I Need Your Opinion About “Believe Women, Period.”

UPDATE at 3:20 EDT: Someone sent me the Complaint. Ugly. Positively Cosby-esque in scale and depressingly consistent. I can’t imagine why the 11 defendants won’t distribute it as it makes their case better than anything else I’ve seen, certainly better than the vague shite their advocates have released.

I won’t apologize for requiring facts before jumping on a bandwagon. I’ve seen groupthink, in the highly-insular cartooning community and elsewhere, too often and will never fall for it again if I can help it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the judge throws out this case on summary judgement.

———

So I blogged about a comics controversy the other day. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Am I off base by wanting to hear some evidence/facts? Or are we supposed to believe all woman accusers, period? I’m asking sincerely.

Please read the link above first, and this Comics Journal piece too.

Over on Twitter today, there was this:

@darrylayo: good morning, ted. You don’t remember me but I know you. This is goddam appalling. You don’t know what’s going on, and you have a lot to say. This is about a rapist using the courts to punish his victims and other people who have stood with them.

@darrylayo: you need to understand something: YOU CANNOT SUE PEOPLE FOR READING THE NEWS. This bastard sued people who read a report on his crimes and commented negatively about him after having read a public news story. That’s MADNESS.

@darrylayo: and furthermore: that bastard did the damn crimes. I have gritted my teeth through MANY of your loudmouthed antics but I will NOT SIT HERE and twiddle my thumbs as you cast doubt on my friends’ real pain.

[I don’t know what “antics” this person is referring to. I prefer “shenanigans.”]

@darrylayo: in short: take this post down and while you’re at it, think about why you think that a rapist deserves your benefit of the doubt.

I replied:

@tedrall: Is the plaintiff’s Complaint online so we can read it? What about the Google Doc? What evidence is there, that we can read, that the plaintiff did the things that were alleged? The GoFundMe stuff is way vague and makes little sense. People need facts before they take a side.

@tedrall: “that bastard did the damn crimes.” How do you know? I am asking sincerely.

Then this:

@darrylayo: BELIEVE WOMEN. END OF DISCUSSION. (multiple likes here — WTF?)

Then the pile-on begins:

@ashuping: welp. now i know to recommend ted’s books to people anymore. had trouble anyway cause there was criticism of the facts in them, but i refuse to recommend assholes.
[I have no idea what “criticism of the facts” means.]

@mewnette: the art is pretty ugly also.[would my art be better if I went along with these folks?]

Seriously, I need guidance here. How do I respond thoughtfully to what seems like online bullying/a social-media mob? Am I being oversensitive/overcritical?

I have zero idea what happened with Cody Pickrodt (see my blog post). I don’t know him or anyone involved. I have no horse in this race. But did I mishandle this/think wrong/whatever?

This entry was posted in Blog on by .

About Ted Rall

Ted Rall is the political cartoonist at ANewDomain.net, editor-in-chief of SkewedNews.net, a graphic novelist and author of many books of art and prose, and an occasional war correspondent. He is the author of the biography "Trump," to be published in July 2016.

31 thoughts on “I Need Your Opinion About “Believe Women, Period.”

  1. As a female I can identify with the pent-up rage many women are ready to express against rape culture. But I don’t like the kangaroo court of public opinion which rises up, especially in the age of social media.
    I don’t find most social media the best forum to have measured and respectful debate.

      • Thanks. I still hesitate to reveal my gender on online forums due to possible attacks. Yet I try to make reasoned arguments, and sometimes even agree with the other side, I’m trying to find common ground. When I saw Chris Hedges speak recently he said we all need to keep communication open or else fascism will be inevitable.

      • @No – I understand completely, women are underrepresented on this forum.

        One was chased off by a true, died-in-the-wool misogynist; while another got sick & tired of reading the Anti-American Non-teacher’s comments. (Meip and lburen, respectively – although we do hear form lburen occasionally.

        The only time the gender of a poster is relevant is when the topic is gender-related, and then it’s only relevant to point which the poster’s views are influenced by that gender.

  2. It is a helluva sticky wicket. But you’re absolutely not in the wrong to ask for facts – our entire system of justice is based on the presumption of innocence. (Theoretically, at least)

    But neither does this happen in a vacuum. We’ve got a long history of ignoring the victim, blaming the victim, and disbelieving the victim. (and a short history of women claiming rape when no such thing occurred.) EITHER way is difficult to prove.

    Big picture: the pendulum is starting to swing the other way, and that’s a good thing. But unfortunately we might make some mistakes in our zeal. (Al Franken comes to mind.)

    As such, it’s even more important for us to ask for facts before we string ’em up. Ergo – you’re doing a good thing by asking, even though some zealots might object.

    • All good CH but for (in my opinion):

      “the pendulum is starting to swing the other way”

      No, It’s a tug of war. The pendulum metaphor implies that change will come by waiting for a swing in the other direction.

      The one who waits for this swing will be pulled into and mired in the mud.

      • @glenn

        Metaphor? No, I dun’ think we ever met afore. 😉

        ‘k “tug-o-war.” However you want to frame it, this part of our culture is changing for the better. Hopefully for the long run.

  3. “Seriously, I need guidance here. How do I respond thoughtfully to what seems like online bullying/a social-media mob? Am I being oversensitive/overcritical?”

    Your first problem is having online discussions.
    Secondly you handle it the way people handle me here, they tend to ignore my point/post. Or they are so dense they can’t tie idea a to idea b.
    Either way who the fuck cares?

    • Dude find the Crackanory episode about the social media gaffe and how it turned into a nightmare.
      Social media is mob mentality at it’s worst.
      Imagine Steinbeck’s description of crowd violence in the modern world were millions of assholes get involved because they are bored and feel every worthless word which leaves the uneducated mouth is important.
      They are the Walking Dead.

      For a bit of fun, watch Yakuza apocalypse. You kind of need to need to understand Yakuza society. But easily interposed with modern social media.

  4. “Am I off base by wanting to hear some evidence/facts? Or are we supposed to believe all woman accusers, period? I’m asking sincerely.”

    All people lie all the time.
    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-45565684
    “According to various academic studies over the past 20 years, only 2-10% of rape accusations are fake (Prof Ford’s lawyer says she believes this was attempted rape).

    Two to 10% is too many, but it is not a big proportion of the total. Fake rape accusations get a lot of attention. ”

    Remember that percentage is limited to the cases that DID NOT slip through the system.
    Unlike death row inmates few of the he said she claimed cases will EVER be overturned.
    On top of that few men report being raped. Either by women or other men.
    How does that skew the fake rape stats for women?

    https://www.gladstoneobserver.com.au/news/uk-investigation-reveals-200-women-prosecuted-for-/3460209/

    At least 200 women have been prosecuted for fake rape cases in that time, according to a BuzzFeed News analysis of press reports.

    Most of the women were sent to prison, with dozens of them facing sentences of more than two years.

    They said they found prosecutors went after women who were teenagers, reportedly had mental health issues, had experienced past physical and sexual assault, or were grappling with drug and alcohol addiction.

    Last month a student revealed he is suing a woman for $6 million, claiming her false rape accusation at a frat party has destroyed his life.

    Catherine Reddington, 22, took to social media posting her brutal tale of assault which Alex Goldman, also 22, says has “destroyed” his life.

    The woman from Long Island in New York State claims that Mr Goldman raped her in a bedroom of Syracuse University’s Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity following a party in April 2017.

    In the UK last year a serial rape accuser who claimed she had been sexually assaulted by 15 men in three years was jailed after her sick lies were finally exposed.

    A judge slammed Jemma Beale as a “convincing liar” and “manipulative” while sentencing her to 10 years behind bars.

    In Australia, a Sydney man who battled for two years to clear his name of rape and assault allegations last year vowed to sue police for acting like “robots” and ignoring crucial evidence.

    The man, who is in his 40s, was accused by his estranged wife of sexual intercourse without consent and assault occasioning actual bodily harm but was acquitted of the charges by a District Court jury.

    The trial judge slammed the way the case was handled and said such serious charges should never have been brought against the man, who spent $200,000 in legal fees defending the charges.

    He also spent more than a month behind bars until he was granted bail

  5. Yeah, not your finest hour of brand-management. Emotion got ya. You’ve got your hammer of a case in your hand, and you’re looking for nails. Breathe, dude.

      • ” formerly left-wing colleagues into full-on Democrat mode. ”

        That makes you what, an Anarchist?
        You are not a Socialist.
        Libertarians are Republican Anarchists. Rand called them ” Hippies of the right”.
        Honestly, no political terminology makes sense these days. To identify oneself as one thing is to deny the greater entirety of the whole person.
        People also do not have any ethical consistency anymore. Pacifists were actually pacifists. Now they don’t exist.

      • Middle class.
        You aren’t radical. Your views tend to be mainstream, just observations which are obvious to you but others miss.

        Politically you are pretty dull.Not really advocating any action nor all or nothing stance.
        No Abby Hoffman.
        You write about your court case so you are self interested.But you don’t write about how your case would impact others, so not enlightened self interested. Remember the judge actually makes law which gets cited in other cases.
        Saw you on Maher years ago. Thought you had your shit together more than Maher or the majority of his guests. Matter of fact I think you claimed Americans didn’t really like radical political change. They liked small minor changes. Which is hillarious in the face of Trump.
        Then again that was years ago and we all play it safer when we age.
        Politically you are pretty much a centrist, a bit left of but not all that much.
        You are not a Pyrrhic victory type of guy.
        You are not a burn it because I love it too much type, few are.
        I doubt you would advocate for Federal legalization of all drugs, gambling and prostitution. But you would for single payer health care, possibly overlooking investigating the ongoing medical establishment.
        You would never pick up a brick and throw it through an Apple store window just because they are fucking Apple.

      • What an interesting question. Who is Ted Rall? Is he joy, youth, the little bird from the egg? A lot of years ago, Harlan Ellison wrote an introduction to “An Edge in My Voice” (if you don’t have it Ted, put it on your wishlist and I — out of work though I may be — will buy it for you):

        “I am an enemy of the people. The people who stand by and do nothing. The ones who don’t want to get involved, and the ones who don’t want to risk a dime of their money; the ones who permit evil to walk unchecked, and the ones who abet the monsters because “If I didn’t do it, someone else would”; the ones who beat up their kids because they’re part of the household goods, and the ones whose rapaciousness gives them coin to bully the weak. I am foursquare and forever till the moment I go under … an enemy to the people who lie to you and want to keep you stupid. To those who sell you shitty rock music and drive classical and jazz off the FM dial, to those who tell you wallboard is better than lath and plaster, to those who say bad grammar is okay as long as you understand (however vaguely) what’s being said. To the ginks and the creeps and the trendies and the destroyers of the past, who deny you your future.

        I am a yapping dog with mean little teeth. I am as often as wrong as you, as often silly as you, as often co-opted as you, as often sophomoric as you. But I maintain. As do you.”

        That’s who you are, Ted. P.J. O’Rourke, also many years ago, mentioned in an essay about a town hall meeting that there was this one guy who knew “Robert’s Rules of Order” backwards and forwards and, according to how I recollect O’Rourke’s piece, the most annoying thing about the guy was that he was always right.

        That’s you too, Ted (except for the fetishization you have for polygraphs being sound or scientific; on that you’re just plain wrong).

        That’s who Ted Rall is.

      • Only in a perfect world would Ted’s politics be considered middle-class centrist, just as Bernie would be a conservative Democrat. In this world, I sure don’t see any liberals putting out “The Anti-American Manifesto” or criticizing Obama on anything.

        “You would never pick up a brick and throw it through an Apple store window just because they are fucking Apple.”

        And you would? Hilarious. How would you find the time with all those episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” to watch.

  6. response to Ted’s question 2/2: looking forward

    Below I tried to lay out why you are inviting attack by admonishing others a bit too readily (which is a style I normally appreciate when it comes to “punching upward”). Had you just made your own case (for sitting on the fence) you would still get attacked for still sitting on the fence – to that you could have simply responded by asking whether people know something you don’t (turns out some of them did looking at your update above).

    As it is, it sounds like you get attacked for siding with the boss/bully (wrongly, of course, but it takes nuance, and twitter is not conducive to nuance). A line of possible responses hopefully short enough for the twitterverse:

    1) correcting the record while taking responsibility for tactical mistakes and for inviting opposition

    You could say that you now learned how much you are going against the zeitgeist by putting your need for universal justice (innocent until proven guilty) first, and your solidarity with fellow working cartoonists second. You could apologize for doing so a tad too aggressively, and thereby bringing more heat than illumination to the issue.

    I do think you need to make clear that you obviously stand in solidarity with your own tribe, even that you thought this was a given e.g. seeing that you have a history of service supporting early career political cartoonists (this is tricky without sounding defensive, I know, like “I have many black friends” ;-).

    Clearly you are also standing in solidarity with victims of abuse of power – especially sexual abuse – and have spent your career trying to shine a light on such abuses (and are currently engaged in your own legal battle because of pushback from the powerful).

    I think if you don’t make this clear then they won’t listen to you.

    2) only then introducing universal justice concerns

    This is easy now since you are now in possession of “secret” information. So you can do this in the past tense. “I was apprehensive that there wasn’t enough evidence or even systematically collected allegations going forward which I had assumed should be there at this stage”… Clearly we do need to make a clear case against the bully – who you feel strongly about being innocent until proven guilty – otherwise this will burn our credibility for the next round. Fortunately you have seen there indeed is such material and are hoping it will be released soon so you can write an updated column to clear the matter once and for all.

    3) only then introducing defamation concerns

    You could make it clear you do understand that for many people merely hearing of an alleged abuser hitting his accusers with a $2 million court challenge is itself the hallmark of a bully – and thus in itself counts as evidence that the alleged abuser is indeed a bully, case closed.

    However, you yourself are currently engaged in a battle over defamation – here by your abusive boss against you, adding insult to injury – and such have a special perspective on that, recognizing that sometimes defamation lawsuits can be the only way for a wrongfully accused person to get a semblance of justice.

    4) only then introducing notions of rationality and denounce knee-jerk siding against the bosses

    Go on, make the case for critical thinking and universal values in the age of Trump ;-). Seriously, after writing a column decrying widespread knee-jerkery were you honestly surprised by negative knee-jerk responses to it 😉

    While you’re at it, why not decry the knee-jerk support of critical thinking (at best, at worst knee-jerk backlash against feminism) evidence by some of the other responses below, just to be an equal opportunity denouncer? 😉

    For the record, I think I understand your concerns and adore rationality and objectivity as an ideal (but abhor them as a norm).

    Nowadays talking about rationality feels a bit like talking to apolitical Russians about politics – they have dim memory of “Socialism” as dictatorship and bureaucracy and direct experience of “Democracy” as autocracy. Therefore most political terminology is tainted and appeal to political values to them sounds hopelessly naive at best, and supporting the regime at worst.

    Likewise rationality and value-neutral objectivity, etc. had been much abused to basically support Neo-liberalism and the status quo. Appealing to it is readily heard as taking sides, not refusing to take sides. And on top of this, it gets harder to refuse to take sides in a polarizing society that increasingly has a 1930s vibe to it.

    One way out of this it to lead by example and showcase rationality in our own actions rather than raising it as a norm. Don’t get me wrong, clearly we shouldn’t give up on raising the ideals of rational discourse, universal justice, democratic decision making… but I do think we need to recognize the difficulties of the terrain we are navigating and consider how this will likely come across.

    • @andreas: While I don’t think there’s much worth in trying to explain myself and where I was coming from to people who obviously are not interested in listening — and that’s clearly the case with that segment of the independent comics community – I take your broader lesson. Sometimes you have to explain where you’re coming from before you make your argument. Indeed, I am always deeply concerned about a rush to judgment. And I don’t share the reflexive contempt for people who file a defamation lawsuit for obvious reasons. And obviously the kind of behavior that this guy is accused of, at this point I would say credibly, but hey, I got to read the complaint and the Google document that is being hidden from everyone, cannot be tolerated.

  7. Ted,

    I’ll try to answer your question in two parts.

    1/2 looking back: 3 possible tactical mistakes

    1) weighing in while sitting on the fence vs. demanding that others sit on the fence also

    Some Cartoonists Need a Lesson in Critical Thinking is a really unfortunate title that falls right into this trap. I think you would have had half the negative impact if you had went with Does cartooning now have its Harvey Weinstein moment? (note the question mark).

    Your column could have been mainly about informing readers about this important case (I certainly hadn’t heard of it). In passing you could bemoan the lack of publicly available evidence and carefully explain why you are still on the fence.

    It is hard to introduce a forth option (outspoken agnostic) to the perhaps knee-jerk set of three (support/denounce/stay out of it). People will easily misunderstand in the age of twitter (this is unfortunate but ultimately understandable). Introducing a forth option while at the same time also admonishing people for not being rational enough to have this exact opinion will not help you make friends (outside of the “let’s admonish people for not being rational enough” circles ;-).

    2) trust in the courts
    Obviously the courts will sort this out
    It’s one thing if you choose to trust in the objectivity of the U.S. legal system (and you might be correct in several aspects), but this comes across as demanding this trust of others in some normative way. This is clearly a bridge too far. Even to the extent that the U.S. courts may be impartial (Matt Taibbi has a brilliant book on how they are blatantly not), this still means they are going to treat a regular worker the exact same as a connected rich guy or corporation by asking for inordinate amounts of money up front as a matter of business as usual. I am not sure why I need to explain this to you of all people 😉

    Had people waited for the legal process before weighing in, Weinstein and Cosby would still be at it. Clearly this does not mean that we need to take matters into our own hands in a given other cases also, but here I believe you fail to meet your own standard of nuance. You could even explain that this being the Weinstein case in cartooning the cartooning community absolutely needs to get this one right (which is why you are a bit apprehensive about lack of publicly available details).

    3) sour grapes
    In the end your column comes across as “whey are all these cartoonists loyal to these accusers without evidence and MIA in my case even though I have evidence”. This is understandable – you once had a cartoon about the gazillions of dollars raised by a guy to finance his potato salad making project ;-). However, you almost come across as wanting cartoonists to also sit out this one rather than also come to offer you moral support in your legal struggles. Rather than (again) admonishing people for failing to have supported you and essentially calling them cowards you could have tried to use this case as a teachable moment and re-introducing your case as an interesting comparison where the tables are turned: the powerful committed defamation and the little guy started the legal process.

    You could have used this to explain your apprehension about seeking justice through public forums rather than at court, relating this as your personal experience rather than through norms like critical thinking and moral failures such as cowardice. You will attract more flies with honey than with vinegar (but see https://www.xkcd.com/357/).

    • @andreas: Thank you, you are right, that’s exactly the advice I was looking for. When you have something to say, as I did, you definitely don’t want people to turn off without being open to listening to it because of bad framing. I don’t think my framing was the absolute worst but I think it could have been more elegant. To be honest, it was a blog post that I wrote pretty quickly and I probably didn’t spend the same time and energy crafting it as I would say, an essay for syndication. Lesson learned.

  8. Ted, I don’t know if there exists a person named Cody Pickrodt, or if he (or she) is only a fictitious figment of someone’s lively imagination.

    So in the event that all that exists of Cody Pickrodt is the abstract reference of a name without a referent known to me, I will analyze his character with the same level of care that many people will find adequate in these days of internet discourse.

    The presence of the sequence of characters ROD suggests to my uninformed self that this abstraction possesses the male member, and so I (if not you, for each must decide for themselves) can assume his possible guilt because I can’t find offhand any referents to female genitalia within the name, so it is possible that he possesses a weapon of the type used in the alleged crime.

    If Cody Pickrodt does exist, it is possible that he is known under a pseudonym, and he may in realty be the father or husband of one of the women (without her knowledge) whose ire he has attracted.

    I could make the attempt to learn more about this person, but actually verifying that he is a flesh and blood person exceeds the amount of information necessary to reach a judgment at this stage of development of internet discourse.

    So by mere possession of a weapon capable of the crime, I judge him guilty of whatever he did to whomever.

    So, count me in with the aggrieved ladies.

  9. Ted, before I read your posted links, consider the absurdity of the demand.

    Lewis Carroll did.

    So, where is Alice on this issue?

    ‘It’s a pun!’ the King added in an offended tone, and everybody laughed, ‘Let the jury consider their verdict,’ the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.

    “‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first – verdict afterwards.’

    ‘Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. ‘The idea of having the sentence first!’

    ‘Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple.

    ‘I won’t!’ said Alice.

    ‘Off with her head!’ the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.

    http://www.online-literature.com/carroll/alice/12/

  10. Ted,

    I will be as brief as I can. But let me start with a question for you, Ted. Here it is: “I have a minor ache in my left knee. It’s hard to describe but it’s like something wants to crack like a knuckle. Can you tell me what it is?” What? You aren’t a doctor? You have no expertise in this field? How can you be expected to diagnose without being able to see the knee in question or order X-rays, etc.?

    Some people can’t be reasoned with because they are not interested in reason. They are interested in winning, not about being right or wrong. A few years back, one of the diagnostic criteria for diabetes was altered. Suddenly, the diabetes rate skyrocketed. Similarly, in recent years, what used to be two people making a mistake (usually with alcohol as the chaperone) has now been categorically redefined as rape. If you sleep with someone who didn’t really want to sleep with you, you weren’t being a pair of drunken sophomores, you were being a rapist and his victim.

    Victim politics is a big thing. And it should be. No one should be victimized. Of those rape complaints that get to the police, something like 95% to 98% are true. What a surprise, almost all women swearing out a complaint are telling the truth, just like almost all men who swear out a complaint are telling the truth. But that’s the police and the courts and it involves evidence, and trained (regrettably, expensive) experts who advocate for both sides.

    The Internet has liberated a whole lot of psychologically damaged people. I have come to suspect that far, far, more people than anyone feels comfortable admitting are carrying an enormous load of pain and depression. And I think the way that the symptoms are dealt with is through the Internet. Specifically, social media.

    What does it take to join the MeToo movement? You need a narrative about being sexually assaulted (and a twitter account, click here. Or click here, so Facebook can sign you up and siphon some fat profit off your pain). I think that the conditions due to social media and our YOLO FOMO lifestyle encourage those aforementioned psychologically damaged people to fabricate stories. No one checks them, no one penalizes the fabricators, no one is accountable to anyone for having ruined the life of someone falsely accused of rape. There is almost no possible way to lose your “right” to post anything you choose to make up onto the Internet. And as I said, this means a lot of people who are part of the massive mental health crisis this country isn’t confronting are running amok.

    Yes, I believe most victims are telling the truth. I also believe most of the people in prison did do the crime they were arrested, tried, and convicted for. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe the Innocence Project‘s work isn’t vital.

    And one final thought. I find it fascinating how people love to jump on some of these situations–oh no, some cartoonists could be bankrupted–but when Ted Rall rolls out an entire goddamned forensics department to give people the evidence to see he’s telling the truth and being railroaded (by the way, call the book “RALLroaded”) all they do is either look the other way or insist that he must be guilty. Then fine. All those cartoonist must be guilty, too, right? Isn’t that how it works?

    • @alexthetired: As always, you provide a valuable service with your insight. I think the #MeToo movement has been incredibly important and I hope it continues to change social norms for the better. But it is also creating space for some extremely nasty and dishonest people, and I’m not referring to people who falsely accuse others of rape but rather hangers-on of the type who liked to watch the Guillotine during the French revolution.

      Thanks for the book title suggestion. My name does always offer a lot of possibilities for puns…

      Just an aside, but it’s a little bit weird that they are raising six figures for a possible defense that might only require four figures. I read the complaint. There’s a strong chance it will be thrown out on summary judgment. What will the defendants to do with an extra $115,000 to kick around?

      Apparently asking for logical consistency from the complex community is unrealistic. The sad truth is, and I do hate to admit it, a disproportionately high percentage of cartoonists are infantilized. I don’t know why they suffer from arrested development but you can see it when you walk around a convention and it starts with artwork that your average 12-year-old might enjoy but it’s hard to reconcile with the 20-something face of its creator. Particularly in the underground scene, there’s a strong up session with everything that is studiously apolitical. Not everything has to be political but hey, the planet is dying, it would be nice to see a little bit of work that is relevant.

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