Friday, 13 July 2018

to whom it may concern, of whom it's really none of your business...

It's come to my attention that certain individuals have accused Jordan Owen 42 of sexually assaulting me at a conference on men's issues held in the fall of 2014 in Georgia.

Caveat: I'm subscribed to JO42's channel, but haven't watched any of his content in probably more than a year now because he stopped reliably talking about topics I'm interested in. My interactions with him (most notably his interview of me and my colleagues for his joint project with Davis Aurini, "The Sarkeesian Effect") have been friendly, but we're not friends.

I want people to know that at that event Jordan did make a pass at me that was unexpected but not alarming or upsetting, and he gracefully took my "no" for an answer. My "no" was based entirely on the fact that I was (and still am) in a long term committed relationship with someone. I'd have said no to ANYONE who'd made sexual or romantic advances at that time, including Clive Owen or Marton Csokas, my own personal "celebrity dream lays".

I can only view the third parties who are making these accusations, and who are making them without my authorization, are doing so for purposes other than defending my honor or championing my sexual autonomy. If those were the reasons they were levelling these public accusations, I would suggest they'd have reached out to me to ask if I was upset or offended by my interactions with Jordan before they mounted their white horses, tipped their helmets and dipped their spears on my behalf. That they didn't certainly suggests they suspected I would not have confirmed their narrative.

Jordan reached out to me with some concern to ask if I had felt upset, offended or violated by our interaction, out of a genuine worry that I might have been. I assured him, as I am assuring everyone now, that our one brief non-professional interaction at that conference was trivial and mundane, and didn't result in any negative feelings on either of our parts. He made a gentle pass. I told him I had a boyfriend. That was the end of it. Frankly, given that I was 45 at the time, the entire thing was a pleasant surprise.

That there are people who don't like Jordan who are trying to stir up bad feelings in public on my behalf without my consent is... disturbing. Do these men think a woman like me is made of spun glass, that an unexpected sexual overture is going to shatter me? All I see are men using me as a way to attack another man they don't like. They are turning me into Anita Sarkeesian's cynical characterization of women's position in society--"in the game of patriarchy, women are not the opposing team, we're the ball."

I'm not interested in being Davis Aurini's or Matt Forney's patriarchy damsel-ball. Anyone wanting to publicly accuse another person of sexually assaulting me had damn well better clear that with me first to ensure they know what the fuck they're talking about.

And finally, false allegations of sexual misconduct are a weapon custom-fitted to a woman's hand and are wielded the vast majority of the time by women with emotional problems. So I'd gently suggest to anyone forwarding these baseless accusations that they stop behaving like mentally unstable teenage girls and try acting like men.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Link round-up of my off-channel interviews and appearances:

Speeches & Panels

CAFE Toronto 2018 The Burden of Being Male

CAFE Toronto 2018 Growing Up Fatherless

CAFE London 2018 Men's Mental Health: A Silent Crisis

CAFE Grand Prairie 2018 The Red Pill Panel

CAFE Edmonton 2017 SheForHe Panel 1

CAFE Edmonton 2017 SheForHe Panel 2

NCFM 20th Anniversary 2017 Bill C-51

CAFE Edmonton 2017 The Red Pill Panel

ICMI Australia 2017 Evolutionary Realities

CAFE Ottawa 2016 Ogres, Onions & Men's Issues

CAFE Ottawa 2016 Ogres, Onions & Men's Issues Q&A

CAFE Ottawa 2016 Panel

ICMI London 2016 Toxic Femininity

Vancouver #SheForHe 2016 Panel Part 1

Vancouver #SheForHe 2016 Panel Part 2

UBC Students for Liberty 2015 Is Feminism a Friend of Liberty?

SFU-AMB 2015 Toxic Femininity

SFU-AMB 2015 Tocic Femininity Q&A

The Agenda with Steve Paikin 2015 Check Your Privilege

Kennesaw State University 2014 Q&A

Kennesaw State University 2014 Male Students in Peril

ICMI Detroit 2014 Why I am an Antifeminist

Ryerson University 2014 Are Men Obsolete

Ryerson University 2014 Are Men Obsolete Q&A

Wisconsin Liberatrian Convention 2014

New York Libertarian Party 2014

New Hampshire Liberty Forum 2014 Feminism: Socialism in Panties

New Hampshire Liberty Forum 2014 Do We Need Feminism?

Essentials of Freedom 2014 Political Correctness

Interviews, Livestreams, & Podcasts:

Young Turks

David Packman

Dave Rubin

Sargon Livestreams

Gad Saad

Gregory Alan Elliot

Michael Cross

Cassie Jaye RPRF 1

Cassie Jaye RPRF 2

Cassie Jaye RPRF 3

Steven Crowder 248

Steven Crowder 99

Steven Crowder 85

Steven Crowder 62

Steven Crowder 2015

Others in order of date:

Vee on IBS Drama Again 2018

Fireside Chat Roaming Millenial 2018

Paul Elam about Dean 2018

Vee on IBS Drama 2018

Jesse Lee Peterson 2018

Bettina Arndt Part 1 2018

Bettina Arndt Part 2 2018

Bettina Arndt Part 3 2018

Tim Moen 2017

Starudsk on Alt-Right 2017

Benjamin Boyce on Evergreen 2017

Good Intentions 2017

Matt Orchard Part 1 2017

Matt Orchard Part 2 2017

Jerry Cox on False Allegations 2017

James Damore 2017

Friended 2017 on Paternity Uncertainty

Tom Woods 2017

Christopher Cantwell 2017

Bettina Arndt 2017

YouTube Saints 2017

Rae Bonney 2017

Mark Latham's Outsiders 2017

Tim Goldich 2017

Young Voices 2017

Rebel Media - Feminism is not Populist 2017

Fireside Chat Jordan Peterson 2016

Stardusk Canada Perspectives 2016

RockingMrE 2016

Bernard Chapin 2016

Bane Canadian Special

xXToYeDXx at #GGinTO 2016

ICMI London 2016

Bane on Earl Silverman 2016

Studio Brule Livestream 2016

Accent Overlords 2016

Accent Shitlords 2016

Roosh V 2016

Bane Year-End 2015

Fireside Chat Stardusk 2015

Theryn Meyer 2015

Marie Claire 2015

Stardusk Rape 2015

Vee 2015

Stardusk Blank Slate

Sardusk MGTOW and Traditionalism 2015

Accent Overlords 2015

Vee and Anna Cherry 2015

Vee on Calgary Expo 2015

Jesse Lee Peterson 2015

KSU Male Students 2014

Gnostic Media 2014

BBC 2014

Stardusk Evo-Psych 2014

CAFE Interview 2014

Stefan Molyneux 2014

Erin Pizzey 2014

Paul Elam 2014

Journalism Student 2014

New Republic 2014

Stardusk Feminism 2013

CAFE Interview 2013

Stefan Molyneux 201

CBC Interview 2013

Paul Elam 2013

Stardusk Junk 2013

Stefan Molyneux 2013

Stefan Molyneux 2012

Monday, 19 February 2018

Open Letter to Informa

Dear sir,

I’ve been led to believe that a company owned by Informa will be launching a lawsuit for defamation against my friend and associate, Alison Tieman. The allegations of defamation are so outrageous that I find it difficult to believe a corporation with a good public image, like Informa, would initiate, authorize or even allow one of its subsidiaries to threaten such an action. As such I’m writing to ask for clarification of Informa’s official position on launching said defamation suit against Ms. Tieman. 

First, some background. A lawsuit alleging breach of contract and injurious falsehood was initiated by Ms. Tieman against Calgary Expo in the fall of 2015, and regards the eviction that occurred at the 2015 Calgary Expo. 

Ms. Tieman is an independent comic creator who attended the Calgary Expo’s 2015 convention. During the event Calgary Expo expelled Ms. Tieman, without investigation, based on false allegations. This action constituted a violation of Calgary Expo’s own written codes and policies, and a breach of contract on the part of Calgary Expo. Following the eviction Calgary Expo publicly distributed defamatory false allegations made by its partner The Mary Sue against Alison Tieman. (If you wish to review all of the material supporting these facts, I would be happy to discuss it with you or provide it.)

The sequence of events is as follows:

False and defamatory statements about Ms. Tieman were publicly made by other parties, some of them associated with codefendant The Mary Sue (TMS), statements which Calgary Expo’s head of operations, Shayne Henkelman, then acted on without further investigation. His decision to act on these false statements resulted in Ms. Tieman’s eviction as an exhibitor, and a 10 year ban from all conventions then operated by Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo Inc. 

Mr. Henkelman permitted Ms. Tieman and her colleagues so little time (approximately 20 minutes) to remove their belongings and leave the premises that substantial damage was done to Ms. Tieman’s expensive booth installation. This damage alone is in excess of $4000. 

The false and defamatory allegations were, within an hour and a half of Ms. Tieman’s eviction, repeated and expanded on in an article published by codefendant and Calgary Expo cosplay contest partner TMS, an article which remains public and uncorrected as of this date. 

This article was then cited by Calgary Expo on it’s official Twitter social media account as a public explanation as to why Ms. Tieman had been evicted and banned. In addition to citing the article as the reason for the eviction, Calgary Expo reiterated to individuals questioning the article’s account of events that The Mary Sue’s reporting was accurate. This action by Calgary Expo served to substantiate the false allegations made in the article.

Within an hour or so of the Calgary Expo’s initial tweet citing the Mary Sue’s article being published, Mr. Henkelman ordered Calgary Expo’s social media director to delete the tweet. He did so because he understood that Calgary Expo citing TMS’s article in this way was legally actionable, and would expose Calgary Expo to potential litigation. He said exactly this to Ms. Tieman during a break in the trial proceedings where I was present. The additional tweet in which the Calgary Expo asserts that the Mary Sue’s reporting was accurate remains publically available to this date.

Later that same day, after much pressure from individuals on social media and Expo attendees, Calgary Expo tweeted a vague public statement on the matter that did nothing whatsoever to refute or correct any of the false allegations in the TMS article. At this time, Mr. Henkelman had evidence both in his immediate possession and readily publicly available to him that all of said allegations were false. 

Calgary Expo has maintained radio silence on the matter ever since, adding further credibility to the allegations in the eyes of the public. 

Despite TMS having reached out to Calgary Expo prior to publishing their article with a request for comment, no direct comment to TMS from Calgary Expo as to the reason Ms. Tieman was evicted appears in the article. All that appears in way of explanation, appended as an update, is the general public statement published by Calgary Expo that in no way corrects the record. 

Soon after the eviction, Ms. Tieman sent a letter by registered mail to Calgary Expo requesting they correct the public record or she would be forced to consider legal action. No reply from Calgary Expo was forthcoming. Had Calgary Expo merely performed a retroactive investigation into the allegations and made a public statement clearing Ms. Tieman’s name, no lawsuit would have ensued. The inaction of Calgary Expo in this matter is particularly egregious, since it had in its direct possession and available to it at that time evidence that not only were the allegations reported by The Mary Sue and repeated by other media outlets entirely false, but that Calgary Expo had wrongfully evicted Ms. Tieman in breach of its contract with her.

Mr. Henkelman, for his part as head of operations, conducted no investigation whatsoever regarding the allegations against Ms. Tieman prior to evicting her—allegations he would have discovered were wholly false had he done so. I know this because he told Ms. Tieman, in my presence, that had he taken the time to give even a cursory glance at her evidence, he would not have evicted her.

Through its direct actions and its subsequent and continued inaction, Calgary Expo and its head of operations, Shayne Henkelman, substantively contributed to the destruction of the professional reputation of a female comic book artist who had devoted seven years of her life to creating an original graphic novel series. Calgary Expo’s actions and inaction have cost Ms. Tieman sales, marketability, and professional and networking opportunities. As an example of the latter, at the previous Expo she had attended, in Saskatoon, Ms. Tieman was offered a job teaching at an art school in British Columbia. 

Being banned for ten years from such events means no similar opportunities will be made available to her. In addition your employee Shayne Henklemen informed Ms. Tieman, in my presence, that her 10 year ban will be upheld at all Informa exhibitions across North America, if she does not settle with Calgary Expo. 

Being banned over public allegations that she harassed people, lied on her contract and further breached said contract—allegations your employee and representative has allowed to stand as fact for almost three years despite having evidence from the beginning that they are entirely false—certainly impacts anyone’s willingness to do business with Ms. Tieman, even outside of Calgary Expo. 

In evicting Ms. Tieman without conducting an investigation, Calgary Expo breached its contract with her. In evicting her in the manner it did, Calgary Expo caused her more than $4000 in direct damage to her equipment and merchandise. In banning her for ten years with no cause whatsoever, it has impeded her ability to conduct business. In citing TMS’s article as the reason Ms. Tieman was evicted, and further, tweeting that TMS’s reporting was accurate, Calgary Expo publicly disseminated and substantiated false and defamatory statements about Ms. Tieman. This has negatively impacted Ms. Tieman’s ability to conduct business. 

And to add insult to injury, Calgary Expo reported Ms. Tieman and her associates to police two days after the eviction. Ms. Tieman’s crime? Having a picnic in a park with fans a full kilometre from the Expo site. Two police vans and four officers attended the scene to inquire as to our intentions. Our intentions being, having a picnic in a public park, eating from cold cut and vegetable platters, and taking group photos. The police report is… surreal. The police officer seemed to have a difficult time explaining to Calgary Expo and its agents that citizens simply can’t be arrested for having a picnic in a public park while holding a different political opinion. 

The trial proper began on November 28 of last year. Ms. Tieman gave direct testimony for the majority of the first two days. The morning of the third day, both defendants expressed interest in talking about a settlement, despite Ms. Tieman not even being finished giving direct testimony. 

If and when this case goes back to trial, Calgary Expo (and TMS, for that matter) will lose. I predict they will lose on the strength of Ms. Tieman’s evidence alone. 

But they will also lose because they are unable to call Mr. Henkelman, their only first-hand eyewitness to events, to the stand, as doing so will either suborn or reveal perjury on his part. Which is why, I believe, a week or two before the trial commenced, he was quietly dropped from the defence’s witness list.

Put plainly, the defendants have no defence. They have no case. Even if they had, they can’t bring a defence because their only viable witness has already perjured himself in a sworn affidavit. Shayne Henkleman is the person who made the decision to evict Ms. Tieman, and he will not be testifying. The judge is allowed by law to speculate as to why this is the case, and to draw what inferences he chooses.  

While I cannot publicly disclose the settlement terms that were discussed, Ms. Tieman was extremely generous in not only allowing Calgary Expo an opportunity to publicly correct their error and at the same time save face, but was (in my opinion) overly conciliatory on the issue of financial compensation. She has bent over backwards to come to an agreement that would paint all parties in a decent light while simultaneously compensating her for the financial toll the defendants’ actions have taken on her.

Ms. Tieman has done everything in her power to negotiate in good faith. Yet, apparently as part of their own “negotiations”, the Calgary Expo’s counsel has threatened Ms. Tieman with a SLAPP defamation lawsuit over a two word tweet made by her friend and collaborator Brian Martinez, via his personal Twitter account--a tweet made without Ms. Tieman’s knowledge, let alone her authorization. Mr. Martinez, upon hearing that the defendants were willing to discuss a settlement, tweeted “We won.” This tweet in no way constitutes defamation against either defendant, and there are multiple affirmative defences that could be successfully brought in a court of law. 

Unlike Mr. Henkelman, however, when Mr. Martinez discovered people were misconstruing his tweet, he immediately and publicly corrected the record with a clarification that no, we did not win the lawsuit, we are in settlement negotiations, deleted the problematic tweet, and then continued to correct the record whenever he discovered someone had gotten the wrong idea. 

For this innocuous tweet, that was in no way defamatory but even so was immediately clarified and corrected in the interest of accuracy, your counsel is threatening a defamation litigation against a man who was undergoing chemotherapy at the time he made it, and who has since had surgery resulting in nerve damage such that he may never walk normally again. 

That’s certainly going to be a good look for Informa. It will look especially good next to Mr. Henkelman and Calgary Expo’s own public dissemination of defamation against Ms. Tieman, which he has allowed to stand uncorrected for almost three years now. 

I am aware that most of this occurred before Informa acquired Calgary Expo. Neither I nor Ms. Tieman hold Informa in any way morally responsible for actions committed by others long before Informa was associated with Calgary Expo. However, at this point Mr. Henkelman is employed by you. Calgary Expo is an asset you now own. As such Elmer Chiu is now your council. You are paying his legal fees. Informa is, I can only assume, now responsible for Calgary Expo, Shayne Henkelman, Elmer Chiu and any actions they have taken or failed to take since Informa acquired Calgary Expo. I can only assume this includes how this matter is resolved. 

At this point in time, unless you inform us otherwise, we have to assume this threat of a SLAPP defamation suit was authorized by Informa. It was made by agents on your payroll, after all.

Ms. Tieman, myself and our associates—many of whom have a massive reach online—will do everything we can to publicize this new recalcitrance and obstructionism on the part of an entity you now own and control and whose actions you apparently sanction.

Since 2015, Calgary Expo has suffered a decline in attendance of nearly 10%. While I have no hard data proving that this decline is a result of this ongoing legal issue, I have plenty of anecdotal evidence that many regular attendees were so disgusted by how Ms. Tieman was treated, and continues to be treated, by Calgary Expo they were not planning to attend future Expos. 

Ms. Tieman’s company, Honey Badger Brigade, has maintained public silence over most of the developments since the trial proper began. Due to the overconfidence and incompetence of Calgary Expo’s counsel, I was present in the courtroom the whole time. I plan to publicize everything I saw. None of it will make Informa’s property, Calgary Expo, look good. 

I am, at this point, prepared to hold Informa morally immune from responsibility for this debacle should I learn that Shayne Henkleman and Elmer Chiu were acting without your direct and informed authorization. If you fail to inform me as to the accuracy of this assumption while allowing them to continue to behave in this manner, including holding the threat of a frivolous defamation lawsuit over the head of my friend, that will change.

If Shayne Henkleman or Elmer Chiu have acted on their own autonomy without your direct and informed authorization, they apparently believe they can initiate potentially disastrous legal actions on Informa’s behalf. And they believe they can win by attrition—delay and obstruct and delay some more, and threaten a frivolous lawsuit on your behalf and in your name until Ms. Tieman is exhausted of will and resources..

I’m writing to you to assure you that that is not going to happen. Ms. Tieman will not stop until she gets what she reasonably feels is justice. She will not run out of resources as she has the full financial backing of her community, which includes many people from Informa’s future customer base. 

Calgary Expo, under the leadership of Shayne Henkelman, committed a wrongful and legally actionable act against an independent comic creator, a wrong that has cost her thousands of dollars and her professional reputation. His refusal to correct the public record has only exacerbated the damage caused by his wrongful actions. He testified to falsehoods on a sworn affidavit, and is unable to be called to the stand by his own counsel because of this. It is my belief that Mr. Henkelman is prioritizing his own reputation and his continued employment above what I must assume would be the broader interests of Informa--that is, to bring an end to this matter with as little damage to all parties as possible.

I am aware that within large corporations, often the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. I’m here to tell you what your left hand is currently doing, and to inform you of the ways his behavior and decisions may ultimately damage your reputation. 

Allow me to reiterate. Calgary Expo will lose on at least one cause of action, and will almost certainly lose on both. A decision by a judge, even one that favors Calgary Expo, will itemize and detail every single wrongful act committed by Calgary Expo, and all of the legal responsibilities and contractual obligations they neglected, relating to the events material to this case. 

However this trial ends, Calgary Expo will be exposed as having acted against its own policies and guidelines in order to wrongfully expel and ban a female comic creator. It will be exposed as having allowed the false media narrative it helped create, that has besmirched Ms. Tieman’s business reputation, to stand uncorrected for THREE years. Mr. Henkelman, in settlement negotiations, has indicated that he needs approval from “higher ups” before making any offer or concession. As far as I know, he’s in charge of events across western Canada, so I can only assume the higher ups he was referring to are you, Informa.

Mr. Henkelman, during one of the breaks at trial, informed us that since Informa took over, all of the policies and codes at Calgary Expo, particularly regarding politicized speech and expression and investigative procedures into alleged harassment, have changed, in part because of what happened to Ms. Tieman, with the intent that such a thing never happen again. 

If Informa is willing to drastically change policy such that no one will ever find themselves in Ms. Tieman’s position, certainly Informa is implicitly admitting that Ms. Tieman was egregiously wronged. If she WAS wronged, then surely she is deserving of amelioration and compensation, including a public correction of the record and maybe even an apology from the individuals responsible.

Ms. Tieman’s reputation can be repaired if Calgary Expo, even three years later, is convinced to uphold its contractual obligation to thoroughly investigate this incident and make public its findings. If Calgary Expo refuses, Informa’s reputation can and will be damaged simply by your appearing to endorse and authorize the ongoing egregious and recalcitrant actions of people in your employ. I will do everything in my power to make your inaction public. And unlike the codefendants in this lawsuit, and I won’t have to utter a single false or legally actionable word to do it. You have the power to end this injustice, Informa. An injustice you had no hand in orchestrating, but which you preside over now as the owner of Calgary Expo. You will either choose to do so, which will be to your credit, or you won’t. 

Best regards,

Karen Straughan

Thursday, 16 November 2017

My interview with HuffPo reporter Dana Liebelson

I was contacted by a reporter for Huffington Post a few days ago, and gave her an interview by email. The article is now up, and I'd like to acknowledge that she was fair in her quoting of my comments. 

I would, however, like to post the entire interview here, since very little of what I told her actually made it to print. Her questions/comments are in bluish, my responses are in black:

Hi Karen, I hope you are doing well! I'm a reporter with the Huffington Post, and I'm working on a story talking to Men's Rights Activists & some other folks about the recent wave of women coming forward with sexual harassment and abuse allegations post-Weinstein. (With, as you know, men facing serious professional and personal repercussions.) I wanted to see if you might be able to do a short interview. I'm including my questions below if you prefer email, otherwise let me now if you'd like to set up a time by phone. Thanks so much! Best, Dana 

Hi again Dana. I’m sorry if my answers here are very very long. Like I said, my views on this subject are complicated. I don’t know whether I’ve given you anything you can really work with, but I hope they make my positions clear (even when the positions themselves are muddy). This is not an easy issue. There are women who are genuinely victims of men’s sexual misconduct. There are reasons I support a presumption of innocence and a high burden of proof when people are accused of misconduct. I wish I could be more concise.


What do you make of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein? Do you think he should have been fired from the Weinstein company or faced any other repercussions regarding the allegations? Why or why not? 

Many of the allegations seem credible, for sure. Certainly, the fact that there’s corroboration from witnesses other than the accusers adds to that credibility. Whether or not the allegations themselves indicate acts that rise to the level of criminal sexual assault or harassment, companies have a moral and legal responsibility to enforce ethical business practices among their employees and officers. 

I’m certain there are women in Hollywood who would view the “casting couch” as being of benefit to them—a useful tool of advancement in their careers—and who might be happy extending the offer of sex in a tit for tat exchange of favours. There will be many, many women who do not feel this way. 

The existence of this first group of women, and of men like Weinstein who are happy to take them up on the offer, place the latter group of women (who, I would hazard to guess, are more numerous) in the untenable position of being expected to engage in this exchange if they want to forward their careers at all. 

Megalomaniacs (narcissistic sociopaths) like Weinstein appears to be seem to see no difference between the "voluntary prostitution” of women who willingly “sleep their way to the top" and “sex trafficking” of unwilling women who just want to earn their way up the ladder. 

Unfortunately for everyone, megalomaniacs tend to rise to positions of power (because they actively and often ruthlessly pursue power), and they can make life a living hell for the people who are forced to interact with them. The allegations of his sexual misconduct are only one piece of a more general pattern of his abuse of power, and his abuse of those under his power. He also had a reputation for tyrannical, coercive, vindictive and even physically violent behaviour against both men and women he felt had crossed him. People of both sexes went along with it because to do otherwise would bring his wrath on them. 

As you know, there have been many women coming forward to accuse high-profile men of harassment/abuse since Weinstein, with many of the accused facing job and personal repercussions. What do you make of this trend? 

It is, indeed, a trend. This is not to say that all of the allegations against other men are frivolous or spurious, though I believe that some of them are likely to be. The more the media sensationalizes the issue, and in particular, the more it finds its way into the outrage mill of social media, the greater the proportion of “bandwagoners” will probably be. The more praise and validation the women who have justifiably come forward receive from the public, the more likely it is that we’ll see others making false claims of victimization. 

For men who make such claims, I necessarily hold less skepticism. This is not because I believe men are more honest than women, but because there is less to be gained from coming forward. I recall Corey Feldman coming forward after Corey Haim’s death, to talk about the “casting couch” that exists for even child actors. He was accused, by Barbara Walters on national TV, of personally “destroying an entire industry” by exposing what had happened to him and others. 

Why do you think these women are coming forward now, when they didn't before?

I think it was a simple cost/benefit/risk analysis, just like it was for the people who enabled Weinstein to continue. Some of the women brought legal action against him, signed non-disclosure agreements, collected their payoffs and avoided the reputation annihilation Weinstein was able to inflict. Their willingness to do so perpetuated the culture. From a broader standpoint, they did the wrong thing. From an individual standpoint, perhaps they believed they were doing the only thing they could. It’s clear Weinstein didn’t see these settlements as punitive—to someone with his money and power, they’d be viewed as little more than the cost of getting laid. 

And I suppose I can sit here and say that the victims who took a payoff in return for their silence are partly responsible for all his future victims, and yes, I do believe that’s the case. But I can also look at the position they were in and ask, “would I have been willing to sacrifice everything I’d worked for on the off chance it would end like David and Goliath, rather than with me getting squashed like a bug? Maybe a couple hundred grand in my pocket and a vow of silence is the better option.”

I think it’s important to note that the Weinstein allegations did not emerge one at a time. Investigative journalists worked on the story for a long time, talking to lots of people (many of them off the record or anonymously), and following a bread crumb trail of sealed settlements and gag orders. The story did not break with just one victim making an accusation about just one incident. The initial story allowed the victims to disclose in safety to someone who believed them, and when public disclosure happened they had the strength of numbers behind them, and the legitimacy of a lengthy NYTimes piece. 

This very brief video, by Steven Pinker, explains why it had to happen the way it did:

Weinstein was clearly a dictator, and he had no qualms whatsoever about picking off dissenters one at a time. You want to bring down a dictator, you need a metaphorical crowd of people assembled in a figurative public square.

How do you define sexual harassment,

That depends. Between individuals of relatively equal status, I believe harassment can only happen if the sexual advances or sexualized language are both unwanted and sustained over some period of time. One unwanted sexual advance that isn’t repeated isn’t enough for me to consider it harassment in such a case. 

The elements of Weinstein’s case don’t fit that general profile, but I would still call them harassment. His behaviour was clearly predatory, even if the women still technically had the option of declining his advances. He set things up in such a way as to increase their vulnerability and their perceptions of his power, and lead them to believe that declining his advances was not an option. Paltrow and Jolie were able to do so because they already had lots of credits under their belts and were part of powerful friend/family networks in Hollywood. 

Orchestrating a situation in which you intentionally manipulate your victim into believing that they will suffer penalties if they don’t have sex with you, and that you are capable of inflicting those penalties, is also harassment in my mind.

and what kind of bar do you think should be met in order for it be substantiated? 

The bar will depend on which institution is considering it. If Weinstein were to be criminally prosecuted, I would want the allegations to meet a higher burden because the penalties involved are high. That burden is rightly set lower in a civil court. 

I believe companies should investigate such claims before taking punitive action, not only because some claims are spurious but because false accusations can themselves be a method of harassment (sometimes people will use false accusations of harassment to perpetrate harassment). I don’t give Weinstein’s company much credit for firing him, since there’s every indication they knew what was going on and did nothing for years. They only fired him when it became public, which shows nothing good regarding their virtues or their ethics. 

And here’s where it gets tricky. I was sexually harassed by the chef de partie at my workplace when I was a cook at age 21. The guy was, like Weinstein, just 100% toxic altogether, and abusive to LOTS of people. I eventually quit, and applied for Unemployment Insurance. The employer contested the claim, leading me into a four year process of fighting to get my benefits. Why? Because they believed that any substantiated allegation of sexual harassment at their company would reflect poorly on them. They decided it would be more expedient to bury the allegations in mounds of red tape and obstructionism than admit publicly not only that something like that had happened on their watch, but that they had promoted this guy, despite several complaints of general bad conduct (bullying, etc), into a position of authority.

On the bright side, my daughter (she’s 22) experienced prolonged and repeated unwanted sexual advances and inappropriate touching (of her hair) from an equal status coworker at her job at Walmart. When she brought it to her manager’s attention, they jumped on it immediately. Immediate scheduling measures were undertaken to ensure that she and the guy in question were never working in the same department, and never arriving or leaving at the same time. Within a couple days, they had someone from regional HR in to interview both of them. I attended that meeting with her, and they took her concerns seriously and they also took her requests seriously—she did not want the guy to be fired (he’s an unskilled refugee who speaks little English and comes from a completely different culture), she only wanted the behaviour to stop. It’s been a year, he’s still working there, and she’s had no problems since.

Are there any of these high-profile cases in the last month where you think the accused should have faced repercussions for alleged behavior? If so, please explain when and why. 

I think many, if not most or all, of them have faced repercussions. I expect that some of those repercussions might not match the severity of the offence. This is the double edged sword we’re dealing with when allegations like this become a trend (or even fashionable). Weinstein was, from what I’ve ascertained, a serial sexual harasser and sexual predator, as well as a tyrant and a bully. His head should metaphorically roll, and it certainly has in terms of his career and reputation. Does this mean that every man who ever propositioned a woman for casual sex in Hollywood should face the same axe?

The situation is complicated. Is every rock star who has sex with a groupie who threw herself at him guilty of some type of misconduct? What if the groupie who aggressively pursued a liaison last night feels used afterward? Is he somehow culpable for accepting sex that was enthusiastically on offer last night, because she feels bad about it in the morning? How do we navigate a situation where, cross-culturally, women in general are sexually attracted to powerful men? Is it NEVER okay for a powerful man to engage in sexual behaviour with a woman less powerful than him? Is it only okay if she feels good about herself afterwards? What about office romances that turn into long term relationships or even marriages? Did they all begin with sexual harassment? What about women who intentionally sexualize their appearance at work and then complain when a man looks at them or asks them for a date?

Do you see this as any kind of culture shift?

Weinstein’s company was as happy to bury the allegations as my employer was back in 1992, for as long as they could keep them buried. What has happened in Hollywood doesn’t represent a cultural shift in my mind—at least, not in the way my daughter’s complaint to Walmart does.

A proper cultural shift would mean companies would do what Walmart did: take her allegations seriously when they were made, take immediate, non-punitive action toward prevention of further behaviour, investigate as fairly and expediently as possible, and when a finding was made, take measures to put the offender on notice and stop his behaviour. 

What is being perpetuated in media right now over this Weinstein thing is that the companies involved somehow didn’t realize that this kind of conduct is scummy, gross and harmful. That they thought it was okay. But that’s not the problem. The problem I see is that THEY KNOW THIS KIND OF THING IS WRONG. If they didn’t know it was wrong, they wouldn’t be interested in burying it behind a dozen closed settlements involving monetary payoffs and non-disclosure agreements, and general employee non-disparagement agreements. 

The culture has always known that this kind of behaviour is the behaviour of sleaze bags. It’s why Weinstein had to threaten people’s careers to keep it all quiet and ticking along. It’s why his company paid women off to keep them quiet. It’s why the moment the allegations came out, pretty much the entirety of mainstream and social media condemned Weinstein.

The behaviour could only continue if it was hidden from the public. That is because the general culture does NOT see this behaviour as acceptable.

What I am seeing is kind of the opposite of what many in the media are portraying it as. The sexual victimization of women, by coercion or force, is not normalized. In Hollywood, it was an open secret, but it could only continue as long as it was SOME kind of secret, or if it could be glossed over. 

The cultural shift I would like to see is one where such allegations are taken seriously when they are made. By seriously, I don’t mean “believe the victim” and start the lynching. What I would like to see is less emotionality and more due process. If admitting that one of your company directors sexually harassed or coerced women didn’t evoke such public outrage, perhaps more companies would be willing to address the problem. 

There is a stigma attached to this issue that prevents disclosure and the proper and timely addressing of the problem. That stigma is not only the stigma attached to victims, but the stigma attached to perpetrators and their enablers. Considering the sexual victimization of women as a “special” offence worthy of “special” outrage, is in my mind part of the problem. No one wants to believe it happened because it’s so incredibly heinous, but then when the burden is finally met and people are convinced, their reaction is over the top and doesn’t necessarily fit the crime.

In the United States, the rape of a woman was one of the last non-lethal offences that could get you the death penalty. The severity of the punishment is often a barrier to conviction. If you had to sit on a jury and decide whether a man would go to the gallows, I would hope you’d want to be convinced to a higher degree than if he was facing 18 months in prison. 

How do you see this impacting the movement to end sex discrimination against men and boys? 

If this helps Corey Feldman and others like him to get media attention on the child actor casting couch and have his allegations taken seriously, I see that as positive. But I see it as more likely to turn into a witch hunt where every allegation of sexual misconduct against a man in Hollywood will require immediate and summary conviction in the court of public opinion. 

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful that the media has shed a light on Weinstein’s behaviour and condemned it. But those allegations were subjected to an intense scrutiny prior to publication. Allegations against other men following in Weinstein’s wake will not be subjected to the same scrutiny before being assumed to be genuine. This has been portrayed as a systemic problem in Hollywood, and I believe it is systemic. But once a “systemic” abuse has been exposed (accurately or otherwise), it becomes very easy to assume that anyone accused is by default guilty. After all, they were part of the system. 

If you want to see what I mean, you can read the history of the McMartin daycare Satanic sexual abuse scandal, and how more than a hundred people were prosecuted on no credible evidence whatsoever. The media grabbed the story and portrayed it as systemic and commonplace, an “open secret”, and innocent people were fed into a meat grinder that destroyed lives. Calls for calm, evidence and due process were met with accusations of apologia and the social and professional destruction of the individuals making them.

Do you think this trend is going to impact how men act in the workplace? Why or why not? Do you see that as problematic? 

Of course it will. Men have been taking measures in the workplace to avoid spurious allegations of sexual misconduct for a long time. I have an uncle who was a middle school teacher all his life until his retirement more than ten years ago. He initially scoffed at what I do. Then I asked him, “did you ever meet with a female student or colleague without the door open or someone else present?” He sat for a few moments and thought about it. “Well, of course I never did that. I wouldn’t want to be accused of anything. You always kind of know that’s a possibility if you can’t prove what you were doing at any given time. You always want to have someone there who can back you up.”

It had never really occurred to him that this was something he had to do as a man that he wouldn’t have had to do if he wasn’t a man. 

Men have reason to feel vulnerable to accusations of sexual misconduct. The more men they see publicly run up a gibbet without due process, the more they will distance themselves from women in the workplace.

And of course I see this as problematic. I wish Weinstein’s early victims had gone to the DA. I wish the DA had not been in Weinstein’s pocket. I wish that powerful, wealthy people couldn’t buy their way out of trouble. I wish I could say I don’t believe that innocent people will be caught up in the fallout from these revelations. And I wish the men, watching all of this go down and all of these heads rolling, were not correct in seeing the women around them as making them vulnerable to undeserved punishment. 

Marie Heinen, defence counsel for Jian Ghomeshi in one of Canada’s most highly publicized sexual assault trials, has gone on record as saying that when we set aside due process, it never ends well for the marginalized. A “lynching culture” may take out a few deserving Harvey Weinsteins, but it will take out a LOT of men who are not deserving, and who don’t have the kind of power and money necessary to defend themselves.

What's your take on the #MeToo campaign?  

It’s a mass “nodding” session. Campaigns like this are usually well intentioned in their conception, but they turn into a big back-patting party, where no one actually has to do anything but disclose “yeah, I’m a victim too.” It raises awareness, sure, but it doesn’t solve anything. Life, and in particular sex, is more complicated than 140 characters can convey. Nuance doesn’t lend itself to hashtag campaigns. Sloganeering can’t replace rational and fair-minded policy. 

And where are you based, and how would you describe your title & views? 

I’m based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and I describe myself as an anti-feminist and men’s rights activist. 

Hi Karen, thanks so much for all of this! I do think it's helpful, and I'll definitely quote from in my story. (To get at the nuance, which you point out.) 

I did have one other question, which you kind of touched upon, but do you think there's going to be any backlash to this wave of women coming forward? (Or are we already seeing it?) And if so, what do you think could spark that backlash, and what do you think it will look like? (I was thinking of the Rebecca Traistor piece today, she wrote: "“You can feel the backlash brewing. All it will take is one particularly lame allegation — and given the increasing depravity of the charges, the milder stuff looks lamer and lamer, no matter how awful the experience — to turn the tide from deep umbrage on behalf of women to pity.") 

Traistor seems somewhat prescient, as far as I’m concerned, although I would have to read her entire piece to understand that last remark (about pity). I suppose it is pitiable if women are complaining about mundane inconveniences, though that’s been around for a long time in some areas of the public discourse. And we have seen #MeToo start to get cluttered up with more trivial stories. We have seen some people in media express annoyance at this for trivializing the issue.

But a backlash isn’t constructed out of pity, it’s constructed out of anger. There are some parts of the discussion that seem predestined to generate that anger and to justify it.

“Toxic masculinity.” Whether intentionally or not, and whether it in the technical sense does so or not, this term is perceived to apply a collective blame on all men for the behaviour of men like Weinstein. The “patriarchy” narrative as applied by feminist pundits does nothing to reassure the average man that he is not being blamed, either. If patriarchy is a system where men hold power and women are largely excluded from it, then by extrapolation one must blame men collectively for the harms caused by the system they alone constructed and only they can change.

“White male entitlement.” Certainly this too appears to implicate all white men in things like Weinstein’s behaviour. Like we saw with some of the pieces on James Damore, those focussing most heavily on the problem being “white guys” are often going to be white men themselves. 

These aspects of the discourse put a lot of men in the position of wasting all their energy on #NotMe rather than #HowCanIHelp, unless, of course, #HowCanIHelp involves bashing other whites guys to make oneself look virtuous and enlightened. Everyone ends up either prosecuting or defending masculinity and, again, nothing useful gets done, because it’s not “masculinity” that made Weinstein into the scumbag he is, nor was it “masculine culture” that informed his various enablers. The culture was created out of absolute power corrupting absolutely, and everyone else going along with it because to do otherwise would mean career annihilation. And as with any violation of moral boundaries, the more often you do it the easier it usually gets.

And of course, all that needs to happen is for a handful of bandwagoning women to level accusations that turn out to be demonstrably false, and the entire edifice will collapse. If such a thing happens, you might even see a popular toxic femininity narrative born out of it (and no, I wouldn’t object to such a thing). Part of the fragility of this phenomenon is the way it’s been spun in media by people with agendas. When the “experts” assign a cause, and that cause turns out to be bogus, the entire phenomenon ends up discredited. To simplify, reductio ad absurdum: someone says, “Rape is caused by X.” People might reply, “Uh…but X doesn’t exist. And some of the people who claimed rape were lying. Therefore, maybe rape doesn’t exist.” 

There are genuine measures that can be taken to deal with these problems and help prevent similar ones in the future. Procedural rules can be required of companies when complaints are made, with genuine, balanced investigations being undertaken. NDAs can be prohibited by law when allegations rise to the level of criminal acts. Companies can be forbidden by law to include indiscriminate non-disparagement clauses in their employee contracts that enact penalties over any negative public disclosure, true or not. It can be made functionally as well as technically illegal for any person, no matter how wealthy, to own a district attorney. Sovereign immunity can be put to a legal challenge, and limitations assigned to its protections when DAs either maliciously prosecute or knowingly and with malice look the other way when crimes are being committed.

None of these measures necessarily involve considering sexual harassment or sexual violence to be uniquely monstrous acts. In fact, some of them depend on people looking at the problem in a calm, rational way, untainted by emotionality. They would help more than just victims of sexual harassment, but also victims of other workplace exploitations and abuses. These are genuine legal and due process fixes that do not compromise the rights of the accused or the dignity of victims. They are concrete and institutional (changes to the law), not amorphous and ephemeral (dismantling “patriarchy”). The former contributes to a culture of dignity and law. The latter contributes to a “lynching culture” where the accusation is the conviction and no one pauses to look around until the bodies have piled up.

I do believe there need to be some structural changes made. I worry that the ones that could be most effective will be overlooked in favour of those that would give angry people hungry for blood immediate satiation. You were accused? Say goodbye to your career and welcome to Social Pariahville, population growing. 

And I suppose if there’s one silver lining for men’s rights in how this has all played out, amid the “brave" Twitter bandwagon hashtag slacktivists, the genuine slime balls who’ve been ousted from their positions of untouchable power, and the petty offenders who’ll be caught up in this bid to purge Hollywood of anyone who’s ever upset a woman… I guess Corey Feldman’s allegations are finally getting some traction. Another former child actor came forward with an allegation, and after a bit of the mainstream media minimizing it, it's being taken somewhat seriously. 

It just makes me sad that it took these allegations against Weinstein regarding his sexual misconduct with adult women to open the door to the public caring about allegations that have been out there for years about the sexual abuse of children in Hollywood. That the Corey Feldmans of the world need to piggyback on the victimization of grown women before anyone was willing to take a serious look at what happened to them, and to their friends, when they were vulnerable children.

Anyway. Sorry this went long again. I’ve probably answered more than you wanted to know. 

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Open letter to Sargon of Akkad

So, Sargon of Akkad posted this to his channel the other day. I agree with a lot of his arguments. Yes, if alt right people want to wail about white genocide, maybe they should start having babies. That would be a start, no? On the other hand, I do have some concerns I'd love to hear Sargon's opinions on. I left the following as a comment on his video, but thought I'd put it here for posterity. The comment itself is in blue, and my further thoughts will be in normal text:

My concern, and I hope Sargon will address this, is as follows. We have a culture in the west where every group is allowed to play identity politics based on innate characteristics, except for the following: straights, cisgenders, males and whites. We also have a culture in the west where every group but the above is protected by legislation, and where institutional discrimination is legally permissible against the above categories. We ALSO have a cultural narrative that has been institutionalized in academia, law, politics, news media, social work, education and popular culture that describes the above-named groups as 1) responsible for creating a system that oppresses all other groups; 2) complicit in this oppression not by participation in the system, but by virtue of simply being who they are and therefore benefiting unjustly from said system; 3) uniquely monstrous in historical terms (colonialism, exploitation, slavery, etc); 4) enjoying "unearned privilege" over other groups; 5) uniquely capable of inflicting harm, even when harm is not intended; and 6) in control of everything. More than this, group slander against these groups, and even incitement to violence against them ("all men are pigs", "men are scum", "violence has a male face", #KillAllWhiteMen, #All I want for Christmas is White Genocide, etc) is seen as socially and legally permissible. The public discourse actively stirs up animosity and resentment against these particular groups, and promotes narratives that these groups are victimizers and that fear of them based on their biological characteristics alone is justified (m&ms anyone? How about white on black racism and police shootings?). The demonization narrative and the legal dehumanizing slander are cultural conditions that precede actual genocides. It doesn't matter if any of it is true. All that matters is that enough people believe it's true and that it is considered legally and socially acceptable to demonize and dehumanize the target group. I doubt straights, cisgenders and males (as a distinct, homogenous category) are in danger here. Straights and cisgenders will never be a minority. The vast majority of males in a normal society will always have women in their lives who cannot be convinced to lump their own husbands, brothers, fathers, sons, etc, into a group slated for extermination. You just won't be able to convince the average woman to hate ALL men enough to put her OWN men in an oven. But whites? None of the above applies to whites. What happens if whites become a minority in their own societies if the demonization narrative and the legalized dehumanizing slander of whites is still seen as socially permissible? If the culture of racial resentment against whites and the narrative of whites being responsible for all the evils of history is still legally permissible? What if this false history that whites are uniquely monstrous and that all other groups are their victims is still taught in schools? What if it is still taught that no matter what a white person does, they can't avoid victimizing other groups because even if they don't participate in the system of white privilege and whites' oppression of everyone else, they still benefit from it and there's nothing they can do to avoid benefiting from it? The institutionalized narratives paint whites into a corner they can't escape. Even innocence is no defence for the individual, because they are culpable simply by existing within a system of "white supremacy" that benefits them whether they want to benefit or not. Anti-white sentiment is socially and legally allowed. Inciting hatred, resentment and even violence against whites is also allowed in ways it is forbidden against minorities. And then we have Standpoint Theory and Epistemic Privilege. Under this set of theories (taught in all the places you'd expect) the oppressed have the status of "people who should be listened to". The theory describes all relationships as "master/slave", and the slave has epistemic privilege. They are presumed to understand their own and their master's experiences, motivations, intentions, thoughts and beliefs better than their master understands either. The problem is that the people who subscribe to these theories have assigned master and slave status based on something that can't be changed (skin color, gender, etc), when in reality power DOES change hands. What is to stop those who have been assigned epistemic privilege today from defending their epistemic privilege even when they find themselves in the position of master rather than slave? "I'm oppressed. How do I know? Well, I'm black, therefore oppressed, therefore I have epistemic privilege. This gives me a unique insight into how things work, and using my unique insight that my status as an oppressed person gives me, I can guarantee you I'm still oppressed. Well, of course you don't believe me. You're white. You're only saying that because you want to hold onto your privilege. I know this, because my epistemic privilege puts me in a position to understand your motivations better than you do. And believe me, if I were no longer oppressed, I'd let you know. But I can assure you I am still oppressed and you are still privileged (and privilege is invisible to the person who has it, mind you), and you have to believe me because I have epistemic privilege." Don't get me wrong, Carl. I couldn't care less about keeping the "white race" pure. But I've been thinking about all these things, and I'm seriously concerned about what is going to happen if whites ever do find themselves to be a minority in their own countries. If someone wanted to actually orchestrate a genocide, they couldn't do much better than promoting these narratives of collective white original sin, making white-bashing and overt resentment and animosity toward whites socially acceptable (even admirable) and then arranging for whites to be displaced in their own countries by other races. If I wanted an actual white genocide to happen, it's what I'd do.

Anyway, I honestly don't think there's a mastermind behind all of this. I just think it's the perfect storm of various conditions culminating in a situation that has me seriously worried. I have to wonder if some white nationalists are intuiting this potential state of affairs without really seeing all the dots. Whether they feel something coming that they can't articulate but feel they need to respond to and try to avert.

I know Sargon is aware of most of the stuff I talked about in my comment, and I know he believes it's inherently harmful, divisive and unjust. But I don't know if he's extrapolated the potential outcomes of the combination of all of these things if they were to be played out in previously white majority cultures where whites find themselves unprotected by law or legal precedent, and the targets of a legally and socially acceptable hate campaign.

Would leaving your entire estate to people of color, as that BLM leader he vlogged about suggested whites should do, be enough to remove the stain of original sin and spare your children? Would paying reparations be enough? Is there anything that would be enough to wash a white person clean of their unearned privilege and the blot of having benefited from a system of white supremacy that has uniquely exploited all other groups? How could it, when the system is set up so that you can't help but benefit, and cannot, because of your privilege, even appreciate how you've benefited?

All I know is I'm seriously worried about the world my kids are about to inherit.