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July 10, 2014 9:10 AM   Subscribe

Last month, Shanley Kane, founder of Model View Culture, (previously, previously,previouslyier, previousliest) accused a journalist of stalking and harassing her.

Publisher Bobbie Johnson's reply:

Despite what you may have heard, we aren’t “investigating” Shanley, or threatening to dig up secrets from her personal life. We’re trying to produce an accurate profile of somebody doing interesting, vital, valuable work.

We are not preparing a story that would smear her.

We have never coerced her, blackmailed her, or threatened to publish mistruths. We have talked to her, asked her questions and said we will check facts.

Yesterday Elizabeth Spiers' profile, titled “Speaking up every. Fucking. Time”
How one feminist publisher is taking on the worst of Silicon Valley (and some of her allies, too)
.

"A large part of the site’s appeal was Kane herself: in particular, her approach to her opponents. She was unafraid to go after people she thought were part of the problem, and some of her tactics were contentious. On Twitter, particularly, her reactions were visceral: all-caps denunciations telling the relevant offenders to fuck off, calling them assholes and pieces of shit.
(...)
The Twitter conversations—if you can call them that—were striking all the more because Kane’s more formal articles seemed to be written by an almost entirely different person. They were long, analytical pieces with an academic bent, advocating for things like better mechanisms for conflict resolution, more robust and proactive HR departments that prioritize diversity, or alternative approaches rather than simply telling women to “lean in” in order to succeed.
posted by bq (66 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Team Kane!
posted by oceanjesse at 9:34 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


It sounds like Kane is pre-empting anything negative or bad that would be in the report, by taking control of the conversation long before the article in question is being published, and putting a black cloud over it, pre-calling into question anything it says as simple revenge again Kane.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 9:35 AM on July 10


Can someone parse this for me?: "repeatedly tweeting about searching my mentions to 16k people"
posted by smackfu at 9:43 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


I kinda found Spiers', sigh, tone to be pretty patronizing.
I’m skeptical about the ability of specific outlets to be fair when their investors can, and do, affect coverage. But for most news-driven journalistic outlets, the business and editorial sides are separated by what industry people call the Chinese wall. It means that in most cases, reporters aren’t even aware of what’s happening on the business side.
This, these are my eyes rolling to the back of my head. How many of these organizations still exist today?
At this point, I knew Kane was familiar with the process of reporting, and how journalists—ethical ones, at least—don’t allow the subject to dictate who they speak to, or what they ask. Not only had we talked about it several times, but her professional background included a stint in a PR firm. So it seemed disingenuous at best, and manipulative at worst, to feign ignorance of the fact that profiling her would involve talking to other people. In order to believe that was the case, I’d have to believe that she didn’t listen to a word I said about process, and that the entire time she was working in a firm whose express purpose was to interact with journalists, she managed to learn nothing about how journalism worked.
It sounds like she was expecting a quick puff piece - especially if her background was in PR, and especially if she considered the Matter founder a friend. It sounds like that had she been expecting real journalism, a much rarer commodity these days than the author makes it out to be, she would not have consented to the experience in the first place.

The author may go on about the journalistic right to inform the public, but given the economics of the piece, I kinda doubt the editor would've greenlit the profile had she denied interview requests.
So I sent her an email back explaining the reporting process again and noting that I was asking for suggestions, not permission, which was something I did not need.
How exactly was Shanley's reaction to this not predictable? How would anyone react positively to that?

And for all this hand wringing about process, there doesn't seem to be a single quote from another human being that wasn't sourced from a public blog. It seems like a full third of the piece is about the author's process, which seems really off and weird for a profile.

There's genuinely something to be said about lefty criticism being stifled; that it is difficult to engage in a discourse so dominated by identity politics. But this article seems to be entirely centred around the author's discomfort.

So, complicated.
posted by pmv at 9:46 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


Smackfu: I'm guessing Shanley is referring to this tweet by espiers, but I'm not sure about the "repeatedly" part; I only see the one comment.
posted by dorque at 9:49 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Oh, I see, Speirs has 16k followers and is tweeting about stuff. And "searching her mentions" is searching for her username.
posted by smackfu at 9:54 AM on July 10


I was crunched for time because of my upcoming wedding, and it wasn’t something I needed to do professionally or financially

How is this objective reporting?
posted by GrapeApiary at 9:58 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


Kane played an absolute blinder here, I think - she generated a nice hefty controversy over, you know, a journalist just doing some journalism in the usual way, controlling the story and driving folk to MVC in the process, and still managed to land a largely positive profile in Matter, driving yet more folk to MVC. (I suspect Kane might've preferred a complete hatchet job from Spiers, to keep things rolling, but either way the plan works.)

Clever stuff, though it doesn't seem like much fun for anyone involved, Kane included.
posted by jack_mo at 9:59 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


why is a comment by misha the previousliest link instead of the thread itself?
posted by sweetkid at 10:00 AM on July 10


I would really love some info about this that doesn't come from Shanley or Medium. Shanley gets enough shit that I think she's probably completely justified in being more sensitive to cyberstalking or things that might turn into cyberstalking than the average bear, but unless there's more going on here that I haven't seen, I'm having a rough time matching up the facts with the reactions of everyone involved.

If I'm boiling down the Medium article correctly, Spiers says she does the interview, later asks Shanley if she can chat with friends of Shanley's, Shanley says maybe, Spiers checks in again later in a kind of condescending way, Shanley says no and also fuck off, Spiers duly fucks off aside from an email that she'll ask for comment before publishing. Then from Twitter, I guess Spiers later puts "shanley" into the twitter search box and makes a side comment about something that I guess might be funnier if I knew who Taye Diggs was.

Unless the "no and also fuck off" contained an implied or explicit "... and also don't publish that article" (and I am incredibly bad at implied readings, so if it's an obvious implied reading that would help me to know), I'm kind of baffled. It doesn't seem like either side is covered in glory here, but in most cases where I've seen Shanley take shit, her anger has been pretty justified and I'm having a tough time seeing it here.
posted by dorque at 10:04 AM on July 10


Yeah, Spiers made a whole lot of that about Spiers, and she struck me as thin-skinned and arrogant.

Noted that she's a Gawker cofounder (who touted Valleywag, a Gawker site that's struck more than a few people as questionable, at least a couple times).

Various things left me wondering if she has at least a little bit of a guilty conscience.
posted by ambient2 at 10:05 AM on July 10


And for all this hand wringing about process, there doesn't seem to be a single quote from another human being that wasn't sourced from a public blog. It seems like a full third of the piece is about the author's process, which seems really off and weird for a profile.

How could Spiers ignore the elephant in the room? And you're shocked that she had a tough time getting quotes from Kane's circle when the subject spent weeks telling all those people not to talk to her and accusing Spiers if cyberstalking her?

Also,

How exactly was Shanley's reaction to this not predictable?

For a former PR person, it's not at all predictable. It is downright bizarre. Anybody who's worked in PR would know that this is how reporting works -- you interview the subject, and you interview people who know them. That's 101 shit. That's how every magazine profile ever written works. Hell, Spiers gave Kane the opportunity to make sure those contacts were friendly to her --- and that's precisely the point where Kane balked.

I mean, I know the tech press is pretty bought, but anyone who's read a magazine, never mind publishes one, would know that long form profiles contain quotes from people who know the subject. Even "Frank Sinatra Has A Cold" has them.
posted by Diablevert at 10:08 AM on July 10 [17 favorites]


And likewise, though I'd probably come down on Team Kane vs. Team Spiers macro, in this particular instance, long form profiles that are specifically about a person where that person makes that process difficult often become about the writer and the process as well.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:17 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


Is there a Storify somewhere that has the stuff that Shanley tweeted, including the excerpts from their email correspondence? It seems like that's crucial source material if I want the whole story, but it's tedious to go through someone's timeline to pick out something that happened a month ago (assuming those tweets haven't been deleted altogether).
posted by savetheclocktower at 10:21 AM on July 10


I've read all this and I still have no idea what the hell is going on. Help?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:40 AM on July 10 [5 favorites]


>How could Spiers ignore the elephant in the room? And you're shocked that she had a tough time getting quotes from Kane's circle when the subject spent weeks telling all those people not to talk to her and accusing Spiers if cyberstalking her?

I mean, it's possible that literally no one else who has interacted with her - former coworkers, writers for her publication, friends, fellow feminist activists on twitter, people she has eviscerated - would go on the record. But I find it unlikely?

Shanley is a highly divisive figure; maybe she could've explored those divisions more thoroughly. I can think of three or four different ways to take the piece. I don't know.

> Anybody who's worked in PR would know that this is how reporting works -- you interview the subject, and you interview people who know them

I've never worked in media, tho I do consume a fair amount of media criticism. My impression is that the line isn't nearly as clear cut as it is being made out to be. My understanding is that The Process is heavily influenced by deadlines and subject matter. I've definitely read my fair share of uncritical puff pieces, and I've played the game where you figure out how much of an article was directly excerpted from the press release.

This is to not even wade into how a journalist's goals are usually directly opposed to that of their subject.

I was referring more to the way that Spiers' self-reportedly interacted with her. Spiers opens up the article with how Shanley can be a vociferous, antagonizing figure. Yet she was condescending and patronizing, and made fun of consent - which is a hot topic in the community at the moment.

In context, I think it was fully predictable that Shanley would react that way once you crossed her.
posted by pmv at 10:45 AM on July 10


Maybe I'm wrong about this, but I got the impression that Spiers originally planned to do a story about MVC, for which Shanley was obviously a central source. But in the process of reporting it, Shanley forced Spiers to personalize it by publicly condemning the story before it was published, and condemning the writer.

So Spiers wrote this piece, which is not that story on MVC, but a story about the story.

I can't tell whether that MVC story has come out, or whether it will come out. Still, the meta-story is interesting.

I can't tell whether Spiers is "getting ahead of the story" or abusing the Streisand effect.
posted by adamrice at 10:50 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


This is really bizarre behavior on Kane's part. Abusing the Streisand effect is an interesting theory.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:56 AM on July 10


And for all this hand wringing about process, there doesn't seem to be a single quote from another human being that wasn't sourced from a public blog.

She indicates that this was an explicit choice to respect Shanley's privacy.
Sensitivity to privacy issues, yes: There’s no information about Kane herself in this article that you couldn’t glean from her Twitter feed, or other information she’s already published... This was a choice on my part, not a journalistic obligation.
I got the impression that Spiers originally planned to do a story about MVC

Johnson claims that's not the case:
Some time ago we met for lunch, and I explained to Shanley that I’d love to run a piece about her and the work she does
posted by Coventry at 10:56 AM on July 10


Is there a Storify somewhere that has the stuff that Shanley tweeted, including the excerpts from their email correspondence?

Here's some of it (this is before she identified the journalist):

https://twitter.com/shanley/status/476403371201425408
https://twitter.com/shanley/status/476392796631220224
https://twitter.com/shanley/status/476389370950197248
posted by smackfu at 10:58 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


I've read all this and I still have no idea what the hell is going on. Help?

The tl;dr seems to be: journalist interviews website founder for story, things seem to be going swimmingly until journalist asks founder for friends and family to talk to, founder gets cold feet and accuses journalist of "stalking" her.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:04 AM on July 10 [5 favorites]


I've read all this and I still have no idea what the hell is going on. Help?

Tech industry drama, involving tech hangers-on, writing about each other.

Other people's experience might be different, but I'm neck deep in silicon valley nonsense and I can't think of one time that I've heard someone in real life talk about either of these people or their organizations. It's not even industry insider gossip - it's manufactured drama involving people who don't appear to be making any real contributions to the tech sector beyond web commentary.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 11:09 AM on July 10 [7 favorites]


I've never worked in media, tho I do consume a fair amount of media criticism. My impression is that the line isn't nearly as clear cut as it is being made out to be. My understanding is that The Process is heavily influenced by deadlines and subject matter. I've definitely read my fair share of uncritical puff pieces, and I've played the game where you figure out how much of an article was directly excerpted from the press release.

Yeah, the process for writing journalism is influenced by deadlines, for sure. Plenty of fluff out there, and maybe Kane thought the piece was meant to be fluffy.

But fluffiness is a question of quality, of content. Whether or not the piece includes quotes from third parties is a far more basic characteristic, a question of form. Profiles do. I'd say you'd be hard pressed to find the fluffiest bit of sunshine that doesn't --- a profile of a high school valedictorian or a quarterback in a weekly village newspaper would have quotes from their teachers and coaches, parents and friends.

Any long-form, magazine-style piece would --- hell, even People magazine, the gold standard for quote approved, lickarse celebrity fawning has quotes from third parties in its profiles. There's no way Kane, with a PR background, thought she was sitting down for three, separate, hours-long interviews about her life and her work without understanding that this was meant to be a lengthy piece. It is super-weird that she reacted like this, IMO.
posted by Diablevert at 11:12 AM on July 10 [4 favorites]


it's manufactured drama involving people who don't appear to be making any real contributions to the tech sector beyond web commentary.

Shanley has worked in the tech sector for years, and is now writing about it. What bar are you hoping her to clear before she's allowed to be taken seriously?
posted by Space Coyote at 11:18 AM on July 10 [7 favorites]


I really hate the "Team" stuff on controversies like this. Or, really, anywhere other than sports or other fandom. Life's a touched more nuanced, and there're plenty of flaws sprinkled around in this case.

For example, as someone who works in print media and PR and has her own bully pulpit, Kane should have understood journalism 101 stuff like "I don't need your permission to ask about you because I'm not your PR operative" and maybe not gone nuclear when asked for a list of people who might say nice things about her. Spiers should not have been such a condescending jerk about it and, though I very much sympathize with why she did it, probably shouldn't have made the story be so much about her.

See? We can learn from everyone's mistakes.
posted by middleclasstool at 11:28 AM on July 10 [5 favorites]


Fun fact (and slight derail): The way I heard the Gawker origin story is Spiers met Denton at a MeFi meetup.
posted by 99_ at 11:32 AM on July 10


"Shanley has worked in the tech sector for years, and is now writing about it. What bar are you hoping her to clear before she's allowed to be taken seriously?"

She graduated in 2008. Near as I can tell, she's worked in tech marketing and/or outreach for maybe two companies in that time before starting her site. Let's say she's valley average and has switch jobs every 18 months - that's 4 jobs. Let's say she's switched jobs every year - that's 6 jobs.

Small number of years, non-obvious contributions, a whole lot of drama. I'm allowed to take serious issue with the messenger and their level of credibility (especially this one). I'm also allowed an opinion on their conduct. You're allowed to disagree with me. It'll be ok.

BUT THAT'S NOT EVEN THE ISSUE - the issue is how she's handling being a public figure. I'm not the first person to observe this, but for someone involved in public messaging she's either a complete idiot or a genius, and it all depends on whether or not she's doing all this on purpose or simply stumbling into the attention.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 11:35 AM on July 10 [4 favorites]


I was referring more to the way that Spiers' self-reportedly interacted with her. Spiers opens up the article with how Shanley can be a vociferous, antagonizing figure. Yet she was condescending and patronizing, and made fun of consent - which is a hot topic in the community at the moment.

In context, I think it was fully predictable that Shanley would react that way once you crossed her.


Right, I forgot to mention this earlier --- Kane flipped out before Spiers "crossed" her, by this account. She started stonewalling when Spiers asked for a list of names, they exchanged tetchy emails in which Spiers was condescending and Kane accused Spiers of stalking her, and then Kane went nuclear in public, before the article had even been written, never mind published. And frankly, now that it has --- despite the fact that about two thirds of it is about this behind the scenes stuff, Spiers is still highly complimentary about Kane's work and her role as a public figure on the valley. I can't help but imagine that the thing would have been a straight full service BJ if Kane had just come across with a few names willing to talk about how nifty she is in the first place --- Spiers strapped herself into the highchair and requested Kane do airplane noises, by Spier's own account.
posted by Diablevert at 11:42 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


More journalists behaving badly, Julie Anne Horvath is currently tweeting about why Business Insider seems to still want to go after her.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:55 AM on July 10


I probably wouldnt have read Spiers' piece if Kane hadn't raised the ruckus she did. (Is that the Streissand Effect?)

I wouldn't think as hard about social justice issues including my own privileges if Kane didn't communicate the way she does.

Something is working there, and I doubt it's accidental.
posted by axoplasm at 12:05 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine posted this to his private twitter account and it seems about right.
What's strange is that Spiers accepted the request to not contact any other people, turned the article into an Ode to Journalism/ist Ethics. [...] Cynical take is everyone wins: Journos get to preen about The Integrity Of The Process, Critics get their hate read, etc.
posted by thedaniel at 12:10 PM on July 10


smackfu: "Here's some of it (this is before she identified the journalist):

https://twitter.com/shanley/status/476392796631220224
"

This is a little unusual for me. Suppose we were friends, and I told a third party "don't talk to that person at all. It makes me uncomfortable." What would your reaction be?
posted by boo_radley at 12:15 PM on July 10


I don't know if Kane's background or experience argue that she should know this, and I'm generally Team Kane, but I find nothing objectionable in Spiers' emails to her. She's vastly less confrontational than Kane typically is, and her position is totally defensible. Kane's acting like journalistic boundaries are the same as general relationship boundaries, and they're not.

In the normal case, we complain greatly about how journalists fail to assert their right to practice journalism with their subjects.
posted by fatbird at 12:31 PM on July 10 [9 favorites]


This is a little unusual for me. Suppose we were friends, and I told a third party "don't talk to that person at all. It makes me uncomfortable." What would your reaction be?

Suppose you were interviewing me for a job, and I told you, "don't talk to my past employers, it makes me uncomfortable," what would your reaction be?

The relationship between journalist and subject need not be adversarial, as the relationship between interviewer and potential employer need not be. But neither are they friends. It's a professional relationship, and the objective of both the potential employer and the journalist should be to form an objective assessment of the subject, one that takes into account both their virtues and their flaws.
posted by Diablevert at 12:42 PM on July 10


The relationship between journalist and subject need not be adversarial, as the relationship between interviewer and potential employer need not be. But neither are they friends. It's a professional relationship, and the objective of both the potential employer and the journalist should be to form an objective assessment of the subject, one that takes into account both their virtues and their flaws.


And that gets to the heart of it. For better or worse, MVC is a form of journalism. You would think that a founder/publisher/writer would know that the subject doesn't get to control the reporting.

Kane is simply being unprofessional and a bully. The causes with which Kane associates herself deserve more credible and professional people working on their behalf. Calling down her own personal twitter mob on someone doing their job (over an email exchange broadcast to twitter! where the email itself is totally correct in its assertions!) isn't really the look social justice needs.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 1:23 PM on July 10 [4 favorites]



And that gets to the heart of it. For better or worse, MVC is a form of journalism. You would think that a founder/publisher/writer would know that the subject doesn't get to control the reporting.


On the other hand, the next time a journalist is told "don't be a creep and ask my relatives and friends about me" they might consider listening.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:36 PM on July 10


On the other hand, the next time a journalist is told "don't be a creep and ask my relatives and friends about me" they might consider listening.

... as far as I can tell, she did?

... wait, ok, maybe I can't read. Hm.
posted by dorque at 1:39 PM on July 10


On the other hand, the next time a journalist is told "don't be a creep and ask my relatives and friends about me" they might consider listening.

Why would a journalist listen to this?
posted by fatbird at 1:43 PM on July 10 [5 favorites]


On the other hand, the next time a journalist is told "don't be a creep and ask my relatives and friends about me" they might consider listening.


I'm going to be very clear here: someone who talks about social justice isn't automatically a victim. Someone who talks about social justice doesn't get special treatment in terms of how a journalistic profile is put together. I'm not the only one making this point, Diablevert has it most aptly, above:

For a former PR person, it's not at all predictable. It is downright bizarre. Anybody who's worked in PR would know that this is how reporting works -- you interview the subject, and you interview people who know them. That's 101 shit. That's how every magazine profile ever written works. Hell, Spiers gave Kane the opportunity to make sure those contacts were friendly to her --- and that's precisely the point where Kane balked.

I mean, I know the tech press is pretty bought, but anyone who's read a magazine, never mind publishes one, would know that long form profiles contain quotes from people who know the subject. Even "Frank Sinatra Has A Cold" has them.


Let's be even more clear - someone who traffics in these spaces (ie. journalism and social justice) can be fairly expected to have behaved much, MUCH better than what was seen here. Spiers was ultimately much more gentle to Kane than necessary, and I admire her discretion in merely calling her an asshole.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 1:45 PM on July 10 [13 favorites]


I don't think it's unreasonable for Shanley to point out (in her own way) that current journalistic practice is at odds with a social justice culture that prioritizes explicit consent.

I'm not saying explicit consent should be required for every journalist in every situation, or lots of important investigative journalism would be 100% impossible; but when you're doing a non-investigative interview of someone who's had run-ins with internet creepers in the past, I think it behooves you to tread more carefully than usual. If there's no compelling reason to do something someone has asked you not to do (and "it's the prevailing culture!" is not a compelling reason), why press the issue?

FWIW, I feel like Shanley's expectations were pretty naive for reasons that have already been covered, but I also think the "right" response from Spiers would have been along the lines of "Ok. This isn't how this sort of piece usually works, so under the circumstances I think it's best if we scrap it."
posted by dorque at 2:27 PM on July 10 [3 favorites]


In a rather self-absorbed manner, I am gratified that this piece mirrors all the things that I think about Shanley in the rough proportions that I think them.

I agree with 90% of what she says. I think the vast majority of people who don't like her "tone" or her tactics are just butthurt man-children. I bite my tongue sometimes because I don't want to be seen as throwing in with the same sort of dudes who say "they should just call it equalism, not feminism" and shit like that. I think she has no obligation to be calm or to educate people.

I also think that she has abused people on Twitter. I think she has gone beyond just anger (which she is entitled to have) into manipulation, insults, and humiliation, which have nothing to do with tone and involve making actual people feel shitty.

In short, how one feels about Shanley should not be considered a proxy for how one feels about feminism. For extra credit, I think that we shouldn't even put it in terms of pro-Shanley and anti-Shanley; I'd much rather judge her discrete chunks of output. (I think MVC is fantastic, I think her Twitter advocacy often brings stuff into the spotlight that would otherwise be ignored, and I think her Twitter abuse is sometimes lamentable.)
posted by savetheclocktower at 2:32 PM on July 10 [16 favorites]


Having been internet famous (for a very short time) I have a lot of empathy for Kane's position and her sensitivity to stalking and harassment.

That said, I don't think the journalist did anything wrong. It seems really sad that things turned out this way and I think sexism is ultimately to blame.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:39 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Like, yes, I think she's really sensitive and personalizing this to a perhaps disproportionate extent. But I think she is doing that because of years of blatant sexist abuse. It's really sad.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:58 PM on July 10


There is no amount of rightness that justifies self-righteousness. Fighting for justice requires incredible courage, not just in order to stand up to evil in the world, but in yourself as well. That's justs the ways the games is playing.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:06 PM on July 10


On reflection, I'm noticing that some of my support of Spiers in this is coming from a feeling that crapping on her for being condescending is nothing but a tone argument, and a typical way of belittling females asserting themselves when they're clearly in the right.
posted by fatbird at 3:39 PM on July 10 [8 favorites]


It seems that Kane has formed a cult of personality around her continual strident abrasiveness. And it saddens me that her abuses of others are excused because of her prior experiences, or under the guise of avoiding tone-policing. Sometimes crappy, cake-and-eat-it-too behavior is just that.

Also, re savetheclocktower, I think it's valid to have feelings for both the person and the output. Do I love Ender's Game? Yeah. Do I think Orson Scott Card is a dick? Yup. While I agree that "how one feels about Shanley should not be considered a proxy for how one feels about feminism", the acidic, toxic feeling I get when I read some of her rants unfortunately bleeds strongly into her valid points (and projects) and breeds no empathy.

It is sad if repeated exposure to sexism has caused her tendency to react so strongly. I suspect that's partly true, but I'd wager it's also something different: Twitter followers who like the show. I'm reminded of this essay.

At any rate, she is certainly good at generating press. I hope MVC brings a needed voice to the field and look forward to her longer-form more nuanced articles. Just, ugh, the Twitter.
posted by twooster at 4:43 PM on July 10 [4 favorites]


twooster: "While I agree that "how one feels about Shanley should not be considered a proxy for how one feels about feminism", the acidic, toxic feeling I get when I read some of her rants unfortunately bleeds strongly into her valid points (and projects) and breeds no empathy."

Yeah, that's fine. We're not robots who can always extract cold semantics from a page of furious prose. My point was more about (a) people who think that criticizing Shanley makes one a bad ally, and (b) people who shun the word "feminist" out of a seeming reluctance to align themselves with the Shanleys of the world.

Jenn Schiffer wrote about this:
[…] when anyone meets me in person, I usually get asked "so what do you think of Shanley?" This person, who I've never met before, has become a theme of many conversations where I feel like I could never give the right answer. Many men will ask this, obviously hoping I say I hate her and think she's wrong and scary. Then they can say it's okay to disparage her because "Jenn is a woman and she feels the same way!" Like, ugh, can you not.

[…]

But most importantly - any opinion you have of her or other feminists should have nothing to do with mine. Get your own damn thoughts and reactions, and stop using me and other women as a crutch for fuck's sake.
posted by savetheclocktower at 4:53 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Spiers used to be (12 years (!) ago) lizs around these parts. Apparently she was hired by Nick Denton after a meetup.
posted by dhartung at 5:02 PM on July 10 [3 favorites]


And for all this hand wringing about process, there doesn't seem to be a single quote from another human being that wasn't sourced from a public blog.

What's strange is that Spiers accepted the request to not contact any other people, turned the article into an Ode to Journalism/ist Ethics. [...] Cynical take is everyone wins: Journos get to preen about The Integrity Of The Process, Critics get their hate read, etc.

Is good countertrolling. Shanley, whether or not she planned this out, gains an advantage if Spiers digs around to Kane's personal connections. It can be sold as further harassment and more of a hit piece. She could even have some compatriots likely to be contacted primed to claim Spiers harassed them as well, or arrange that after the fact. Hostile respondents, barring something really factually damning - let's assume she knows this isn't out there - will likely be possible to deflect into standard Patriarchy v. Feminism arguments.

Spiers is having none of that shit. Pulls the rug out from under Kane. No more harassment. Vigorous, well-signalled, explicitly proclaimed non-harassment. She wholeheartedly respects the ridiculous notion of "consent" that makes a mockery of journalism, not by producing the joke of an article that would require, but by not producing such an article at all. Instead, the story is straight about how Kane tried to corrupt the story. Whoops.

Furthermore, if she had actually dug up some people, maybe they would all say she was a jackass, but maybe not. With this refusal, an implication is made. Shanley Kane was asked to name a few people who knew her well and would say a good word in her name, and refused. Perhaps couldn't.

As people have noted, superficially it's quite full of praise, but learn to read between the lines. That was a blasting.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 5:05 PM on July 10 [7 favorites]


Kane, writing in MVC last week: “Internet Famous”: Visibility As Violence On Social Media
Ironically, as I have become a “public figure,” I am less and less able to exist in public. I used to go to events and people would joke that I was “internet famous.”

… Now, I no longer attend industry events at all, because I feel physically unsafe doing so due to the violence I experience constantly. I cannot share any information about my personal life – even my appearance, general location and relationships – in public spaces. Yet as I have become increasingly more “private,” the calls of “public figure” become stronger and stronger. This – in addition to the fact that “public figure” is NEVER used to refer to me outside of the context of justifying maltreatment – proves that this “status” is not related to the actual facts of my existence in the industry but rather as a mechanism of abuse, a use of visibility for violence.
posted by mbrubeck at 5:19 PM on July 10


mbrubeck: When is "public figure" ever used to do anything except justify journalistic interest in a person? That someone is a "public figure" is, in fact, ensconced in case law as one of the defenses against defamation.

This doesn't mean it's not misused -- prying into the life of someone thrown, half-naked, into the harsh spotlight of tabloid journalism -- but it certainly doesn't seem to be in this case.

Launching an online publication in part through the force of your personality, and inviting a journalist to discuss it with you is not becoming increasingly more "private". That's self-promotion. And the OP article hardly turns her into a "caricature - all the nuance of [her] work being taken away." There's some shifty false equivalences going on here.
posted by twooster at 6:52 PM on July 10 [4 favorites]


Has Kane clarified the degree to which that essay was a response to Spiers' article? It's not like she doesn't have many more or better reasons to write it, and the Spiers issue seems relatively minor in comparison.
posted by fatbird at 7:08 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Spiers did a nice piece. Shanley is great but yeah, that was a bit of a strange reaction.

Other people's experience might be different, but I'm neck deep in silicon valley nonsense and I can't think of one time that I've heard someone in real life talk about either of these people or their organizations. It's not even industry insider gossip - it's manufactured drama involving people who don't appear to be making any real contributions to the tech sector beyond web commentary.

Other people's experience is, in fact, different. If you think people aren't listening to Shanley then you're out of touch, and if you think she isn't making a real contribution then you are WAY out of touch. She is literally changing the way men I know personally work with people and treat their employees. She is making people uncomfortable, but in a way that makes them think. She published an article about microagressions a while ago that made me kind of pissed off (as a manager), but it stuck with me in an incredible way, and made me think carefully about some of the ways I interact with my own employees.

People are talking about real issues with women and minorities in tech because of her; because she has pushed those issues in a way that most of us women who actually work in the midst of the industry can't. We can't because we'll be accused by folks of basically what you just accused her of; not being worth listening to, not being important, not being in the industry in any meaningful way. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. This is exactly the kind of dismissive sexist behavior that Shanley is effectively targeting.

If you're not hearing her impact, listen harder. And if you're still not hearing it, you may ask yourself who you're choosing to surround yourself with, and whether they wouldn't be better off listening to some of the things she has to say.
posted by ch1x0r at 8:21 PM on July 10 [8 favorites]


I'm reminded of this essay.

This is really good, clarifies some things I've been quite confused about.
What is rarely pointed out is that a person can be at once oppressed and an abuser.
posted by Coventry at 8:21 PM on July 10


Radical activism often has rough edges and takes no prisoners. It clears space for more nuanced conversations that can take place (now and especially in the future) but nuanced conversations on their own don't clear that space.

I'm a print subscriber to Model View Culture, and there is a lot of very good work coming out of it; that said, when Amelia Greenhall stepped away, I had reservations about whether it would burn out very quickly under Shanley Kane's lone leadership. I still expect it to burn out relatively quickly, but it will be money well spent. It's long past bloody time to hear those voices after what feels like at least a couple of years of regular Dudebro Startup horror stories, which themselves come out of a broader context of marginalisation.

So it both is and is not about Shanley the person, and Spiers managed to grasp that, even if I think the final piece is trying very hard not to step on the cracks in the pavement.
posted by holgate at 10:59 PM on July 10 [2 favorites]


People are talking about real issues with women and minorities in tech because of her; because she has pushed those issues in a way that most of us women who actually work in the midst of the industry can't. We can't because we'll be accused by folks of basically what you just accused her of; not being worth listening to, not being important, not being in the industry in any meaningful way. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. This is exactly the kind of dismissive sexist behavior that Shanley is effectively targeting.

Nope. The observation that someone hasn't done much has got nothing to do with her gender. It's more than a little interesting than you're drawing a false equivalence between my problems with her experience level and/or contributions with sexism. It's NOT sexist to hold the opinion that her credibility seems to derive from short tenures in non-central roles. She could be a white male or minority female or a flying squirrel - I would have said the exact same thing about any of them.

Now - let's go the other way. Let's take her identity and her debatable level of cred (or who I am and whom I hang out with and how out of touch we all are) off the table. Forget the messengers completely. Is she speaking some truth? Sure. Does it offset her use of the very tactics she rails against in her attempts to tone police an initially (and arguably still) sympathetic journalist acting completely within documented professional bounds and standards? Nope. There's a difference between someone working for their causes and working for their own self-aggrandizement - and anyone (regardless of identity) who conducted themselves the way she has in this thing is pretty firmly in the latter category.

You know, it is possible to be a feminist while also having a problem with this particular person and their conduct in this specific episode. Or are radical activist feminism and Kane's public persona already the same thing?
posted by NoRelationToLea at 1:39 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


Shanely strikes me a deeply unbalanced person, but this is the core of her success. She makes NOISE, and it gets people to pay attention. I am reminded of this research that links leadership and psychopathy.

I think she's doing great work and have a lot of respect for her, but I also think that there is something deeply troubling with her success on a larger scale. There are plenty of people writing with a nicer "tone" about similar problems, but they don't generate half as much attention. This piece would not have been read as widely without the Twitter tantrum about stalking. It's all part of the same sick machine that rewards yelling and violence as the way to get things done.
posted by ohisee at 1:16 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


Nope. The observation that someone hasn't done much has got nothing to do with her gender. It's more than a little interesting than you're drawing a false equivalence between my problems with her experience level and/or contributions with sexism. It's NOT sexist to hold the opinion that her credibility seems to derive from short tenures in non-central roles. She could be a white male or minority female or a flying squirrel - I would have said the exact same thing about any of them.


Why does someone need to be in some position of major experience to observe problems with SV culture? This is where your argument falls down to me; you seem to think that she needs to have been through it all to observe anything of value. Well, I have been through it all, and her observations are more thoughtful than mine, so I don't know what to tell you but I don't really think experience is the only thing that makes someone a capable cultural critic. You've really never had a pair of fresh eyes see a problem that you were blind to from years of immersion?

You know, it is possible to be a feminist while also having a problem with this particular person and their conduct in this specific episode. Or are radical activist feminism and Kane's public persona already the same thing?

Literally have no idea what this has to do with anything I said. You can have problems with her if you want, I understand that. She is making a difference. I think it is unwise to dismiss the difference she is making and the points she has because she doesn't meet some bar of experience in your mind (to be clear, that was the point I was responding to). In any case, if you are unable to listen to a messenger that does things you don't like, ok, but people are listening, probably because she is rude and loud and controversial to an extreme, and she is causing actual change.
posted by ch1x0r at 4:24 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


you seem to think that she needs to have been through it all to observe anything of value

A cultural critic needs to have evidence of conduct that's at least in the same universe as their positions. Some people think her previous contributions prior to MVC are - I don't. Nobody seems to think her abuse and oppression of Spier is remotely honoring her positions. Even you think it's "strange."

But the "wise innocent/fresh eyes" argument you're forwarding is especially convenient here. Even I agree that truth from people who haven't done much in the industry or assault other women in hypocritical and self-serving displays is still truth.

Again: the causes with which Kane associates herself deserve more credible and professional people working on their behalf. Thankfully, those people exist and do more about the associated issues than just talk or tweet. Change is a lot more than provocation.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 7:15 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


A cultural critic needs to have evidence of conduct that's at least in the same universe as their positions.

Says who? And who exactly is defining the universe here? One of the ongoing problems here has been who gets to define criticism as sufficiently reasonable to be worthy of consideration, let's pat them on their ickle heads.

Change is a lot more than provocation.

Of course it is: please accept your nomination for Best Performance in Stating the Obvious for 2014. But given the way in which Nice Polite critiques of the industry have been treated by rich white guys with money and their dudebro acolytes, I am actually quite okay with a brief interlude of barricades and brick-flinging, even if it chafes against some people's ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ been-there-seen-thattitude.
posted by holgate at 9:27 AM on July 12


Of course it is: please accept your nomination for Best Performance in Stating the Obvious for 2014. But given the way in which Nice Polite critiques of the industry have been treated by rich white guys with money and their dudebro acolytes, I am actually quite okay with a brief interlude of barricades and brick-flinging, even if it chafes against some people's ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ been-there-seen-thattitude.

This comment and many others putting Shanley on a pedestal for her uncivility sound fairly dismissive of polite but effective efforts like Linux maintainer Sarah Sharp's intervention on mailing list abuse, which also raised a lot of discussion and seems to have been non-trivially fruitful.
posted by Anything at 10:03 AM on July 12 [3 favorites]


[One comment deleted; maybe better to focus comments on the topic, not on slagging each other. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:15 PM on July 12


Recognising that embedded power structures may make it difficult for certain forms of protest to gain traction is hardly dismissing the people making those protests.

The Shanley Moment will be brief. What we're arguing about, ultimately, is twofold: whether the tech industry and tech culture deserves a short sharp shock, and what will happen after it passes. It's fine enough to want people with more "credibility" and "professionalism" at the forefront, but you don't generally get to pick and choose who they are, and you certainly can't wish them into existence.
posted by holgate at 12:23 PM on July 12


Recognising that embedded power structures may make it difficult for certain forms of protest to gain traction is hardly dismissing the people making those protests.

The argument being forwarded is that not only does conduct not matter, bad conduct is actually a feature. Being an asshole is not only justified, but probably required. Patriarchal attacks are wrong when Kane is the victim, and they're just fine when she's the perpetrator. She's not even clever enough to go for the classic play here and claim that her attack on Spier isn't her fault because she's merely demonstrating the existing power structure's tactics - I'm being shitty because they're shitty, see? Like that makes it ok.

What's the change we actually want to see here? Is it that women in tech should also be entitled to talk like bros, attack other women, and throw around condescension like "please accept your nomination for Best Performance in Stating the Obvious (btw: why does THAT get to stay)?" Or is it that all that shit sucks and everybody should cut it out?

If it's the former, then Kane's doing just fine. She's already using her turn in the spotlight to abuse others. If it's the later then she's not only harming her own cause, she's doing the EXACT SAME bad acts as the power structure she's railing against.

Everyone, meet the new boss - same as the old boss.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 5:58 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


The argument being forwarded is that not only does conduct not matter, bad conduct is actually a feature.

I'm not a fan of invoking the Overton Window, but having a somewhat indiscriminate bomb-thrower as a focus of attention does seem to put more discriminating, less bomb-throwy discussions in focus. And it's not as if the weekly examples of women and minorities facing the sharp end of tech industry culture don't show similarly indiscriminate and bomb-throwy behaviour, except that it's been done broadly (and sometimes structurally) rather than by an individual.

If you think that the causes Shanley Kane and MVC address are worthy ones lacking credible and professional spokespeople, and you also think that you are credible and professional, then that's two thirds of a syllogism.

I fully expect Shanley to piss off and denounce at least half of the current contributors to MVC before the end of the year. I fully expect those contributors to go on from that and collectively offer a less brittle, more focused and more long-lasting contribution to the conversation about tech culture. This is how it usually goes.

Lots of people want to make it a judgement on Shanley Kane. I think it's more valuable to make it a judgement on the circumstances that bring forth a Shanley Kane.

And it's Spiers, with an s, with whom I had one or two spiky exchanges within these blue walls back in the day; while I'm sure we'd still have plenty to disagree about, I have a lot of respect for her.
posted by holgate at 7:31 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Good discussion. I learned a lot.
posted by josher71 at 6:50 AM on July 14


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