Posted on February 6th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
I find this argument—such a simple idea, really, it’s barely an argument—such a no-brainer. How does the NFL not feel the same?
I find this argument—such a simple idea, really, it’s barely an argument—such a no-brainer. How does the NFL not feel the same?
Hilarious commentary from two Aussies as their boat is lovingly approached by a great white shark that’s longer than it is.
In the Wall Street Journal, Harvard prof John Stauffer writes a review of the new book by Yale historian David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation.
Now, almost 50 years after the first volume appeared, Mr. Davis concludes his trilogy with “The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation.” A brilliant capstone, the book extends Mr. Davis’s story still further—to encompass the growing anti-slavery agitation in 19th-century America and the efforts of free blacks to urge forward the cause of abolition and equality even as the forces of reaction sought to protect the status quo. Like its predecessors, “The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation” is deeply researched and possesses great narrative power.
It’s a thoughtful and well-written review, as one would expect from John….and there’s a human interest angle for me here: Davis was my academic advisor at Yale College, and Stauffer’s dissertation advisor in graduate school.
In addition to being a brilliant historian, Davis, now 86, is an incredibly kind and decent person. He came to my aid when I was a college senior and had an argument with the professor who graded my senior thesis; when I went to visit the man (by appointment) to ask about some oddly personal comments he had made on the document, he became irate and threw me out of his office. (Trust me, it was bizarre.) I’d never had an interaction like that before, and was pretty freaked out; I spoke with Professor Davis about it, and he was terrific—calm and reassuring; the matter ultimately went to the Dean of Yale College, and my senior essay wound up getting another read by a different professor. It will never be my favorite Yale memory, but the way he handled it—listening, taking it seriously—kept a difficult situation from becoming an awful one.
More important, I took Professor Davis’ course on intellectual history for two semesters. He was not a flashy lecturer, nor particularly charismatic. But he was so damn smart, he didn’t need to be; he gave the kind of lecture where you wanted to write everything down, because it all seemed so revelatory and new. Professor Davis was quietly brilliant, and although I was confident I would never get there myself, I thought that was a wonderful way to be.
It makes my day to see that he is still writing, still thinking, still trying to help us better understand the world and some painful parts of its history.
A few random thoughts:
1) Apparently I’m not the only person who was troubled by the Nick Kristof column and its wholehearted, fact-free endorsement of Dylan Farrow. The Times’ Public Editor also questions the column, writing,
I urge those who who have not yet done so to read Mr. Weide’s illuminating article. It provides essential context.
That, of course, is the article I linked to a couple days ago.
2) I am fascinated by how many people simply assume that, because Dylan Farrow is “speaking out,” she is telling the truth. The culture of victimhood in this country is powerful. Like this piece in The Nation, which I’ve seen reposted on Facebook several times. Its author doesn’t for a second consider the possibility that what Dylan Farrow is saying isn’t true:
We know one in five girl children are sexually assaulted. Yet when victims speak out, we ask them why they waited so long to talk. We question why don’t they remember the details better. We suspect that they misunderstood what happened.
We know that abusers are manipulative, often charismatic, and that they hide their crimes well…..
Oh, for God’s sake. Why don’t we just burn Allen at the stake?
3) I have no idea if the fact that, at 56, Woody Allen fell in love with a 19-year-old makes him more likely to molest a seven-year-old. I don’t know if that’s the way things work, clinically speaking. My guess would be that there’s a meaningful difference, but I’m not expert.
But apparently lots of other people do know: Any older man who falls in love with a college girl is likely to rape a 7-year-old.
4) If this were a court case, Woody Allen would make a terrible defendant. He engaged in some behavior, with Soon-Yi, that many, maybe most, people find abhorrent. But perhaps more important: He is Jewish, intellectual, physically weak, unconventional, non-conformist, a lover of jazz, neurotic… He fits so many stereotypes of the Other, to use a phrase I don’t really like but does fit here, and conforms to so many prejudices. Why not just add child molester to the list?
Which is exactly why it’s so important to try to look at this matter dispassionately: To try to keep the lynch mob from storming the gates.
5) Woody Allen is to child molestation what Yale quarterback Patrick Witt was to date rape: The preconceived image of the type of person who would do such a thing. Again: all the more reason why we need not to rush to judgment.
I have my opinion on whether Woody Allen ever raped Dylan Farrow. I’m skeptical of the language she now uses to describe the alleged incident: He took me into a crawl space…he turned me on her stomach…he told me to look at the train…and then he raped me…he told me to tell no one, that he would take me to Paris and put me in his movie. (Does anyone know if Allen ever made a movie in Paris other than, much later, Midnight in Paris?)
It all feels very McMartin pre-school to me; all that’s missing is a tunnel underneath the house.
That said, I’m not one hundred percent certain. You can’t be, unless you were there—and if it never happened, there’s not even a “there” to have been present for.
But it troubles me how many people are.
The New York Times today runs one of its strangest columns since Bill Keller and his wife tag-teamed a woman dying of cancer.
In this one, Nick Kristof, defender of the downtrodden, takes up the cause of Dylan Farrow, Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter, who alleges that she was raped by Woody Allen when she was seven years old. The allegation is a serious step-up from what Dylan said 20 years ago, when Mia Farrow first aired these allegations; at the time—the same year, not coincidentally, that Allen broke up with her to start dating her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi—she accused Allen of “inappropriate touching.” Dylan Farrow expands on the allegation in a letter that Kristof posts on his blog.
The column is a twofer for St. Nick; he can not only pound the drum of his favored cause, but he can let the world know that he is friends with Mia Farrow and her newly chic son, Ronan. (If he is friends with any other of Farrow’s numerous adopted children, they apparently are not famous enough to mention. Or, possibly, he only knows the famous members of Farrow’s family.)
The column is also, in my opinion, deeply unfair and not very smart, as Kristof argues that Allen should not be given any awards simply because the accusation has been made.
Look, none of us can be certain what happened. The standard to send someone to prison is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but shouldn’t the standard to honor someone be that they are unimpeachably, well, honorable?
Kristof goes on:
I asked her why she’s speaking out now.…
A sentence that one could seamlessly cut and paste into every Kristof column of the past decade or so.
Kristof then repeats the same point he made just a few sentences before:
These are extremely tough issues, and certainty isn’t available. But hundreds of thousands of boys and girls are abused each year, and they deserve support and sensitivity. When evidence is ambiguous, do we really need to leap to our feet and lionize an alleged molester?
No, certainty isn’t “available.” In how many criminal matters is it? And yes, the abuse of hundreds of thousands of boys and girls each year is a tragedy. But it’s also irrelevant to this matter; if a person is innocent, he shouldn’t be punished to be “sensitive” to the victims of a crime he didn’t commit. And the presence of “ambiguous evidence”—which is Kristof’s clever way of dodging the fact that there is actually no evidence, something I’ll get to in a minute—should not keep us from giving someone an award.
You see, there’s this little American mantra called “innocent until proven guilty.” And not only has Woody Allen never been proved guilty of molesting his daughter, there’s plenty of reason to doubt these allegations—more reason, in my opinion, than there is to believe them. Unless one has a vested interest in believing them.
I’m far from an expert in the background of this case. (To be fair, Kristof isn’t, either.) But I recently read this article by someone who is—Robert Weide, a documentarian who made a film about Allen’s life—and found its skepticism about the Dylan Farrow allegations convincing.
I can’t really summarize the article here: It’s an in-depth look at the nature of the allegations, how they were constructed (a multi-day, edited video filmed by Mia), their context, the conclusions of a Yale-New Haven team of doctors that Dylan Farrow probably said that she was molested out of a desire to please her mother and then came to believe it, and so on.
But it doesn’t do justice—and I use that expression literally—to Weide’s article, or the situation, to try to sum things up in a paragraph or two. Because to understand why these allegations might be bogus requires space, and nuance, and an understanding of the “family” dynamic—they weren’t really a family at this point—and, quite frankly, Mia Farrow’s potential motives for hating her ex enough to charge him with something so horrible.
As Weide himself says of Ronan Farrow’s bizarre tweet on the night of the Golden Globes,
To remind readers that the woman is recalling memories from the age of seven, when a six-month investigation characterized her as being “emotionally disturbed,” and making statements that were likely “coached or influenced by her mother,” takes a little more than 140 characters.
Suffice it to say that Weide’s piece reads like a smart and fair analysis of what may have happened, and it is much smarter and fairer than Nick Kristof’s column.
And speaking of Kristof…
Yet the Golden Globes sided with Allen, in effect accusing Dylan either of lying or of not mattering. That’s the message that celebrities in film, music and sports too often send to abuse victims.
The lack of intelligence in Nick Kristof’s writing is often obscured by his apparently good intentions, and that is nowhere more the case than in these two sentences.
First of all, how often do celebrities in film, music and sports send the message to abuse victims that they are either lying or not mattering? “Too often?” I can’t think of a single example.
And no, this isn’t one. The Golden Globes didn’t “side” with Allen, in effect accusing Dylan either of lying or of not mattering. As someone who aspires to be a specialist in sexual abuse, Kristof surely knows that the makers of false claims of abuse sometimes genuinely believe what they are saying. (Weide knows this, and so did the doctors at Yale-New Haven.) He should also know that false allegations of sexual abuse, particularly made during a custody dispute or similar family fight—such as, say, your lover taking up with your adopted daughter—are estimated to range as high as 35 percent of all abuse allegations. The Golden Globe producers may well have thought that this was this was the situation here—which is neither “lying” nor “not mattering.”
Second, maybe the Golden Globes people considered the fact that, after a lengthy, high-profile investigation, Allen was not only not charged of a crime, he was as cleared of it as one can be without the accuser recanting her accusations. (It’s worth noting, though—not that Kristof does—that Dyan’s brother Moses, who supported his sister’s allegations in 1993, has since recanted his support, speaking of “brainwashing” by Farrow—it’s in the Weide piece.) And that it would be deeply unfair to penalize someone unfairly out of “sensitivity.”
There’s no question that Nicholas Kristof has brought much needed attention to the very serious problem of human trafficking. But his reliance on formula—girl, victim; villain, villainous; Kristof, savior, hero, Pulitzer Prize-winner—has become both universal and irresponsible. And I think that’s exactly what’s happened here.
Trent Reznor at the Grammys.
This guy is so damn good….
So…go ahead. Because otherwise you have to cry.
The California supreme court has ruled that the state bar association has the right to deny former journalist Stephen Glass admission.
This should bring to an end a long and slightly ridiculous journey that began almost twenty years ago, when Stephen, whom I knew at the time (though not as well as I thought I did), began writing and fabricating articles for various magazines, including the one I worked at, George.
Glass’ argument was that he had reformed and was now both repentant and honest; the court wasn’t buying it.
“Our review of the record indicates hypocrisy and evasiveness in Glass’ testimony at the California State Bar hearing,” the court’s opinion stated. “We find it particularly disturbing that at the hearing Glass persisted in claiming that he had made a good faith effort to work with the magazines that published his works. He went through many verbal twists and turns at the hearing to avoid acknowledging the obvious fact that in his New York bar application he exaggerated his level of assistance to the magazines that published his fabrications.”
I don’t take any joy in this decision, but I do think it’s the right one; I never felt that Glass fully came clean or fully addressed what he had done. And I thought that what he had done was damaging to journalism, but was really damaging to minority groups, mostly African-Americans, whom he caricatured and stereotyped in unflattering ways in his work.
I’ve spoken on this subject a couple of times, both to the media and for the legal inquiry, and so I’m quoted in the CNN article and the court’s ruling. (Which is, by the way, fascinating reading; although writers are not always very good lawyers, lawyers can sometimes be very good writers.)
Chuck Lane, Glass’ former editor at The New Republic, is also quoted.
Sad to me, though, is that none of the editors at the other magazines Glass worked for would talk about the matter. Harper’s, which published one of Glass’ most damaging frauds, about gullible black people who believe in phone psychics—seriously—has still never admitted that the article is a fake—even though Glass himself finally did so in this court case. The article is behind a paywall, but you can still find it at Harper’s.com.
It’s too easy to blame only Glass for the frauds that he committed; in my view, the folks who edited and published them, including me, owe their readers an honest evaluation of how and why they got taken in. I’ve tried to do that—in public. So has Chuck Lane. Others, not so much. Stephen Glass isn’t the only journalist at fault here.
I think my head would explode if I found myself pushed up against a Nobel Prize-winning economist at a rock club. But I suppose…why not?
Here’s a great catch from Jacob Weisberg at Davos.
In discussion with English Chancellor George Osborne, Larry Summers said, “You blew it on stimulating the UK recovery. Don’t embarrass yourself by arguing with me about it.”
Or, as the BBC put it, “There was some disagreement during the session with former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers….”
Now that he’s not up for Fed chair, is the contentious, impolitic, arrogant Larry Summers of old reemerging? Let’s hope so. He’s much more fun that way.
Update: Thanks to the commenters who pointed out that Weisberg subsequently tweeted that the tweet above was a “facetious” characterization of Summers’ words. I’m disappointed, but also a little irritated; there’s absolutely nothing in that tweet that suggests it’s not a quote. (For one thing, it’s in quotation marks.) In any event, I’m glad to correct the record.