If you thought talking about Julian Assange was terrible last week, welcome to today, when Keith Olbermann re-emerges to drastically lower the standards of debate, and Naomi Wolf says siding with Assange's accusers is "not respecting women."
Let's start with El Olbermann, who dramatically flounced off Twitter last week, claiming he was being bullied by Tweeters using the #mooreandme hashtag.That hashtag was part of a campaign to demand an apology from him and Michael Moore about misrepresenting and dismissing the sex assault charges against Julian Assange. In Olbermann's case, Twitter was part of the issue: He had retweeted Bianca Jagger's link to a piece written by a Holocaust-denying anti-Semite (and Wikileaks' representative in Russia) suggesting that one of Assange's accusers has CIA ties because she once interviewed a Cuban opposition group. (In other words, proof that the "honeytrap" plot alluded to by Assange's lawyers was real.)
I endorse, sympathize with, and empathize with, the rape consciousness goals of #mooreandme, and have already apologized accordingly. But I cannot defend and will not accept their tactics which mirror so many of the attitudes and threats they fight. I do not know of what Julian Assange is guilty, if anything, and neither does anybody else. But given the extraordinary efforts by Sweden to extradite him, to say he is benefiting from some form of rape apologism is not fact-based. It is also unfair to condemn as anti-feminist those who merely address the juxtaposition of this prosecution to the fact that Assange threatens the secret and nefarious activities of dozens of governments. And I will not engage those who suggest that those who do not prioritize one issue to the exclusion of all others should succumb to forced financial contributions, or should ‘kill themselves' (examples of each will be retweeted shortly, along with my previous apology). The #mooreandme attacks do not help those who fight against rape, they hurt them. And indeed they feature something larger than anti-feminist. This is, to use a clunky phrase, anti-personism.
It's easy enough for both sides of an Internet discussion to point to the worst on either side — the one person who used the hashtag to suggest that Olbermann off himself can be matched up with the Tweeters who clogged the #mooreandme hashtag to make threats or complain about "angry lesbians." Moreover, Olbermann didn't address the actual concerns of the campaign — the parts that pertain to his own behavior, that is, though he did reiterate his "previous apology":
Previous Apology (12/16): Rape has touched my family, directly and savagely, and if anybody thinks I have addressed it without full sensitivity, then that assessment is the one that counts, and I apologize. But these accusations that I "revealed" an accuser's identity by retweeting Bianca Jagger's link, or that I 'shamed' an accuser by asking a question about the prosecution of a man governments are trying to bury, or that I do not 'understand' charges that have yet to be presented in their final form, reflect exactly the kind of rushing to judgment of which I'm accused, and merit the same kind of apology I have just given.
He then spent the next hour or so blocking his critics and saying that suggestions that he and Moore donate to rape crisis organizations amounted to buying off. To which Doyle responded, "@KeithOlbermann has INTEGRITY. That's why he REFUSES to BUY OFF, uh... rape survivors? Jesus Christ, dude. That's COLD."
Intra-progressive relations also went downhill this morning when Naomi Wolf agreed to debate Jaclyn Friedman on Democracy Now, after the former wrote a series of Huffington Post op-eds essentially proclaiming that since other rapes, especially ones involving additional violence in war-torn countries, aren't prosecuted, that must mean that the Swedish "dating police" police shouldn't prosecute this one.
You can watch for yourself below (You may have to watch a pledge pitch beforehand) but here's the gist.
Friedman argued that the media climate around the charges was perpetuating myths that do real harm to rape victims everywhere and contribute to an environment that disbelieves them and discourages them from reporting.
Wolf replied that the Assange accusations involved "very ambiguous and corrupt allegations," and that "The Guardian account... doesn't say that he had sex with either of these women without their consent... this is the only case I've ever seen in 23 years of supporting rape victims which is based on multiple instances of consent." She added, "If you're going to treat women as moral adults, and if you're going to take the issue of rape seriously, the person who's engaging in what he thinks is consensual sex, has to be told, 'I don't want this,' and again and again and again, these women did not say, this was not consensual."
Friedman replied that if the women had been consenting, Assange wouldn't have needed to pin one down with his arms, or penetrate the other while she was sleeping, without a condom, contrary to her stated demand to use one. "Taking your clothes off with someone does not mean you consented to all sexual activity," she reminded Wolf.
Wolf claimed Assange "consulted with the women" and that they had told him "yes, yes, yes," which isn't in the police report leaks that I read. "You're not respecting women by casting them as unable to assert what they want, or unwilling to speak about what they wish," she said.
In a perfect world, every rape would be clear-cut and involve someone shouting no so as to make legal enforcement easy. Oh wait, in a perfect world, all sex would be consensual and no one would be woken up with an unwelcome, unsheathed penis inside of them.
Here's part II.