February 16, 2011

Assorted Horrors of the Day

I haven't followed Nir Rosen's writing all that closely, but I've seen excerpts from his articles highlighted by writers I admire. I'm aware that he has done much very valuable work.

So this kind of horrifying self-revelation is awful, and saddening. (The most recent news reports indicate that Rosen has resigned his position as a Fellow at NYU, and his resignation has been accepted.)

I suppose one might think that a writer would be especially sensitive to the power of words to reveal truths that people would be advised to keep hidden. One might think that; one would, of course, be frequently wrong. In situations like this, concerning remarks on Twitter and often concerning similar kinds of self-reveals on blogs, we are likely to hear excuses such as: "That's the problem with writing in the heat of the moment." Or: "We all make off the cuff remarks that we later regret, sometimes very deeply." Etc. and so on.

As far as I'm concerned, that's all bullshit. If the thought isn't in your head, you're not going to put it down, regardless of the specific medium you employ. I want to comment on several aspects of Rosen's comments.

First, there is Rosen's own "explanation" for his remarks:
Rosen called Logan a “war monger” and expressed doubt that she was actually assaulted.

“Jesus Christ, at a moment when she is going to become a martyr and glorified we should at least remember her role as a major war monger” wrote Rosen.

“Look, she was probably groped like thousands of other women, which is still wrong, but if it was worse than [sic] I’m sorry.”

Rosen clarified his initial reference to former American commander in Afghanistan Stanley McChrystal, writing that the assault should serve as a reminder of Logan’s “role glorifying war and condemning Rolling Stone’s Hastings while defending McChrystal.”

Then came a quasi-apology by Rosen: “ah fuck it, I apologize for being insensitive, it’s always wrong, that’s obvious, but I’m rolling my eyes at all the attention she will get.”
What's also "obvious" is that Rosen's own comments have ensured that the attack on Logan will get still more attention than it otherwise would have. For example, as sickening as I find the attack on Logan, I wouldn't have blogged about it myself if that were the entirety of the story. It's Rosen's comments that caused me to write this post.

Rosen also displays a regrettably narrow and self-involved perspective when he says, "at a moment when she is going to become a martyr and glorified we should at least remember her role as a major war monger." Who's the "we" in that statement? Does Rosen seriously think that comments such as his -- in the wake of a horrifying attack in circumstances that had to have been profoundly terrifying -- are going to cause a significant number of people to appreciate Logan's role as a "major war monger" when they didn't before? Moreover, even if many people did suddenly understand (or remember) this point, would that make any measurable difference in terms of the general public debate? Of course it won't: a great many reporters share Logan's perspective.

And beyond all this, what does Logan's being a "major war monger" (a point which I grant for this discussion, although it strikes me as more than slightly melodramatic as applied to Logan in particular) have to do with the sexual assault she suffered? Why, absolutely nothing. I'm certain that Rosen's leftist political perspective would cause him to reject absolutely any suggestion that a rape victim was "asking for it" by her manner of dress or behavior. For the same reasons, I would hope that people would reject even the faintest suggestion that Logan was "asking" for retribution of this kind because of her "war mongering," or that she "deserved" it on the basis of some karmic moral equation. If you genuinely wish to stop the violence and horror that suffuses our world, there is only one way to do that: Stop it, absolutely and completely.

This returns us to Rosen's initial comments:
“Lara Logan had to outdo Anderson. Where was her buddy McCrystal.” From this tweet he went further, writing that he would have been amused if Anderson Cooper had also been sexually assaulted.

“Yes yes its wrong what happened to her. Of course. I don’t support that. But, it would have been funny if it happened to Anderson too,” wrote Rosen.
These comments alone caused Rosen, regardless of the value of the writing he has done, to dissolve into a pool of unutterably disgusting shit as far as I'm concerned. (This is not to say that his work itself does not continue to have value; see below on that. It's just that I don't care in any personal sense.)

"It would have been funny..." This is doubtless true for Rosen since, as we all know, it's riotously hilarious when faggots are sexually assaulted. Nothing like man-on-man rape to induce helpless laughter, especially when the man being raped isn't a "real" man.

The combination of the attack on Logan and a response like Rosen's cause me to feel for a while that I deeply loathe a whole lot of people. "It would have been funny..." Those who would defend Rosen can offer whatever excuses and justifications they wish; I reject all of it. As I noted, Rosen expressed in words the thoughts in his head. These are thoughts which are sickening to a degree I find impossible to describe accurately. I will add that I've known individuals, both women and men, who have been the victims of rape. In every case, the damage suffered is immense and, in crucial respects, irreparable. To put it very simply: they are never the same. And think about this: sex itself, which should be a source of incommunicable pleasure and joy, becomes forever associated with an experience of soul-destroying terror and unending psychological pain (even if recovery from the physical injuries is complete, which it sometimes isn't). This is not a subject for "jokes" in any circumstances, with regard to any human being. (I should stress that you don't need to be personally acquainted with a victim of rape to grasp these issues, although that experience makes the ongoing suffering more tragically vivid. Reading on the subject -- and, importantly, seriously thinking about it -- will bring these points into focus.)

Some people might be too quick to compare Rosen's reaction to the accusations against Julian Assange. I'll have more to say about the Assange situation in a separate entry. For the moment, I'll only note that the comparison is almost entirely invalid in my view. In Rosen's case, we have Rosen's own thoughts voluntarily expressed in public by Rosen himself. In Assange's case, we have a man who may have acted very badly, even reprehensibly, even criminally. But we also have a man who has been targeted for destruction by the most powerful terrorist State in the world (that would be the United States, if your attention momentarily wandered), a State which will use anything and everything to bring him down, and a State which will invent charges to be used to destroy him if no charges readily come to hand. That certainly doesn't mean that the charges against Assange have been invented or inflated, at least not necessarily -- but it does mean that a serious degree of caution is mandatory in analyzing the Assange situation, caution which is not required in at all the same manner in Rosen's case.

In one of the first articles I wrote about WikiLeaks last summer (well before the charges against Assange became a major story), I addressed the issue of separating the nature of Assange's work from any personal evaluation of the man himself. In principle, the same argument can be applied to Rosen:
And never forget the grave personal risk undertaken by Assange and those who work with him. As noted in the story above: "A US army intelligence analyst has been charged in connection with the video leak and Mr Assange has not visited the US since, fearing arrest." If you were to tell me that you could demonstrate that Assange is nothing more than an opportunistic seeker after glory, I would not believe you. I don't believe that mere opportunists run risks of this particular kind. And in another sense, I wouldn't care even if you could prove such a contention. Just as I will be demonstrating the importance of the leaks entirely apart from their specific content, Assange's repeated actions take on their own significance apart from his particular motivation. My evaluation of Assange's personal character might alter; my evaluation of the value and immense worth of his actions themselves would not.
The full article has more on this, and my WikiLeaks series has much more (all the installments are linked at the conclusion of Part VII).

I'll also refer you to a few other essays related to the Rosen incident. A hugely significant part of what is involved is the profound hatred of women so deeply embedded in our culture; see "Kill That Woman!" and "A Depraved, Violent and Indifferent Culture."

And on the aspect of Rosen's comments involving Anderson Cooper, see "We Are Not Freaks" in general, and this passage in particular:
When you strip away all the verbiage, all the intellectual tap dancing, and all the efforts to "understand" and be "tolerant," that is the inescapable, the terrible bottom line: many of you think we are Freaks. Speaking for myself with regard to these issues, I don't want you to "understand" me or to be "tolerant" of me. I don't want you to "study" me, and try to graph all the various points of similarity and difference between us: I want you to recognize that I am completely and entirely a human being, just as you are. And I want you to understand fully what that means, and to genuinely mean it.

It is one thing to be openly hated and despised, as gays and lesbians are by many on the right. We're used to that, and we got used to it a long time ago. As was required, we manufactured intellectual and emotional armor to protect ourselves. In the current climate, we have to put it on every single damned day. It weighs a great deal, and it exacts an awful price. But without it, we would suffer injuries too grievous to be borne.

But how much worse it is to be cajoled into taking off that armor -- to hear you tell us that you understand we're "just like you" in all the ways that matter, and that we're really "just the same" -- and then to read or hear about "how easy" you think it is to "make fun" of us, especially when our status as Freaks is too obvious. How much worse it is when we believe you, when you tell us you think we're all equal -- except that you can get married, while almost every leading Democrat will say, well, no, we can't get married. But we can have "civil unions." Because, you see, Freaks don't get married.

But we had believed you, so we took off the armor -- and then you plunged the sword deep into our guts. You revealed that many of you actually do think we're Freaks. Many of you don't believe we're really "just like you."
That was first published on February 17, 2007, almost exactly four years ago. I've learned one important lesson in the time that has passed, and this is true not only because I'm gay but because of the entirety of my views and my methods of analysis. With the exception of time spent with a very few treasured friends, I never take the armor off now.



This is undoubtedly not a good time to do this, but there simply isn't a good time. I'm getting very close to being entirely broke again; I'm down to my last few hundred dollars. In addition to thinking it would probably be advisable to keep eating for more than another week or so, I'll soon have to pay the March rent. If you have even a little extra change clinking in your pockets, I would be enormously grateful for a donation.

Regular readers will have realized that I'm in very terrible shape physically at the moment. It's been a long moment, lasting for a few months at this point. Since I have no access to ongoing medical care, there's not a damned thing I can do about it. I have to hope it will pass eventually, or at least be somewhat alleviated. There are ten to fifteen articles in particular that I've long wanted to complete and publish; I've worked on some of them in small spurts here and there for more than a year. I'll be trying to complete at least a fair number of them in the next month or so. These articles are on subjects I view as of critical importance, subjects that almost no one else seems interested in addressing. So I think I'd better try to get that work done before time runs out for me, whenever that will be.

As always, I'm deeply thankful for your consideration.