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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Thursday, May 7, 2015


Yes, it's time for another round of that overly familiar game show, "Someone on the Internet is Wrong."

Don't get me wrong: I support free speech, no matter what sort of ultraconservative or ultraliberal tripe it may produce. The tripe this week comes from my most frequent source of the ultraliberal variety, Noah Berlatsky. I'm sure that this won't be the last time he spins some web of ragged logic for me to rip apart on this blog. However, this week will almost certainly be the last time I'll say anything on his blog, for which small favor I'm sure he'll be grateful beyond all words-- or rather, all deletions.

I've tried to minimize comments on Berlatsky's blog because, as I said recently, there's never any genuine discussion there, just endless citations of the "right" way of political thinking.  Given the mindset of the blog's owner and his contributors, I made my infrequent posts there not for any profit--  I knew I wouldn't get many persons from that community checking out my blog, and even if I had, I don't participate in Googlebucks or whatever it's called anyway. I just did it to furnish myself with subjects on which to expatiate here. Usually I've dealt with impersonal critical principles, but this time-- it's personal.

Well, personal and boring, even to me. But needs must when the devil drives, etc.

So the other day I scanned a HU essay with an apocalyptic title, "The End of Comic Geeks?", by one Aaron Kashtan. I didn't read it in depth, though I soon encountered the phrase "straight white men," a standard trope in the diatribes of over-politicized, and therefore bad, critics. I had no thought of engaging with Kashtan or his editor on this particular article of faith.

I did, however, notice one item in Kashtan's essay that was presented as yet another "article of faith," though it actually should be governed by "burden of proof," and it regards the Janelle Asselin Imbroglio from April of last year. Kashtan first referenced the TEEN TITANS review with which the incident began:

Asselin was hardly saying anything controversial here. It’s pretty obvious that this cover is not only terrible but also misogynistic. And yet just for pointing out this obvious fact, she was not only criticized but threatened with rape. At the same time that she published the article, she released a survey on sexual harassment in the comics industry, which is also a significant problem, and some unfortunate trolls discovered this survey and filled it in by posting rape threats against Asselin. According to CBR proprietor Jonah Weiland, “These same “fans” found her e-mail, home address and other personal information, and used it to harass and terrorize her, including an attempted hacking of her bank account.” And according to Jonah, many of the fans in question were regular participants on the comicbookresources.com message boards

I had commented on the matter myself more than once. particularly in the essay DANCING ON THE DWARF.  In that essay I expressed my reservations about the Internet news-community having reported Wieland's allegations as fact. These allegations imply that Wieland had indubitable information on the identity of these fans, which, if true, should have led to the arrest and prosecution of said fans. I was not able to find any evidence of such an investigation except for what Asselin wrote about her unsuccessful attempts to get the law or her bank to trace the culprits. My DANCING blogpost still contains a viable link to that Asselin post, in which she describes her reasons for believing that all of her persecutors were comics-fans; evidence which I hope any jury would deem circumstantial. I chose to point that out to Kashtan and the readers of the Hooded Utilitarian.

Did I rant and rave to the HU readers that they were mindless dupes of a FemiNazi hoax? Hardly. I confined myself to making a very mild objection to reporting Wieland's allegations as unvarnished fact.

Though you [Kashtan] have quoted as printed Jonah Wieland’s view that CBR fans attempted to hack Janelle Asselin’s account, it should be noted that this was not decisively proven. This was not for Asselin’s lack of trying, but unless she’s written something new about the matter, I understood that in her last word on the subject amounted to circumstantial evidence. I print this excerpt from my blogpost on the subject, which mentions the title of the only related Asselin post of which I’m aware.“This Janelle Asselin blogpost, entitled “An Explanation No One is Owed,” clarifies that Asselin (a) was unable to interest the FBI in the investigation of the rape threats that appeared on her online survey, and (b) had only circumstantial– though not improbable– evidence that one or more of her harassers had been complicit in the attempt on her bank account."

Here is Noah Berlatsky's response, delivered as if it were a general statement of his personal priorities. Since no one else on the thread has demurred against any aspect of Kashtan's pro-feminist narrative, it's clearly directed at me, though Berlatsky did not have the stones to address me.

You know, on second thought, there’s no particular reason to tolerate extended MRA nattering by random passersby on this thread. So…yeah, I’ll just delete that stuff. Fair warning. 

Berlatsky clearly chose this tack to discourage engagement, not just in the sense of a direct argument but in any continued postings. As soon as any administrator shakes the "delete" club, it's axiomatic that he would rather have the source of disturbance just go away entirely. Berlatsky is so eager to have this happen that he not only describes a mere two paragraphs as "extended," he decides to label me as "MRA." This abbreviation can mean either "Men's Right Activists" or "Men Run Amok" (the latter may or may not have evolved from the former). There's no knowing what NB really meant, given his history of posturing, but to be charitable, let's say the former was intended.

To "natter" is to jabber about unimportant matters. One would have to deduce from this that NB does not regard as important the question as to whether Jonah Wieland's allegations have any hard evidence to back them up. To be concerned with such niceties, it seems, gets in the way of the pro-feminist narrative that NB has put forth in roughly the same terms as those of Kashtan. Therefore, any counter-narrative must be the work of someone trying to protect the image of men from the complaints of women.

I'm sure that if NB read my blog, he'd manage to seize on something that he considered proof of this
opinion. But it takes a major mental leap to take the statement that Wieland's assertions lack hard evidence, and turn it into a defense of innocent fans-who-think-it's-funny-to-make-rape-threats.

This, of course, I have not done. In the above essay I referred to them as "scumbags" and expressed no doubt that comics-fans had assailed Asselin's online questionnaire about the comics-industry, since no one but comics-fans would have any interest in such a survey. But despite Asselin's circumstantial evidence, there are a lot of illegal hackers out there who routinely seek to break into bank accounts, and that fact should be out there, even if it does weaken the desired narrative.

So it's not about "men's rights;" it's about "burden of proof." Kashtan could have written roughly the same thing about the rape threats on the survey, and I would have said nothing. I would have liked to have pointed out that there would still be no evidence that all of the perpetrators are necessarily "straight white men," that Black and Latino men have their own history of woman-bashing. But I probably would not have bothered to point that out to someone who invokes the scapegoat of "straight white men" in such facile terms.

NB's response is a masterpiece of doublethink; of seeing what he wants to see. In ultraconservative terms, it ranks with the petty furor of people who don't like to hear "Happy Holidays" usurp "Merry Christmas."

So, assuming that NB keeps his word to delete any post of mine that he finds objectionable, here's my farewell post to HU-- always assuming that it will be deleted as promised.

Well, since no one would make such an absurd post without intending to use it as an excuse to get rid of an unpopular poster, I take Noah's dubious word that what I now post will be read only by him, and will be gone by morning.
Yes, Noah, it's your blog, so if you want to say that the sun rises in the west, or a statement about a lack of hard evidence constitutes a defense of Men's Rights, then you can make those definitions. They're chickenshit definitions, and it's a chickenshit way to justify getting rid of someone who disagrees with you, but you have every right to be chickenshit.
Kashtan, same to you. 
ADDENDUM: As of 6/9/15 Noah Berlatsky has stated that the "MRA nattering" remark was not directed at me, but at a poster who had been deleted. This does not invalidate all of the rhetoric regarding Kashtan's essay and other related matters, but I acknowledge that I may have been somewhat precipitate in my response.

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