing is: they were willing to vote for a dangerous crazy man, who may have been a sexual assaulter. They would have voted for Jeffrey Dahmer if he had an "R" after his name and promised to outlaw abortion. And these are the "Others." You cannot say that liberals are to blame for the pro-Moore votes, or that the obstacles facing liberals are anything but immense, particularly in a place like Alabama. So maybe Somerby could lay off the mocking?

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    1. I think he's talking about the phony liberal media.

      The fact that meta-criticism like this about the media goes above most people's heads now as a basic concern just proves how shallow and dumb our country has become.

      No wonder we have no Paul Goodmans today. No one would get it.

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    2. 1042
      Are you liberal? Did you read the report? Do you have liberal friends? Did you discuss the report with them? What were their impressions about it when you spoke to them about it? Did any presenters on MSNBC speak about it? did any liberal blogs you read mention it? If so, who? I'll answer all these questions for you. None of them did. You didn't read it. You didn't talk about it. None of your friends talked about it. No one in liberal media talked about it because no one gives a s***. I'm liberal and I don't give a s***! For Christ's sake, be honest.

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    3. They administer tests and report scores all the time. It is like the blood pressure your doctor takes whenever you visit the doctor. It is routine. So why should anyone have anything to say about it? That doesn't mean you don't give a shit about your health.

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    4. I did read the article and it is pretty lacking in terms of the "how and why" their claims are true. Although the cynic in me reads this passage

      "Mr. Casserly suggests that Chicago and other large urban districts have been focused for years on the quieter work of defining what “grade level” actually means and how to get children there."

      and infer that they are lowering standards, which may be a reasonable thing to do, rather than producing better educated children.

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    5. " liberal media"
      WTF is that 2:13?

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  8. "Here’s a test of your courage, Bob. Go call Dahlia Lithwick “self-serving” to her face with her husband or father or brother standing next to her. Real scientists predict that in a million years you would never have the guts to do that, just like a young female law clerk would be frightfully intimidated by a powerful bully judge."

    Do you realize how stupid this above statement is?

    Like that's a measure of anything? What is this, the Nancy Grace show?

    I'd do it though, no matter. And if I were Dahlia's family I would also be asking her 10 times a day why it was that she did NOT say anything at the time.

    Lithwick btw could have said something later on when she was long gone from there -- like, when Kozinski got caught with porn in his office in 2009 and the story went HUGELY public.

    But, crickets.

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    1. Lithwick went on with her life. That's what most women do in such situations. It is what most people do. That doesn't justify Kozinski at all. It illustrates how such people are able to go on misbehaving year after year. But Kozinski is the wrongdoer, not Lithwick. Kozinski had to know he was behaving inappropriately but he liked doing what he was doing.

      The bottom line is that our society needs to make it possible to complain about this guys without putting your own career on the line. Lithwick would have jeopardized her own livelihood had she complained to or about him back then and women today still take that risk. That's why these guys keep doing this stuff with impunity. But this is a system problem, not a matter that should be left up to individual courage and the willingness of the VICTIMS to take a risk with their careers.

      If Kozinski bestowed such a kiss in public and the bystanders said "hey guy, get a room" then he might back off, but Lithwick cannot do so herself without jeopardizing her own job. Guys like Kozinski count on the complicity of their peers and here we see the bros, blaming the victims, and pretending it is people like Lithwick who can or should do something about this guy when it is his equally powerful bros who need to keep guys like this in line.

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    2. “I'd do it though, no matter. And if I were Dahlia's family I would also be asking her 10 times a day why it was that she did NOT say anything at the time.”

      Too bad Rosanna Arquette doesn’t have a sibling like you. Why, you would have made sure to compel her to expose Harvey Weinstein. Maybe you would even courageously tell her to storm in and confront the bully. Heck, you might do it ten times a day. Maybe you would drive her there and keep the car running.

      Too bad Kate Beckinsale didn’t have a heroic relative like you. Or Amber Anderson. Or Lysette Anthony, Jessica Barth, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, Cara Delevingne, Alice Evans, Lucia Evans, Heather Graham, Larissa Gomes, Daryl Hannah, Salma Hayek, Lena Headey, Lauren Holly, Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd, Heather Kerr, Laura Madden, Ashley Matthau, Rose McGowan, Emily Nestor, Connie Nielsen, Gwyneth Paltrow, Zelda Perkins, Lisa Rose, Annabella Sciorra, Mira Sorvino, Paula Williams, or the dozens of others. Too bad none of them has a cock-strong hero of a family member like you that would flex his muscles and bravely tell her ten times a day to stand up for herself.

      Too bad the accusers of Moore and Trump and Batali and Charlie Rose and Tavis Smiley and Heath Evans and Matt Lauer and Russell Simmons don’t have a hero like 2:23 for a family member. Sadly, none of these hundreds of families is blessed with a rock-solid character with your level of moral courage or all of this would have been settled years ago.

      Fuck you, you cowardly liar. If you ever want to slink out from under your Anonymous cover here’s some potential handles for you: Mr. Courage, Leader of the People, Walter Mitty.

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    4. Hmm. Sorry to rain on your (impressive) outrage, but isn't there a difference (too subtle for you, perhaps?) between ordinary accusers and a liberal celebrity journo, keeping quiet for twenty years - to join the witch-hunt at an opportune moment? MeToo indeed...

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    ReplyDelete