pill poppin'
July 17, 2005 3:28 PM   Subscribe

Blogger gets fired. An NYC nanny was fired because of her blog. The twist? she worked for an Helaine Olen, an NY times style-section writer who wrote an article that started like this "OUR former nanny, ... liked to touch her breasts while reading The New Yorker ... She took sleeping pills, joked about offbeat erotic fantasies involving Tucker Carlson and determined she'd had more female sexual partners than her boyfriend." The nanny, saving money to get a PhD in english, chose to respond
posted by delmoi (209 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Bitch. Ph. D's commentary on this was really good.
posted by ITheCosmos at 3:37 PM on July 17, 2005


I wonder if a lawsuit would work... this is some pretty embarassing shit, a lot of which seems almost fabricated (or at least embellished) by Olen for shock value.
posted by wakko at 3:46 PM on July 17, 2005


This is also why I never mention anything about where I work in my blog. And not because I touch my boobs when I read the New Yorker.
posted by wakko at 3:46 PM on July 17, 2005


From the nanny's response: "Also, on that day, she [Ms. Olen] exposed her breasts to me. I am sure she just thought she was more comfortable with her top off while ill. I am sure it was an accident. But frankly, it was careless and inappropriate. In general, that was the tone of their household. Careless and inappropriate."

Yikes!
posted by LarryC at 3:54 PM on July 17, 2005


Seems to me, Ms. Olen wanted something she didn't get and wrote her column out of sexual frustration.
posted by mr.curmudgeon at 4:02 PM on July 17, 2005


Someone is a wee bit upset that her nanny is smarter and more interesting than she is!
posted by zarah at 4:03 PM on July 17, 2005


This writer is allowed to tell about this nanny's life in the pages of the NYTimes, yet the person whose life it is gets fired because of the same woman's personal discomfort with the details of that life? Something's really really wrong here, and Olen should be ashamed of herself, and sounds like quite a shitty mom and human.
posted by amberglow at 4:03 PM on July 17, 2005 [1 favorite]


Frankly Ms. Olen sounds like a right bitter b*tch.
posted by clevershark at 4:04 PM on July 17, 2005


(i wonder how Olen likes the whole world talking about her personal life--it's different when you're not the one in power, huh?)
posted by amberglow at 4:05 PM on July 17, 2005


Note to self: When I have to write a line like "I admit I have fantasies about Tucker Carlson, but..." I really have to re-evaluate my behaviour...
posted by docgonzo at 4:06 PM on July 17, 2005


Note to self: Never hire then mistreat some who is wittier than I am.
posted by oddman at 4:08 PM on July 17, 2005


Must be the bow tie. Or perhaps the nanny took Jon Stewart's statement about Carlson being "a dick" in a somewhat different way than that in which it was made...
posted by clevershark at 4:09 PM on July 17, 2005


This comment is really really apt: Yes, Ms. Olen's exploitative cannibalizing of your life is vile. She found the hip words by which to make her pitch to the NYT -- nannies! blogs! hot lesbo action! -- and "furthers" her career on your back. As I said -- vile...
posted by amberglow at 4:15 PM on July 17, 2005


The NYT has journalists that stretch the truth and lie to make a good story?

Surely not.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 4:23 PM on July 17, 2005


Seems to me, Ms. Olen wanted something she didn't get and wrote her column out of sexual frustration.

Ouch!
posted by caddis at 4:24 PM on July 17, 2005


Olen comes out of this looking a lot worse than the nanny does. What other excuse would there be for someone who feels compelled to read the blog of her employee while at the same time writing that she didn't need to know all of the embarrassing little details of her employee's life? If you don't want to know, you shouldn't read it.
posted by MegoSteve at 4:25 PM on July 17, 2005


It's so hard to get good help these days. Servants are just so uppity and most certainly do not stay in their place, with their personal opinions and big mouths and such. One would almost think they were human beings who regarded themselves as our equals.

And talk about shooting fish in a barrel-- Nanny blogs, with readership of maybe tens of people; wounded employer fires back in the NYT. That'll teach her.
posted by jokeefe at 4:28 PM on July 17, 2005


The amazing thing is that Olen does not even seem to have considered that the nanny might use her blog to respond to the NYT article. The hubris of someone who writes for the Times...
posted by LarryC at 4:28 PM on July 17, 2005


When I read Olen's 'Nanny blog' piece in the Times yesterday (knowing nothing about the Nanny's blog) I didn't get a favorable impression of the author.

She hired a nanny, found out about the nanny's blog, felt uncomfortable about what she read in the nanny's blog, said nothing about it to the nanny, stewed over it, "monitored her online life almost obsessively," let it become a much bigger problem than necessary, and finally had her husband fire the nanny without telling her the real reason for the termination.

I didn't know as I read it that she was exaggerating and even fabricating the information she found in the blog. Even when I assumed Olen's account was accurate, I still thought she came off as a ninny.

All Olen had to do was tell the Nanny that she and her husband felt uncomfortable about the nanny's publishing information about their home and family. The nanny would then have stopped writing about them, or left for other employment.

What floors me is that Olen found it impossible to tell this young women that the situation was difficult and awkward for the family -- yet Olen had no problem laying bare all her own foibles for millions of readers of the times.
posted by wryly at 4:29 PM on July 17, 2005 [1 favorite]


You know at times like this I really enjoy the ebb and flow of english.It can be a sword for a true master. Also because times like this I get to bring out words like eviscerated.
posted by Rubbstone at 4:30 PM on July 17, 2005


MetaFilter -- I touch my boobs when I read the New Yorker

The NYT has journalists that stretch the truth and lie to make a good story?
Surely not.


yeah, remember the one who played cheerleader-in-chief for Bush's lies on the Iraqi phantom WMD's? that one. she's in jail, now, though.
posted by matteo at 4:33 PM on July 17, 2005


If you get bored, write modernlove@nytimes.com and share your thoughts about Olen's article.
posted by herting at 4:40 PM on July 17, 2005


She hired a nanny, found out about the nanny's blog, felt uncomfortable about what she read in the nanny's blog, said nothing about it to the nanny, stewed over it, "monitored her online life almost obsessively," let it become a much bigger problem than necessary, and finally had her husband fire the nanny without telling her the real reason for the termination.

Olen is a lowlife.
posted by fire&wings at 4:41 PM on July 17, 2005


, "monitored her online life almost obsessively," let it become a much bigger problem than necessary

yeah, and she was still reading the blog after she had her fired. creepy.
not to mention, Oren actually wrote "coitus".
posted by matteo at 4:43 PM on July 17, 2005


These kind of things floor me. It isn't enough to fire someone based mostly on speculation and projection, Olen also has to write about it in the NYT? And what was the Times thinking? This is news? Even social news? Olen should get canned just for not having any better ideas than this.
posted by OmieWise at 4:45 PM on July 17, 2005


Did I miss something here? Yes, the NYTimes writer is a snot, but she never provides any details that would allow the average reader to actually identify this bratty and clueless nanny. Anyway, it's the Style section for Chrissakes - you can count on both the writers and their subjects to be consistently loathesome.

The lesson is simple - keep your private and professional lives separate - and don't be an emotional exhibitionist. And yes, I realize that "emotional exhibitionist blogger" is more often than not grotesquely redundant.
posted by MaxVonCretin at 4:46 PM on July 17, 2005


It is so hard to find good help these days...

In ev'ry job that must be done There is an element of fun you find the fun and snap! The job's a game And ev'ry task you undertake Becomes a piece of cake A lark! A spree! It's very clear to see That a... Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down The medicine go down-wown The medicine go down Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down In a most delightful way A robin feathering his nest Has very little time to rest While gathering his Bits of twine and twig Though quite intent in his pursuit He has a merry tune to toot He knows a song Will move the job along For a... Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down The medicine go down-wown The medicine go down Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down In a most delightful way

(last link leads to boobies)
posted by meehawl at 4:46 PM on July 17, 2005


Oh, and fired for exposing her breasts to an employee. I know that happened, I read it in a blog.
posted by OmieWise at 4:47 PM on July 17, 2005


Did I miss something here? Yes, the NYTimes writer is a snot, but she never provides any details that would allow the average reader to actually identify this bratty and clueless nanny.

People might figure it out, you know, that type of thing tends to happen in "the internet".

I just thought the whole thing was entertaining.
posted by delmoi at 4:51 PM on July 17, 2005


Olen sounds like someone who would happily have lunch with Michiko Katukani.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 5:01 PM on July 17, 2005


Note to self: Never hire then mistreat some who is wittier than I am.

(i wonder how Olen likes the whole world talking about her personal life--it's different when you're not the one in power, huh?)

The amazing thing is that Olen does not even seem to have considered that the nanny might use her blog to respond to the NYT article. The hubris of someone who writes for the Times...


It seems like the nanny has come out ahead, but I'd expect that the readership of the blog, while high among participants in this thread, is low among readers of the original article. If the nanny was concenred that the world thought she was trippy before, this won't put a dent in her problems.
posted by gsteff at 5:10 PM on July 17, 2005


The first rule of the blogoverse is that you do not fuck with the blogoverse.
posted by drezdn at 5:12 PM on July 17, 2005


Now we just need a google bomb and the circle will be complete.
posted by drezdn at 5:13 PM on July 17, 2005


It has been such a good week for schadenfreude.
posted by trii at 5:25 PM on July 17, 2005


Anyone can be a bitch. A bitch with the self awareness to write a column in which her neuroses and sexual failures are exposed can drink from my canteen any day. As I read Olen's piece, the point was not "my nanny is a lush nympho unfit to care for small children," but more "I wish I was an lush nympho unfit to care for small children." I didn't see the exagerations as intended to malign the nanny, who Olen probably believed would remain invisible, but to accent her own conflict over how her life turned out. Still pretty gutless to fire her, hope she gives good ref.
posted by Eothele at 5:28 PM on July 17, 2005 [1 favorite]


somewhere, deep in her conniving little faux-literary heart, i think ms olen realizes her nanny has much more talent than she could ever hope to have ... not to mention a better sex life

it's strange how it's not ok for nanny to make a few comments about her employers ... but ms olen feels entitled to expose nanny's private life to a million or so readers ... what a hypocrite

google bomb ... man, i wish i could think of one ...
posted by pyramid termite at 10:14 PM on July 17, 2005


No, no, Ms. Olen, it's afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:29 PM on July 17, 2005


well, I guess this is a good lesson for bloggers.
you don't need to tell everyone (namely, your boss) about your blog.
Especially if you use it as an online diary. It must occur to the blogger that their eyes might read about themselves through your (probably) tinted view at the time of posting.

But Olen's clearly showing her stuff when she paints the picture of a mom nearing a mid-life crisis:
I truly wonder why she ever told me about the blog?
maybe because she didn't figure you'd spend all your free time reading old entries instead of spending time with your kids.
or maybe because (as she states) you both shared a passion for 19th century literature, and you might have a good discussion on it.

Reading this, I had a very hard time figuring out why exactly the 'line' that was crossed was where it was. Silly, sad, shit. I like how my neighborhood serves as a den of temptation in the story, though.
posted by Busithoth at 10:29 PM on July 17, 2005


This is what the much-hyped blogging culture has brought us to? A she-said-she-said back and forth trading of gossip and tedious personal details from otherwise uninteresting people? And we lap it all up like the pathetic voyeurs we are. So very, very sad.
posted by nightchrome at 10:45 PM on July 17, 2005


I was a bit more sympathetic until I first read the blog response, and then the article and found:

It all began one day late last fall when we were tending to my toddler and she murmured to me: "I've started a blog. I'll give you the link."

I had assumed, readying the babysitter's response, that Olen stumbled on it through 3rd party world of mouth or Google.

Writing about the intimate details of your personal life on the Internet is just fine. Write a sex blog, publish your suicide poetry, extol the virtues of Linux and colonics.

Pointing your employer to a blog of this nature, however, is the eqivalent of passing her a printed essay about the sailor your brought home last night, or whispering across the table to her that you're into a certain television personality -- it's inappropriate and unprofessional, especially given the job she was doing for Olen.

I won't defend Olen's article itself, but I think the nanny deserved to be fired for passing on the address to her employer in the first place.

What would any of us do if we hired someone to take care of our children, or even to work in our departments, and that person pointed us to their personal writings of which at least some was inapporpriately personal for an employer-employee dynamic?
posted by VulcanMike at 10:47 PM on July 17, 2005


I find it interesting that the bare bones of this is rife with classic Victorian elements & stock characterizations. The well educated lady of society, a mother who secretly obsesses about the lurid tanglings of those around her, the ineffectual husband, the secretly-super-smart servant and the jealousies and dramas that ensue. I'm hoping the nanny finds that lil synchronicity as amusing as I do.

ps. That NYT writer is one hell of a mega bitch.
posted by mrs.pants at 10:51 PM on July 17, 2005


This is why I don't read the style section.
posted by 517 at 11:06 PM on July 17, 2005


I know what you're saying VulcanMike (despite the fact that in this case Olen is a bitch and the nanny has earnt my respect). I don't tell anyone at work about my weblog. I've told very few "real world" friends. When members of my family started frequenting it, I essentially stopped posting anything vaguely personal to it at all. I made this decision very early on. There was one employer who knew about it - in fact, he knew about it because I was hosting it on his web server at the time - but during that time I posted nothing about my employment at all. Thankfully, my employer already figured me for a freak, so the commie rants on the weblog didn't phase him further.

All this seemed like complete common sense to me. If you wouldn't say something to someone's face, why would you post it online for several billion people to see and trace back to you?

If you want to get personal, then stay anonymous, and keep it secret. Even then, it's a hard road. Like I said, I try to keep my weblog as low-key as possible, not even putting my real name on it, but typing my full name and my home town into Google came up with a path to my weblog by the third result.

If you want to make your weblog widely known around friends, family, and colleagues, it's time to stop treating it like a private diary.
posted by Jimbob at 11:10 PM on July 17, 2005



Yet those were problems I could feel superior to and that made me grateful for the steady routine of marriage and children.


It's sure she's not a MILF.
posted by pwedza at 11:14 PM on July 17, 2005


> I truly wonder why she ever told me about the blog?

My guess? Because the nanny had aspirations to be a writer, and Olen worked for the NYT. Presumably, she hoped that her boss would see her more like an equal, and less like a lackey.

Fat chance.

> What would any of us do

Personally, I'd do the same as I do with my two teenage daughters and their blogs: I'd ignore it completely. I know that if I read what they write, it's going to mess with my head and cause me unnecessary angst -- and to no good end. I trust that if they have a problem they need my help with, they'll bring it to my attention. And if they don't, they have a reasonable entitlement to privacy.

Besides, I don't have time to wade through the drivel, to get to the good stuff.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:15 PM on July 17, 2005


The seething envy in the article was what sent chills up my spine. I'm sure that the blogging nanny/PhD candidate will be fine, but Olen, with her bitterness and her jealousy, and her let-me-out-of-here marriage and what she seems to feel are prison bars made of her children's needs, creeped me right out. I mean, I'm forty-six, and I know about feeling envious of the young, it's just part of getting older, we're all going to have moments when we wish we were twenty-two and having mad thoughtless sex on the floor of a Williamsburg loft with some new conquest (right?), before we come to our senses and remember how such adventures usually turned out, and why we don't do that anymore-- but to write about this in such a way-- does Olen even know how she has humiliated herself?

Oh, and: I touch my boobs when I read the New Yorker

Yeah, me too, but that's because the New Yorker gets me hot.
posted by jokeefe at 11:22 PM on July 17, 2005


VulcanMike: Even Olen herself didn't seem to be interested in a strictly professional relationship. In the article she mentions that "Most parents don't like to think the person watching their children is there for a salary." She also compliments the nanny for putting quotation marks on the word "work." Hell, she even let her boobs hang out in front of her. In short, it doesn't strike me as a standard corporate atmosphere.

I got the feeling that Olen was simply bored and hard-up for excitement, and decided to create a drama where there was none. Mr. Olen can be thankful that the nanny took the brunt of it instead of him.
posted by Ljubljana at 11:25 PM on July 17, 2005


At what point does blog become another word for 'dear diary'...
posted by buzzman at 11:27 PM on July 17, 2005


I like boobies.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:34 PM on July 17, 2005 [1 favorite]


This is what the much-hyped blogging culture has brought us to? A she-said-she-said back and forth trading of gossip and tedious personal details from otherwise uninteresting people?

nightchrome, I think it's the NYT's Style section more than anything. Wasn't that where those articles about "man dates" and "u kant tell homosexual and heterosexual men apart anymore they dress teh same omgomg!!!1" originated? This is the equivalent of a lady finding her nanny's diary, reading it, and gossiping about it with her friends. The internets just allow for a larger scale.
posted by schroedinger at 11:53 PM on July 17, 2005


i told my soon-to-be employer about my blog (even though i have written a well-distributed set of blog rules that advise against such behavior, that also, weirdly happened to be linked in the nanny's comments) and i told my last employer about my blog.

why?

because i dont want my employer surprised by anything that they might stumble across if they googled my name.

also because i dont want to work for some jerkoff who would fire me because i *gasp* blog.

with that said, i dont write about my jobs, my bosses, or my freaking sex life because i realize we are living in a hypocritical world.

my advice to the nanny would have been to keep a secret, second, anonymous blog for her sexy stuff and for her airing of dirty laundry. and dont tell the hand that feeds her about that one.

and then she could keep her "personal" PG-rated blog semi-public and safe for the eyes of the douche she was employed by.

sorta sounds like the nanny had an idea that her wacky (tucker? i mean, really.) boss would flip out, so maybe she shouldnt be so shocked.

and btw there are very few people who liked to be spoken poorly of by their employees in public.

on preview: i like boobies too.
posted by tsarfan at 11:53 PM on July 17, 2005


hah! Olen has been well and truly skewered by the nanny; I hope she enjoys the barbecue.

The column was barely factual exploitation at best, and at worst a malicious attack of dubious motive. Misunderstandings do happen between people, and events experienced mutually are often interpreted differently. Personal focuses and prejudices do sometimes lead to misconception or misconstrual, and this happens innocently enough all the time (we see it here constantly), but Olen abused her power in two ways: first, as an employer who is in a position of authority and influence over her employee and secondly, as a widely read columnist for a major newspaper.

In the first case, she allowed some rather twisted and possibly paranoid personal feelings (as well as an unseemly interest in her employee's private life) to dictate her actions, when she should have been focusing on the quality of the work provided, and in the second, she violated the nanny's relative privacy* to lash out at the "little person" whom she thought didn't have a voice. Vile, indeed.

The Times also bears responsibility here: even if their writers are unethical enough to wish to carry out vendettas and attacks related to their personal lives via their public columns, the Times editors should not allow it.

*Googling direct quotes from the column instantly leads to the blog in question.
posted by taz at 11:53 PM on July 17, 2005


The Olen's were so shocked by the contents of their nanny's blog that they just couldn't tear their eyes away. Uh, huh.
posted by telstar at 1:25 AM on July 18, 2005


Why all the sympathy for the nanny? Let's not forget she was writing regularly about her employers' domestic lives. Whether or not she signed a privacy agreement , this isn't something you should be doing. I know this is metafilter where bloggers can do no wrong and I don't think Olen handled it particularly well, but...

But, let's try and imagine you did this in the pre-net days - i.e. you blabbered indiscreetly to anyone who'd listen about subjects that included your employers' personal lives. You'd be (quite rightly) branded a gossip and, in all likelihood sacked. Just because you do it on a blog doesn't make it any different - just easier to prove.

The "right" to express yourself freely is great. But when some of what you're doing is "expressing" tittle-tattle about the people who pay your salary, you might reasonably expect them to exercise their "right" to terminate your employment.
posted by rhymer at 2:21 AM on July 18, 2005


Could you link to some of that, rhymer? I probably agree with you, but just haven't seen it yet. For what it's worth, the nanny says: "I did a little analysis of my blog. And I found that I wrote less than 500 hundred words about being a nanny. And in fact, less than half of those words are about Ms. Olen and her family. In total, I have written over 20,000 words on this blog. Less than 1 percent of this blog is about being a nanny for the Olen family".

I haven't scoured the archives, but if this is the case, those 250 (or fewer) words would have to be right whompers to call down this kind of acrimony.

At any rate, the termination of employment is not something that I'm terribly concerned with. If that were all that was going on here, I really wouldn't be very interested, and would incline towards "a shame, but the risk you run when your employer knows about your blog." My outrage is about the column. Whatever the cause, problems between employees and employers occur all the time; having the employer's sole version and completely subjective interpretation of events (the presentation of which amounts to a pretty fair job of character assassination) broadcast in the New York Times is a completely different thing.
posted by taz at 2:52 AM on July 18, 2005


ditto, taz - you beat me to the punch:

> Why all the sympathy for the nanny? Let's not forget she was writing regularly about her employers' domestic lives. Whether or not she signed a privacy agreement

The Nanny-Blogger did an elaborate statistical breakdown of her own blog - so elaborate (toward the end of the link at the top of the page) I'd be inclined to take her word for it. The blog-entries about her employer were statistically less than 2% of the whole.

While Nanny-Blogger *advertised* the existence of her blog to Ms. Olen - a dubious and questionable prospect on its own, it was not Nanny-Blogger's fault that Olen became obsessed enough with it that she HAD to write an article on it, and therefore have her professional ethics laundered in public. Olen is petty and narcissistic AND her Editor failed her for not spiking her petty, bourgeois, narcissistic article. Since the NYT already failed on the Judith Miller case, perhaps they can make up for lost time by firing both Olen and her editor at the same time.

At this point, Nanny-Blogger could probably replace Ms. Olen's column with a good series on Contemporary Letters, Professional accountability and their relation to 19th c. mores.
posted by vhsiv at 2:58 AM on July 18, 2005


For what it's worth (and as I think I said) Olen handled it badly - and probably over-reacted. But that doesn't make her satan and the nanny an angel. I know a small proportion of her blog was about the family - but it was still there. And she did choose to advertise this fact to Olen. I guess all I am saying is that this isn't 100% black and white.

Whether or not Olen should have responded in the NYT, I'm less sure about. Many people seem to think this is a terrible thing (and her obsession is a bit weird) but equally employee blogging is pretty au courrant topic these days and Olen was well-placed to write a piece about it. For what it's worth I don't think her piece was that awful.

Had I been in her position, I doubt I would have fired the nanny. That said, I don't think I'd have exactly been delighted about having her write about arguments I had with my spouse.
posted by rhymer at 3:18 AM on July 18, 2005


Not trying to tag back everything you say, rhymer, because I think our positions are more similar than they are different, but she didn't say the couple arguing was the Olens, Helaine did (unless there's something besides this entry), and even so... the worst thing she said about it is that they are polite bickerers. For this she gets called what amounts to an alcoholic, pill popping slut? w.t.f.?
posted by taz at 4:06 AM on July 18, 2005


If you don't want to know, you shouldn't read it.

Yeah. And if you don't want other people to know, you shouldn't write it and tell them about it!

Especially if you're writing about their private life as well as your own. I really don't understand this burning itch that people get to disclose the minute details of their personal life to the world, in non-anonymous form, for it to be permanently archived so that should you realise two years later that maybe your narcissism has gone too far, you can't even take it back. Especially if it involves children. (Oh will anyone think of the children, seriously though.)

And I don't know whose narcissism is worse here, a journalist deciding to write about herself and her nanny in her magazine column, or the nanny giving her the link to her personal journal with her thoughts on her employer's life.

Maybe it's all a clever ploy and the nanny will get to write her book on the story and the columnist will review it on the magazine and they'll be both laughing at the readers. It sure looks like they both relish the exposure.

The really fascinating thing is this weird relation that rich Americans have with their nannies. Like it's not a job but a contest in who's better at playing mommy. It's so sad really.
posted by funambulist at 4:09 AM on July 18, 2005


Thanks for posting the response, delmoi; I thought about finding it after reading the article, but promptly forgot.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:41 AM on July 18, 2005 [1 favorite]


Oh good christ.

Discovering that the woman my high school set me up with in a mentoring program is now hiring and firing blogging nannies and exaggerating about it for the New York Times is not how I wanted to spend my Monday lunch break.

(Helaine? If you've been tipped off to this thread or whatever, um...hi. Sorry I didn't keep in touch. Except I blog now, so there'll probably be a layer of discomfort involved in that as well...)
posted by Katemonkey at 5:09 AM on July 18, 2005


They can't seem to keep their lizard loafers from betwixt their lips, nor their Manolos outta their mouths ovah at the Grey Flannel Lady lately...and the bloggers are doggin' and flogging the Times and pretty much holding their own in the reportage rump-kicking contest of late.

For updates on the Washington Wallow-gate I tend to read the blogs first, then perhaps consult the Daily Show...with a look-see at the mainstream press coming in third* if at all.

Here we have a story originating on the NY Times Style Page, yet I think the blogger won that particular contest on style points hands down.

"Freedom of the Press belongs to the (wo)man that owns one"...or at least a web page...in these most interesting days.
    *...and even then I now tend to read non-American MSM sources like the Economist.
posted by Dunvegan at 5:14 AM on July 18, 2005


MetaFilter -- I touch my boobs when I read the New Yorker

Is there a collection of these somewhere? Someone could make one of those 365-day calendars out of them (with appropriate illustrations).
posted by palancik at 5:26 AM on July 18, 2005


Her husband wanted to fire the nanny because he was put off by her statement about liking an actress (and a shows-excellent-taste statement as well)? From right there we were in a fantasyland. I didn't need to read the nanny's blog to figure out that the author's point of view is insane, and her spinning this into Style-section material was an act of laughably off-kilter self-regard. Which, sadly, has become more and more of a trend at the Gray Lady.
posted by BT at 5:37 AM on July 18, 2005


Why all the sympathy for the nanny?

I vote with the opposition. If I employed someone to help care for my children and they published one word in public about the private life of my family they'd be fired immediately. Two percent or twenty percent of the blog, it doesn't matter. Who knows what else she might have gotten around to publicizing? It's a clear case of poor judgment, and that is a deal-breaker when the job is taking care of children. The post-termination war of words between these women is an amusing bit. It reveals that both of them are a) deeply narcissistic and b) not the fine writers they think they are. (Or am I the only one who thinks Our Dear Nanny is not the next Jane Austen?)
posted by realcountrymusic at 6:08 AM on July 18, 2005


A bitch with the self awareness to write a column in which her neuroses and sexual failures are exposed can drink from my canteen any day.
Funny thing about that "self awareness" -- it's self awareness, not human insight. Self awareness is nothing more profound than knowing what you want and (sometimes) why you want it.

Human insight, OTOH, would include things like empathy. (You know, that comprehension of the fact that others feel things -- like pain -- just as you do?)

"Self awareness", in fact, starts to sound to me a bit like a synonym for "narcissism."

For myself, I can only say that I strongly prefer not to have to deal with people who can justify this kind of behavior with terms like "self awareness."
posted by lodurr at 6:19 AM on July 18, 2005


Man, what a weird thread. Sometimes I forget what an insular, blogocentric place this is, and then I get forcibly reminded. Have any of you actually held a job? I mean a real job, not some meaningless gig you do for beer money while you pursue your music or your PhD. If so, I'll bet you didn't tell your boss "I have a blog! Wanna read it?" and then write about your boss in the blog; you'd have to be mindbogglingly stupid and/or self-involved to do such a thing. This woman is both stupid and self-involved, and yet you all rally to her side indignantly because she's a blogger! Which makes her cool, unlike that horrible NY Times woman! Give me a break. The only commenters here with any sense (unless I missed someone) are MaxVonCretin ("The lesson is simple - keep your private and professional lives separate - and don't be an emotional exhibitionist"), rhymer ("The 'right' to express yourself freely is great. But when some of what you're doing is 'expressing' tittle-tattle about the people who pay your salary, you might reasonably expect them to exercise their 'right' to terminate your employment"), and funambulist ("I really don't understand this burning itch that people get to disclose the minute details of their personal life to the world, in non-anonymous form, for it to be permanently archived so that should you realise two years later that maybe your narcissism has gone too far, you can't even take it back"). [On preview, realcountrymusic also gets it.]

Here's a selection of Ms Nanny-Blogger's pearls of self-defense:

If you look carefully through my archives, instead you will find a young woman in her mid-twenties who decided to work as a nanny for a year while she prepared to enter the next phase of her professional life; namely the life of an academic pursuing a PhD in English Literature specifically focusing on the Late Victorian novel.

Translation: I'm not really a low-class nanny! I'm a real person, an important person, a future academic! How can you hold me to the same standards you'd hold some illegal immigrant to?

But on a closer reading of this post you will find I use Tucker Carlson, a noted conservative pundidt, as an example of how opposites attract. How intellectual tensions between two people can actually fuel romantic desire. And then I do something really really deviant. I compare my crush on him to the romantic tensions in Jane Austen's famous Pride and Prejudice.


See, I don't just have a normal crush like normal people, I have a superior, academic crush which I compare to "the romantic tensions in Jane Austen's famous Pride and Prejudice"! (Note: anyone who refers to "Jane Austen's famous Pride and Prejudice" is hopeless; if she gets a PhD, it will be because she's hip and gets on well with her adviser, not because she has a clue about literature or scholarship.)

However, in the early stages of my current relationship, I did sleep with a former bofyriend who came and visited me. I blogged about it. My Boyfriend was furious. It seriously tested our relationship, We survived.

What funambulist said. This person doesn't even deserve to have a boyfriend, let alone an employer. (And next year, if she has one, it'll be a different sucker. You read it here first.)

Are you shocked that I think an actress in early 19th century garb is "hot?" Its supposed to be an ironic comment...

Oh, it's ironic! The universal excuse of our time. If you happen to be a twentysomething slacker, that is.

I did blog about my abortion, please read my entry here. I think if you compare the vulnerable and humble way I talk about that painful experience, you might find that Ms. Olen and I are very different. I for one would never reduce another woman's abortion to [blah blah blah]... I pleaded with the NYTIMES in two separate emails that her use of my experience was insensitive and contradictory to the way in which I talked about it. They didnt care.


OK, now I'm starting to feel a little sorry for her. Not because of her painful experience, but because she's so clueless that she thinks the NY Times would or should give a shit about her feelings. She's going to have a hard, hard life.

As for the blogging at work, yep, I sometimes did that. When the kids were napping. However, I also do what I said I would do, get materials together for my future professional plans. I even mention that on my blog here. Anyone out there apply to both Phd and Law school? Anyone blog while taking a break from that process? Normal right?

We're all bloggers, right? Our employers should understand how important that is, right? They should cut us some slack, right?

Also, when Ms. Olen was sick with a 24 hour stomache bug, she actually had me get things for her, further exposing me to illness... I think it should also be noted that Ms. Olen asked me to make up two sick days. Yes. Which meant I worked 12 days straight. I also document that on the blog. I was exhautsed and fatigued and I felt like I was being punished for being sick.

Oh the humanity!

Yes, Ms. Olen and her spouse did fight in front of me once. It was awful and I couldnt believe they had so little concern for my comfort...

No comment.

This might be hard for Ms. Olen to understand, considering this article reveals that she lives in an insular inner world where everything is about HER...

My head just exploded.

Also, I would like to add, that I continue to work as a nanny. That the families I am currently working for are very pleased with my services. That one has only increased my hours.

From a future edition of the blog, after this employer too has disappointed her: "And they increased my hours, after I told them I was sick and needed to work on my PhD! They have no feelings, no understanding!"

This Blog! It has caused me some problems. The Boyfriend, HATES IT. He has been patient through this whole NYTIMES debaucle. But he has repeatedly said, somethings dont need to be in print. Maybe he was right.

Maybe he was. Mayyyyybe he was.

Note that I've heroically resisted the temptation to make fun of her poor English ("insiduous"?) because, you know, it's only a blog, but if I were a potential employer in her actual field and read it, I sure wouldn't hire her. It's not just a matter of an occasional typo -- the woman writes like a junior-high student, and not one of exceptional skills.
posted by languagehat at 6:40 AM on July 18, 2005


realcountrymusic: I'm with you. She certainly isn't the next Jane Austen, and maybe it's petty, but I'd like to seem some appropriate apostraphes, capitalization and other punctuation in her writing. It's all well and good to not be a stickler for style in your blog, but when you want to get a Ph.D in English? You might want to consider at least nodding at proper grammar.

I'm torn here; I'm pretty careful not to blog about work on any level, and even so I haven't told anyone I work with that I have a blog. But Ms. Olen went way over a line too; can we just call them both narcissistic bitches and be done with it?
posted by jennaratrix at 6:43 AM on July 18, 2005


what realcountrymusic and languagehat said, though with less vitriol than languagehat.
posted by johnny novak at 6:44 AM on July 18, 2005


languagehat: Have any of you actually held a job? I mean a real job, not some meaningless gig you do for beer money while you pursue your music or your PhD. If so, I'll bet you didn't tell your boss "I have a blog! Wanna read it?" and then write about your boss in the blog....
Why do I keep forgetting why I don't bother to read MeFi anymore?

Methinks you're being a tad disengenuous. lagnaugehat, you've been around enough that you should be able to eyeball the handles and tell how many people here have held "real" jobs (i.e., have been 'real person[s]' as you put it later in deriding the nanny). For my own part, I am 41 years old and have worked in the corporate world for more than ten years, and in large institutions since my early 20s. I've had lots of "real" jobs -- by which I mean jobs that I did for beer and rent and food and health care money.

I blog. Many people who hire me know that I blog. Yes, I know, I'm not a nanny and I seldom say anything at all about employers in my blog. I'll happily assent that "don't blog about work" is sound advice. But have you actually bothered to look and see what the nanny actually said about the Olens? Was it anything that any normal person would find "inapporpriate" if it weren't happening in the context of constructed class-boundaries? (And if your answer is "yes", it would be helpful if you provided links. I couldn't find anything. Maybe I just didn't look hard enough.)

I also find it kind interesting that you go through and snip the nanny's long response while liberally spackling the cracks with ironism ("The universal excuse of our time"). Was that supposed to be ironic?

To me, the "tough shit she was stupid" thread that shows up whenever this kind of issue is raised smacks of indentification with the aggressor. Few of us would really choose to be a nanny, putting up with low pay, low status, long hours, and haughty, superior employers.

We'd most of us much rather be the Olens. We'd much rather be able to fire that uppity nanny's ass.
posted by lodurr at 7:15 AM on July 18, 2005


Could someone who is claiming that the blogger was posting about her employer's private life please provide a link to relevant posts? Note that the post cited by Olen isn't about Olen's family, and the NYT article didn't provide any other examples. If you accept the blogger's statistics, she's only written ~250 words in her blog about Olen and her family. I find it hard to believe that these 250 words are of such an intensely personal and private nature that the blogger deserved to be fired for them.
posted by bpt at 7:16 AM on July 18, 2005


No matter your opinion of Mrs. Olen, nobody should do a diary type blog of anything unless they are full prepared for their dirty laundry or frank musing to bite them on the ass. Employers (though apparently in this case there were other issues) are certainly within their rights to fire employee who defame them and defamation could easily be any kind of criticism in a blog.

As it is, I know people who agonize that their parents will discover their Live Journals, folks who have repulsively morbid details of their lives strewn about the net and all of them seem somehow oblivious that the problems created are entirely of their own doing. You want a diary, write a diary but don't post it publicly and expect nobody to know.

Why this fundamental truth keeps being hashed over I can't imagine. If you don't want people to read and react to your stuff, don't post it. Simple. Feh.
posted by shagoth at 7:20 AM on July 18, 2005


pyramid termite writes "it's strange how it's not ok for nanny to make a few comments about her employers ... but ms olen feels entitled to expose nanny's private life to a million or so readers "

To be fair the nanny is the one exposing details in her blog. Just because there wasn't the light of the NYT shining down on it doesn't mean it wasn't public. One of the things you pay for when hiring any kind of personal servant is discretion. Whether it's your barber, chauffeur or valet you don't want them exposing details of your private life how ever minor they may seem.

taz writes "I haven't scoured the archives, but if this is the case, those 250 (or fewer) words would have to be right whompers to call down this kind of acrimony."

For people who care about privacy it's not the last 250 words it's the next 250 they are worried about. The nanny has demonstrated a lack of ability to keep her mouth shut about her employers.

languagehat that was a great rebuttal.
posted by Mitheral at 7:21 AM on July 18, 2005


Rebuttal? What rebuttal?

Sure: If you're indiscrete, you face consequences. But it's not at all clear that's what's being punished, here. There's good evidennce, on the contrary, that what's getting punished is the temerity to act in a class-inappropriate manner without the specific blessing of or instigation by an employer.

I'm still waiting for the indiscretion, btw. I haven't seen it yet. Except from Olen. She gets paid for it, of course, so that makes it alright....
posted by lodurr at 7:32 AM on July 18, 2005


Well, this is one of the inevitable things about blogging. You put your ideas and opinions out in public, you're exposing yourself to responses. Those responses might be sane and reasonable or they might be vicious and distorted or anywhere in between. And certainly if you talk about your job and then point your employer at the blog where you do so, you're setting yourself up for possible... difficulties.

Still, this journo sounds awful and she clearly unfairly misrepresented what the nanny had said. So, by the same principle, she set herself up for comeback. And she got it.

I'd never talk about my job on a public forum. Largely because it sucks and my boss is a complete jerk. Why, only the other day he... [*shepherd's crook*]
posted by Decani at 7:33 AM on July 18, 2005


I'm not sure why languagehat is so upset about it, but yes, for someone who wants a PhD in English she's an appalling writer.

That doesn't make her ex-employer any less of a crazy, narcissistic bitch though.
posted by myeviltwin at 7:33 AM on July 18, 2005


At what point does blog become another word for 'dear diary'...
posted by buzzman at 1:27 AM CST on July 18 [!]


Since always.


(Note: anyone who refers to "Jane Austen's famous Pride and Prejudice" is hopeless; if she gets a PhD, it will be because she's hip and gets on well with her adviser, not because she has a clue about literature or scholarship.)

You might want to recheck your definition of famous. It is quite possible she was referring to the lesser used definition. If not, it was a minor oversight. You're usually not such a wanker LH, lighten up.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:39 AM on July 18, 2005


This is also why I never mention anything about where I work in my blog.

.
posted by erratic frog at 7:47 AM on July 18, 2005


I don't think anyone is here really too concerned about the firing. Instead, the outrage is more about the article in the NYTimes. I think this comment from another site (atrios) makes a good point:
There's definitely some class issues going on when an employee writing about her employer in a blog [[and, let me add, unnamed and identified by that employee -a.]] is enough to get her fired, but an employer writing about her employee in the New York Times is just journalism.
posted by Staggering Jack at 8:00 AM on July 18, 2005


though with less vitriol than languagehat.

My vitriol does not have to do with the clueless Academic Nanny -- she's no more ignorant and self-involved than your average blogger -- but with the fact that the participants here are almost all championing her. If the thread had been full of people taking the employer's side, I'd probably have said something like "Hey, just because the nanny is ignorant and self-involved doesn't mean she deserves to be fired, although she should have realized that was a possibility and hopefully now she knows better." When I see a zillion MeFites championing this idiot, I feel impelled to deconstruct her rambling rant so they can maybe have a second thought.

lagnaugehat, you've been around enough that you should be able to eyeball the handles and tell how many people here have held "real" jobs

Good god, I've got better things to do with my life than research the backgrounds of everyone who comments here. I wasn't seriously accusing people of not having jobs (and I don't really care whether they have or not), just pointing out that the general consternation about the nanny's firing implied a certain... innocence about the conditions of employment. Sure, it's too bad she got fired, and she doubtless didn't "deserve" it in some sense -- but come on, to be surprised or shocked about it is just silly.

You might want to recheck your definition of famous. It is quite possible she was referring to the lesser used definition.

Hahahaha! Have you read anything she wrote? The woman can barely use words in their normal senses. And I'm not being a wanker, I'm trying to get people to see that the nanny isn't on some higher plane than her employer. Sorry you got so attached to Ms Nanny that you can't stand to see her criticized, but if people don't want their writing criticized, they shouldn't put them out there in public.

I'm not sure why languagehat is so upset about it, but yes, for someone who wants a PhD in English she's an appalling writer.

Thank you. And see above for what I'm upset about.
posted by languagehat at 8:06 AM on July 18, 2005


Never thought I'd say this, but languagehat: not only was that comment fairly unpleasant, it was also pretty stupid. I'm normally a big fan of you being dismissive towards people, but that's because you generally have very good grounds for it, and you carry it off with panache. You give good dismissive.

But here, you're not even trying to disguise the fact that you've taken an instant dislike to this girl, with your main objection apparently being that she has the temerity to be, er, young. Ragging on students is that laziest form of social snidery, and one that I'd expect you to attack, not practice. And for someone with your awareness of the nuances of language, I'm astonished that you spent so much time taking her to task for being self-regarding in a post which is explicitly intended to defend herself from a character assassination. Because, you know, it's quite hard to correct a series of false accusations about your behaviour and personality without making at least some statements about yourself that, in another context, could look quite presumptuous. And your "translations" of her true meaning are pretty cheap and pretty baseless.

And beyond that, you're another commentor who's completely missed the point: the majority of criticism that Olen's getting isn't for sacking the nanny, but for writing the article. It's perfectly possible to think that the nanny was naive in the extreme for blogging about work after telling her boss she kept the blog, but to still think that Olen's article was vile.

But enough; I have to earn beer money - because, man, that music career sure is thirsty work!
posted by flashboy at 8:11 AM on July 18, 2005


Yeah, okay, partially retracted due to above comment that I didn't see on preview...
posted by flashboy at 8:13 AM on July 18, 2005


Metafilter: Championing the Idiot.
posted by chunking express at 8:18 AM on July 18, 2005


Good god, I've got better things to do with my life than research the backgrounds of everyone who comments here.

For most people who post here as much as you have, simply paying attention would have sufficed.
posted by lodurr at 8:26 AM on July 18, 2005


Thanks, flashboy. Once again: I'm not attacking the nanny because I dislike her but to counter the unthinking defense. I have no feelings about her one way or the other.

One thing I forgot to mention: to those of you bringing up the issue of class, don't be ridiculous. If you think Ms Academic Nanny is "lower-class," you need to do some reading about class. I'm very sensitive to class snobbery, but this (I'm-not-really-a-)nanny is of the same class as her ex-employer, and I'll bet you money when she gets the chance she'll be firing people herself and justifying it with the same sort of self-absorbed whining both employer and employee demonstrate here. They're essentially the same creature, just at different stages of their lives.
posted by languagehat at 8:26 AM on July 18, 2005


If you think Ms Academic Nanny is "lower-class," you need to do some reading about class.

... And if you think that's what was meant by all the class-comments here, you need to re-read them. They're mostly pretty clear that it's about class as a construct, not an economic fact. Give us enough credit to suppose that when we talk about class relations in the context of roles that have traditionally been constructed along "master-servant" lines, we might possibly be doing so with a little thought about that fact.
posted by lodurr at 8:33 AM on July 18, 2005


languagehat: If so, I'll bet you didn't tell your boss "I have a blog! Wanna read it?" and then write about your boss in the blog; you'd have to be mindbogglingly stupid and/or self-involved to do such a thing.

Yes. Probably so. Now if you could show us where she wrote about her boss on the blog, maybe we can judge how stupid she is. I haven't actually found anything so far.

At any rate, a lot of the nastiness that you are directing towards her appears to be because you find her a poor writer. I did happen to see a comment of hers in one of her blog entries that I will summarize and paraphrase as "I am not a good writer, and part of the reason for this blog is to help me improve my writing skills". That leaves open a lot of possible sneering comebacks on your side, but you're wrong if you think that she believes that she is "some higher plane than her employer" in terms of writing style.

(Why are we talking about her writing style again?)
posted by taz at 8:34 AM on July 18, 2005


My vitriol does not have to do with the clueless Academic Nanny -- she's no more ignorant and self-involved than your average blogger -- but with the fact that the participants here are almost all championing her.

actually, i've said on my own blog that what she did wasn't very smart ... and that i could understand why they decided to let her go ... if you read her comments under the post or on bitchphd, she admits it wasn't smart

that's one issue ... what i don't understand is why olen decided to keep checking the girl's blog ... and then decided to put the whole story in the new york times ... this smacks of obsession and vendetta ... it's evil in a catty, upper-crust way ... i feel as if the real message of the article is that upper middle class writers are the only people who should have the right to trash talk others publicly ... i also feel that if there's something so disturbing and frightening about ordinary people saying things publically about their employers, then, in a world where the working person is getting screwed left and right, this is something that we should be doing more of

they want our silence because it's easily mistaken as agreement ... true, it's one thing to be talking about some woman who's hired you to watch the kids ... that's a bit more personal ... but i don't feel that people who work at walmart, or gm, or whatever should just have to shut up and take it

one shouldn't mistake dissidence for stupidity, even if the two meet sometimes ...

on preview ... i do recognize that nanny is aspiring to olen's class and that it's likely she may be the same kind of person 20 years from now ... still, as someone who's never going to get within shouting distance of the world these two inhabit, the class thing sticks out like a sore extended pinky ... not to mention the sheer jealousy of olen over her nanny's youth, love life and talent ... (she's got some work to do, but i'll take her writing over olen's any day)
posted by pyramid termite at 8:35 AM on July 18, 2005


languagehat: If she's going to work on a PhD in English lit, even at the Univ. of Virginia, the chances are she'll never be in a position to fire anyone, unless she gets a really good agent out of all this and a good freelance career going and books published. Otherwise, she'll be lucky if she finds a tenure-track job at East West Virginia PolyTechnical Institute and School of Chiropractory, probably, and she won't have a nanny-hiring salary even if she ends up a couple of tiers up the academic food chain.
posted by raysmj at 8:38 AM on July 18, 2005


I for one don't see this, as several above have, as being a story about class difference. Indeed, the opposite seems to be true. This is about class affinity. Ms. Blogger goes to great pains to emphasize her sense of entitlement to more privacy and respect than the average nanny (in New York, that means a Trinidadian or Nepalese or other often undocumented middle-aged immigrant woman with kids of her own). Indeed, the subtext of her argument seems to be "I'm not really just a nanny, I'm important! How dare she fire me!?") One can imagine what an obnoxious domestic employee she must have been with this attitude. She certainly obtained her job with what looks like limited to no experience with child care, and in my experience as a NY parent, the reason is probably that she IS middle-class. Olen, I suspect, leapt at the chance to hire someone whom she didn't have to feel like she was exploiting, and thus avoid a very typical species of NYC upper middle class parental guilt. She got what she paid for, alas. An immature kid with a sense of entitlement, but of the right color (I'm just guessing she's white) and class to make Olen feel an entirely different kind of discomfort: competition.

Mind you, I am only defending Olen's right to fire the nanny, and criticizing the nanny's foolishness. Olen's column in the Times is ugly and cringeful. But so is Nanny's blog. The two of them deserve each other, if they haven't actually colluded to make each other a tad more famous.

And as for the PhD, since that's my business, I'd have to say that if her application essay is written like her blog, she'd better do well on that LSAT or polish up those nanny skills. She's certainly full of very amusing ideas about what her chosen profession is about.
posted by realcountrymusic at 8:49 AM on July 18, 2005


(she's got some work to do, but i'll take her writing over olen's any day)

There's something to be said for enthusiasm and honesty. Olen's is a style I find all too commonly these days -- commentators who use nicely-constructed language to publicly justify their own inadequacies. Sure, she's exposing herself as a neurotic twit -- but any honest reader damn well knows she expects to be validated for it, on the balance.

They truth (and any good writer who's honest about craft knows this) is that you can make a rhetorical case for damn near anything. You cn write a piece that exposes you as a neurotic "bitch" and that's nevertheless designed to win you validation from the people you want to impress (e.g., a heavily class-identifying target demo -- the "Carrie Bradshaw as culture-jammer" crowd).
posted by lodurr at 8:50 AM on July 18, 2005


realcountrymusic: If you read through the blog it's evident she already made it into UVA. And the LSAT is for law school.
posted by raysmj at 8:59 AM on July 18, 2005


What realcountrymusic said. The class argument strikes me as totally ridiculous given that Olen herself explicitly draws parallels between her past self and Nanny.

To me, this looks way more like some weird jealous obsession of Olen's about all the slutty, drunken fun Nanny is supposedly having.

I guess my sympathies are with Nanny because she at least has an excuse for being dumb and narcissistic -- she's young! What's Olen's excuse?
posted by myeviltwin at 9:03 AM on July 18, 2005


Can I be pissed that her name is my name? Dammit.
posted by geekyguy at 9:09 AM on July 18, 2005


realcountrymusic, you've got some interesting and (I think) valid insights there, but you include some odd suppositions. For example, "little to no experience in child care"? Or that the typical NYC nanny has children of her own?

Our girl was a teacher, or so we're told. She had prior employers as a nanny. And from what I've been told, there are a lot of foreign students working as nannies.

Sure, this is about class, and at some level it's about class affinities (or at least class-identification) as it is about class differences -- which is, after all, the real essence of class-conflict, isn't it?

BTW: The last time I looked at writings by grad students (which was not long ago -- I've done it several times over the past few years, actually), they were on about this level of stylisitic accomplishment. She's really not atypical. I find it interesting (as I think Taz does, also) that people feel a need to denigrate her style by comparison with Olen's.
posted by lodurr at 9:09 AM on July 18, 2005


Oh, and realcountrymusic/languagehat: She must be able to hack her way through, could get good GRE scores and all. She must be doing something right somewhere. Maybe she was sent to great schools all along, and had test-prep courses and whatnot, and everything comes too easy. But who can say? Why would she be working as a nanny, then? Nanny sounds like a post-collegiate elite school cipher.

The turnoff with the blog isn't so much her writing to me, however, as the numbing stereotypical quality of it all. She meets with Boyfriend, writes about their "fucking" in a totally non-erotic manner. Then they fuck some more, have dinner with friends, then do some comfy "fucking" that only the truly intimate can have and he does that extra thrust 'cause she was on the rag and he was weirded out about that. Then boyfriend doesn't want to go to Charlottesville, 'cause he's too weird about going out of New York.

It's "Annie Hall" without any of the humor, and people whose sex is totally comfortable, supposedly, and who are just so damned intimate, or something.
posted by raysmj at 9:10 AM on July 18, 2005


What funambulist said. This person doesn't even deserve to have a boyfriend, let alone an employer.

Oi, I didn't say that ;)
But yeah, overall I have to agree with the substance of your skewering, languagehat. Especially how you picked up on her literary ubernanny-with-a-PhD affectations. She sounds like she is just as much if not more of an egocentric snob than Olsen. Really a tough contest there.
posted by funambulist at 9:12 AM on July 18, 2005


"little to no experience in child care"? Or that the typical NYC nanny has children of her own?

I can't speak statistically, but from extensive experience *most* of the nannies working for families I know in NYC are middle-aged immigrant women with their own children, often children still in their home country and being cared for by a relative. I always found this cringeful, imagining the resentment those women must feel about having to take care of wealthy American children while not being able to care for their own. I can also speak to the intense guilt felt by many UMC NYC parents over their use of nannies, especially in the very common cases where their kids spent more time with the nanny than with their own parents, and bonded accordingly.

I am assuming Ms. Blogger has limited experience with child care, it's true, just based on her age, social background, apparently childless status, and so forth. Perhaps a rash assumption. Certainly she has less childcare experience than a 43 year old Tibetan woman with 5 teenaged kids now being cared for by her sister in India. Some parents I know go to great lengths (including importing their own au pairs from Scandinavia) to acquire a young, white, basically middle-class nanny. And in many cases, they are disappointed precisely by the young, white, middle-classness (read: sense of entitlement and lack of subservience, if not lack of professionalism) of these nannies. I'm not endorsing a return to the good old days when servants knew their place, just observing the ironies, which come to a head in this story.

Tawdry episode all around. I'm busy trying to imagine if there could be an equivalent story with male protagonists that would be as controversial.
posted by realcountrymusic at 9:26 AM on July 18, 2005


"I also want to make it clear that I told Ms. Olen how in appropriate her essay was before publication."

I have a question! I don't know anything about how the world of journalism works, so...

How did she get a copy of the article to read before it was published? If you write about someone, do they have to show it to you before it's published?
posted by Aoede at 9:40 AM on July 18, 2005


This seems to be the buzz of the online world today, and for the life of me all I see is two spoiled women in a snit. When did the blog world become Peyton Fucking Place?
posted by jonmc at 9:43 AM on July 18, 2005


When did the blog world become Peyton Fucking Place?

When everybody started fucking.
posted by COBRA! at 9:45 AM on July 18, 2005


Will there be an online response to every week's NYT Styles section? I hope so. But last week's Froky scandal was way more interesting.
posted by GaelFC at 9:50 AM on July 18, 2005


I don't seem to be getting my point across very effectively, so I'll defer to realcountrymusic, who's making it more concisely and without pissing people off.
posted by languagehat at 9:52 AM on July 18, 2005


Am I the only one really not impressed with the way the New York Times has been run in the past 2-3 years?

Sure, it was Olen who wrote the column, but obviously her boss thought it "fit to print", which I would dispute. Put this together with Jayson Blair (sp?) and Judith Miller, and you begin to have some doubts as to whether the Times is really as respectable as it would like itself to appear.
posted by clevershark at 9:52 AM on July 18, 2005


When did the blog world become Peyton Fucking Place?

when sharon im'd martin payton that she'd had a torrid love affair with steven after their scientology courses and adrienne hid in the bushes taking pictures that later ended up on a porno web site

Am I the only one really not impressed with the way the New York Times has been run in the past 2-3 years?

i'm not impressed either ...
posted by pyramid termite at 9:54 AM on July 18, 2005


How did she get a copy of the article to read before it was published?

Yeah, I wondered about that too. How did that happen? hmm, again, I smell a clever publicity ploy. Expect the book soon ;)
posted by funambulist at 10:05 AM on July 18, 2005


And just the week before, the Styles section ran an article where the author describes his ex-girlfriend as ridiculously infantile. And then the ex-girlfriend publishes her response in the Black Table. Perhaps the Times should set up a blog for everyone's responses to Styles fluff pieces...
posted by armacy at 10:16 AM on July 18, 2005


Dear New York Times,

Please stop publishing that insane "Modern Love" column. You're embarrassing me.

- A Devoted Reader
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 10:22 AM on July 18, 2005


It all began one day late last fall when we were tending to my toddler and she murmured to me: "I've started a blog. I'll give you the link."

Sounds like a come-on.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 10:23 AM on July 18, 2005


Hrm, just skimming through this, but is anyone else noticing a double-standard in regards to writers and blogs that this case screams out.

When Olen publishes details of her personal life in the NYT, it's "journalism."

When her semi-anonymous nanny publishes details of her personal life on a web site it's revealing too much information.

That is, it seems like lately that writing about your opinion or your life is good if you have the stamp of approval of the Chronicle of Higher Education or the NYT, but not if you are self-published.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:25 AM on July 18, 2005


One other thing that this highlights is the absurdity of our arguments about "truth" in "journalism" -- and the absurdity of terms like "creative non-fiction."

I think it's that we're seldom schooled by experiennce to be critical of narratives. We would be so schooled by having to make our own. Just doing things like hanging around on some (mythical) stoop, trading stories with neighbors, would be a good start.

We receive media -- we seldom create it, and on those few occasions when we do, we do so with a passive audience -- with little feedback or interaction. We speak to, not with.

Present circumstance excepted, of course...
posted by lodurr at 10:27 AM on July 18, 2005


pyramid termite writes "what i don't understand is why olen decided to keep checking the girl's blog ... and then decided to put the whole story in the new york times ... this smacks of obsession and vendetta ... it's evil in a catty, upper-crust way"

She writes for the style section. Personal experience with nannies is part of her world.
posted by Mitheral at 10:43 AM on July 18, 2005


Why would Tessy tell her boss about her blog? Because her boss has contacts that would be useful to her. If Olen were a corporate litigator, I doubt the blog would've surfaced, and the internets would've been spared this ingrown-yet-exhibitionist preening and tattling.

Of course, revealing the blog was dumb and ill-advised. Quite likely, Tessy had some inkling of that and decided that the potential benefits outweighed the risks.

They're both vile, in a way I've never seen outside NYC. Their brainpans are lined with mirrors, so they can watch themselves watching themselves, watching themselves, watching themselves, into infinity. If I had to pick one to feed to a Chrysler Building gargoyle, it'd be Olen by a carefully tended hair.
posted by vetiver at 10:45 AM on July 18, 2005


My problem isn't so much with the blogging nanny losing her job. It's with the crappy article that returned whatever privacy violation the ex-employer felt a thousandfold towards the nanny.
posted by MegoSteve at 10:45 AM on July 18, 2005


I often scratch my scrotum while I read Metafilter.
posted by davy at 10:46 AM on July 18, 2005


[DERAIL]

armacy's linked to NYT "essay" included this:

"We wrote long e-mail messages filled with apologies, therapeutic language and promises to do better. She vowed to deal with abandonment issues and moodiness. I promised to accept her as she was and be more patient. Still, we floundered.

No wonder they floundered. Sheesh.

[/DERAIL]
posted by davy at 10:52 AM on July 18, 2005


By the way, speaking of blogs and the New York Times, poking around its "Fashion & Style" section turned up an article about that kid Zach who parents tried to "de-gay" him .

Previously discussed here several times.
posted by davy at 11:00 AM on July 18, 2005


Hrm, just skimming through this, but is anyone else noticing a double-standard in regards to writers and blogs that this case screams out.

When Olen publishes details of her personal life in the NYT, it's "journalism."

When her semi-anonymous nanny publishes details of her personal life on a web site it's revealing too much information.


That doesn't strike me as a double standard at all. In the first case, Olen is doing what her employer pays her to do. In the second case, the nanny is doing what her employer didn't want her to do.
posted by me & my monkey at 11:01 AM on July 18, 2005


KirkJobSluder writes "When Olen publishes details of her personal life in the NYT, it's 'journalism.'

"When her semi-anonymous nanny publishes details of her personal life on a web site it's revealing too much information."


You have to add "when it includes details, however trivial, of her employers personal life" to the last half to make them equal. I must admit I've been much too lazy read the entire blog, did Olen reveal any information about her ex-nanny that was not taken from her blog? Obviously there has been some exageration but was any extra information revealed?
posted by Mitheral at 11:02 AM on July 18, 2005


KirkJobSluder, I didn't notice anyone commending that article as good or interesting writing... anyone except the editors, at least. It's just as boring, pathetic and self-centered as the blogger's stuff. Only she and her editors judged it worthy of being in a magazine. Oh well, there's worse.

Still, the point is none of that makes the blogger look any better. They deserve each other really.

The interesting thing to me in the reactions is how people can be so keen in seeing this as a classist (or even feminist!) issue.

To paraphrase something I read about laziness, I'm not saying there's no such thing as class or feminist wars between rich women and their nannies. But if you're trying to choose between two theories and one gives you an excuse for being a dumb and pretentious exhibitionist who writes about wishing her employers were hitting and smacking each other when arguing and then overtly invites them to read all that and yet acts all outraged at the consequences, the other one is probably right.
posted by funambulist at 11:02 AM on July 18, 2005


Huh. The NYT has a "Style" section. Go figure.
posted by gramschmidt at 11:07 AM on July 18, 2005


My blog is so Top Secret I don't even tell myself about it.
posted by davy at 11:09 AM on July 18, 2005


They're essentially the same creature, just at different stages of their lives.

Sounds right to me.

I guess my sympathies are with Nanny because she at least has an excuse for being dumb and narcissistic -- she's young! What's Olen's excuse?

Yes.

Also, The NYT Style section is a laughingstock and has been for some time.

And the fact that Olen's article about her blogging ex-nanny is in the NYT is like answering a slap with a nuclear bomb. That is why so many people are siding with the nanny.
posted by maggiemaggie at 11:11 AM on July 18, 2005


(Note: anyone who refers to "Jane Austen's famous Pride and Prejudice" is hopeless; if she gets a PhD, it will be because she's hip and gets on well with her adviser, not because she has a clue about literature or scholarship.)

You might want to recheck your definition of famous. It is quite possible she was referring to the lesser used definition. If not, it was a minor oversight. You're usually not such a wanker LH, lighten up.


For anyone in a literature program, I assure you both definitions apply quite well.

Languagehat, that was one hell of a derail. Ad Hominem attacks like " This person doesn't even deserve to have a boyfriend, let alone an employer." not only fail to address the the essential point of the discussion, but they make you out to be little less than an arrogant, self-important schmuck.
posted by Dr_Johnson at 11:13 AM on July 18, 2005


LH, I find it really distressing to be on the opposite side of you in such a debate (because of the whole respect thing and all), but I have to disagree here. Blogger Nanny can be a self-involved twit and a bad writer to boot (though she's managed to wangle herself a position at a PhD program somewhere, which surely means just a little bit more than absolutely nothing), and there's no doubt that she is, in fact, full of feelings of entitlement and self-overweening self regard. I won't argue. From what I’ve read of her blog, which admittedly isn’t a great deal, I don't find it all that interesting or even marginally entertaining; and people who cast their romantic involvements as imitative of Austen have obviously never understood just how witheringly satirical Austen could be (and one can imagine what she'd make of an indiscreet servant and a hell-hath-no-wrath employer). So: Nanny's a bad writer, a clueless individual, etc. The problem that I have with this story is in her public exposure and shaming in the pages of the NYT by her former employer, who is wielding a hammer of huge social power, and is motivated, I can only speculate, by an ugly combination of jealousy and vengefulness. I don't care that Nanny was fired, and given the kinds of things that go on every day in the hiring and firing and exploitation of domestic workers, she doesn't really have anything to complain about other than the injury to her dignity, such as it is. It's that teeth-grindingly petty and bitter article that bugs the hell of me. I’m not defending Nanny because she’s a blogger and therefore cool (didn’t all get over thinking that back in about 2000?) but because her employer has done something vitriolic and nasty, as is demonstrated in her article: she was secretly reading the blog, even after Nanny was fired, and had become by her own admission “obsessed” with Nanny’s private life; she then used all this material to perform an act of very public punishment. As far as the human drama goes it’s not a pretty story, and it's not even all that unusual, but using the NYT as a platform for getting even is just a leetle bit low. In my estimation.

And yeah, I've had real jobs, from washing dishes in the mobile kitchen of an oil rig to my current delightful employment, which essentially consists of being the most unlikely accounting clerk in the history of this institution (I can't add and subtract, for starters). I would never blog about my workplace, because I know better, and used to have a rule, when I was blogging regularly, to never put online anything that I wouldn't want my department head to see. That's the way of the world. I still feel for Nanny rather than her employer, and think her employer acted badly.
posted by jokeefe at 11:14 AM on July 18, 2005


I'm not attacking the nanny because I dislike her but to counter the unthinking defense

No Defense like a good offense?
posted by Dr_Johnson at 11:15 AM on July 18, 2005


funambulist: In her defense, the nanny says she wrote no such thing, that the post in question was not about her employer.
posted by raysmj at 11:16 AM on July 18, 2005


"self-overweening self regard" = overweening self regard
posted by jokeefe at 11:16 AM on July 18, 2005


Well, like I said, I found the exchange entertaining. A lot of the criticism of the Nanny focuses on the idea that she wrote about the couple in the Blog, but, no one has posted any links to what she supposedly said. So we don't even know if that's true or not. The response indicated that Olin had misinterpreted things on the Blog to be about her.

If I wrote "My work has free pop, and I think it's making me fat" I would not expect to be fired.

Anyway, getting fired isn't the issue; it's getting trashed in the NYTs style section. Do you people really think it was appropriate for the employer to trash an employee after a termination? I mean, you as "have you ever had a job" well, have you ever employed someone? There are things you can't do if you expect not to be sued. In fact, this article could have been grounds for a lawsuit if Olin hadn't gotten all the information from a public Blog.
posted by delmoi at 11:17 AM on July 18, 2005


The problem that I have with this story is in her public exposure and shaming in the pages of the NYT by her former employer, who is wielding a hammer of huge social power

I would agree with you if her employer had in fact exposed her. She didn't. If delmoi hadn't linked to her response, I would have had no idea who she was, and I'm quite sure that's true for 99.9% of the readership of the article, who simply enjoyed a good cheap thrill of the sort they expect from the Style section. If she'd named the nanny and linked to the blog, I'd have joined in the lynch mob.

Dr_Johnson, the fact that you take seriously the idea that she could have meant "the second definition" of famous is as telling as the fact that you seem to have no empathy for the boyfriend who puts up with her self-centered yammering. I shall ignore any further poo-flinging from your corner.

On preview:
In fact, this article could have been grounds for a lawsuit if Olin hadn't gotten all the information from a public Blog.

Um, yeah, and it would also have been grounds for a lawsuit if she'd poured hot tar over the nanny. Your point being?

Once again, she did not identify the nanny. If the nanny chooses to publicize the whole sordid affair herself and link herself to it indissolubly, that's her choice, isn't it?
posted by languagehat at 11:25 AM on July 18, 2005


Once again, she did not identify the nanny. If the nanny chooses to publicize the whole sordid affair herself and link herself to it indissolubly, that's her choice, isn't it?

That's a little disingenuous. It's true that she didn't literally give the URL, but (as I believe others have pointed out) she gives direct quotes from the weblog that can be used to find it given 15 seconds with Google.
posted by myeviltwin at 11:31 AM on July 18, 2005


raysmj: fair enough, I'd missed that...
jokeefe: that's all true, the journalist and employer has more power so the public airing of private bitching is a lot nastier coming from her. I don't think anyone was disputing that the article is a low blow precisely because of where it appears and the much larger audience it has. What was being disputed is that the blogger is some sort of heroic victim and blogging about private stuff that also relates to your employer an act of defiance towards the powers that be.
Personally, my sympathies are with neither of them.
posted by funambulist at 11:36 AM on July 18, 2005


Dr_Johnson, the fact that you take seriously the idea that she could have meant "the second definition" of famous is as telling as the fact that you seem to have no empathy for the boyfriend who puts up with her self-centered yammering. I shall ignore any further poo-flinging from your corner.

nyah nyah nyah. I'm rubber and you're glue. Perhaps some reflection on the words of a wise man is in order:
"I've gotten a bit fed up both with the increased asshattery and the concurrent overreaction to said asshattery"

Perhaps it would be nice for you to respond to the criticisms some have had concerning the tenor of your earlier comments. The rationale you provided of offering a counterpoint to the 'unthinking' character of some of the blogger's defenders seems somewhat somewhat disingenuous, especially given the vitriol with which you choose to dissect the blogged statements of an individual who has (1) from what I have been able to discern, not yet entered graduate school (2) is writing a blog, not a piece of publication, (3) in her twenties, and perhaps deserves a little compassion- not even a great deal. She certainly does not need a lesson in grammar and usage from someone employed as an editor.

My own adventures in grading have provided some indication of the extent to which undergraduate courses fail to provide students with the tools necessary to develop either functional grammatical skills or deft and unique personal styles. I also know that graduate school often (though not always) gives rise to a sharp learning curve and a significant reduction in the fondness of nineteenth century English classics.
posted by Dr_Johnson at 11:47 AM on July 18, 2005


piece of:piece for. Apparently I need an editor as well.
posted by Dr_Johnson at 11:49 AM on July 18, 2005


I would agree with you if her employer had in fact exposed her....If she'd named the nanny and linked to the blog, I'd have joined in the lynch mob.

So it's ok for NYT writers to print salacious, mean-spirited, misleading attacks on their former employees, just so long as they don't name them? I do agree with a few of your points, languagehat, and the "essentially the same creature" bit was spot-on, but you're really overlooking the folks here with very legitimate questions about why this *kind* of article was in the NYT in the first place. It's hardly blog-centric to note yet another distorted smackdown of blogging from a major mainstream press outlet.

maggiemaggie: The NYT Style section is a laughingstock and has been for some time.

Which, of course, explains a lot. What editor doesn't look at the increased hits from threads like this and smile at least a little bit?
posted by mediareport at 11:51 AM on July 18, 2005


languagehat: Once again, she did not identify the nanny.

Changing horses, are we?
posted by lodurr at 11:51 AM on July 18, 2005


She certainly does not need a lesson in grammar and usage from someone employed as an editor.

If you read her writing, it's readily apparent that she needs it very badly indeed.
posted by myeviltwin at 12:15 PM on July 18, 2005


New York State has a law that prevents employers for firing people for lawful off-duty conduct. A lot of states have them. It's my understanding that they're there because Big Tobacco wanted to make sure that health care workers couldn't be fired for smoking off the clock, but the GLBT community has used them too. I wonder of the Nanny could recover against Olen under that kind of theory? I'd love to see her do it. That Olen woman seems like a total nightmare.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 12:20 PM on July 18, 2005


you're really overlooking the folks here with very legitimate questions about why this *kind* of article was in the NYT in the first place. It's hardly blog-centric to note yet another distorted smackdown of blogging from a major mainstream press outlet.

That's a fair point, or at least a more interesting point than some are making, but I don't think I agree with it: I haven't seen much discussion of it as a smackdown of blogging, just as an unfair putdown of the poor oppressed nanny. (Also, I have to say that it is "blog-centric to note yet another distorted smackdown of blogging from a major mainstream press outlet" -- not saying it's wrong, but it seems blogcentric to me.)

Perhaps it would be nice for you to respond to the criticisms some have had concerning the tenor of your earlier comments. The rationale you provided of offering a counterpoint to the 'unthinking' character of some of the blogger's defenders seems somewhat somewhat disingenuous... She certainly does not need a lesson in grammar and usage from someone employed as an editor.

I did respond to the criticisms; I'm sorry if my response failed to satisfy you, but you go to MeFi with the rationales you have, not the rationales you wish you had. My extensive quotes were intended to bring out the silly and self-centered nature of the person being so vociferously defended, not to attack her personally, though I'm sure if she reads this she'll find it hard to tell the difference... but that's life in the blogosphere, innit? We all have to put up with attacks that inevitably seem unfair to us. (I got a kick out of your "nyah nyah nyah," by the way.) And when you say she "does not need a lesson in grammar and usage from someone employed as an editor," I think what you mean is that she didn't ask for such a lesson, because she obviously needs one... but I did not provide it. The only thing that could be so construed is my quoting of "insiduous" in small type at the end. Why would I need to make an issue of her bad English? It stands out without any help from me.

As for your "adventures in grading," believe me, I sympathize -- one reason I didn't pursue an academic career was my despair at the thought of having to grade papers for the next few decades, and I deeply respect anyone who can do it and keep from burning out. But I don't feel the need to grade on a curve here. I don't care how many of her fellow PhD candidates have writing skills just as wretched; that's not a defense of her, it's an indictment of our educational system. But we're getting way off topic here. Anyway, thanks for your civility, and (with reference to your quote from my userpage) I never said I was immune to said asshattery; that's one reason I occasionally tear myself away for a rest cure. The poo-flinging is contagious.
posted by languagehat at 12:24 PM on July 18, 2005


I wonder of the Nanny could recover against Olen under that kind of theory? I'd love to see her do it. That Olen woman seems like a total nightmare

It depends largely on what the rationale behind the actual firing was, as well as the nature of the contract the nanny entered into. It is somewhat apparent from the NYT article that the rationale behind the firing was largely motivated by somewhat neurotic impulses on the part of the employer (perhaps less so the issue of disclosure of personal information), but I doubt this constituted a direct rationale in her actual termination.
posted by Dr_Johnson at 12:25 PM on July 18, 2005


I should clarify: she does not need such a lesson in this context. In general, obviously so!

(As the rest of my comment indicated...)
posted by Dr_Johnson at 12:29 PM on July 18, 2005


So it's ok for NYT writers to print salacious, mean-spirited, misleading attacks on their former employees, just so long as they don't name them?

Couldn't help noticing you avoided that one, languagehat. In fact, you've basically avoided addressing all of the nanny's strongest points, from Olen's use of HOTHOTGIRLGIRLACTION! to portray someone as unfit for motherhood duties to Olen's salacious distortions of specific posts about sleeping pills and drinking. The nanny - named or not - has a strong moral case against the Times for dishonest journalism here, alongside whatever else we might think is going on.
posted by mediareport at 12:42 PM on July 18, 2005


I once found the blog of a colleague of mine. I googled his name looking for his e-mail addy. It was very embarrasing, for me, to read about all the stuff he did in his spare time. But I read a bunch of it, because like Ms. Olen I am the sort of guy who rifles through your e-medicine cabinet looking for your dirty laundry (excuse my mixed metaphors)!! The very next day I went through my livejournal and made almost everything friends-only. And so it remains!

And forget my old webpage, which documented my sordid lifestyle in great detail (with photographs). That got taken offline the day I started job hunting. Someday I will bring it back, when I have the initiative to implement some user accounts and administrative control over it. But not something I would ever give my co-workers and superiors even the off-chance of seeing.

In cases like this, blame has to be shared. You don't invite certain people from your public life into your private life, and if you don't want to know about someone's private life, just commit an act of will, don't look, and delete the link.
posted by illuminatus at 1:00 PM on July 18, 2005


Still missing: pointers to the nanny's termination-worthy breaches of master-servant employer-employee confidences....

As for all these comments about journalism: This ain't it. Olen's piece is what's glibly euphemized these days as "creative non-fiction." It's Hot -- it's Now! It's Hip! All the fun of journalism (salacious gossip), but no obligation for veracity, since it's, like, creative, you know? NYT probably has no legal liability whatsoever, and since they're not going to construe this stuff as journalism (at least, not in this case).

As for Olen's legal liability: Do you have any concept of how difficult and time-consuming a process it is to get reparations from a former employer? Not to mention, damaging to your personal reputation -- if word gets out that you complained about an employer, who the hell's gonna hire you? So don't bet on legal action, here: You've got to have a white-hot grudge or some pretty big stakes on the line to follow it through.
posted by lodurr at 1:09 PM on July 18, 2005


Olen's use of HOTHOTGIRLGIRLACTION! to portray someone as unfit for motherhood duties to Olen's salacious distortions of specific posts about sleeping pills and drinking

Ah, it's such a shame this isn't Prince Charles and his butler...

posted by funambulist at 1:13 PM on July 18, 2005


Ah, it's such a shame I can't close italics...
posted by funambulist at 1:13 PM on July 18, 2005


Mitheral: You have to add "when it includes details, however trivial, of her employers personal life" to the last half to make them equal. I must admit I've been much too lazy read the entire blog, did Olen reveal any information about her ex-nanny that was not taken from her blog? Obviously there has been some exageration but was any extra information revealed?

Well, I think that's another issue from what I was talking about. Obviously there seems to be more revealed in the article, "When our nanny asked permission to take her laptop to work so she could work on her graduate school applications while the baby napped, I said yes."

My point is that both Olen and the blog are writing in a genre that seems to be quite well respected in publishing. Bruce Campbell has built quite a respectible sideline writing about his experiences as a B-list actor. His latest book title is a parody of Jenna Jameson's industry autobiography. There is a chunk of the bread and butter of the publishing industry that depends on first-hand personal stories. When I get coffee at the bookstore, I see racks and racks of autobiographical works. In most of these, it would not be hard for someone "in the know" to track down the personalities involved.

But when the worlds of two writers who are both deeply engaged in the practice of writing about the personal intersect and conflict, who wins? This was one reason why Anais Nin sat on here "diaries" for decades. Olen wins because her essays about her past and present foibles and insecurities have a byline in a big newspaper, but the blogger looses because blogging is a self-published new medium.

Of course, the blogger shouldn't have revealed public details about the lives and arguments of her employer. At least, not without vetting the subject to the employer first. But I think there is a whole other issue at hand here in that on some levels, Olen is making money and a name by doing the same thing that she fired the blogger for: writing about her personal experiences with a situation that made her uncomfortable.

I think that part of the issue is, and Olen practically admits this, is that while Olen makes her living putting other people under the microscope, she's uncomfortable when she becomes a tangental topic of someone else's writing.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:30 PM on July 18, 2005


Palmcoder: I don't think Olen would be liable under that New York law protecting out-of-work conduct. The law (NY Labor Law 201-d(4)) exempts cases where "the individual's actions were deemed by an employer or previous employer to be illegal or to constitute habitually poor performance, incompetency or misconduct." Blogging about the private life of your employer certainly could constitute "misconduct," particularly where access to private life is inevitably connected to the job, as in nannying. And this exemption gives a lot discretion to the employer -- all she has to do is "deem" it misconduct, and there's no cause of action.

I don't think the NY law would protect any blogger blogging about work -- it seems like any employer could fairly deem that misconduct.
posted by footnote at 1:31 PM on July 18, 2005


The fact is, that a lot of employer and bosses today will "google" you and take an interest in what you're doing online, whether you invite them to do so or not. If you tend to use the same alias most of the time, and perhaps have a web site whose domain name include or is that alias (such as my site) you will find that people will take notice, not just of what you write on your own site, but also of what messages you leave on other sites.

Will that necessarily get you fired? Unless your name come up a lot in connection with hate-related sites, it's not likely to do so. If you start naming names on your site or even on a site such as this one, perhaps. What IS most likely to happen, however, is that this will go "on your record", meaning that if your boss ever feels like canning you stuff you wrote on a web site is likely to come up, no matter how long said boss has known about it.

So, languagehat (yes I'm picking on you because you are especially strident in taking up that point of view), what you write here might well come back to haunt you some day. Since you're of the opinion that this is all good and fine, I hope you will continue feeling that way when it does.
posted by clevershark at 1:38 PM on July 18, 2005


Footnote:
How have the courts defined "misconduct?" Are there cases? If your reading is correct, then it's kind of a toothless law.

Oh well. Thanks for looking up the language.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:59 PM on July 18, 2005


If you read through the blog it's evident she already made it into UVA. And the LSAT is for law school.

On point one, no I didn't notice that. Good for her. If she thinks being a blogging nanny is brutal, wait until she tries to get a job teaching English . . . and I hope she doesn't blog about the personal habits of her colleagues until she has tenure.

On point two, I know that. I was suggesting she might want to concentrate on getting into law school. On the other hand, I think it helps to know how to use apostrophes correctly as a lawyer too. And being congenitally indiscreet is somewhat of a liability in the legal profession as well.

In the end, I just feel sorry for her. I am sure she must be absolutely mortified, and her blog is just an attempt to lash out frantically at the nasty piece of work who employed her. But there is a lesson here for all of us who dwell on these internets. I imagine quite a few blogs are being taken down, edited, and password-protected this afternoon.
posted by realcountrymusic at 2:16 PM on July 18, 2005


"I am having the type of workweek that makes me think being an evil corporate lawyer would be O.K.," she wrote. "Seriously. Contemplated sterilizing myself yesterday."

How many parents would feel comfortable leaving their children with somebody who said this publicly, in a location that the nanny gave out purposefully?
posted by mosch at 2:18 PM on July 18, 2005


They're both vile, in a way I've never seen outside NYC

That's a cheap shot. Self-promoting, self-obsessed types can be found almost anywhere you look.
posted by realcountrymusic at 2:24 PM on July 18, 2005


They're both vile, in a way I've never seen outside NYC

That's a cheap shot. Self-promoting, self-obsessed types can be found almost anywhere you look.
posted by realcountrymusic at 2:24 PM on July 18, 2005


her blog is just an attempt to lash out frantically

There were only one or two "frantic" lashings, really -- the shot at the careless household being the most obvious. I think nanny did a pretty decent job of defending herself, actually. Much more reasonable than many of us would have been in similar straights, I suspect.
posted by mediareport at 2:38 PM on July 18, 2005


There were only one or two "frantic" lashings, really

"Lashing" might have been a strong word. The obsessive detail with which she attempts to refute every point in Olen's article is the part I find "frantic" (or a good sign for her future in academia, or both). She should probably have simply called Olen a few choice names and let it go. On reflection, some of the grammar problems I and others are snarking about are also probably the product of an agitated state of mind.

I'd like to speak to the NY Times issue as well. I've had the misfortune to be interviewed or quoted several times in the Times over the last few years, and they've done a godawful job of getting quotes facts, and contexts right, and even getting my name right. Yeah, they issue corrections, but by then it's too late (although, as my publisher's PR person says, two mentions are better than one, even if one is screwed up). I have gone from a faithful subscriber to buying the paper every few days to only reading it online to, now, almost never reading it unless there is something specific I am looking for. It's still better than most American papers, but doesn't hold a candle to the best European dailies. And part of it is the obsession with appealing to the "style" tastes of a very narrow demographic.
posted by realcountrymusic at 2:50 PM on July 18, 2005


The obsessive detail with which she attempts to refute every point in Olen's article is the part I find "frantic"

So, which part of "pill-popping promiscuous alcoholic lesbo slut" would you have let slide?

Come on, rcm, Olen's piece is a disgusting, distorted hatchet job in one of the country's largest newspapers; the fact that it inhabits the limboland of "creative nonfiction" serves only to highlight its ethical lapses. You may have chosen to let a vicious personal attack like that go without comment, but the fact that some of us would be bothered enough to issue a point-by-point rebuttal - and a convincing one, given the blog posts in question - is hardly evidence of a "frantic" mindset.

Your sympathies in this one strike me as strange.
posted by mediareport at 3:02 PM on July 18, 2005


...while Olen makes her living putting other people under the microscope, she's uncomfortable when she becomes a tangental topic of someone else's writing.

Describes just about every reporter/editor I've ever interviewed for a story, really. Journalists are notoriously thin-skinned and remarkably hesitant to speak on the record about their published statements. Worse than politicians, in my experience.
posted by mediareport at 3:09 PM on July 18, 2005


I have this most excellent idea for a screenplay. Bloggers. Boiled bunnies. A townhouse on Central Park West. One woman with a secret, and one who is bent on revenge. Hip young things having hip young sex.

When I cash the million dollar cheque, I'll buy something nice for Matt so that he can replace Cold Fusion or whatever's causing the JRun thang.

*starts writing*

*starts writing at work*
posted by jokeefe at 3:09 PM on July 18, 2005


hardly evidence of a "frantic" mindset

OK, whatever. I concur that Olen's sin here is far worse and I said so above a few times. I'm simply saying that a more effective rhetorical response would have been shorter and more blunt. I've been on the receiving end of (far less public and nasty) online smears before, and know the feeling of desperately trying to set the record straight in detail. In a sense, she dignifies Olen's pettiness with such a fine-grained rebuttal. (A classic conundrum in the world of PR damage management, btw.) I'm not saying she's wrong to do so, nor that I don't understand, only that the intensity of her response reflects agitation on her part. Revenge should perhaps be served colder to be effective. Like I said, I feel her pain. And I don't at all doubt I'd respond similarly. But I would perhaps regret doing so. I can think of far colder and more cutting things she might have said in response, especially given how much she must know about Olen's private persona.
posted by realcountrymusic at 3:10 PM on July 18, 2005


How have the courts defined "misconduct?" Are there cases? If your reading is correct, then it's kind of a toothless law.

I haven't looked up the cases -- it'd be interesting to do, but I'm supposed to be studying for the bar and I lost my free Lexis account!

But yes, my reading is that it's an exception that almost swallows the rule. Maybe it would protect a blogger who was fired just for blogging -- who hadn't mentioned work at all. But I really doubt it could be used to protect a childcare worker no matter what, since character and relationship are so intimately tied up with the work. Using the law that way would even seem to run into the constitutional right of bringing up your child how you see fit.
posted by footnote at 3:15 PM on July 18, 2005


OK, whatever.

So, no frantic lashings at all, then.

And we're busy criticizing *other* people's writing? ;)
posted by mediareport at 3:22 PM on July 18, 2005


The nanny - named or not - has a strong moral case against the Times for dishonest journalism here, alongside whatever else we might think is going on.

I'm not at all sure what you mean by "moral case," but for pete's sake, this is the Times Style section! Have you ever looked at it? It's a cesspool of self-absorbed, amoral, often barely literate swill. I assure you I'm not defending the egregious Ms. Olen or her place of business; I'm just pointing out that the "victimized" blogger is not much, if at all, better and I don't understand the rush to defend her.

The fact is, that a lot of employer and bosses today will "google" you and take an interest in what you're doing online, whether you invite them to do so or not... So, languagehat (yes I'm picking on you because you are especially strident in taking up that point of view), what you write here might well come back to haunt you some day. Since you're of the opinion that this is all good and fine, I hope you will continue feeling that way when it does
.

Which is why many of us choose to operate under an alias online, and often get annoyed at the self-righteous moralists who pontificate about how we should all put everything under our "real" name for the good of humanity. (Fortunately for me, my "real" name is common enough that googling it doesn't bring up anything involving the "real" me.) But your aggressive tone suggests that you are misunderstanding me: I'm not saying or implying that this is all "good and fine," I'm saying that it's how the world is, and if the nanny blogger didn't understand it, she's an idiot. I wish the world weren't that way; for that matter, I wish there were universal peace and brotherhood. But the world is the way it is, and frankly there are practically an infinite number of deficiencies that bother me more than this woman losing a job she didn't really need. (If she were an illegal immigrant sending most of her meager paycheck to her family and living in a room in East Harlem with several other women in the same situation, I'd have a lot more sympathy for her... but then we wouldn't be reading about her, now would we?)
posted by languagehat at 3:35 PM on July 18, 2005



Dr_Johnson, the fact that you take seriously the idea that she could have meant "the second definition" of famous is as telling as the fact that you seem to have no empathy for the boyfriend who puts up with her self-centered yammering. I shall ignore any further poo-flinging from your corner.


What-ever. I'd heard of that book and I'm hardly a fan of Victorian literature. I'd be willing to bet most educated people have as well, making it famous by the first definition as well. And there is that second definition, meaning she didn't use the word incorrectly. You're wrong here.

I would agree with you if her employer had in fact exposed her. She didn't. If delmoi hadn't linked to her response, I would have had no idea who she was, and I'm quite sure that's true for 99.9%

Yes. 99.9%. Except for all the people who knew either one of them personally. And every one who 'figured it out' which probably would have been a lot of people in the blogsphere. These things get figured out, and bloggers love blogger intrigue. I'd be willing to bet a lot of people would have known. And as myeviltwin anyone who knew how to use Google and wanted to know the URL could have, meaning that, in my mind she did out the Nanny.
posted by delmoi at 3:36 PM on July 18, 2005


Amazing how much verbage can be hurled over what comes down to a failure of tactics. I mean,

In a sense, she dignifies Olen's pettiness with such a fine-grained rebuttal.

- look at this fricking thread. What's to say about it? Nanny may have the capacity to be a good writer or not. We don't know, because we're looking at a blog she clearly doesn't proofread - it's obviously more of a journal than it is a writing exercise. And it's silly to expect an average person to respond with the icy-veined measure of a professional PR firm when shot at from the pages of the New York Times! Whatever, she didn't even fisk it and for that alone I'm grateful.
posted by furiousthought at 3:53 PM on July 18, 2005


I'd heard of that book and I'm hardly a fan of Victorian literature. I'd be willing to bet most educated people have as well, making it famous by the first definition as well.

Ah, you missed my point, apparently I was taking too much for granted. My point was that of course it's a famous book; to make a point of saying so is to expose yourself as Not Ready for Prime Time. Perhaps it will be clearer if we imagine her writing "the famous writer Shakespeare."
posted by languagehat at 4:02 PM on July 18, 2005


I don't think anyone is here really too concerned about the firing.

Speak for yourself, Kemosabe. I'm with palmcorder_yanja (great song, btw). It seems illegal under that law to me. Curious.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:34 PM on July 18, 2005


"... to make a point of saying so is to expose yourself as Not Ready for Prime Time."

Sure, although to be fair, she is pretty young (25 or so).

Tessy hasn't realized something about computer-mediated communication: the illusion of a small audience. Writing on a blog feels like you're writing for a very small audience, because relatively few people comment, and because there's so many blogs out there -- why should anyone be reading yours? -- but for all you know, there may be hundreds of people reading your blog. Moreover, most things that you type into a computer will be archived permanently; your grandchildren could be reading them fifty years from now, for all you know. People will reveal all sorts of things on their blogs that they would never say if they were standing in a public auditorium, in front of an audience of thousands of people.

So when you're writing on the Internet, you need to keep in mind that your writings may be read by a very broad audience. Having them selectively republished by the New York Times may be an extreme case, but it's not that unusual for something written for a small audience to be rebroadcast to a larger audience much later.

That said, I also think it wasn't a good idea for Olen to publish information from Tessy's blog in the NYT, against Tessy's wishes, even if she didn't explicitly identify the blog. It may not be illegal, since the information is already public, but it's bad manners.

One final point: at this point nobody has posted Tessy's full name. If Tessy isn't her real name, her anonymity in real life is still more or less intact.
posted by russilwvong at 5:06 PM on July 18, 2005


, my "real" name is common enough that googling it doesn't bring up anything involving the "real" me

so you're not that Noam Chomsky?
how common can that name really be?

we imagine her writing "the famous writer Shakespeare."

who?
posted by matteo at 5:07 PM on July 18, 2005


Languagehat, what is your problem today? You've harped on her writing over and over again, and repeatedly made unwarranted personal attacks.

Now you're somehow defending your position with the argument that she's not "an illegal immigrant sending most of her meager paycheck to her family and living in a room in East Harlem"?

You're still feigning bewilderment (and expressing scorn, now become self-righteous) over all the concern with "this woman losing a job she didn't really need" (?!), when it's been repeatedly pointed out that most people are taking issue with a driveby bludgeoning from a spiteful bully with a NYT column who took advantage of her position to publicly humiliate someone because she had a small grievance with her.

Your nastiness in this thread has only been exceeded by your tenacity, and I don't understand why. Seriously.
posted by taz at 5:12 PM on July 18, 2005


realcountrymusic writes "The obsessive detail with which she attempts to refute every point in Olen's article is the part I find 'frantic'"

Can't blame her for that though. It seems her bitch ex-boss is using the New York Times as her weapon of choice in order to destroy her personally.

Frankly there are supposed to be layers of decision-makers at newspapers whose job it should have been to try and prevent it -- and to try and prevent the newspaper becoming at least part of the issue (G-d knows they've been having enough problems along those lines recently). Maybe Olen should be canned, but more certainly whoever approved her column and decided to run it should be tossed out post-haste.
posted by clevershark at 6:02 PM on July 18, 2005


And then I do something really really deviant. I compare my crush on him to the romantic tensions in Jane Austen's famous Pride and Prejudice.

This is a jab at the blogger's former employer. Tessy is using the word 'famous' to emphasize that an educated woman like Olen could not have interpreted the passage in question the way she apparently did unless she (Olen) was ignoring the context and looking for ways to be vindictive.
posted by bingo at 6:46 PM on July 18, 2005


Ah, you missed my point, apparently I was taking too much for granted. My point was that of course it's a famous book; to make a point of saying so is to expose yourself as Not Ready for Prime Time. Perhaps it will be clearer if we imagine her writing "the famous writer Shakespeare."

What!? Are you kidding? You're criticizing her for using a correct adjective? Good god man.

And bingo makes a good point as well, in context its not even that redundant.
posted by delmoi at 7:37 PM on July 18, 2005


Hey languagehat, congratulations: you're in the process of outdoing me on one of my bad days. Welcome to Kookdom, comrade!
posted by davy at 8:49 PM on July 18, 2005


lodurr: Why do I keep forgetting why I don't bother to read MeFi anymore?

har har. megnut wins.
posted by VulcanMike at 9:36 PM on July 18, 2005


I'm not at all sure what you mean by "moral case,"

Are you kidding me here? There's been a lot of discussion above about legalities; I was simply noting that there are other values in play as well. Did you really not get that?

languagehat, is that you?
posted by mediareport at 10:07 PM on July 18, 2005


can somebody please tell me if these are too long?

Metafilter: The first rule of the blogoverse is that you do not fuck with the blogoverse.

Metafilter: Now we just need a google bomb and the circle will be complete.

Metafilter: It has been such a good week for schadenfreude.

Metafilter: That's a cheap shot. Self-promoting, self-obsessed types can be found almost anywhere you look.

posted by UbuRoivas at 10:08 PM on July 18, 2005


this is better -

metafilter: young and hip by proxy
posted by pyramid termite at 10:23 PM on July 18, 2005


"... an educated woman like Olen could not have interpreted the passage in question the way she apparently did"

Huh? I don't think it's a matter of interpretation, it's a matter of context--pulling the sensational bits out from the blog makes it sound much more salacious than it actually is. But really, I don't think there's much distortion--Tessy is indeed bisexual, for example. What's inappropriate about Olen's article, to me, isn't that it's misrepresenting Tessy; it's that it's relaying Tessy's personal information to a much, much wider audience than Tessy originally had in mind.
posted by russilwvong at 11:20 PM on July 18, 2005


What's inappropriate about Olen's article, to me, isn't that it's misrepresenting Tessy; it's that it's relaying Tessy's personal information to a much, much wider audience than Tessy originally had in mind.

Hmm.... I think that's a hard case to make. I do go along with the "tough shit, she was stupid" crowd inasmuch as I agree that it's naive to think that as a blogger you're really speaking to a small audience. ("The illusion of a small audience," someone said above.) That said, a little bit of human empathy might help those folks to understand that their shit also stinks.

I actually think Olen's condensation of the "salacious" bits (and btw, I think she's got to be a crypto-prude to construe salaciousness out of a lot of that) is precisely the problem. Careful selection of details, mixed with a little amplification (a la Olen) could turn an essay by Gandhi into call for bloodshed.

The point, to me, is that Olen's hammer is particularly heavy by virtue of the high ground from which she swings it (an NYT style section essay). She can't make any serious claim to naivete. And the hammer she swings is forged of obsessively selected and amplified detail.

She's a bully. She's beating up on Tessy to make herself seem bigger and more important. And she's taking full advantage of her chance to shame Tessy in front of a big audience.
posted by lodurr at 4:06 AM on July 19, 2005


fuck, he managed to piss off Taz, of all people -- how does one do that?
posted by matteo at 4:32 AM on July 19, 2005


Employment At-Will

Basically, you can be fired at any time for any reason. So yeah, I don't see any legal issues or cause for reparations.

Also, the employer is a bitch and the nanny is a doofus and not a very talented writer at all.

Everybody loses. Except me, who was very entertained by this whole thing, thread included. Thanks.
posted by exlotuseater at 5:05 AM on July 19, 2005


fuck, he managed to piss off Taz, of all people -- how does one do that?

Yeah, obviously I got up on the wrong side of the bed yesterday and was way crankier than called for. Apologies to all, and make room in that doghouse, davy.
posted by languagehat at 6:18 AM on July 19, 2005


Yeah, as far as I know, hiring or firing a nanny is not subject to wrongful dismissal laws even in supposedly uber-socialist Europe (joke). It does make sense, given the nature of the job. You have to share your house and children with the person, it implies a much closer personal relation than other jobs, and if you don't get along or trust each other anymore, you can't ignore it. So regardless of the fact the employer was a bitch, she didn't actually mistreat the nanny on the job, and getting another nanny was within her rights. It happens all the time, I guess.

Also, the PhD nanny herself says she wanted to leave already: "I knew that the situation was no good. I had told a former employer over the winter holidays that I felt misusesd. The non-child related chores where only growing. I felt the emotional stresses of their unsettled household. I had even begun to ask former employers to prepare references, because I needed another job. I found one within a week, and started the same week I stopped working for Ms. Olen."

And she didn't suffer financially, she has other clients: "I continue to work as a nanny... increased hours... the families I am currently working for are very pleased with my services."

So, taz and others who got upset with languagehat for saying it'd be a lot different if it was a poor woman in desperate need of money, well, can't you see it is actually a bit different? Not least because, indeed, someone who had been in desperate need of money wouldn't have gone handing her employer the perfect excuse to fire her, which she is not even complaining about anyway, as she already decided she no longer wanted to work there.
posted by funambulist at 6:20 AM on July 19, 2005


As for the awful, petty, nasty article and its consequences, aside from how it felt like for the nanny to read that stuff knowing it's about herself, in actual practical terms, what are the effects? Did it really out her or destroy her life?

No one who didn't know her full name already before all this has a clue who this "Tessy" is, even after they get to the weblog via searching the quotes in the article. There is no personal data on her weblog. No one of her current clients and no one at her university will even know it's her, unless she told them herself or revealed other identifiable details about her in her posts and hasn't taken them down.

So it's a nasty affair and an awful example of 'journalism', but not quite a case to mobilise the unions about. (Or the lawyers...)

- languagehat: crankiness aside, you still made good points.
posted by funambulist at 6:44 AM on July 19, 2005


Last. Time. Ever.

It's about the column.

If you insist on framing this only as a question of whether someone is within their rights firing a nanny that they are not comfortable with anymore, then you can go ahead and have the last word. I give up. You're right. You've beaten me to a pulp. I can't even speak through my shattered teeth, okay?

Now that that's over with, what are your thoughts on Olen's abuse of power in using her column to trash someone she's had a personal conflict with?

If her doorman forgets to tip his hat one day will it be okay for her, in her fury, to use her column to insinuate that he's a paedophile (maybe he once told her he loves his granddaughter), a thief (he forgot to give her her mail) and a terrorist (any reason here: __________)? Will it be okay for her to convey these impressions to hundreds of thousands of readers? Will it be okay if he's a young man who took the doorman position as a second job while attending university, but not if he's an immigrant living in East Harlem and sending most of his money home?

Or is it just wrong?
posted by taz at 7:02 AM on July 19, 2005


I wrote that before your last comment.

The nanny removed personally identifying information and changed her user name after she learned about the column.

Even if she had been much more anonymous from the beginning, I would still find what Olen did cheap, nasty, low and despicable.
posted by taz at 7:09 AM on July 19, 2005


"The illusion of a small audience," someone said above.

That was me, trying to coin a phrase. It's the kind of warning that blogspot and other such services should put in their introductory pages for new users: pretend you're standing on a public stage in front of an unseen audience of thousands of people. (Perhaps they do. I don't recall seeing any such warning when I set up my GeoCities website eight years ago.) A Canadian journalist, Jan Wong, gives this advice: don't write anything on the Internet that you wouldn't want to see on the front page of the Toronto Globe and Mail.

I agree that Olen shouldn't have republished Tessy's personal details against Tessy's wishes--that'd be bad manners even for someone you didn't know personally, and it seems especially rude to do to someone who was your nanny, taking care of your children. But I think I'd describe it as inconsiderateness, rather than bullying: Olen is mostly writing about her own reaction to knowing this much personal information about someone she knows in real life. And I suspect she highlights things like Tessy's bisexuality not to make Tessy look bad, or to sell more newspapers, but simply because these would have been the details that Olen found particularly fascinating (as opposed to the more mundane parts of Tessy's life).

Tessy asked why Olen would have continued reading her blog if it made Olen uncomfortable. There's an easy answer: it's human nature to find people's personal lives fascinating. This is true even when you don't know them. Here's one example.

One last point: the NYT doesn't have a uniquely broad reach. The problem can occur on the Internet as well, through sites like Slashdot and MetaFilter. In the recent case of the plagiarist Laura P., a combination of word of mouth and then being linked from MetaFilter and other such sites caused a huge crowd to materialize on Nate Kushner's one-week-old blog, which he hadn't been anticipating; and some people in that crowd proceeded to make a lot of trouble for Laura in real life.
posted by russilwvong at 7:12 AM on July 19, 2005


taz: don't get me wrong, I was not trying to "frame" this as only a question of wether someone is within their rights firing a nanny, I was trying to separate *that* from the other issues at play here (the magazine article, the bitchiness, the spite, etc.), because other commenters had indeed raised *that* specific question of firing and whether it'd be illegal here.

We definitely agree on Olen and what she did. It is despicable, awful, petty, narcissist, sad, nasty, I said so already way up in the thread, I'm not going to repeat it over and over. That's a given. What I disagree with is any implication this is a case of an employer abusing or violating a worker's rights, or literal aggression and bullying. Even about the article, not just the firing. It's awful, but it's not destroying anyone's life. That's unfair to other nannies and other kinds of workers who have been really mistreated by their employers. Seems to be a bit of balance and perspective is in order, that's all.

I am not trying to beat a dead horse or "beat" anyone "into a pulp", sorry if you got that impression, I'm really not into arguments like that. I only wanted to separate the actual practical effects from the way we see the emotional aspects of the story.

If her doorman forgets to tip his hat one day will it be okay for her, in her fury, to use her column to insinuate that he's a paedophile (maybe he once told her he loves his granddaughter), a thief (he forgot to give her her mail) and a terrorist (any reason here: __________)? Will it be okay for her to convey these impressions to hundreds of thousands of readers?

No, but you're being just a little hyperbolic there, taz. You don't have someone publicly slandering someone else for "forgetting to tip his hat" here, you have a public tit for tat between two women who both did the same thing, bitching about each other in public, with different means and being in different positions. Besides, nothing like a paedophile accusation has been brought up, come on.

The nanny referred to Olen anonymously in her blog, so Olen didn't get her actual privacy violated in the weblog (as in, personal data - name, address, etc. - exposed), she just didn't like the nanny commenting on her life and work for the Olens, for whatever reason, and probably even more so because the nanny overtly invited her to read those comments, which she admits was a dumb thing to do. Olen reacted out of all proportion and in the most awful way, yes, no diminishing that. Again, she could have simply brought this up privately instead, if she hadn't been a narcissist vindictive spiteful bitch. After all, only Olen and the people who knew this was the blog of Olen's nanny knew it was about them. Just like only Tessy and the poeple who know who this Tessy is in real life know the article is about her. To anyone else, even if they get to the actual weblog, it's just some Tessy living in New York. I think that should also be kept in mind.

Will it be okay if he's a young man who took the doorman position as a second job while attending university, but not if he's an immigrant living in East Harlem and sending most of his money home?

No, I think you misread the point about languagehat's comparison with the poor immigrant, which may have been a little hyperbolic itself, but it wasn't certainly irrelevant. Several comments, here or on weblogs discussing this, were trying to frame this in terms of classist bias and conflict. Ignoring these women not only have the same background, but the very same attitudes towards narcissistic airing of their stuff in public. I very much doubt someone in real need of money would have gone and overtly asked for that kind of confrontation with her employer like Tessy admittedly did.

The nanny removed personally identifying information and changed her user name after she learned about the column.

Yes, but before it was even published. (And we don't know exactly how come she was warned it was going to be published, and how did she know of the contents beforehand. It seems someone made her read the draft.)

Even if she had been much more anonymous from the beginning, I would still find what Olen did cheap, nasty, low and despicable.

Agreed!

Still, it's just not something that reflexively gets my deepest sympathies for the nanny in question either, because she is well-off and from the same background as Olen, because she wanted to quit that job already even if Olen hadn't fired her, because she's not suffering any financial consequences, because she's an irritating narcissist herself, because she did ask for it as she herself acknowledges, and because indeed she is not going to be outed except to the people she outed herself to. All of these reasons combined. I can't ignore them.
posted by funambulist at 8:20 AM on July 19, 2005


... or literal aggression and bullying....

By "literal" I'd like to assume you mean "direct" or "overt." Because I think it's "literal" bullying, based on what I think the purpose of bullying is: To increase the self-esteem of the bully.

It doesn't have to be a literal case of making someone else small so you can feel big; it can be a case of making someone else feel small just to draw attention to yourself. The purpose of Olen's piece -- and indeed, the purpose in general of pieces like this, and so of the whole "Modern Love" concept and it's ilk -- is to draw attention to the writer. She wants to be validated. Ideally, she wants people to think she's clever and a higher form of life than... well, somebody.

But not necessarily than Tessy the Nanny. Olen's goal here isn't primarily to say "Hey, my nannny was depraved!" -- it's to say, rather, "Hey, look at me, I'm so self-aware I can out myself as an obsessive classist neurotic!" Firing Tessy is just a convenient (and satisfying, I suspect) way of expressing that.

Thing is, she could have achieved that without hurting anyone. Instead, she chose to do it by using someone else. That was cruel, and it was also lazy; for those reasons, Olen's is a bad piece of writing.

Is it effective, though? Sure, probably: People who aspire to the lifestyle she's writing to/about buy into cruelty as an ethos, to a great extent. (As far as it being a NYC thing, I don't think so. They might refine and lionize it, but they ain't got no monopoly.) And it's reasonably well-crafted. But it's also cruel and lazy.
posted by lodurr at 9:06 AM on July 19, 2005


lodurr: don't really disagree with you there about Olsen and her piece of "work". With "literal aggression and bullying", yes, I was thinking of actual direct bullying on the job. Like verbal or physical aggression, mistreatment, abuse, insults, blackmails, intimidation, threats, abuse of power, non-anonymous slander, stuff that really make a person's life difficult. You can view the article as bullying, but I wouldn't use that word in the literal sense. Based on my experience and point of view, maybe I'm wrong, but I'm not too keen on expanding the definition like that, especially when the definition is about something that can be pursued in court.

On the other hand, the example russilwvong referred to, someone publicly shaming a student by publishing her personal details on the internet, full name and school address, so that people literally harassed her, which he seems to have encouraged - that's definitely an example of bullying. It would also be illegal, I think, or at least clearly legally actionable.
posted by funambulist at 9:55 AM on July 19, 2005


he seems to have encouraged --

Actually, he didn't. He actively discouraged them from doing so, and he went so far as to replace all instances of the student's name (with "Krishna") on the website, but of course by the time the Internet mob has turned up, it's too late.
posted by russilwvong at 11:05 AM on July 19, 2005


"Seriously. Contemplated sterilizing myself yesterday."

How many parents would feel comfortable leaving their children with somebody who said this publicly, in a location that the nanny gave out purposefully?


I don't know. Approximately as many as have actively participated in raising a child and know such sentiments come with the territory? Seriously, we're talking Erma Bombeck here, not Hedda Nussbaum.
posted by Pierre Navarre at 12:19 PM on July 19, 2005


languagehat writes "Note: anyone who refers to 'Jane Austen's famous Pride and Prejudice' is hopeless; if she gets a PhD, it will be because she's hip and gets on well with her adviser, not because she has a clue about literature or scholarship."

This line is so right, it's wrong. It might be the best thing ever written on Metafilter. It certainly says more than most of the other comments here, including mine.
posted by OmieWise at 1:46 PM on July 19, 2005


Oh, now reading the rest of the thread I see that LH got a bunch of guff for this, a lot from people I respect. Still, I loved this comment because it condensed so much that was wrong in the Nanny's writing in much the same way that Austen (the famous one) is able to draw character portraits so beautifully. I also think that while this has no bearing on Olen's bad behavior, it does put the Nanny's aggrieved innocence into context.
posted by OmieWise at 2:02 PM on July 19, 2005


Oh, now reading the rest of the thread I see that LH got a bunch of guff for this, a lot from people I respect. Still, I loved this comment because it condensed so much that was wrong in the Nanny's writing in much the same way that Austen (the famous one) is able to draw character portraits so beautifully. I also think that while this has no bearing on Olen's bad behavior, it does put the Nanny's aggrieved innocence into context.
posted by OmieWise at 2:02 PM on July 19, 2005


Oh, now reading the rest of the thread I see that LH got a bunch of guff for this, a lot from people I respect. Still, I loved this comment because it condensed so much that was wrong in the Nanny's writing in much the same way that Austen (the famous one) is able to draw character portraits so beautifully. I also think that while this has no bearing on Olen's bad behavior, it does put the Nanny's aggrieved innocence into context.
posted by OmieWise at 2:03 PM on July 19, 2005


obviously I got up on the wrong side of the bed yesterday and was way crankier than called for.

I MEANT IT AS COMPLIMENT!
posted by matteo at 3:34 PM on July 19, 2005


Sorry for the triple post. I don't care about it nearly that much.
posted by OmieWise at 4:17 PM on July 19, 2005


I think people who get bunched about phrases like "Jane Austen's famous Pride and Prejudice" are wound far too tight for Prime Time.

For that matter, it's not really even very funny. And the fact that people get PhDs or not based on whether they get on with their advisers is just not very surprising to anyone who's ever actually known more than two graduate students. In any discipline.

Getting excited about the (relatively poor) quality of Tessy's writing ends up really being just another manifestation of the culture of cruelty that Olen sings to.
posted by lodurr at 4:52 PM on July 19, 2005


the fact that people get PhDs or not based on whether they get on with their advisers

What are you trying to imply? In any profession, advancement depends to some extent on getting along with your mentor and technical superiors. Are you implying PhDs are awarded on the basis of favoritism irrespective of the quality of work? Among other thing, that would entail the same sentimental standard applying to external examiners at a dissertation defense. Name one profession where you could advance to a fully credentialed practitioner while maintaining a hostile relationship with the people who make promotion decisions. Sheesh.
posted by realcountrymusic at 5:05 PM on July 19, 2005


Pierre, while there's nothing peculiar about venting off that you hate the job and the kids are driving you nuts and make you contemplate sterilising yourself, it is quite another matter if you write that on a web page then deliberately give the url to the mother of those kids who's paying you to take care of them.

She had other clients and didn't need to hang on to this one. So why could she not simply tell her face to face that she wanted to quit? Sure, it would have been too sane, too boring, and no one was going to write or blog about it.

More putting this story in context: real cruel mistreatment of domestic workers.
posted by funambulist at 2:31 AM on July 20, 2005


What are you trying to imply?

Yes, my statement was too sweeping. But I've been around graduate programs more than probably 90% of people, and it's a fact, in any discipline, that you do well or poorly in your PhD program based in no small part on whether you get along with your advisor. Not only is it a fact, it's also non-controversial, it's normal and human, and while the sociopolitical dynamics are interesting to me, I don't regard it as anything to get upset about. That's what I was trying to convey.

So, yes, it's true: You advance based on how well you get along with your superiors. Which is why I think it's interesting to me that someone would use that as a slur against Tessy....
posted by lodurr at 5:06 AM on July 20, 2005


As I review the thread, I still see one important thing missing:

Any links to real exposure of inofrmation about the Olens on Tessy's blog.

A lot of people have been making their comments based on the idea that Tessy betrayed confidences, explicitly or implicitly. And no one has provided any evidence of that betrayal.

It would be more interesting if it weren't typical....
posted by lodurr at 5:10 AM on July 20, 2005


lodurr, the commenters on Making Light combed Tessy's entire blog for any entries about her job with Olen (results here and here).

The reason people haven't given any examples of confidences betrayed is that there weren't any.
posted by amber_dale at 7:02 AM on July 20, 2005


lodurr: no, that wasn't overlooked at all, it's true she didn't name her employer for all the world to know, so strictly speaking she betrayed no personal information about them - just like strictly speaking the article doesn't do that in respect to her, more so because everything in it is taken from the weblog for which "Tessy" herself clicked "publish" and whose link she personally gave to the NYT journalist, duh. Inviting her to read thoughts about herself and her job, including including comments on hating it all and the kids so much you want to sterilise yourself. If they'd been on friendlier terms, Olen would have laughed it off. But they weren't, and she knew that.

We can sit here going on and on about how much of an uptight neurotic Olen must be to get so obsessed about all the other stuff she read in those pages about the nanny's own private life, and to write an obnoxious column about the whole thing, still, the nanny handed her all the material in the first place, plus the perfect excuse for terminating the job relationship, which she wanted to do anyway.

So, what is typical of what?

What does it tell you, instead, that a story where no actual mistreatment occurred sparks the kind of reactions you'd expect from stories about the exploitation of immigrant women - and just because of the blogger vs. journalist angle?
posted by funambulist at 7:18 AM on July 20, 2005


"No actual mistreatment"? What would consitute "actual mistreatment"?

As for what one would expect from this story or any other, you're guessing, in a charitable response. I'd say you're exaggerating. People were offended at a violation of the usual standards of social behavior. As many commentators have pointed out ad nauseum (Miss Manners only being the most famous), those rules are non-trivial.

As for myself, I can categorically state that I didn't exhibit any such behavior. I also don't think I observed it. OTOH, I did observe a lot of opporpbrium regarding the vanity and stupidity of the offended party (i.e. Tessy), and a lot of virtual ink expended in supporting those claims of vanity and stupidity on her part. BTW, while I think that's "typical", that's not what I was talking about.

What I was talking about with regard to typicality was the fact that we carried on for DAYS in this discussion as though we were discussing actual events, when in fact we were discussing hypotheticals. That's not just typical of Metafilter, of course; it's typical of many discussion dynamics, virtual or otherwise. Where's the fun, after all, in talking about dull and uninteresting facts, when you can spice them up? And, indeed, that's how humans have reasoned things out for themselves for most of the history of human society: Telling each other stories about things that haven't actually happened, to see how they feel about them. That's a big part of what storytelling is all about. We are narratizing animals, after all.

Where that starts to bother me is when we treat the resulting discussion as though it were about real things. To be fair, we didn't do that as much with Tessy as we sometimes do with people. That's only because she wasn't as (pruriently) interesting as, say, Plain Layne or Whatsername Cutler.
posted by lodurr at 6:48 AM on July 21, 2005


...oh, and, point I forgot to respond to: What does it tell you that you feel compelled to cast the power relationship in terms of "bloggers" versus "journalists"? Most of the people who talked about it here talked about it in class-related terms: Upper-lower, employee-employer, servant-master, nanny-mommy, NYT Writer-peon, etc. Only a few people, relatively early on, were talking about this as a "journalist v. blogger" issue. I haven't had the impression that MeFites get very het up about that particular "class conflict." (Which is, in any case, a proxy battle to settle the means by which BigCos [thanks, Dave W] will attempt to constrain media content in the future -- i.e., whether their minions will be penned or free-range.)

Whether you want to say this is about journalists-bloggers or mommies-nannies or bosses-peons, it all ends up being about power: I got it, you don't; you got it, I don't (or "I want it").
posted by lodurr at 7:07 AM on July 21, 2005


lodurr: no intention to rehash any of this looong discussion, we just disagree and that's ok, but just to clarify what I meant in the last comments you responded to --

"No actual mistreatment"? What would consitute "actual mistreatment"?

Stuff like what's told in those articles I linked to above. Or even, without getting to those extremes, any kind of plain and simple abuse of rights as a paid worker.

None of which happened in this case. No one suffered any real mistreatment, if we take into account how normal job relations go, and on the other hand, how violations and abuses occur. Hence, the relevance of languagehat's point about this not being a poor exploited immigrant worker...

And, no matter how bitchy and awful that article is, it still didn't expose anything she hadn't exposed herself, and did not publish her identity. She already wanted to leave, she has other clients and an academic position and an expensive location and she still retains her full anonymity.

That's also why I find the class war angle over the top here. I just can't extrapolate notions of class and power from the actual wider social context and the position in it of the respective parties - both of whom in this story are extremely privileged. I can't just look at this story under some magnifying glass where all that matters is the psychological power games between the two. That's not a class conflict! That's just human relationships gone sour.


As for the bloggers vs. journalists thing: it wasn't me that framed it liked that! It was the angle in which the story was presented and discussed. My point was simply that some of the outraged reactions were so over the top (not necessarily in this thread, either - other dicussions on weblogs mentioned slavery and rape, no less!), I would expect that level of outrage at the cases of exploitment and abuse as told in those links cited above.

To me, the real interest of this story is the lengths to which people go to blur the line betwen private and public, personal and professional, online and offline, as if unaware of the consequences and implications.
posted by funambulist at 11:25 AM on July 21, 2005


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