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- 06/02/16--21:08: _Protestors and Supp...
- 06/03/16--04:19: _158 Days and a Wake Up
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- 06/03/16--06:36: _Ken Starr Faceplant...
- 06/03/16--07:10: _Weird Little Human ...
- 06/03/16--07:30: _Joe Is Joe, and Mik...
- 06/03/16--08:18: _Global Inequality E...
- 06/03/16--08:44: _Some NBC Staffers R...
- 06/03/16--09:20: _One Writer's Crusad...
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- 06/03/16--10:57: _CORRECTION: The Onl...
- 06/03/16--11:20: _Is This Chelsea Cli...
- 06/03/16--11:40: _Vox Suspends Writer...
- 06/02/16--18:00: Let's Check in on the Boston Herald's New Snapchat
- 06/02/16--19:25: Donald Trump Doesn't Know Shit About The Bay Area
- 06/03/16--04:19: 158 Days and a Wake Up
- 06/03/16--07:10: Weird Little Human Error Costs Company $190 Million
- 06/03/16--07:30: Joe Is Joe, and Mika Has Gone Wild With Hate
- 06/03/16--08:18: Global Inequality Explained by Branko Milanovic
- 06/03/16--09:20: One Writer's Crusade To Defend Woody Allen
- 06/03/16--10:30: Inside Mongolia’s Only Gay Bar
- 06/03/16--11:20: Is This Chelsea Clinton's Real Father?
- If you think that a Vox writer, of all people, is capable of spurring anyone to riot, lmao.
- If you feel the need to start issuing formal statements every time conservatives get mad at you on Twitter, you are gonna be issuing a lot of formal statements, my man.
- Twitter is where people go to say dumb things they will come to regret. That’s what Twitter is.
- Twitter is where people go to make fun of the dumb things other people said until it is their turn to be made fun of for something dumb they said. Twitter is its own form of punishment.
Yep, still just filming the paper, good.
Three fingers, of course, makes perfect sense.
In a recent interview, Republican nominee Donald Trump called the “Mexican heritage” of the federal judge overseeing the Trump University lawsuit “an absolute” conflict of interest, The Wall Street Journal reports.
In February, Trump suggested that Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was born in Indiana, has treated him unfairly due to the judge’s “Spanish” background
In the wake of his transparently racial comments, the RNC’s head of Hispanic relations, who sides say had already expressed discomfort with working for Trump, resigned
Asked how Judge Curiel is handling Trump’s attacks, older brother Raul Curiel told the Journal, “He’s taking it pretty much in stride.”
Vulgar olive loaf Donald Trump is hitting the campaign trail in California in advance of the state’s June 7 primary. A good way to appeal to your constituents is to show that you’re “one of them” by feigning nominal interest in their sports teams. If you do this, though, you should have a working sense of geography.
The Warriors may be the team of Silicon Valley bloodsuckers, but they play in Oakland, not San Francisco. Those are different cities, separated by seven miles of dirty bay water. A visual aid:
If you’re going to patronize your voters, at least do it right, man.
Violence has once again broken out at a Donald Trump rally—this time, in San Jose, California. According to the Guardian, Trump supports say they were attacked by demonstrators as they left the event venue.
Between 300 and 400 demonstrators gathered outside the San Jose Convention Center, the Associated Press reports. John Podesta, chair of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, said on Twitter that violence has “no place in this election.”
More than 100 migrants’ bodies were recovered from the Mediterranean on Friday, after a smuggling boat capsized off the coast of Libya. According to the Associated Press, more than 1,000 people have lost their lives
The boat, which normally carries about 125 people, was reportedly found empty. Libyan navy spokesman Col. Ayoub Gassim said that the coast guard had found the ship on Thursday, and believed it may have capsized on Wednesday.
Gassim blamed Europe for “doing nothing but counting bodies” to stop the mass immigration from Libya, the AP reports.
Elsewhere on Friday, off the coast of the island of Crete, Greek authorities rescued 340 people from another sinking smuggling boat. Four bodies were recovered.
Jalopnik For $4,995, This 2000 Audi A6 2.7 Quattro Could Make You Bi-Turbo Curious
On Thursday, before supporters and demonstrators clashed outside the San Jose Convention Center
Even as the presumptive Republican nominee has made himself a ubiquitous presence in broadcast media and held confrontational (if specious) press conferences, his campaign has restricted reporters’ access to the candidate and his supporters—to anything outside of the physically-delineated press pen, really. Politico reports:
A campaign staffer spotted the reporter typing on a laptop outside of the press pen at the San Jose Convention Center and asked the reporter, who was attending on a general admission ticket, if he had press credentials. The Trump campaign has refused to credential the reporter for multiple events.
The staffer said he would consult with his superiors and returned minutes later with a private security officer who instructed the reporter to leave the premises, escorting him out a nearby exit.
“The campaign is not aware of the incident or any details pertaining to it and therefore cannot comment,” wrote campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks in an email. She added that the campaign is “looking into it.”
The reporter was subsequently denied press credentials to the Friday rally in Redding, California.
Trump has sharpened his rhetoric targeting the First Amendment and the free press of late, recently referring to an ABC reporter as a “sleaze.” He has also referred to journalists as “scum” and “slime.” Also, he wants to make it easier to sue media outlets. “I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money,” he said in February.
“We’re going to open up those libel laws. So when the New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when the Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.”
In a New York Times story on the threat Trump poses to the constitution, Ilya Somin, a George Mason University law professor, said, “There are very few serious constitutional thinkers who believe public figures should be able to use libel as indiscriminately as Trump seems to think they should.”
Trump, Somin added, “poses a serious threat to the press and the First Amendment.”
Not everyone thinks so, however: Senator John McCain, a Trump supporter, is optimistic that the real estate developer won’t dismantle the country’s legal foundations.
“I still believe we have the institutions of government that would restrain someone who seeks to exceed their constitutional obligations,” McCain told the Times. “We have a Congress. We have the Supreme Court. We’re not Romania.”
“Our institutions, including the press, are still strong enough to prevent” unconstitutional action, the senator said. Very encouraging.
The Ken Starr (yes, that Ken Starr) image rehabilitation tour has begun, with Starr joining the calls for transparency from Baylor’s Board of Regents. He’s urging the regents to release the full Pepper Hamilton report into how Baylor created a culture so blind that administrators believed rape “doesn’t happen here” and so toxic that women who reported they were assaulted were put through hell. Starr’s even gone so far as to say he resigned as chancellor so he could speak more freely about what happened at the university.
Reporters have previously been letting Starr stick to his talking points, regardless of the fact that many of them don’t match the facts. But during her sit-down interview with Starr, Julie Hays at KWTX confronted him about an email previously used in reporting by ESPN’s Outside the Lines. The email is from a woman who said she was raped by former Baylor football player Tevin Elliott, who was sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for a separate sexual assault. The subject line is “I Was Raped at Baylor,” and the list of people it was sent to includes Starr. During the report, images of the email scroll across the screen before cutting back to Starr.
Hays: “What about the victim that came forward saying that she had personally sent you an email and Art Briles an email saying in the subject line that she was raped at Baylor. Did you ever see that email?”
Starr: “I honestly may have. I’m not denying that I saw it.”
This is one of three answers Starr will give to that question.
The interview continues but longtime GOP fixer Merrie Spaeth (who previously coached Starr before his testimony in support of impeaching Bill Clinton) starts taking action off-camera. In the package, Hays says that’s when Spaeth told her news director that they couldn’t use that part of the interview. The news director refuses, so Spaeth interrupts, saying she needs to talk to Starr. This comes at about 1:34 in the video, and I suggest watching it to see just how adamant Spaeth is about halting the interview.
Spaeth and Starr walk away, then return with Spaeth telling the reporter to ask Starr the question again. Hays does. This time Starr gives answer No. 2.
Starr: “All I’m going to say is I honestly have no recollection of that.”
Go to minute 2:23 of the video to watch him give this answer because, in that moment, you can see him turning to Spaeth for help. He even asks her out loud, “Is that OK?”
Later Starr gives answer No. 3 (at the 2:33 mark of the video). He’s even more emphatic this time:
Starr: “I honestly have no recollection of seeing such an email and I believe that I would remember seeing such an email. The president of a university gets lots of emails. I don’t even see a lot of the emails that come into the office of the president. I have no recollection. None.”
There are real questions about what the Board of Regents knew and when they knew it, and the 13-page investigation summary that’s been released gives zero detail on anything meaningful. But for Starr, joining the chorus calling for transparency is a convenient distraction from Starr’s own fall from grace and the questions about his role in what happened. Starr might be talking, but he isn’t saying anything students and alumni didn’t already know. The Board of Regents is full of shit
Most of us have a vague sense that huge, multibillion-dollar companies have, like, systems in place to prevent them from making the sort of idiot mistakes that we, normal people, make. Not necessarily true!
I don’t know that this story has any deeper meaning except to reassure us all that even enormous financial firms do things that are the equivalent of leaving your car keys in the freezer, but: the Wall Street Journal reports today on how the investment firm T. Rowe Price cost itself $200 million by accidentally voting the wrong way on a 2013 proposed buyout of Dell. By “accidentally voting the wrong way,” we mean that the company spoke up against the buyout plan and made a big show of opposing the buyout plan and then just... voted for it.
The money manager has blamed its vote in favor of the deal on a back-office error. The default stance of T. Rowe in merger votes—like many large investors—is to support management, which in Dell’s case recommended in favor of the deal. So T. Rowe Price’s computerized system spit out instructions to vote “yes” that weren’t manually overridden before the final vote, according to court filings.
This human error cost T. Rowe Price $190 million.
Sometimes you just have to laugh because life is funny :)
Like Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris before them, Donald Trump and his best pals Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski seem to be going their separate ways. Anyone who feels themselves getting misty-eyed is encouraged to throw on Joe’s stirring version of Swift’s “Love Story” and scroll through some of the lovebirds’ most cherished
Also, remember: this is all a big charade
Globally, inequality is falling. You may not have known that, because within countries, inequality is rising. We live in dangerous times. Why? We talked to the man who wrote the book on it.
Branko Milanovic is an internationally known economist specializing in inequality and development. He is the former head research economist for the World Bank, and is currently a visiting professor at the Luxembourg Income Study Center at CUNY. His new book, “Global Inequality,” breaks new ground in detailing the ways in which inequality between countries is falling, but inequality within individual nations is increasing. We interviewed him at his office in Manhattan this week.
Gawker: One of the most prominent arguments in your book is a revision of the “Kuznets Curve,” which describes inequality in development. Can you explain that?
Branko Milanovic: The Kuznets Curve was defined in the 1950s and 60s by Simon Kuznets. And the idea was pretty simple—it was not based on too much empirical evidence, we didn’t have too much empirical evidence in those days... it was based on the idea that, essentially, you start when you are relatively poor, with low levels of inequality. You have lots of small landholders. Basically farmers. And then you actually start developing. As you start developing, two things happen: people move into manufacturing, and they move into cities. Then, you first have a gap in incomes between rural areas and urban areas, because urban areas are richer; and secondly, in the urban areas you have greater diversity of occupations, so there is greater inequality in incomes.
So he thought as the countries develop—he had in mind the US and the UK in the late 19th century—inequality would go up, then reach a peak, and then, he argued, there would be a greater spread of education, so the returns to the educated would go down; capital would become more plentiful, so the returns to capitalists would also go down; and there will be greater demand for social protection, unemployment benefits, and so on. So that would lead to the reduction of inequality. And that is the famous inverted-U-shaped curve.
Why was it found wanting? By the time we really had quite a lot of data, by the mid 1980s and early 90s... it was very difficult to explain the second upswing of the Kuznets Curve [as inequality in rich nations increased]. So that’s where my reformulation of the Kuznets Curve into Kuznets Waves comes in, because I consider the current increase, in the last 25 or 30 years, to reflect essentially the second technological revolution, and globalization. And there are similarities to the first upswing of the Kuznets Wave in the past, because you can actually argue that it was the result of the Industrial Revolution. The bottom line is that technological revolutions lead to an increase in inequality, more or less for the same reasons Kuznets said—but also now obviously because of the movement [of jobs] into services, because of the rents that are being made on new technology, and so on.
Gawker: Will inequality continue in this wave pattern forever, or do you think we’ll ever reach equilibrium?
Milanovic: It’s difficult to say what will be in 100 years, but my argument about the Kuznets Waves rests on the historical data that only now we have, in the last ten years, about income distribution and income inequality [over many centuries]... I make a distinction between the pre-modern era, when you were driven up and down by epidemics, wars, civil strife, but not by technological progress... and the modern times, where actual economic factors like technology, globalization, education levels, and demand for social protection start playing much more of a role. If we were to go through another technological revolution in, say, 50 years, the same type of mechanism could hold.
Gawker: The interesting duality of your book is the decline of global inequality coupled with the rise of national inequality. What do you think accounts for the decline on a global level?
Milanovic: That duality is very important because it’s very tricky to understand. Most people believe that inequality is rising—and indeed it has been rising for a while in a number of rich countries. And there is lots of talk and realization of this. It’s harder to understand that at the same time, you can actually have global inequality going down. Technically speaking, national inequality can increase in every single country and yet global inequality can go down. And why it is going down is because very large, populous, and relatively poor countries like India and China are growing quite fast. So what is different between national inequality and global inequality is you have another element there that is sometimes forgotten: what matters for global inequality is relative growth rates between poor and rich countries.
Gawker: Is it inevitable that poor countries will have higher growth rates than rich countries?
Milanovic: In standard economics, people believe that poor countries should in principle grow faster than rich countries, everything else being the same, because they don’t need to invent new things. It is based on the relatively simple observation that if somebody had already invented the internet, or the printing press, or smartphones, it’s not as demanding for you to reverse engineer or copy them. So in principle poor countries should be able to catch up because they have fewer hurdles—they can just borrow from the rich countries. But in reality we know that doesn’t happen, because the countries are held back by a number of other elements like low levels of education, corruption, war, and many other reasons...
However, what has been happening in the last quarter century is that Asia, which was home to very many poor people, had an extraordinarily favorable period of growth. Not only China and India, but also countries like Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. So that has really contributed to the reduction in global inequality, and also to the convergence. But if you look at African countries, they have really not converged towards the rich ones.
Gawker: Do you have any thoughts on the reasons for the disparity with African countries?
Milanovic: I write in the book that if you take Asia out of the equation, you really don’t have much of a convergence between the poor, middle income, and rich countries. So Asia was spectacularly successful—which for some economists was a surprise, because in the 50s we had a lot of literature, including some future Nobel Prize winners, who were very concerned about overpopulation in Asia... the explanations for Asia’s success nowadays are expert orientation, strong states, and a high level of education. In the case of Africa you can say there is not a high growth of manufacturing, there is not much improvement in education if you compare it with Vietnam or China, and there is no strong state.
Gawker: Simultaneously you have the growth of inequality within nations. What accounts for that?
Milanovic: To go back to the example of the US and China—you have these two large countries, one rich, one relatively poor, and in both of them you had a massive increase in inequality. In China, even more than the US, because China originally was fairly egalitarian and poor, so its inequality is even higher than US inequality now... what accounts for increasing inequality in China are really the elements in the first Kuznets Wave. As much as a real world example can fit a theoretical construct, China follows the Kuznets story. You had huge migration from rural areas into urban areas. You had an incredible increase in manufacturing, substituting for agriculture, and nowadays you have an increase in services, substituting for agriculture and manufacturing. You had an increase in education. So it really follows this first Kuznets Wave quite thoroughly. And I believe we might now expect a decline in China’s inequality...
If you want to visualize where the US and China are, I would put China at around the peak of the first Kuznets Wave, and the US is on the second. There is an upswing of the second wave [of inequality]. I’m not sure if it’s at the peak or not.
Gawker: Is it fair for people to ask what good the reduction in global inequality is doing them, if within their nations inequality is on the rise?
Milanovic: Global inequality is such an abstract concept, simply because there is no global government. Telling people in rich countries who have had no increase in real incomes, stagnant median wages and so on, that on the other hand global inequality is going down because people who are much poorer than them are getting richer—it’s something that maybe they would like in an abstract sense, because everyone is happy there are fewer poor Chinese, but you may not be as happy if these Chinese are taking your job. So I don’t think a politically reasonable defense of the current situation is to tell the people who feel they’ve been losing economically within their own country that, on the other hand, they are contributing to some greater good externally.
Gawker: What are some of the social dangers that accompany high inequality within societies?
Milanovic: On the one hand, the issue of populism, which we have seen first in Europe but also now in the US. Essentially, people who have been at the receiving end of globalization or technological change, in the sense that they were promised when globalization started that it would increase their incomes—and it’s true for some of them incomes went up—but if you take three large countries like the US, Germany, and Japan, the lower half of the income distribution has really seen very little growth over the past 25 years. So the reaction now is to lash out against two perceived problems. One problem is substitution of their labor by cheaper imports from the rest of the world. And another one is migration, which is somewhat similar, because again it is people from the outside who are actually saying they’re willing to do the job for less money. So I think this is the reaction which is populist—the reaction which says “I would like to have less of globalization if it involves a really great threat to my job.”
The danger of that in my opinion is that globalization has many good features, and that throwing out the baby with the bathwater is not exactly the best policy. The world output would certainly go down if we were to start putting tariff rates and competitive devaluation and so on.
The second danger is the danger of plutocracy. There, people in the rich countries who have done very well, who are at the top of the income pyramid, try to steamroll over the opposition of the middle without changing anything in social programs, or any redistribution. And they take their votes for a given. They have rich people that bankroll them. And the globalization would continue, but it would continue with permanent dissatisfaction among large segments of the people.
Gawker: What do you think the wisest move is, for those who are not the highest earners, to mitigate inequality?
Milanovic: If the solution were simple, we would have done it. But if you agree with that sort of description of the perils of populism and plutocracy, then the answer is really greater attention from the winners of globalization towards those who are dissatisfied. Because the well understood self-interest at the top would tell them that you cannot just continue with policies forever if you have a significant pool of people who are unhappy. So the self-interest would say, “let’s see what we can do to make their position better.” It could be higher tax on the top incomes, closing down the loopholes they have at the top that lobbyists have been very successful at making, encouraging small shareholders—broadening the ownership of capital, which is very heavily concentrated...
This is not a short term solution, because whatever change you make now is going to take five or ten years to make an impact. But you cannot just ignore it forever.
Gawker: If changes aren’t made by people at the top, is some sort of meltdown inevitable?
Milanovic: I don’t think meltdown, but what would happen is, if Trump does not become President—and I don’t think Trump will be able to do much because his recommendations or policies are pretty incoherent—but whatever happens, you would have in the future, for the next election and the election after that, a significantly large constituency of people. And these people we now know that they exist, and they vote somewhat as a block. So there would be another political entrepreneur who would use them. In that sense I think that the situation is not just whatever happens with this election cycle. If that problem is not attended, it would reappear in four years. And in Europe, it is appearing very strongly, and what then happens is even if parties associated with right wing populism don’t win, they push other parties, the centrist parties, towards their position. So they do have an influence even if they’re not in power.
Gawker: A lot of people are worried about the automation of jobs and the possibility of permanent job loss. Do you think that issue is real?
Milanovic: Historically, we have had this fear forever. When the industrial revolution happened there was the Luddistic movement, and there was a fear that machinery would replace all the labor. Whenever we had a technological revolution we had this fear. So if you look backwards, these fears were not justified, and I think they were driven by our very human inability to visualize what new jobs will be created by this new technology... the counterargument to that would be, as many people point out, many of these IT companies don’t replace all the labor which has been lost. The total employment by Apple and Microsoft and so on runs into hundreds of thousands, not into millions. So it could be that they are very capital intensive and they don’t create enough jobs. But it seems to me from simply looking at the past—if we knew what type of jobs would exist in 20 years, we would be quite rich. But we just cannot visualize it.
Gawker: Is there a way for labor to take a greater chunk of the income share away from capital?
Milanovic: This is a problem that was highlighted in Piketty’s book. And the problem is, with the fall of communism and the entry of China into the global system, you had a change in the supply of the two factors of production. Capital increased, but not nearly as much as labor. That meant labor was more plentiful, and the real price of labor compared to the real price of capital went down. And we have seen that in the US data, where you have a decline in the [income] share of labor and an increase in the share of capital. Now, that per se is not the problem. If, for example, each of us had the same share of capital in the national total capital, then if the share of capital goes up it’s not a problem, because you get as much as I do. The problem is that capital in capitalist countries is very heavily concentrated, especially financial capital. So then if the share of income from that source goes up, that actually exacerbates inequality.
Gawker: You write about how the two classes globally that have stagnated are the middle classes of rich countries, and the very poorest class in the world. Is there any hope for the world’s poorest people?
Milanovic: For the middle classes of the rich world, the mechanism is the result of globalization and technological change. For the very poorest, these are really people who are at the bottom of their countries—many of them in Asia—and the mechanism there is quite different. These are not people who have been affected by the rise of China or manufacturing. These are people who have still not participated in globalization. So while you can say that the problem of the middle class in the rich countries is too much globalization, the problem of the people who are very poor is really that they are not included in globalization. For them, the success of their own countries at becoming part of this international division of labor would be good news.
[Branko Milanovic’s new book is “Global Inequality.”]
According to a report in the New York Daily News, NBC staffers have joined the growing ranks of people who flat-out refuse to go to Brazil for the summer Olympics games citing the threat of disease.
A “handful” of anonymous staffers tell the News they won’t work from Rio, where the network plans to send as many as 2,000 employees to cover the games, due to concerns over the Zika virus outbreak.
“It’s very simple,” an NBC staffer explained to the Daily News. “I have a family. I have small children and for me, at least, the trip seems too risky. I might want to get pregnant soon.”
Zika, which causes microcephaly in unborn babies, has also been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome in adults. Short-term symptoms reportedly include mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise and headache. Scientists are still investigating how the presumably mosquito-borne virus spreads; according to the latest research, it may also be contractable through kissing and oral sex.
The NBC employees aren’t alone in their boycott. Athletes participating in the games have also spoken out about the looming threat of Zika, among them basketball player Pau Gasol, golfer Rory McIlroy, and soccer player Hope Solo, though it’s unclear if any of them will actually withdraw from the competition. But Zika isn’t the only virus worrying athletes: Brazil’s polluted waterways mean sailors, open-water swimmers and windsurfers will essentially be competing in a pool of raw sewage.
I’ll just watch on TV, thanks!
Screenwriter and director of the 2011 PBS film Woody Allen: A Documentary Robert B. Weide published a widely circulated Daily Beast piece “The Woody Allen Allegations: Not So Fast” in 2014. The piece was ostensibly interrogative though some interpreted it as dog whistling sympathy for Allen. In it, Weide responded to the outrage directed at Woody Allen’s lifetime achievement Golden Globe that year (including accusatory tweets by Allen’s ex Mia Farrow and son Ronan Farrow)—Weide had contributed to the honor by producing the clips reel of Allen’s work that preceded Diane Keaton’s acceptance speech. By mere days, the publishing of Weide’s piece preceded Allen’s daughter Dylan Farrow’s account of her abuse at Allen’s hands when she was seven years old, which ran on Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times blog as “An Open Letter From Dylan Farrow.”
This week found Weide and his fixation at it again. He self-published a piece called “HARD QUESTIONS FOR RONAN FARROW: AN OPEN LETTER” in response to Farrow’s guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, “My Father, Woody Allen, and the Danger of Questions Unasked.” Ronan’s piece ran last month, during the Cannes Film Festival, (where Allen’s Café Society premiered) and took the press to task for going easy on Allen, even after his sister, Dylan Farrow, shared her account publicly and repeatedly.
Weide calls Ronan Farrow’s writing “disingenuous, irresponsible, and even dangerous” in his open letter. “You and your mother have both asked that the press continue to hold Woody Allen’s feet to the fire in the name of ‘women everywhere’ and ‘all abuse survivors,’” Weide continues, the former quote coming directly from Farrow’s THR piece. “But there is plenty of evidence to suggest this isn’t really your primary concern.”
Weide lays out his evidence in the following paragraph:
Your mother’s statement in Polanski’s probation report seems to imply the director’s artistic talent outweighed the damage he may have caused to the young girl who was then struggling for credibility, even after Polanski’s admission of guilt. Has Mia ever reached out to her over these past forty years to explain her lack of solidarity with the victim? Further, in 2014, your mother’s lawyer in the infamous custody battle, Alan Dershowitz, was accused of having sex with an under aged girl. He aggressively denied the accusation. Last April, a Florida judge dismissed the charge, but because the girl accused him of this crime, shouldn’t you be advocating for her? What about the child victims of Mia’s brother, John Villers-Farrow, who is currently doing prison time for multiple counts of molestation against two young boys? I don’t remember you speaking out when Uncle John had part of his sentence suspended. What about your own brother Moses, who describes being beaten often by Mia as a child? What have you done to help your brother get his story out? For someone who’s concerned with abuse victims “everywhere,” you seem to be less than universal about the cases you feel warrant public scrutiny.
Perhaps Ronan has an obvious answer to this (he did not respond to my request for comment), which could be that Dershowitz, Villers-Farrow, and Moses Farrow don’t have film careers whose continuation depends on public approval. And of course, no one’s writing open letters in defense of Dershowitz and Villers-Farrow in major publications.
Nonetheless, Weide’s questions are indeed hard and often good. He opens his piece by quoting Mia Farrow in Roman Polanski’s aforementioned probation report from 1977, regarding his rape of a 13-year-old earlier that decade. “[He’s] a loyal friend, important to me, a distinguished director, important to the motion picture industry, and a brave and brilliant man, important to all people,” said Mia Farrow then. In contrast, Ronan, with whom Mia has formed a united front against Woody Allen, wrote last month in The Hollywood Reporter:
But the old-school media’s slow evolution has helped to create a culture of impunity and silence. Amazon paid millions to work with Woody Allen, bankrolling a new series and film. Actors, including some I admire greatly, continue to line up to star in his movies. “It’s not personal,” one once told me. But it hurts my sister every time one of her heroes like Louis C.K., or a star her age, like Miley Cyrus, works with Woody Allen. Personal is exactly what it is — for my sister, and for women everywhere with allegations of sexual assault that have never been vindicated by a conviction.
In response, Weide asks:
Is the inference that if her favorite actors stopped working with him, this would bring her some happiness? If investors stopped financing his films, and studios stopped distributing them, would this finally bring healing and closure to your family? I don’t doubt that you love your sister and want her to feel empowered by speaking out, and with the encouragement of you and her mother and other loved ones, she’s done just that. But if the message here is that her sense of closure is dependent on the opinions of untold millions of strangers who aren’t eager to take her position in this matter (or perhaps any position), isn’t that message the very opposite of empowerment?
The answer to these, among Weide’s many questions—Can a reasonable person believe Allen? Can one believe Allen without thinking Dylan Farrow to be a liar? Is Moses Farrow lying?—would help clarify an unwieldy narrative that requires an intense amount of research to make it legible. (I almost feel bad for making you think about this Woody Allen shit again. Almost.) So labyrinthine is this story that an omission can slip by for those who don’t have all the details fresh in their heads. For example, in this open letter, Weide writes:
The Connecticut State Police ordered an investigation by the The Child Sexual Abuse Clinic of the Yale/New Haven Hospital, whose six-month inquiry (which included medical and psychological examinations) concluded, decisively and unambiguously, that Dylan had not been molested. (The Yale-New Haven investigation summary is actually available on line for anyone to read.) Although the custody case raged on, criminal charges were never brought against your father.
Weide’s paragraph ends there, and while this is true, what’s missing is these details from his 2014 Daily Beast piece:
Much is made by Mia’s supporters over the fact that the investigative team destroyed their collective notes prior to their submission of the report...In any event, destruction of the notes may have been part of the reason that, despite the very conclusive position taken by the investigators that Dylan was not abused, presiding Judge Elliot Wilk found their report “inconclusive.”
I asked Weide by email why he didn’t include Wilk’s reaction to the report in his most recent piece on the matter, and he responded at length with even more details. Here’s the crux:
Let me ask you, Rich: All the people who cry foul with regard to how the investigation was handled — do you think they’d be wringing their hands over procedure if the report had found Woody guilty of the allegations? Let me wager a guess that they would not be questioning who testified or gave a deposition, or what notes were kept. They’d be quite happy with how everything was handled. It simply didn’t go their way.
Additionally, Weide points out the N.Y. State Dept. of Social Services’s assertion that the abuse claims against Allen were unfounded, as well as the Manhattan Surrogate Court’s refusal to annul Allen’s adoptions of Dylan and Moses at Mia Farrow’s request. From our email exchanges, I’ve noticed that Weide regularly uses the phrase “rabbit hole” to describe the particulars of this case (it’s also in his Daily Beast piece). The more I think about this, the more this feels like an understatement.*
I want to untangle from the strands of rulings, allegations, and opinions for a moment, to say that what intrigues me most about Weide’s open letter is its apparent interest in conveying how difficult it is to discuss this story—any point made is not a point that can stand on its own without acknowledging multiple points of view from multiple sources. Sentences become paragraphs very quickly in these parts.
There is also the matter of the system that we—the liberal elite—are quietly creating in which all abuse claims are trusted at face value and any questioning of them is subsequently shamed. I understand that a big part of our culture, our rape culture, is founded on ignoring or disbelieving victims and the societal imperative among the sensitive and educated is to correct that. But without scrutiny even where it’s uncomfortable, we are putting justice at grave risk. So are abuse victims, thereby, at grave risk. Weide’s exercise strikes me as morally sound, at heart.
Weide told me he initially pitched “HARD QUESTIONS FOR RONAN FARROW” to The Daily Beast. He shared with me his account of the (eventually abandoned) editorial process by email:
I went to TDB first, since my 2014 Woody piece became one of the most-read pieces in Beast history. They sent me back their edit which was completely emasculated — the guts were just removed. They had all sorts of reasons but I perceived it as basically covering their asses. I spent a lot of time discussing it on the phone with their editor-in-chief, but at the end of the day, I just thanked them for considering it, and told them that I wasn’t interested in publishing their version of the piece. “Creative differences” as they say in the business.
In response to Weide’s recounting of this process, Gawker received a statement from John Avlon, editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast:
The Beast was proud to publish his first piece, though it was controversial. This wasn’t about shying away from controversy.
The point I made to Bob repeatedly was that we thought his draft was in fact two stories. The first, a call for perspective, addressing the unfair Bill Cosby comparisons, and asking for healing on this painful, decades-long, hotly contested issue for all. The second story could have been a piece focusing on Moses’ new allegations in detail and context, from the perspective of a family member who remembers things quite differently than others. But the prosecutorial tone and the call for perspective were discordant in the same piece.
After communicating with The Daily Beast, Weide attempted to place his open letter at the same outlet Ronan Farrow had published his most recent words on the Woody Allen affair, The Hollywood Reporter. Says Weide:
I then went to Janice Min at The Hollywood Reporter, since she published Ronan’s original piece. Before I submitted it, I laid out the condition that whether or not they published it, the contents could not be leaked outside their office, and I didn’t want it mentioned to Ronan Farrow, since Woody and his people were never told about Ronan’s piece prior to publication. Janice agreed, and was even apologetic about Woody and his publicist not being told. She said that Woody’s people were absolutely supposed to be looped in days beforehand, but that the editors totally and completely dropped the ball, so it looked like an ambush. In any event, I submitted the piece and she read it and then said they couldn’t publish it without showing it to Ronan first. So she did a 180. She now changed her story and offered up a vague excuse that Woody’s publicist was sent emails but they didn’t indicate the nature — I didn’t understand it. When I wrote again, asking for clarification — radio silence.
I followed up with Weide about his proposed conditions to The Hollywood Reporter, which seem to place him firmly on Team Woody, and this is what he wrote:
Isn’t that simple equilibrium? They printed Ronan’s piece without first submitting to Woody or his publicists. So my piece, which presents an opposing side, shouldn’t first go to Ronan for comment. Doesn’t that make sense? All this Team Woody and Team Mia business is just bored people on the internet turning a tragic situation into Fantasy Football.
The Hollywood Reporter President/Chief Creative Officer, Entertainment Group, Janice Min shared the following statement with Gawker in response to Weide’s recap of their interaction:
The piece was rejected for many reasons, not least of all that it didn’t advance any narrative. The issues brought up by Ronan in his essay were far larger than Woody Allen’s guilt or lack thereof. Mr. Weide’s piece fits into a familiar genre of obfuscation-as-defense, i.e. maligning Mia Farrow’s parenthood and character as a means to discredit a child’s account of sexual abuse. We’ve heard these arguments before, in fact, from this very author in another outlet, and the story was not adding anything new or thoughtful to a difficult and sensitive conversation. We are on no one’s “side,” except the side of running the best stories possible.
Is Weide a crusader for the truth or does he have a more personal stake in the public’s perception of Woody Allen? (He refers to himself as “friendly” with Allen a few times in his 2014 Beast piece, with a caveat: “We weren’t so close that anyone could rightfully accuse me of being in his pocket.”) I asked Weide, again by email, what his motivation is. He explained it this way:
To be absolutely honest, I’ve never given it a moment’s thought, and I’ve always found it peculiar when others speculate about it. If you see a guy walking down the street, and there’s a hit and run, and the driver takes off, do you really have to figure out your motivation for coming to his aid? As to what led to the decision to write the Beast piece, yes, it’s in that first article. It’s the same thing here. Half-truths, speculation, and emotion steamrolling over facts. Ironically, the one person who’s always saying not to bother with any of this is Allen. I’m also in a good position to speak out because there’s something in my DNA that just makes me immune to all the haters. Whenever they throw those hashtag epithets at me, I take it with the same seriousness as I do those experts who insist that Obama is a Kenyan-born Communist Muslim. So it’s never bothered me. Also, as I clarify in this latest piece, one can believe in Woody’s innocence without thinking Dylan is a liar.
How’s your film history? When I say, “Fatty Arbuckle,” what comes to mind? The film comedian who raped a girl with a Coke bottle and killed her, right? When you do your homework, you discover not only that there was no Coke bottle, but that Arbuckle had nothing to do with the woman’s death and was fully exonerated in court. That’s not my theory — that’s a fact. (As the kids say, “Google it.”) Yet 95 years later, in the greater public’s mind, he’s known for this heinous crime. I believe Ronan and Mia want to Arbuckle Woody. Unfortunately for them, here I am.
The implications of Weide’s crusade are important and titillating: He rejects knee-jerk reactions, promotes deep understanding of an issue as a means to discuss it, and in the process aims to fortify speech with nuance. And yet, the situation read simply shows one artist who has previously worked with Allen defending a man that most sensitive and intelligent people would rather shun publicly. Woody Allen, it would seem, is Weide’s strange hill to die on, but like the director himself famously said: “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”
Yesterday your Twitter timeline and Instagram feed were likely cluttered with pictures of celebrities in orange shirts, because yesterday was National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
The campaign is organized by the nonprofit organization Everytown for Gun Safety. The orange theme is in conjunction with another group, Wear Orange, which was started by a group of teenagers in Chicago to honor their friend Hadiya Pendleton, who was just 15 years old when she was shot dead in the back just after taking her finals—a week after performing at Obama’s second inauguration.
From the celebrities who posted selfies tagged #WearOrange—a group that includes Kim Kardshian, Ron Howard, Brooke Shields, Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Zoe, Max Joseph, Rita Wilson, Sarah Silverman, Ike Barinholtz, Adam Scott, Melissa Joan Hart, Amy Schumer
I am skeptical of awareness-raising as a goal in itself. Nobody is unaware of cancer or heart disease, and certainly, no one is unaware of gun violence one day after a major American university is put on lockdown because of a gunman on campus.
But—and again, not that you’d know from the celebrity selfies you saw yesterday—Everytown isn’t simply asking for awareness. They’re also asking for your money, a fact that seems to have been lost in almost all of the social media posturing.
There is an apt if now trite Theodore Roosevelt quote about service: “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.” For a group of teenagers in Chicago, wearing orange to honor their friend and galvanizing their community is absolutely what they can do, with what they have, where they are. But that scope of ability doesn’t necessarily apply to the rest of us—if we are past our adolescence and working, we can likely do just a little bit more than put on some orange and post a photo—and it certainly doesn’t apply to the rich and famous.
(Some celebrities didn’t even “wear orange,” strictly speaking, but simply put an orange filter over an old photo instead.)
What has been accomplished here? If you were a wealthy celebrity looking to do some good—if you had a sincere desire to do something about gun control and gun safety in America, rather than a narcissistic urge to participate in something resembling goodness—it is damn near impossible for a #WearOrange selfie to be your best shot.
We put a deeply inflated sense of value onto entertainment and the people who make it in our culture. Actors and musicians and entertainers make a great deal of money. Their wealth and what they do with it makes Americans feel good; it does not increase public welfare the way that good laws do. We know this and largely accept it and often celebrate it, because that’s the way capitalism works.
But there’s a reason we expect a lot of rich people outside the entertainment realm. Billionaires like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and George Lucas have pledged to give away their fortunes to philanthropy because, presumably, they recognize that their insane amounts of wealth, while perhaps earned—insomuch as a one human can singlehandedly provide billions of dollars of value—do not make for a fair, healthy world when accumulated in a single pile. So they give.
Of course, we don’t know for sure that these celebrities didn’t donate to Everytown or Wear Orange. But the fact that none of them urged others to donate is a very damning clue. (Though a few did encourage their followers to vote for gun reform.) Perhaps all of these celebrities like to keep their charitable donations private, and that’s fine. Or, perhaps we have also gotten to the point in our culture in which it actually needs to be pointed out that a Twitter account will never be more helpful than a bank account. It is money and not “influence
Here, let’s consider gun violence specifically. One of the reasons gun control that actually results in fewer people getting shot is so difficult to achieve is because of our cultural proclivity for weapons, yes, but also because gun control laws and policies rarely get passed. The reason those laws are not passed is because organizations like the NRA are able to rake in massive amounts of money—$30 million between 2013 and 2014—to stop them.
Last summer, the Boston Globe reported that pro-gun lobbyists outspent gun control organizations by a factor of seven. Fortune notes that the NRA is the tenth biggest political spender in America. That money is spent not just lobbying politicians, but donating directly to the campaigns of gun-friendly lawmakers.
The other side is tackling this fight with money. Money is the only tangible way that those of us who don’t want elementary school students gunned down in their schools can match them. If you happen to be a wealthy person interested in doing some good in the world, it is obtuse not to recognize that leveraging your wealth is the most useful way to do it.
Kim Kardashian can tweet at 45 million people, or she can donate, say, $45,000 from her immense $85 million fortune, or she could ask her followers to donate, and tell them where. “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.” When you consider that responsibility seriously, the “what” is not going to be a sexy selfie or a Tweet that also serves as a advertisement for your husband’s clothing line.
And people will still always argue that the influence and reach of these celebrities is as important as their ability to give financially. Influence is good and necessary—or, to say what’s really at the bottom of this argument, it’s better than nothing—but it has obvious limits. No one who opposes gun control is going to see Ron Howard or Brooke Shields or Amy Schumer in an orange shirt and suddenly change their mind about the Second Amendment.
And, again, with no prompts to donate to the cause, what good is raising awareness about something we are all hauntingly familiar with?
Fame is a privilege to be leveraged, but wealth is true power in America; it’s where that privilege can come to life. One of the few silver linings of Prince’s death was learning that he secretly gave away millions of dollars to charitable causes. And as an outspoken activist for specific causes, it was easier to believe that he practiced what he preached. When you saw him perform at a Black Lives Matter rally, you believed he wrote a check as well. But what are we to make of celebrities who participate in every trending hashtag or Facebook filter that happens to have a charitable tinge?
I’m not interested in asking the bare minimum from people who have been afforded a great deal of privilege. And for people with millions of dollars, a tweet with a hashtag is the bare minimum. Without a distribution of wealth, this type of celebrity activism becomes performative for the sake of looking like a good person, which is not, it turns out, how good people actually behave.
At the only gay bar in the most sparsely populated independent country in the world, Zorig Alima tells me he’s a “penis shaman.” The proprietor of d.d/h.z says he can confidently predict men’s penis sizes and sexual predilections. He gives my companion a disputable “reading,” and dashes away to tend to friends and customers, explaining, “This place is like my living room.”
When Zorig returns, he brings us a frozen drink with Day-Glo layers. “It’s like gay life in Mongolia,” he says. “It looks bright and sweet, but it’s difficult to swallow.”
In Mongolia, it isn’t easy for a gay bar to fly under the radar, even in the center of Ulaanbaatar, the country’s biggest city, home to more than a third of Mongolia’s total population of 2.8 million. Outside the city, the steppes are home to some of the world’s last nomadic people. When the country was under Soviet rule from 1921 to 1990, all non-heteronormative expression of sexuality was taboo. Until 2002, homosexuality was illegal and punishable by imprisonment. Gay life in Mongolia is still far from easy. For many Mongolians, gay visibility is seen as an invasion, a foreign influence corrupting traditional life. Bullying at school remains prevalent, labor discrimination is rife, police hostility abounds and healthcare and social services are frequently withheld.
Several Mongolian gay bars predate d.d/h.z., but they were forced to close due to resistance from the neighborhood or would-be clients steering clear, for fear of getting beaten up or harassed. The first, City Life, lasted just one fun but lonely summer in 1994. But d.d/h.z. is thriving. Several Mongolian men, three Europeans, and one elegantly dressed trans woman chat and make merry. Hands slip around shoulders. The blinds are drawn tight, but the atmosphere is open and casual. LED disco lights fling primary-colored-flecks on the revelers. Zorig even recently set up an LGBT Corner message board (and three dildos) to “make the message wide and open.”
Fewer than 18% of Mongolia residents have internet access, and until recently, information about anything related to gay life was nearly impossible to come by. When it does, it can be despairing. In the ‘90s, a famous and grisly incident disturbed the tiny country, when a Mongolian pop singer who was rumored to be gay was found beheaded in his apartment. Now, same-sex teen suicides crop up in the news with alarming frequency.
In 2010, Mongolia’s newly formed LGBT center reported on over a dozen hate-motivated instances of harassment, violence, and rape before the UN. In 2001, a lesbian woman was abducted, stabbed and raped by two men after the funeral of her girlfriend, who had committed suicide. In 2009, the ultra-nationalist neo-Nazi group Dayar Mongol kidnapped three transgender women in broad daylight and took them to a cemetery where they were beaten and sexually assaulted. None of the crimes were initially reported to “for fear of secondary victimization by police.”
Zorig “heard stories” about the existence of gay people growing up, but didn’t meet another gay man until he moved to Japan at 19. There, Zorig worked as an investment banker for 15 years “having a nice time enjoying my gay life” before moving back to Mongolia in 2012. “Coming back to Mongolia but not having a place to party is kind of sad,” he says. “So I thought, ok, let me just create that.” Gay men could meet at “secret parties,” but Zorig said he was tired of hiding. He knew that there were enough people living in the shadows to constitute a clientele.
He opened the dance club Hanzo, in mid-2012, and hosted drag shows, go-go dancing and karaoke. Police frequently raided the bar and physically assaulted club-goers.
“Back in 2012, it was not cool,” Zorig says. “People were like, ‘What the fuck is that?’”
During Hanzo’s three-year existence, local police who interacted with Zorig and his clientele on a weekly basis gradually warmed to the bar. Members of Mongolia’s artistic elite, including the rock band The Lemons, frequented the bar. Because of their potent social influence, their acceptance informed wider, albeit measured, public acceptance.
Zorig notes that police in Hanzo’s centrally located Chingeltei District tend to be more familiar with the LGBT community—and therefore more accepting—than police in more far-flung districts. Just last year, police interrupted Ulaanbaatar’s Equality Walk and harassed participants.
The previous November, one of the most prominent trans men in Mongolia, Anaraa Nyamdorj, opened the now-defunct gay bar, 100%. Like Hanzo, the bar attracted grateful clientele seeking a safe haven, along with opposition. In February of 2012, Anaraa’s sister’s ex-boyfriend stormed into the bar and punched him in the face, fracturing his eye socket. At the time, hate crimes were not recognized under Mongolia’s Criminal Code and the case was dismissed.
Anaraa waged a three-year battle alongside local colleagues, the Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Watch against state authorities to register the LGBT Centre, Mongolia’s first and only LGBTI human rights organization. The roadblocks seemed innumerable, beginning with the Mongolian Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs denying official registration to the NGO and requiring that the LGBT Centre to obtain “a linguistic definition” of the words “lesbian,” “gay,” “bisexual” and “transgender” from the Linguistics Institute of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences. Then, the State Registration Agency refused to register their name because its meaning “conflicts with Mongolian customs and traditions and has the potential to set a wrong example for youth and adolescents.” The Centre was finally officially recognized in 2009, just in time present their distressing report to the UN.
Anaraa now serves as the Centre’s executive director. On Dec. 3, 2015—Anaraa’s birthday—Mongolia passed a new Criminal Code that effectively recognizes “crimes of discrimination,” in large part due to the Centre’s international advocacy with UN treaty bodies and the UN Human Rights Council.
The law will take effect Sept. 1, and that’s “when we will see how much the police are able to understand [the law],” Anaraa says, acknowledging that the term “crimes of discrimination” is somewhat vague. To ensure that the police understand the law and apply it properly, the Centre will be training the police on what hate crimes are, how to recognize them and the kind of assistance hate crimes victims require. The U.S. State Department is funding the project and the U.S. Embassy reserved the money for three years while LGBT advocates and activists waited for the law to pass. According to Anaraa, Mongolia is the first Asian country to have hate-crime and hate-speech regulations in its Criminal Code. (Some countries, including Hong Kong, Japan and Macau offer partial protection.)
Anaraa now calls d.d/h.z “home” after 100% closed, in December 2012, after the landlord found out that the tenants had sublet the space to members of the LGBT community and subsequently terminated the lease.
Zorig believes d.d/h.z and Mongolia’s LGBT Centre have “big synergy”: as legal reforms beget social détente, those in the community “feel free and safe to go out – or come out.” Zorig thinks the bar’s visibility “made the straight community understand that these people are not monsters. They are not pedophiles and they are not perverted. They are just people.”
The same year as the Dayar Mongol neo-Nazis staged their transphobic attack, the LGBT Centre produced a film called “Lies of Liberty,” featuring an interview with one of the victims. According to Anaraa, the film helped stoked a public outcry. “What the ultra-nationalists did was shameful because they were targeting their own flesh and blood,” he says.
A mining boom in 2008 brought a deluge foreign investment and cultural influence, which triggered the rise of several ultra-nationalist groups. Far from embodying the Aryan phenotypic ideal, Mongolian neo-Nazis tend to emphasize their reverence of Hitler’s obsession with national identity and ethnic purity, and have notoriously wrought violence against the LGBT community and foreigners, especially those in the company of Mongolian women. Recently, the ultra-nationalists have focused their ire on foreigners, in particular, the Chinese, who they believe are exploiting their economy and natural resources. Some groups, including Tsagaan Khass (White Swastika), have rebranded themselves as environmental groups fighting pollution generated by foreign-owned mines.
About a year after the attack, Dayar Mongol issued a formal apology to the victims. Anaraa says he hasn’t heard a single report of violence carried out by the ultra-nationalists against the LGBT community since the public apology.
Late on a Saturday night, the music is subtle and the lights relatively bright. There’s more of a café than “party” ambiance. At 3:30 am, people are still streaming in and out. Men sit at the bar, poised to cruise. Groups—dressed almost exclusively in tight jeans and black shirts and black zip up jackets—huddle into wooden booths. A belligerent drunk man stumbles in and Zorig escorts him out.
Not long ago, Zorig says he spoke with the leader of umbrella ultra-nationalist group Khukh Mongol (Blue Mongolia), which includes Dayar Mongol, who told him the group no longer sees the LGBT community and proprietors like Zorig as their enemies. The leader’s friend, an older trans woman, came out to him last year. The leader and other members of Blue Mongolia even visited Hanzo a few times themselves.
The leader told Zorig, “If anyone comes into your place and threatens you, just call me.”
Lila Seidman is a freelance reporter based in Los Angeles. Top image: Lila Seidman, Jim Cooke.
The median size of a new American house is 11% larger than it was a decade ago, and 61% larger than it was 40 years ago—because of all that junk we have in the garage!! Also decadence.
Friday morning. America’s online content manufacturers woke up, sucked down some iced coffee, trudged into our Manhattan offices, and sat down at our laptops. Not much going on, not much to write about. A long day ahead. Then, like the sun or a septuagenarian Vermonter breaking through the clouds, there appeared a wonderful story: Bernie Sanders might be parachuting into his rally in Cloverdale, California tonight.
So we wrote about it.
Never mind the obvious absurdity of this news. Never mind that Bernie Sanders is 74 years old. Never mind that the original report, in Northern California’s Press Democrat newspaper, did not include a confirmation or comment of any kind from the Sanders campaign. Never mind that every outlet that subsequently published the story seemed to know from the outset that there was no way the skydiving was ever going happen. Look at the fine line we bloggers and editors walked in the posts above, giving the story enough credulity to justify publishing it while distancing ourselves enough to avoid looking stupid when it is inevitably debunked.
Technically, no one printed anything inaccurate. The president of a local skydiving company told the Press Democrat that he’d been in touch with the Sanders campaign about the event, and that’s all anyone is explicitly alleging. Is Bernie Sanders going to skydive into his rally tonight? Maybe. Does the boogeyman exist? If you sliced open my stomach and uncoiled my small intestine, would it be long enough to stretch to Cloverdale and back to Manhattan, so that I might insert the ileum into my own mouth and feed on caffeinated gastric chyme, beginning the digestive process anew? We’re just asking questions.
This willful suspension of disbelief that we’ve accepted as an unfortunate part of doing business as online content manufacturers, is it the writers’ fault? The editors’? The reader
In any case, a few hours after the blog posts started appearing, Atlantic writer Clare Foran crashed our content party from above, parachuting in with some unpleasant news: She’d picked up the phone and talked to the Sanders campaign, and they’d told her that the skydiving story was bunk. The Senator, presumably, will be arriving at the podium on foot, as he usually does.
Now, thanks to Foran’s reporting, it’s just another gloomy Friday, without a viral story in sight. But hey, there’s at least one thing to be cheerful about: I hear Frank Ocean has a new album coming out soon.
If you’ve been even vaguely tuned in to the overactive Hillary Clinton conspiracy mill over the years, you’ve likely heard about the questions of Chelsea Clinton’s paternity. But for those who haven’t, here’s how this song goes: Bill Clinton is sterile, and Chelsea’s real father is Clinton confidant and federal tax evader Webb Hubbell.
Hillary’s connection to Hubbell goes all the way back to her days at Little Rock’s Rose Law Firm in the late ‘70s (it’s worth noting that Chelsea Clinton was born in 1980). According to a New Yorker profile of Hillary from 1994:
Eventually, Hillary became good friends with two other lawyers at the Rose firm, Vincent Foster and Webster Hubbell. Professionally, the three lawyers were a tightly meshed team. Diane Blair, who has known Hillary since the mid-seventies and is now probably her closest friend, told me, “They were so great together—like basketball players, where they can pass and don’t even have to look.”
The article does go on to say that the bond “was said to be strongest” between Hillary and (the late) Vince Foster. But maybe that’s just what Hillary wanted The New Yorker to think. What’s more, when Bill Clinton ascended to the presidency in 1993, he appointed Webb to U.S. Associate Attorney General. Hubbell later resigned in 1994 before pleading guilty to federal mail fraud and tax evasion.
And according to the reasonably named website GovtSlaves.info, Bill and Hillary had an “open marriage” agreement since the very beginning. GovtSlaves then goes on to note that, though Hillary and Bill might not have been making the beast with two backs themselves, she was getting it on with “Webb Hubbell, Vince Foster, and a string of lesbian lovers.”
Then in 2014, The New Yorker made mention of Hillary and Webb (and Foster) again, albeit in a more tangential way, writing that “the media will continue to find outlandish things to say about her. Headlines on Robert Morrow’s blog have proposed that ‘CHELSEA CLINTON IS THE BIOLOGICAL DAUGHTER OF WEBB HUBBELL AND NOT BILL CLINTON,’ that ‘HILLARY WAS HAVING SEX WITH BOTH WEBB HUBBELL & VINCE FOSTER, HER PARTNERS AT ROSE LAW FIRM.’”
In fact, current Travis County Republican chair and longtime raving lunatic
Chelsea sidestepped the question with nary a flinch. She’s clearly her mother’s daughter.
Adding to the rumor’s flames, the National Enquirer reported that former Clinton insider and current Clinton antagonist Larry Nichols claimed to have heard the deep, dark secret from Bill himself in 1984, when the then-Governor Clinton “dropped the paternity bombshell during a conversation the two were having at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion.”
Supposedly, Bill had mentioned to Nichols that he was sterile. When Nichols then asked about Chelsea, Bill allegedly replied, “Oh, Webb (Hubbell) sired her.” Which is a very believable and casual way to explain the situation.
Morrow even co-authored a book about the Webb baby-daddy rumor (amongst others) with noted racist and dirty GOP trickster Roger Stone, who’s also proven to be a fan of the rumor. Speaking to who else but the Enquirer, Stone said:
It’s important to know who Chelsea’s real father is because it proves the Clinton marriage is a dysfunctional sham.
[...] When a reporter reached Hubbell in his Arkansas office and asked if he was Chelsea’s father, Hubbell said, “No comment” and hung up. Why won’t either one of them answer the question?
According to Stone, Chelsea even underwent plastic surgery “not to look better but to conceal Hubbell is her REAL dad!” When those rumors first started making rumblings around the time of Chelsea’s wedding, the amateur conspiracy theorists of YouTube were happy to follow with a parade of Paint-laced, poorly made slideshows.
Naturally, scared and angry radio man Alex Jones decided to get in on the fun.
But what about the cold, hard facts? Unfortunately, there are none—other than what we can see with our very own eyes. So to help solve the mystery, I’ve combined the faces of Hillary and Bill and the faces of Hillary and Webb, respectively, using the website Morph Thing, and paired the result with a recent photo of Chelsea.
First up, Bill and Hillary.
Now, Hillary and Webb.
The only conclusive finding: That lipstick does wonders for Bill’s complexion.
Here’s what happened: last night, Vox writer Emmett Rensin tweeted, “Advice: if Trump comes to your town, start a riot.” Today, Vox suspended him. This is the funniest fucking media uproar in at least a week or two.
Rensin’s tweet last night started its own little backlash, with people (generally conservatives) exclaiming in a faux-shocked-but-actually-gleeful manner: hey, this member of the media is calling for riots, which are bad! Which led to Vox, if you can believe it, putting out a statement on this whole thing. A statement. Let us enumerate the primary absurdities here:
The proper response to one of your employees saying something dumb on Twitter is not to suspend them, it is to laugh at them, until they’re like, “okay, I fucking get it man, shut up. Seriously.” Publishers should be glad that writers are putting all their dumbest ideas on Twitter, where they can be read and ignored in a moment, rather than turning them into lengthy think pieces which take much longer to read and ignore. There is virtually no chance that anyone who who has followed this little saga closely enough to understand what we’re talking about will ever start a riot. Have you ever seen any riots started by media Twitter? How about riots started by Vox stories? Slate riots? Gawker riots? No. Everyone who cares about this at all is soft as hell, including us. The fact that we all get to spend several hours talking about this just makes me thankful that I don’t have to have a real job, where I would have to do work. Moving stuff, or whatever people who don’t spend their days composing responses to other people’s tweets do.
Everyone stop spending so much time on Twitter. There’s bad shit happening in the real world. Riots, etc.