She Says, He Sues
October 11, 2018 5:12 PM   Subscribe

One of the men named in the Shitty Media Men spreadsheet (earlier), author and filmmaker Stephen Elliott, has now followed up his recent essay "How An Anonymous Accusation Derailed My Life" with a lawsuit against Moira Donegan, creator of the list, for libel and emotional distress.
posted by PhineasGage (80 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
If we're going to take this approach, then every man accused of rape can sue for emotional distress and every woman who's been raped can sue for emotional distress.

In the former category - some men.

In the later category - one in six women in the US, about 27 million women.

The courts should be busy.

Of course that's not going to happen, but can we at least consider what this approach would mean, if it was available to people other than rich white guys?
posted by happyinmotion at 5:20 PM on October 11 [24 favorites]


I hope this backfires on him horribly because if I remember a lot of people have had really unpleasant interactions with him and now they’re all going to come out.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:20 PM on October 11 [23 favorites]


Can I countersue for the cost of my tiny violin lessons?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:21 PM on October 11 [75 favorites]


I haven’t checked the papers today, but last I heard, truth is still a defense against libel. (Which I’m sure Scumbag Elliott’s lawyers told him, but he just wants to get back at her anyway, so he doesn’t care.)
posted by Etrigan at 5:22 PM on October 11 [1 favorite]




Imagine the arrogance. Fucking breathtaking.
posted by saladin at 5:24 PM on October 11 [12 favorites]


*cough* Streisand Effect *cough*
posted by suetanvil at 5:29 PM on October 11 [10 favorites]


Truth is an absolute defense against libel.

I'm not sure he's thought this through.

I'm half-joking, I guess. I would love for this to backfire on him spectacularly, but I think it's more likely that it will fizzle out. It seems to me like this is a PR stunt aimed at the #HimToo crowd, because they're always willing to give a scumbag white man with a persecution complex some money, as long as he says what they want to hear. I bet he's trying to set up a career as another of misogyny's spokesmen.

I mean, how can the suit actually go anywhere? As far as I know, it's pretty damn hard to win a libel suit in the US unless you can demonstrate that someone knowingly and maliciously spread false information. Maybe someone here knows more and can chime in.

If I'm wrong and this has even a sliver of a chance of succeeding, then that's absolutely chilling.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:30 PM on October 11 [10 favorites]


I hope this backfires on him horribly because if I remember a lot of people have had really unpleasant interactions with him and now they’re all going to come out.

I haven’t checked the papers today, but last I heard, truth is still a defense against libel. (Which I’m sure Scumbag Elliott’s lawyers told him, but he just wants to get back at her anyway, so he doesn’t care.)


Most people who openly seek to position themselves as some kind of alternative sexuality cultural figure have at least a passing familiarity with what happened to Oscar Wilde.

In this case, there's no need to wait for the courts:

@lyzl

"Hi Stephen Elliot, it's me, Lyz. Remember when I was an upaid editor at your magazine and we met at AWP where you invited me up to your room to watch a movie and I declined? But you didn't take no for an answer. You hounded me. I hid under a table..."
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:30 PM on October 11 [41 favorites]


Though it varies by state, it's also usually quite difficult to succeed on IIED-type claims. Lawmakers didn't want people to be making claims on all those womany feelings.
posted by praemunire at 5:38 PM on October 11 [1 favorite]


Defamation law is state law. The libel claim might get past the initial pleading stages, a New York lawyer (or journalist, possibly) would know better. Pertinent cases appear to be Mencher v. Chesley, 297 N.Y. 94, 75 N.E.2d 257 (1947) and Dillon v City of New York, 261 AD2d 34, 38, 704 NYS2d 1 (1999).

Here's a Trump case from 2017 that applies some of that law and cites some other cases regarding the non-actionability of web-forum comments, which is probably more entertaining than the underlying authorities if you're curious.

The IIED claim seems shakier to me. It's generally disfavored and the complaint alleges nothing much beyond the skeletal assertion that it's "outrageous" conduct that caused "tremendous" damages.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:43 PM on October 11 [3 favorites]


He better hope his record is actually as pure as the driven snow, because his deposition is going to be a doozy. He can't possibly have thought through the implications of discovery here.
posted by praemunire at 5:49 PM on October 11 [16 favorites]


And from that Trump case, here's the potential problem:

An asserted fact may be distinguished from a nonactionable opinion if the statement: (1) has a precise, readily understood meaning, that is (2) capable of being proven true or false, and (3) where the full context in which it is asserted or its broader social context and surrounding circumstances indicate to readers or listeners that it is likely fact, not opinion. (Citations omitted.)

The plaintiff bears the burden of proving "that in the context of the entire communication a disputed statement is not protected opinion." (Celle v Filipino Reporter Enters., Inc., 209 F 3d 163, 176 [2d Cir 2000]).


Aside from the defense of truth, if it got that far Elliott would also have to prove his economic losses (i.e. the value of his reputational loss and lost jobs, etc).
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:52 PM on October 11


sigh...
With this recent/ongoing backlash against even the smallest of advances for women (we believe women now! ...that is, on rare occasions, and mostly only if they are numerous enough, white, and world-famous celebrities.), I'm increasingly seeking comfort in feminist science fiction (thanks for alerting me to Naomi Alderman's The Power, fellow MeFites) and, interestingly, science news!

This recent news item seems surprisingly relevant:
"Healthy mice with same-sex parents born for first time - Findings show barriers to same-sex reproduction in humans can technically be overcome – but not yet"

Men, your days of biological necessity are numbered. Get it together.
posted by bigendian at 6:07 PM on October 11 [18 favorites]


I forgot that Elliott the guy in that Claire Vaye Watkins essay. Jeez.

That Claire Vaye Watkins essay haunts me, FYI. It hits very close to home and I think about it all the time.
posted by thivaia at 6:18 PM on October 11 [3 favorites]


I just... man. People like the writer of this article can't have a lot of self-awareness, because this is some Tell-Tale Heart shit right here.
posted by dusty potato at 6:19 PM on October 11 [2 favorites]


because this is some Tell-Tale Heart shit right here.

I always enjoy men hoisting themselves by their own petard. I just wish they wouldn’t ruin women’s lives and careers in the process.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:21 PM on October 11 [34 favorites]


He can't possibly have thought through the implications of discovery here.

From a purely professional point of view, I would pay real cash money to sit in on this whole thing, just to see how he and his counsel intend to go at this thing and win. He's bound to lose, but -- when? how spectacularly?

As a human being, however, this is awful. Luckily, though, I had all compassion and empathy removed when I graduated law school.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:41 PM on October 11 [20 favorites]


I hope Donegan starts a legal fund because defending against a bullshit federal case is still expensive.
posted by Mavri at 6:45 PM on October 11 [3 favorites]


A GoFundMe has already been started on her behalf.
posted by mephron at 6:48 PM on October 11 [11 favorites]


It is of course obvious from the link that he published his essay in Quilette but is still worth mentioning, as the venue you choose tells a tale.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:49 PM on October 11 [4 favorites]


It is of course obvious from the link that he published his essay in Quilette but is still worth mentioning, as the venue you choose tells a tale.

It's be lovely if you could provide additional context for a statement like this. I can, like, read the Wikipedia entry, but I've never heard of them before, and that's not really telling me much other than "libertarian leaning" which is certainly not how I'd want to be described, sure, but not really substantial.
posted by Caduceus at 6:56 PM on October 11 [5 favorites]


I don't know Quilette either, how sick of a burn is this?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:07 PM on October 11 [1 favorite]


The Lyz Lenz twitter thread (posted by snuffleupagus above) is incredible and cuts through the bullshit of his sel-pity. I had read it earlier when I didn't know Stephen Elliott from Adam. Read it if you haven't.
posted by mark k at 7:11 PM on October 11 [7 favorites]


Well, based on a quick-ish scan, the Quillette home page currently features articles about how academics should not be advocates for social justice, how identity politics are bad because polarization, how those against Kavanaugh behaved problematically, how the social sciences are bullshit, and how nationalism is awesome.
posted by Lyme Drop at 7:13 PM on October 11 [25 favorites]


When the NYRB guy got fired there were a lot of jokes that you would next hear from him with an essay in Quillette.
posted by kmz at 7:17 PM on October 11 [4 favorites]


Claire Lehmann, the editor-in-chief, was profiled by Bari Weiss as a member of the intellectual dark web.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:18 PM on October 11 [8 favorites]


I've been re-listening to "Control" by Poe a lot this week for obvious reasons, and y'all, it is an excellent song for an imagined musical montage of dumbass Shitty Men being crushed under the pileup of their own shitty sins, especially a legal discovery pileup initiated by their own dumbass legal actions. All those things that you taught me to fear / I've got them in my garden now and you're not welcome here
posted by nicebookrack at 7:18 PM on October 11 [4 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by hijinx at 7:18 PM on October 11 [11 favorites]


Mefi's own Stephen Elliott.

He's also retweeting anti-SJW tweets from National Review writers.

And here's Claire Vaye Watkins' 2015 Tin House essay "On Pandering," in which she takes Elliott to task for abusive behavior.
And he brings up BDSM as a defense? I'd think anybody remotely involved in the kink community would very clearly understand consent. "No I don't want you to sleep in my bed" is not the same as "let's negotiate you sleeping in my bed". It's not that difficult to understand!

I'm a bit torn on the rape accusation. Some people throw that term around as a synonym for consent violation. Persistence in the face of a clear no is a consent violation, but it isn't rape. I find it hard to believe a pure bottom would rape anybody because there'd be nothing in it for them. Then again, most people are at least somewhat switchy. I don't know. Seems like he deserved to be on the list, but also maybe one of the accusers is being loose with language.

I have to assume he's got a bit of NPD. Nobody would write that essay and start a lawsuit, with zero expectations that legitimate accusations (like the one in the Tin House piece) would appear "in discovery", unless they wholly believed their own Big Lie about how perfect and innocent they are. Otherwise his essay would have been titled I did some seriously shitty stuff, but I didn't rape anybody!
posted by a_curious_koala at 7:21 PM on October 11 [2 favorites]


I’ve mostly seen Quillette as the place where you’ll find the academic-styled defenses of James Damore’s, Jordan Peterson, etc. where someone with semi-plausible credentials will artfully dodge the question at hand while speculating about a bunch of interesting sounding things like human-biodiversity which make for solid cocktail party debate fodder but are unfortunately not supported by high-quality evidence.
posted by adamsc at 7:24 PM on October 11 [9 favorites]


Persistence in the face of a clear no is a consent violation, but it isn't rape.

Yes it is. That’s the textbook definition of rape.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 7:27 PM on October 11 [30 favorites]


Persistence in the face of a clear no is a consent violation, but it isn't rape.

Yes it is. That’s the textbook definition of rape.


No. You can not rape somebody if you don't touch them. That's not to say you can't be abusive or horrible, but you can't commit sexual assault if you don't have any physical contact.

Nobody wins if we use the most horrible words to describe everything horrible.
posted by a_curious_koala at 7:34 PM on October 11 [19 favorites]


I'm a bit torn on the rape accusation. Some people throw that term around as a synonym for consent violation. Persistence in the face of a clear no is a consent violation, but it isn't rape.

... I'm sorry, what? I couldn't hear you over the actual definition of rape being used to describe "not rape." Could you repeat the statement?

On preview: Do you mean "persistence in the face of a clear no is a consent violation, but it isn't rape so long as the persistence stops before there is physical contact? " Because that is not what you described. What you described is rape, and then told everyone reading the thread that is wasn't.
posted by tzikeh at 7:36 PM on October 11 [27 favorites]


I think "persistence" here is meaning "pestering and whining and begging and blustering in the manner that the entire rom-com genre tells us is appropriate male behavior."
posted by Scattercat at 7:53 PM on October 11 [11 favorites]


persistence in the face of a clear no is a consent violation, but it isn't rape so long as the persistence stops before there is physical contact?

Correct. I was talking about the difference between the accusation in the Tin House article (a consent violation that isn't rape), and rape (sexual assault). I thought that was clear from the context, but since two people have misunderstood, I'm going to call it and say: I wasn't perfectly clear.

To be very clear now: I was comparing the accusation from the Tin House article (as an example of consent violation that isn't rape) to an accusation of rape (sexual assault), as a way of distinguishing how Elliot could both belong on the Shitty Men List and also be telling the truth about not being a rapist.

I would say "Persistence in the face of a clear no, including physical contact" would be the textbook definition of rape, because the physical contact is rape's distinguishing feature. "Persistence in the face of a clear no" is a broader taxonomy of abuse that includes rape, but isn't the textbook definition of rape.

I've been sexually assaulted, and let me tell you, adding that physical contact really creates an especially horrible experience. I wouldn't want the term to become watered down just to satisfy somebody's desire to hurl epithets. Rape / sexual assault is in a class by itself and it should be excruciatingly clear that physical contact is part of it.
posted by a_curious_koala at 7:54 PM on October 11 [23 favorites]


Pretty sure that Koala meant that persisting in pursuing someone who has told you to leave them alone is treated as a serious consent violation in BDSM (or at least that's meant to be the norm), but that should not be confused with the meaning of "persisting" in the sense of rejecting a "no" and 'persisting' in sex, which is rape.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:55 PM on October 11 [10 favorites]


Truth is an absolute defense against libel.

And the standard for civil cases for deciding the truth is not "beyond a reasonable doubt". So it's not "truth is a defense but you have to be able to prove that it's true in a completely bulletproof fashion". This is hardly the safest bet ever, but the standards being what they are, this seems like more an attempt to harass someone with a lawsuit and force her to spend money on a lawyer to deal with it, and I am deeply curious if Stephen Elliott's attorney is being paid exclusively by Stephen Elliott.
posted by Sequence at 7:55 PM on October 11 [9 favorites]


Elliott's attorney is a notorious right wing type and may be doing this entirely on contingency and/or for the exposure.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:59 PM on October 11 [6 favorites]


I find it hard to believe a pure bottom would rape anybody because there'd be nothing in it for them.

good to see the BDSM world is still the familiar shining beacon of enlightened discourse around consent it always insisted it was.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:09 PM on October 11 [49 favorites]


definitely a publicity stunt (mixed with a dash of personal retribution). this will give fox news a pretext to put him on the air for the next year or however long before this idiotic suit gets dismissed. then, in exchange for the indignities of going through the lawsuit, right wingers will give him some sop of a job somewhere, or maybe he'll write a book about "bart o'elliot" or some fucking thing.
posted by wibari at 8:25 PM on October 11 [6 favorites]


this seems like more an attempt to harass someone with a lawsuit and force her to spend money on a lawyer to deal with it

It's not even a very good one of those, IIRC New York has a respectable Anti-SLAPP statute, which basically means she can immediately move to have the judge rule on the merits of the case and get it dismissed with him having to pay her court fees. IANAL but I don't think it's likely his suit would survive this motion.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:54 PM on October 11 [3 favorites]


NY has a very weak anti-SLAPP law that I'd imagine won't apply here.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:59 PM on October 11 [3 favorites]


IANAL but I think one of the problems and cause for confusion with the terms is that the legal term "sexual assault" is a watered down euphemism for rape. Non-sexual assault does not require bodily contact. It is merely making a credible threat of violence with the obvious ability to carry it out: for example, pointing a gun at someone or advancing on someone while brandishing a baseball bat in a threatening fashion. Actually hitting someone is "battery," generally a more serious crime.

So it is entirely possible to have a sexually motivated assault that isn't technically "sexual assault" because the law is too squeamish to just call rape "rape."
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:38 PM on October 11 [22 favorites]


A GoFundMe has already been started on her behalf.

GoFundMe: Moira Donegan’s Legal Fees/expenses
Over $25,000 as of this writing (goal: $500,000)
posted by hangashore at 11:27 PM on October 11 [3 favorites]


Persistence in the face of a clear no is a consent violation, but it isn't rape. I find it hard to believe a pure bottom would rape anybody because there'd be nothing in it for them. Then again, most people are at least somewhat switchy.

I am no stranger to kink or BDSM and I find this whole paragraph pretty appalling, even after the clarifications that came later down the thread. I wish I could say these types of sentiments were rare within the BDSM community. Ugh. It makes me genuinely angry to see crap like this here on MetaFilter.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:53 AM on October 12 [30 favorites]


Of course he brings up false rape "statistics" because OFC.

"So no I don't always believe them and yeah I let them know that" is a sentence that has rattled verbatim around my skull for four years now (link is to previous MF thread).
posted by threetwentytwo at 2:28 AM on October 12 [2 favorites]


I have to assume he's got a bit of NPD. Nobody would write that essay and start a lawsuit, with zero expectations that legitimate accusations (like the one in the Tin House piece) would appear "in discovery", unless they wholly believed their own Big Lie about how perfect and innocent they are. Otherwise his essay would have been titled I did some seriously shitty stuff, but I didn't rape anybody!

Yeah, that's what I don't get about his strategy here. That Tin House article is three years old! Even someone with no self-awareness must realise, reading something like that, that they're going to get a tidal wave of nasty stories told about them. If he'd written this as "I did some shitty stuff, but I'm not a rapist" the narrative would probably be very different. As it is, he's out the gates with a lie and that doesn't make his claim of innocence any more credible.

He may end up winning a libel suit but damaging his reputation even more. It sounds like there are plenty of people ready to testify that he is a grade-A creeper and harasser. That's going to end up all over the media as it comes out through the trial.

Of course, it's possible that he is a rapist in addition to being a creep, in which case he will lose hard (and then hopefully be prosecuted)

Winning a defamation suit in the US is not easy but neither is it impossible. Saying that someone is a rapist is a factual claim and is defamation per se (no need to prove damages, although I suspect he could).

I suspect that if he can figure out through discovery who made the original allegation against him, that person is at much more risk than Moira Donegan. He could argue that Moira didn't have sufficient corroboration to call him a rapist (but she can then argue - look at all these people saying you're a serial creepoid, in that context I was entitled to believe the allegations). Whoever made the original allegations:
-Either knows they are true, in which case they obviously have an absolute defence
-Knows and knew that they were not true in which case they may well get hit with significant damages

It's not even a very good one of those, IIRC New York has a respectable Anti-SLAPP statute, which basically means she can immediately move to have the judge rule on the merits of the case and get it dismissed with him having to pay her court fees. IANAL but I don't think it's likely his suit would survive this motion.

Anti-SLAPP statutes exist to deter completely baseless lawsuits that exist only to deter speech through legal fees. Since what he is claiming here *may* be a valid libel claim, I doubt that this will work.
posted by atrazine at 5:19 AM on October 12 [1 favorite]


Truth is an absolute defense against libel.
I'm not sure he's thought this through.


Unfortunately, "truth" is also whatever the court allows (or doesn't allow) as evidence.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:53 AM on October 12 [1 favorite]


Anti-SLAPP is a red herring here. New York's law only applies in limited circumstances where the plaintiff is involved in a public permitting process that the defendant is enganging with (e.g. real estate developers attempting to silence investigative reporters or community opposition). It's not like California's wide definition of "public participation."

Yes, he's probably not thinking too hard about the discovery circus that will ensue, but I'd also be careful about assuming that all of his dirty laundry will be within the scope of discovery, let alone admissable under standards of legal relevance. In a deposition, his lawyer is apt to cut off questioning and go apply for a protective order. Unfortunately, Elliott will benefit from the same rules we rely on to prevent victim-blaming and a fishing expedition into someone's sexual history in less cynical cases (which most of the time mefites might criticize as being too loose).

His attorney is totally the kind of person who will have gamed this out -- his usual thing is playing the reverse-sexism game with Title IX campus lawsuits -- and that type of high-handed institutionally enabled trollery is probably appealing to someone with Elliott's personality type. (I'll pass on the armchair diagnosis.)

However, Elliott's totally underestimating the Streisand effect and that may be something his lawyer is being knowingly cavalier about as it's not really within the scope of his professional responsibility, and he stands to benefit either way. Elliott is the media figure here and won't be able to blame anyone else for this profound misjudgment, which seems to be squarely in his personal blind spot.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:58 AM on October 12 [5 favorites]


no need to prove damages, although I suspect he could

Not on the pure reputational harm, but presumably for the prayed-for actual and compensatory damages, economic losses on the IIED claim etc.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:14 AM on October 12 [1 favorite]


I don't know Quilette either, how sick of a burn is this?

Quillette was started by Claire Lehmann after she left Rebel Media, the Canadian Breitbart. At RM, her colleagues were, among others, Ezra Levant (successfully sued for libel on two occasions), Faith Goldy, the white nationalist, and Gavin McInnes, the fascist gang leader.

Quillette's shtick is trying to sell alt-right ideas to "reasonable" centrists and liberals under the guise of "free speech," "just asking questions," and "help help we're being oppressed." It's an oldie but a goodie. Gaby Del Valle's "Conservatives love playing the victim : the website Quillette is trying to convince people conservatism is subversive" is a look at Quillette.

I mean, it's pretty obvious that Quillette is at its heart a propaganda machine/grievance monetizer, but it's also fair to note that they publish more than a few writers who fall more into the "useful idiot" or "axe-grinder" category than the category of "actual fascist." The way the publication uses these not-very-smart-but-not-actually-fascist writers in pursuit of its own very transparent goals is the source of a lot of the jokes about "going to write for Quillette."
posted by octobersurprise at 7:32 AM on October 12 [29 favorites]


I am so glad to get in here and see that everyone else is also on Team Fuck This Guy, because I was chanting it while reading the article. “The real problem is women warning each other!” Nooooooooooope.
posted by corb at 8:28 AM on October 12 [7 favorites]


In a deposition, his lawyer is apt to cut off questioning and go apply for a protective order.

This is a case where he has himself put his prior sexual conduct squarely at issue. If her lawyer isn't completely worthless (or the judge entirely nuts; state court can be fun and random that way sometimes), she should win any such motion. Within limits, of course. The lawyer might not be able to inquire into conduct post-his inclusion on the list, and filings would probably have names redacted, but if you can't successfully distinguish between sexual assault cases, where we have made a formal determination that the victim's prior sexual conduct is not relevant, from a libel case where the plaintiff is arguing that allegations that he engaged in sexual misconduct are not just false, but (likely) published in a "grossly irresponsible manner" (NY standard if the figure is private but the matter of legitimate public interest), and in which truth would indeed be a defense, you should go home and stop taking people's money to lawyer.
posted by praemunire at 8:31 AM on October 12 [2 favorites]


Honestly, I feel ambivalence. Since this public conversation about male behavior in relationship to power, employment, sex and abuse started, I've really had to interrogate my own feelings with a level of complexity I am surprised to find I didn't have before.

I do feel myself feeling a discomfort with a flattening of criticism. Weinstein's was a serial rapist and serial destroyer of women's careers. Someone like Aziz Ansari sounds like a guy who may have not had either a good understanding of consent or perhaps intentionally pushed consent.. once? More? There's a big gap between those two. So I'll be honest that part of me feels uncomfortable about the social and career impact on men who were dicks but not rapists.

From the stories I've read linked above, Stephen Elliot sounds like he treated women colleagues like assistants instead of colleagues. He verbally pushed women to have sex with him after they made clear they were not interested. I haven't read anything that makes me think of him as a rapist, but I have read stories that make him sound like a misogynist and a dick. (And of course it's definitely possible that he did rape someone and they aren't comfortable coming forward which is totally understandable.)

There is such a disproportionate access in creative careers for men. So I welcome a reshuffling, where men who are dicks are exposed and hopefully that allows space for more women to come in to those jobs and opportunities. But I do honestly feel discomfort too. On one hand, people can be fucked up in a million ways. So when should they be pushed out of their careers for that? In real terms I understand that very few men are actually being pressured out of their industries. And I guess in a way the whole system is totally open to peoples subjective likes and dislikes anyway. Hmmm.

I don't know, I just feel sort of surprised by the ways this moment is challenging and interrogating my own feelings about this.
posted by latkes at 8:51 AM on October 12 [3 favorites]


This is a case where he has himself put his prior sexual conduct squarely at issue. If her lawyer isn't completely worthless (or the judge entirely nuts; state court can be fun and random that way sometimes), she should win any such motion. Within limits, of course

"Within limits" being the key there, when it comes to the drift of some of the comments upthread. Although, the complaint would appear to dispute the truth of "sexual harassment" along with the more serious allegations so they would appear to have opened that door pretty wide.

You'd think they would have considered what's out there and likely to come in, but maybe I'm giving Elliott's attorney too much credit for his shenanigans in the educational arena, or maybe this isn't really meant to survive past the early press.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:55 AM on October 12


Someone like Aziz Ansari sounds like a guy who may have not had either a good understanding of consent or perhaps intentionally pushed consent.. once? More? There's a big gap between those two. So I'll be honest that part of me feels uncomfortable about the social and career impact on men who were dicks but not rapists.

You'll be happy to know that Aziz Ansari has suffered essentially no impact and is in fact monetizing his victimhood, then.
posted by Etrigan at 8:58 AM on October 12 [20 favorites]


I had totally forgotten about this list and this dude thanks to our ongoing hellscape situation, so well done, asshole.
posted by emjaybee at 8:58 AM on October 12 [9 favorites]


Latkes, its fine to feel discomfort as long as you understand that your discomfort is something that is on you to handle and not the job of others to deal with or soothe.
posted by emjaybee at 9:01 AM on October 12 [20 favorites]


You'll be happy to know that Aziz Ansari has suffered essentially no impact and is in fact monetizing his victimhood, then.

The thing about being tried in the court of public opinion is that you are tried in the court of public opinion. I would be very interested in a scale of public opinion verdicts.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:03 AM on October 12 [2 favorites]


Yeah I'm not asking anyone to soothe any feelings of mine. I don't really have anything I want soothed but ifI did the only people I'd be demanding any soothing from is the men who control every industry with abuses large and small. I'm a woman and I'm really grateful to the women who have come forward and pushed back on this whole misogynist system. Within a feminist perspective I'm examining my own feelings and values.
posted by latkes at 9:30 AM on October 12 [3 favorites]


At TheCut, Ruth Spencer has asked five of the men on the media list for their thoughts on Elliott. TL;DR—they think he's an asshole, too. One man says
"The suit seems so unlikely to be a winner that the motive seems like it almost HAS to be irrational, like it’s not about clearing his name but about making his name dangerous for others. Even if he were completely exonerated, you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. Social media is already so vindictive and in such bad faith that the charges will live on. So it makes you wonder if the point is to cause Moira pain or to make anyone who contributed to the list afraid."
And I'm like, of course the point is to threaten Donegan, any woman who shared it, and ultimately any woman who might share such a list.

I think what enrages me most about Elliott is his whole "I can't possibly be a predator, I'm a gender-nonconforming bottom!" act. He's a perfect illustration of Kay Gabriel's observation that
bottoming is heavily coded as absenting oneself of responsibility for or complicity with social power, which has at minimum the potential to join up with certain pernicious raced and gendered scripts. In this capacity, bottoming is the sexual correlative of the dissimulation of complicity with dominant structures that marks certain urban upwardly-mobile queer social scenes, whereby sounding off (say) anarchist principles can act as a fig-leaf disguising a de facto complicity with capital, real estate developers, and cops.
But maybe that what makes Elliott perfect for Quillette. He's just the kind of crossdressing predator they'd love to trot out now and again.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:47 AM on October 12 [5 favorites]


There is such a disproportionate access in creative careers for men. So I welcome a reshuffling, where men who are dicks are exposed and hopefully that allows space for more women to come in to those jobs and opportunities. But I do honestly feel discomfort too. On one hand, people can be fucked up in a million ways. So when should they be pushed out of their careers for that? In real terms I understand that very few men are actually being pressured out of their industries. And I guess in a way the whole system is totally open to peoples subjective likes and dislikes anyway. Hmmm.

So as a mother of sons, etc., I spent a week worrying about this too.

But then I thought about my career and the careers of women around me and how many women either vanished, took a step back, took a step sideways, said fuck it and got lower-status jobs, not because they lacked gumption, talent, drive, or experience, but because they could not take it any more.

The problem is not that dicks' careers are ruined or not ruined. The problem is that the dicks are ruining jobs for people around them, all the time.

Do you really think that a man who sees a woman in his apartment as a sex-dispensing device that he can just. keep. asking. until she's under a table is, the next day, creating an environment where women in his organization are able to perform at the level of a man who has never had to put up with someone's hand on their ass?

And collectively, what is the impact when a 30 year old woman who has held 3 entry to junior to moving up jobs in her field has encountered dicks at 2/3 of them? Over a year, 3 years, 5 years? Is she able to bring her best to work every day, or is her best slowly eroding because she's just tired.

Tired of having to spend energy thinking about clothing, demeanour, come-ons, too jokey, not jokey enough, too sexy, not sexy enough. The good looking women get promoted in the early days and then they get jettisoned later...which lane did you pick in your career? Who did you flirt with, the winner of the office politics or the loser? And would anyone have noticed who you flirted with if you had been a man?

In my case, I was dealing with PTSD before I even started a career, so I can't really blame the workplace for keeping it shitty. And I still have had a great couple of careers, but god. So tired of carrying the weight of dicks.

I have started a little notebook for myself of things I remember which at the time, I kind of slid past because it was the 80s/90s/00s/I was messed up/I was not woke. I'm at about 250 weird moments, that I remember. The way we all averted our eyes walking past a highly-paid executive's office because chances were high, especially on Fridays, that he was masturbating at his desk. The time I got told not to come into work without nail polish on ever again. The time a very highly placed, well-thought-of editor was told by a male VP in front of her staff that she didn't dress well enough to be the editor of [her magazine] despite that she had been growing its audience share for the last several years. The time I had a meeting with a senior executive about a critical project which had been on the calendar for three weeks and...he was sitting back spreading his legs in running shorts where I could see his scrotum...
posted by warriorqueen at 9:53 AM on October 12 [48 favorites]


I do feel myself feeling a discomfort with a flattening of criticism.

The only people I see flattening criticism are people trying to undermine Me Too. I haven't seen feminists (or survivors or victims) say that Weinstein and Ansari are equally culpable or have committed the same acts. What I have seen is acknowledgment that acts less than rape are also abusive and harm women. That's not flattening, that's just recognizing that there is a spectrum of harmful behavior. Something doesn't have to be rape to destroy a woman's career.
posted by Mavri at 10:06 AM on October 12 [33 favorites]


I saw someone on twitter speculating that the lawsuit is less about winning the case but rather to go through discovery in order to identify the people who contributed to the spreadsheet. This would be... bad.
posted by mhum at 10:11 AM on October 12 [15 favorites]


I didn't know who Stephen Elliot was until he started publicizing the fact that his colleagues think he's a creep.
posted by muddgirl at 11:57 AM on October 12 [11 favorites]


Someone like Aziz Ansari sounds like a guy who may have not had either a good understanding of consent or perhaps intentionally pushed consent.. once? More? So I'll be honest that part of me feels uncomfortable about the social and career impact on men who were dicks but not rapists.

if you're including the question marks because you don't remember how many times it was, you can go read the original story and count for yourself. in the course of one single evening with one single woman it was more. more, more, more, more. In his whole life? I don't really want to guess, but I can.

that people now know what kind of hostile, hateful sexual predation he does on a normal night in, and care, may make you uncomfortable. reading about what he did -- what he does -- nauseated me. He hasn't paid and never will pay, because there is no penalty for that: it's not a crime. but knowing that is less upsetting than knowing that anyone can have even the loosest idea of what he did and brush it off as just him not being very nice: just pushing the boundaries one time, and what's one time? or what's five or six or ten times if it's only one woman?

where does this idea come from, that if you're not a rapist the worst you can be is a dick?

look: we don't have any law on the books against being bullying misogynist scum. We never will have any such laws. There are types of coercion and intimidation that count as force for legal purposes but you know and I know that "he literally ordered me to blow him" or "I thought if I didn't go ahead and do it, he'd try to make me" isn't anything you go to the authorities with, 99 times out of a hundred. I don't know that he's not also a rapist, but he doesn't have to be a rapist to be a disgusting human being with no understanding of what is wrong with him and no particular right to success and adulation.
posted by queenofbithynia at 3:05 PM on October 12 [20 favorites]


"men who were dicks", a proposal: no more of this wishful euphemizing.

men who are dicks are men who don't make you a full pot of coffee in the morning before you leave. men who are dicks are men who say Sure I've been listening, keep talking, and under the table they're reading the internet on their phones. Men who are dicks are men who say they'll pick you up after work and forget to tell you they changed their mind so you wait on the sidewalk for half an hour like an idiot. Men who are dicks are men who act like they're going to hold the door for you and then let it swing shut just as you get there.

men who try to scare and humiliate you with sex, men who don't even mean to scare you because can three-dimensional pornography even get scared, like people?, men who don't think about the impact on your career because who thinks about the impact on a woman's career, men who tell you you owe them this, they thought you were into it, don't be a tease, men who decide sex is a transaction, so therefore a woman who consents to sex has consented to being treated like a purchase

these men are barely in the same universe with men who are dicks. men can be dicks all they like (so can women!) and the worst consequence they'll suffer, or should suffer, is nobody wants to be their friend. This isn't about being a dick. These men -- the Stephen Elliotts, the Aziz Ansaris, the thousands of others -- they commit real and serious violations that cause real harm and for which no excuses can be made. leave dicks out of it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 3:31 PM on October 12 [28 favorites]


At TheCut, Ruth Spencer has asked five of the men on the media list for their thoughts on Elliott.

This is a great little article! All of these men have significantly more interesting perspectives than Jian Ghomeshi.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:06 PM on October 12 [2 favorites]


That Ruth Spencer article was interesting. Everyone claims they didn't do it (uh-huh) but Elliott's doing the wrong thing.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:57 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]


And oh look, MeFi favorite Bari Weiss has penned an opinion piece valorizing Elliott.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 10:11 AM on October 13


Siobhan O'Leary on Twitter:
I'm a journalist seeking comment from any pro-Dommes or sex workers who otherwise offer BDSM services who are willing to speak with me about their experiences with clients who are both submissive men and have acted in misogynist ways.

DMs open, please RT.

The piece I'm working on addresses a claim that a man accused of sexual misconduct can't possibly be an aggressor because he is submissive. Its obvious to me why that's utterly bogus, but y'all are uniquely positioned to refute it. It's your perspective that should be boosted
posted by Lexica at 11:31 AM on October 13 [6 favorites]


And oh look, MeFi favorite Bari Weiss has penned an opinion piece valorizing Elliott.

I'm not sure that "valorizing" is actually the right take here - her minimum is that, if he didn't commit a rape, this is still many years of bad behavior catching up to him. She seems extremely disturbed by the lawsuit and its apparent scope, pointing out that it could sweep her up as well, since she shared the list.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:59 PM on October 13 [2 favorites]




> GoFundMe: Moira Donegan’s Legal Fees/expenses
Over $25,000 as of this writing (goal: $500,000)


It was up to $50,000 yesterday, according to TMS.
posted by homunculus at 7:21 PM on October 14


Yeah, I have no idea how you read that op-ed as "valorizing," but this is what happens when we encourage the practice here of turning female journalists (and it is always female journalists) into symbolic punching bags for whatever we're mad at the media for doing. It's gross as hell in the megathreads, it's gross as hell when it bleeds into other threads, and I don't understand why it is tolerated by the mods and the users here as much as it is.

Please don't @ me with a list of all the Dark Web Intellectuals that Bari Weiss didn't condemn the way you would have wanted her to.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:22 AM on October 15 [1 favorite]


A Privacy Expert Weighs in on the ‘Shitty Media Men’ Spreadsheet Lawsuit

"So, he has a very good chance of obtaining all of everybody’s data, and a very low chance of actually being able to sue everybody that’s ever touched the list."...I don’t really know how to comfort anyone except saying, you know, try to take your communication offline. We’ve locked ourselves into these platforms that are constantly spying on us, and in a case like this, where [there’s] an individual with power and money and the desire to sue a lot of people — they can call everyone out all at once. And our internet service providers, our content providers, and our email providers are not going to protect us from that. They’re going to hand over the keys to the kingdom almost every time."
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:39 PM on October 15


Hmm. Per Russell Brandon at The Verge - and Google itself, they destroy all deleted Drive data after fifteen days, so I think the privacy expert’s concerns here are speculative. Or perhaps we’re going to get an unpleasant surprise instead of a chance to give a big company a few kudos.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:53 PM on October 15


Yeah, I have no idea how you read that op-ed as "valorizing,"
But the collective sense is that Mr. Elliott should do what they’re doing: “taking one for the team,” as one of them put it.
...
When we met for coffee in a Beverly Hills hotel lobby, I found him to be shaky and depressed.

No longer.

When I interviewed him this week, he seemed energetic. He’s moved from Los Angeles to New Orleans. He’s sober.
...
“There’s a lot of anger out there about me,” Mr. Elliott said. “That’s the level of anger that could produce a malicious allegation — especially when it’s an anonymous list. I don’t like this guy. So I put his name on the list, throw in a TV dinner, watch ‘The Wire’ and forget about it.”

That rage came pouring out...
Okay, that part doesn't valorize him, but it certainly tells us what Weiss thinks about "rage" on the Internet.

And the end of the piece (which, let us recall, starts with a posed shot of Elliott, chin up), the very last thing, the part that Weiss seems to feel it important that we mull over as we depart:
And none of the reactions seemed to address what Mr. Elliott’s lawsuit is about: His claim that he has been falsely accused of rape.
Bari Weiss gets attacked for writing stuff like this because Bari Weiss writes stuff like this. She has one of the highest and largest platforms possible for putting stuff like this out into the world, and it is not an unreasonable reading to say that she has it specifically because she is a woman and people will say "Oh, why are you attacking women? Aren't you supposed to be a feminist?!?"
posted by Etrigan at 7:09 AM on October 16 [4 favorites]


But the collective sense is that Mr. Elliott should do what they’re doing: “taking one for the team,” as one of them put it.

That was also my sense from reading the essay in The Cut as well, though. Similarly, I can entirely believe that Elliott has been energized by his lawsuit, and is sober. And Weiss is quite own about being concerned over the potential of a false rape accusation -which isn't surprising, given that it's Bari Weiss, IDW-definer, and she definitely jumped on the "MeToo has gone too far" bandwagon.

But "valorizing" would be to call his lawsuit a good thing, to make out the SMM list as unmitigated bad, and to make him into some kind of martyr. But it isn't doing that. It's making him out as an asshole iconoclast who might be falsely accused of rape -standard oh nos, etc.- who has filed a bad, broad lawsuit that seeks remedy in a poor way for something traumatic.

Like, to me, the bigger tell is the fact that Weiss is ambivalent. She should be in his corner of this were a slam-dunk. If even she thinks you've done something foolish in your instance, you've c probably done something foolish.

posted by Going To Maine at 7:40 AM on October 16


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