This started as an e-mail to someone I respect tremendously, who expressed misgivings about an online protest conceived by Sady Doyle and Jaclyn Friedman and launched on Wednesday. (Background info is here, but really, if you don’t already know what I’m talking about, it is highly unlikely that you’ll give a rat’s ass about the rest of this post.) I wanted to explain to her why I’ve been participating in said protest and supporting it wholeheartedly, despite not agreeing with every single word Sady’s written, or other feminists have tweeted under #mooreandme, in the last few days.
I KNOW, RIGHT? Feminist bloggers disagreeing on certain points and yet still having each other’s backs! Next up: Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Et cetera!
Anyhow. Along the way, it started turning into a blog post instead of an e-mail to just one person. So here you go.
What Michael Moore Did That Warrants A Public Correction and Apology*
First, he made it clear in his initial post about bail that he was suspicious of the allegations themselves, not just the vigor with which Assange has been pursued.
For those of you who think it’s wrong to support Julian Assange because of the sexual assault allegations he’s being held for, all I ask is that you not be naive about how the government works when it decides to go after its prey. Please — never, ever believe the ‘official story.’ And regardless of Assange’s guilt or innocence (see the strange nature of the allegations here), this man has the right to have bail posted and to defend himself. I have joined with filmmakers Ken Loach and John Pilger and writer Jemima Khan in putting up the bail money — and we hope the judge will accept this and grant his release today.
Technically, he hasn’t come down on one side or the other here. But when you say “don’t believe the official story” and call the allegations “strange” and link to an article that casts a great deal of suspicion on the alleged victims–and where the primary sources are “people in contact with his entourage at the time,” his defense lawyers, and a Daily fucking Mail article that’s also based on anonymous sources–and p.s., you live in a culture where victims are routinely called liars and sexual assault allegations are routinely downplayed–you’re sending a message.
Then he goes on Olbermann (video and transcript) and says, after the whole “stinks to high heaven” bit–which, yeah, it does–”They go after people with this kind of lie and smear.”
Wait, what’s “a lie and a smear” now? That these allegations exist? That they are, in fact, rape allegations? That Assange was supposed to go back to Sweden in October for questioning, but didn’t? No, all those things are true, actually. So what’s the lie and the smear?
Moore continues: “Now, his guilt or innocence of this—I mean, what they said he did—and the lawyer said this today in court in London—that what they say he did, the charge is: his condom broke during consensual sex.”
Yeah, Assange’s lawyer probably did say that in court in London. But according to the UK Press Association, a full week earlier, a representative for the Swedish authorities
…told the court Assange was wanted in connection with four allegations. She said the first complainant, Miss A, said she was victim of ‘unlawful coercion’ on the night of August 14 in Stockholm.
The court heard Assange is accused of using his body weight to hold her down in a sexual manner.
The second charge alleged Assange ‘sexually molested’ Miss A by having sex with her without a condom when it was her ‘express wish’ one should be used.
The third charge claimed Assange ‘deliberately molested’ Miss A on August 18 ‘in a way designed to violate her sexual integrity’.
The fourth charge accused Assange of having sex with a second woman, Miss W, on August 17 without a condom while she was asleep at her Stockholm home.
So, rather than looking up what the allegations actually are, which he’s had at least a week to learn by this point, Moore chooses to perpetuate the myth that it was all a silly misunderstanding over a broken condom. Then he adds, “That is not a crime in Britain, and so they’re making the point how can we—how can we extradite him over this? This is all a bunch of hooey as far as I’m concerned!”
If the Swedish authorities were actually trying to extradite him because a condom broke during consensual sex, why, I’d think that was a bunch of hooey, too! Especially since unprotected consensual sex is not a crime in Sweden or Britain–I mean, please, would you fucking listen to yourself? But it turns out, that’s not what they wanted to talk to him about! And he agreed to go talk to them six weeks earlier, then didn’t show up! These things are also relevant, even though yes, I promise, we still get it about the timing!
Olbermann doesn’t call him out on any of this, apparently because he, too, has not bothered to find out what, specifically, the Swedish authorities wanted to question Assange about, even though the correct information has been widely available for at least a week.
Parenthetically, Olbermann has also not acknowledged that an article he linked to on Twitter a week earlier — RTing Assange supporter Bianca Jagger – should not have passed the fucking sniff test for a fourth grader, let alone a prominent journalist. It’s loaded with blatant misogyny (“For our own sakes, we must all do our part to protect him from castrating feminists and secret services alike”) and tinfoil-hat batshittery from a Holocaust denier who represents WikiLeaks in Russia. (I found out the former fun fact about Shamir by doing 20 minutes of research last week. I only just learned about the latter.) It also happens to name both accusers while calling them liars. (Since I linked to it, too, as a necessary condition of publicly WTFing it, I have no high horse to get on there. But I can’t blame Sady for pointing that out a lot.)
[UPDATE: On day 7, Olbermann finally started making what looks like a good faith response to these criticisms. See updates on this post.]
Oh, by the way, Moore retweeted that one, too. Just between the two of them that link went out to nearly 900,000 people.
So then Moore goes on the BBC and says: “And the issue here is that if he were any other just normal Brit, with this so-called ‘crime’ that he’s been accused of — which I understand isn’t, wouldn’t actually be a crime if it was committed in Britain, a condom broke I believe is the ‘evidence.’”
And he’s laughing while he says it. “So-called crime.” That’s pretty fucking unambiguous. Also demonstrably false, long after there is any excuse for still operating on bad information.
The day after THAT was when Sady (and Jaclyn) started the #mooreandme campaign.
Why I Think #mooreandme is a Perfectly Appropriate Tactic
For the record, despite all of the above, if the target had been anyone other than Michael Moore, I would probably not have participated in this campaign. Generally speaking, I’m not much for yelling and screaming at people who clearly don’t want to listen, or demanding that people pay attention to me. (I’ve refused a whole bunch of offers to “debate” anti-feminists and fat haters on TV, for instance, and I’ve written several times about how I’m much better at being a solitary writer than a traditional activist.) But you know who IS all about yelling and screaming at people who clearly don’t want to listen, and demanding that people pay attention and engage with him on his terms? Michael Fucking Moore.
Sady’s made it explicit from the get-go that the whole concept is an online Roger and Me, except this time, Michael Moore is Roger.
And days later, he still hasn’t come down to talk to us.
He hasn’t said, “I’m sorry I spread damaging misinformation in my zeal to make really important points about government corruption.”
He hasn’t said, “My understanding of the allegations was wrong, and I certainly shouldn’t have laughed about them without checking my facts.”
He definitely hasn’t said, “I understand that in this culture, rape victims are routinely accused of lying and/or exaggerating, which is why so many are afraid to tell anyone what happened, let alone press charges. I understand that by characterizing these sexual assault allegations as ‘lies and smears’ and a ‘so-called crime’ and perpetuating the ‘it’s all about a broken condom’ myth long after better information was widely available, I was both trading on that culture — because who’s going to question this version of events, apart from some angry feminists who are easily dismissed as unhinged? — and contributing to it. And for that I am truly sorry, as a progressive and a human being.”
He hasn’t said boo to the women who have been standing in front of his tower with a megaphone for three straight days, asking him to please listen, and please make this right.
Anyone else, I’d say, “Whatever. He doesn’t owe anyone a response. It’s totally his right to ignore people who are jumping up and down demanding his attention, even if I think their cause is righteous.”
And I mean, technically, that’s true of him, too.
But he is Michael Fucking Moore. He has made a career of bullying people into talking to him on his terms by A) publicly embarrassing them and B) being such a goddamn nuisance they’ll eventually do anything to shut him up. And calling it all justified because his targets are big and powerful and hurting people who are too often ignored and silenced.
Well, guess what. I mean, really.
One More Thing
I’m also sick of hearing that this is somehow a bullshit protest because it’s happening on Twitter instead of the street. After one day, #mooreandme had the attention of Keith Olbermann, among others — including NYT reporter and Half the Sky co-author Nicholas Kristof; CauseWired author Tom Watson; Jezebel, Slate, Salon, Mediaite, and The Washington Post online, off the top of my head. How many in-person protests get that kind of media attention within 24 hours of their conception?
Yesterday, day three, it turned into a fundraiser for anti-sexual assault organizations–including RAINN, which will be matching donations until December 31–and hundreds of people (at least) have made whatever donations they could afford.
My most recent post on the matter (on a blog I never update, which usually gets a few hundred views a day) has been viewed over 24,000 times. Andrew Sullivan linked to it after posting a bunch of “Consent is confusing!” bullshit from his readers, and acknowledged that the allegations, whether or not they’re true, definitely describe rape. Prominent people are thinking twice about the narratives they’re buying into and propagating.
I’ve picked up more than 200 new Twitter followers — most of them, presumably, feminists and anti-rape activists I didn’t know before this week — as a direct result of #mooreandme. And I’ve only been involved to the tune of a couple dozen tweets and two blog posts.
You want to tell me again that online activism doesn’t really accomplish anything?
*No, the letter to Sweden doesn’t count.