Not a day goes by that I don’t remember the incidents in my past. I have some of the same issues with my own boss, today, in a very small office where the general manager is the only Human Resources representative and part of the problem. It’s been hard continuing to work there, knowing that I don’t have another job lined up to go to. Until I find a different place to work, I’m stuck.
So here I am, a one-woman editorial team without benefit of a secretary. And this is weighing down on me, so I need to make sense of it and get it off my chest.
Let’s preface this: I am a survivor of multiple actual, unreported assaults. They remained unreported because I couldn’t afford to lose the job and frankly I’m not even sure of the whereabouts of the guys who were responsible. Yes, more than one. Yes, #MeToo.
In the late 1990s, women didn’t have much recourse, even with companies run BY women. Especially when the company in question was small fry in the grand scheme of things. You can make up reasons why these things go unreported, suck it up and pretend it didn’t happen, go on with your life, or leave. Those were the options.
So please take this in the spirit in which it’s intended: I’ve been there in the past and I’m there right now. I’m sensitive to the issues raised by others in the #MeToo movement. In fact, I’m hypersensitive.
We shouldn’t have to put it into movie form to show what harassment looks like, but we do because some people just don’t get it. I think that’s nuts.
It’s out there now.
10 years ago, though? Not so much.
You don’t need my personal details to trust me when I say that I don’t think this is about Hillary Clinton as much as it is about deflection and whataboutism.
What is? Read on.
The arguments started Saturday night.
All types and sizes, revolving around reaction to the following article in the New York Times, published on January 26, 2018, that outlines Hillary Clinton’s failure to address workplace harassment as we think it ought to have been addressed way back when she was a candidate against Barack Obama in 2008.
Rather than continuing to write mystical, confusing Facebook-sized sound-bite answers to the questions in the comments associated with the FB post that inspired this article–a medium where inflection and nuance are virtually absent and comments frequently crosspost, making for a truly disjointed read–this is my attempt at a coherent explanation of what’s annoying me so much about the inevitable whataboutism in the article and in the subsequent conversation over it.
Even if it isn’t coming from the original poster, the attendant extended deconstruction of Clinton’s actions ten years ago make sense only when filtering through 2018’s #MeToo and #TimesUp hindsight. The conversation is still going on, but I need to finish this article, so here I am.
In the NY Times article, and in articles about the NY Times article, Hillary Clinton is perceived as having failed to hold Burns Strider fully accountable for his actions toward a campaign staffer. Except: That’s not how these things were handled in 2008. And that’s not my read of the original article, but then I see different things when I read between the lines.
Strider, who served as Clinton’s “Senior Adviser for Faith Based Operations” during her 2008 campaign, intended to improve relations with members of the various faith communities (read: Evangelical Christians, NASCAR fans and…um…others) who couldn’t imagine Clinton as representative of their needs because she kept her faith largely to herself.
There’s a side conversation about what a faith adviser actually does, with some simply mystified over what purpose such an adviser would serve. It’s worth noting that she wasn’t alone in 2008: Barack Obama had faith advisers as well. [See: Separation of Church and State.]
But I digress.
I could paraphrase each of the articles various conversation participants put forth to explain their POV on the subject, or just link to the articles here:
- NY Times: Once Again: How Hillary Holds Up
- BuzzFeed News: Hillary Clinton Let Him Stay. Women Say His Harassment Continued.
- Esquire: The Two Layers of the Hillary Clinton Story
- The Atlantic: Hillary Clinton, Burns Strider, and the Fault Lines of #MeToo
- Salon.com: Steve Wynn, casino mogul and RNC finance chairman, accused of widespread sexual harassment
I’m sorry. What? One of these things is not like the others?
Did you notice the date, too? I did. January 26, 2018. We’ll come back to the last article shortly.
Point the First: Clinton will never run for office again.
The company where I work my regular day job is a lot like Correct the Record (CTR), the Super PAC that hired Burns Strider in 2016, at least in size and scope, if not in the day to day operations or corporate mission.
I discovered Strider’s path to CTR. The details are available from the Wikipedia article and you can read the same footnotes I did. CTR’s purpose was “to find and confront social media users who post unflattering messages about Clinton.”
In 2016 Strider was NOT her campaign staffer. He worked for a Correct the Record and was fired subsequently in 2016 BY THE SUPER PAC.
It is inaccurate to suggest that Clinton was directly responsible for Strider’s continued association with her campaign. Do candidates have direct responsibility for Super PACs? No. By definition they can’t.
In 2016 Strider was NOT her employee to hire or fire.
Furthermore, Clinton wasn’t the abuser here. Enabler? Maybe, but only until the victim reported the problem. Once word got out, Strider was punished for his behavior: Demoted, pay reduced, restricted from contacting the campaign staffer, and told to get counseling (which he claims to have done), even though it didn’t help when he got to CTR.
The Times article outlines that punishment, and the steps the campaign took to protect his accuser from further unwanted advances.
Here’s an example from 2008 of the rules regarding sexual harassment at the VA, a government agency. Notice that the punishment isn’t specific. “Appropriate” is subject to interpretation.
Was that the way things should have been? No. Was it what people did in 2008? Yes.
Should Clinton have taken a different path? Maybe. It seems to me that Clinton applied internally consistent rules for dealing with Strider, based on her own personal life. So, riddle me this: Are those who are reporting this incident now using the filters of today’s views of workplace harassment?
The thing is, and this goes back to comments I’ve made repeatedly throughout Clinton’s campaign in 2016 and also regarding her campaign in 2008 (back when I voted for Barack Obama in both the Primary and General): The GOP has been working for four decades to make Clinton the perfect Orwellian “Hate” target. They can’t let go, over a year after the campaign ended with Trump’s election. And why should they, when she proves to be the perfect distraction, for the GOP and Democrats alike?
After all this junk blew up, Clinton addressed the issue on Twitter. What else should she do, after that? Resign? From what?
Point the Second: Applying today’s filters to yesterday’s news seems disingenuous at best.
Okay, this happened.
And we know about it, as of January 26, 2018.
Would it have changed my vote? No.
In 1972, early in his career, Bernie Sanders wrote an essay about rape. He had to walk a lot of what he wrote when it surfaced, because it made him look bad as a candidate. I still voted for him in the 2016 Primary.
Sanders lost the primary and Clinton won. She had my vote because I believed then and believe now that people can learn and change. This harassment issue would have made no difference to me for all the reasons I stated above.
In the comments on the FB post, there was at least one engagement of what I consider to be false equivalency, or maybe false analogy, and more than one red herring regarding the statute of limitations.
Why false equivalency? Because Clinton was never the perpetrator. Responsible at some level, maybe? Sure. But in context of history? Moralistic falacy at best.
Certainly, accused perpetrators such as Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Harvey Weinstein, or Larry Nasser have received attention and punishment for their behavior because our views are evolving and we’re finally believing the victims. Nasser just went to jail for the rest of his life because the judge accepted and recognized the depths of his abuse. The other men have lost their jobs and their positions.
Strider could have changed his ways sufficiently over time, but he didn’t, and that’s clearly why CTR fired him.
Point the Third: Why is this stuff surfacing now?
Most of the time these stories are designed to smear a candidate, not to punish the bad guy, and that’s what feels out of place here. The stories aren’t about what Strider did, they’re about what Clinton DIDN’T do.
This article from Salon could not be better timed, even if it’s a couple of months old:
The money quote:
“Instead of being truth-tellers who balance power by informing the public so the latter can make good decisions, the corporate media empowered Donald Trump and the Republican Party through a slavish devotion to “fairness” and “balance” and a “both sides do it” narrative.”
This isn’t so much a #MeToo story as it is a “HerToo” story, and that’s what’s setting my teeth on edge.
Why are we rehashing Hillary Clinton’s behavior? She’s not running for President. That ship has sailed.
The GOP are just keeping oars in while waiting for the next target. To what end? For what purpose? To show it happens in DC? To anyone? If you’re a woman? And now we come back to Steve Wynn.
This story on Steve Wynn broke at the Wall Street Journal on the same day. Here’s the Post, because I’ll be damned if I’ll pay the Wall Street Journal anything to get beyond their paywall.
From the article:
“Stephen Wynn’s perch at the top of the casino industry was badly shaken on Friday following the disclosure of allegations that he engaged in a long pattern of sexual misconduct with employees of his casinos.
A detailed investigative report in The Wall Street Journal portrayed Mr. Wynn, a billionaire casino magnate and prominent political donor, as a man who frequently demanded naked massages from female employees, sometimes pressuring them for sex and to masturbate him. The newspaper said that the activity had gone on for decades and that some female employees had complained to supervisors about Mr. Wynn’s behavior.
Some of the women told The Journal that they had tried to avoid having to give Mr. Wynn massages by hiding in bathrooms, or entering fake appointments in record logs to make it look as if some of their colleagues were busy. The newspaper relied on court records and interviews with dozens of people who worked at his casinos.”
Maybe this isn’t the whataboutism I’m looking for. I just wish that in the grand scheme of things we could have the discussion without the inevitable comparison.
Hillary Clinton had this problem with this guy in 2008 and we’re just hearing about it now. That we have to make movies to show people what harassment looks likes, because people (mostly men) are too clueless to get it without visual aides makes me sad and angry in ways I can’t begin to catalog.
Yeah, it’s important to know that it happened, I suppose, but in context of Nasser and Wynn and Trump, it seems like petty political BS.
Which, right there, should say something about the world we’re living in right now. Blow up Hillary Clinton, promote the Hate yet again, and move Wynn quietly out of the spotlight so that the blood doesn’t get on anyone else during the midterm elections.
Yes, friends, we have SMOKESCREEN. THAT’s why we’re hearing about this NOW.
Meanwhile, I’m over here, reconsidering my Times subscription. Not just because of this. It’s just the latest in a series, really. Kinda over it myself.
I have seen plenty of other instances in the last six months, since I sucked it up and paid for a subscription to the NY Times, where the Times’ editorial staff have given spin to stories that sidestep or sugarcoat the message.
The Times wasn’t always this wishy washy about their work, but The Guardian, The Atlantic, The Washington Post (god help me), and New Yorker Magazine are all doing a better job in my book on staying focused on what’s happening and my subscription dollars are limited enough that it matters to me.
A day after the NY Times published the Clinton article, I posted an editorial about Stephen Miller on Twitter that made my blood boil because it fails to answer key questions surrounding his access to the White House and immigration policy, and utterly fails to mention white supremacy. But it’s not the worst.
The worst: The one about the Nazi sympathizer (read: Nazi). I could try to find others, but I risk derailing my point and this isn’t the rabbit hole you’re looking for.
The election is over. We start primaries for 2018 in a couple of weeks, assuming the government doesn’t shut down again on February 8th over DACA. We have bigger fish to fry.
ETA on 1/31/2018:
Hillary Clinton just published a very long, quite thorough explanation on Facebook which outlines her actions and motives regarding the case in 2008. She verifies all the assumptions I made above.
If you have questions, I suggest you direct them to her.