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SYNDICATED COLUMN: How Brett Kavanaugh Framed Himself as a Martyr to the #MeToo Movement

Image result for kavanaugh #metoo protest

Innocent until proven guilty. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell floated a lot of arguments to defend Brett Kavanaugh, but that’s the one that carried the day: “We owe it to the American people to underscore that you’re innocent until proven guilty.”

The Kavanaugh confirmation battle was a grenade wrapped in an onion covered with more poisonous sexual politics than “The World According to Garp.” Yet in the end it was simple. Presumption of innocence was the argument that SWINO (SWing vote In Name Only) Senator Susan Collins used to justify treason to her gender.

“This is not a criminal trial, and I do not believe that claims such as these need to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” Collins said, announcing her crucial support for the controversial Supreme Court nominee. “Nevertheless, fairness would dictate that the claims at least should meet a threshold of more likely than not as our standard.”

Once again Democrats asked themselves: what the hell happened? Why did we lose a fight we should have won?

Trump’s defeat of Clinton, Bush v. Gore, the 1940 Fall of France — those were perfect storms with numerous contributing factors. Not this one. Kavanaugh made it to the Supreme Court because his allies framed #MeToo as an out-of-control mob of man-haters.

Remember when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation that Kavanaugh tried to rape her in high school first hit the news? Republicans were on their heels at first. Polls showed that a plurality of voters didn’t want him confirmed, the worst showing of any high court nominee since they began asking the question. Then came the one-two punch: Yale classmate Deborah Ramirez said Kavanaugh exposed himself and tried to force her to give him oral sex. Even with a Republican Senate, Kavanaugh was in real trouble.

Anti-Kavanaugh sentiment peaked after the marathon nine-hour hearing in which Ford and Judge Kavanaugh testified about her allegations. A PBS/NPR/Marist poll found that 45% of Americans believed her. Only 33% believed him. If that’s where things had remained nine days later when the Senate voted, Collins and other wobbly GOP senators might have voted nay.

#MeToo came to their rescue.

Nothing unites a party like a common enemy. That goes double when the adversary allows itself to be framed as scary and unreasonable.

As the Kavanaugh vote drew nearer #MeToo activists became increasingly aggressive. They chased senators down hallways, cornered them in elevators, doxxed them and picketed their homes. Ted Cruz was confronted at a restaurant. “We Believe Survivors!” activists shouted as he fled.

Direct tactics hold politicians accountable for their sins. Confronting right-wing senators, none of whom gave a damn about the possibility that they were about to put an attempted rapist on the Supreme Court, going after them one-on-one was empowering for victims of rape and sexual assault and the millions of victims they represented. It was more than fair; it was justified.

But it didn’t turn out to be smart.

The optics and audio of all that yelling were ugly, particularly to Republican-leaning voters. Shouting incoherently — you couldn’t hear what they were saying on TV — during hearings looked rude and hostile. Screaming at elderly senators as they ran down capitol corridors exuded chaos.

They shouted and carried signs bearing the mottos of #MeToo:

Believe survivors.

Believe women.

Such powerful words. Also sloppy. “We are worried as mobs chant, ‘We believe survivors!’ (What if Ford is not truly a ‘survivor’? Don’t we have to establish whether she’s a survivor first?),” Stephanie Gutmann, a Republican, wrote in USA Today.

#MeToo is a kind of revolution. Because revolutions follow years of resentment piled upon eons of abuse, their imperative to destroy what’s broken and evil necessarily leads to intemperance. Nowhere is the revolutionary impulse toward careless imprecision more evident than in rhetoric. So it is with #MeToo — what began with an uprising no reasonable person could oppose, against bonafide monsters like Harvey Weinstein, inevitably cast its net wider into the gray area of Aziz Ansari.

As the targets of #MeToo expanded from the undeniably disgusting to garden-variety piggishness, the slogans of the movement became more militant, more thoughtless, further out on a limb.

Official policy at HR and the local PD had always been “ignore women.” A rational corrective to “ignore women” would be “listen to women.” Accusers deserve respect, to be taken seriously. So do the accused. But revolutions don’t reform the old order. They destroy it.

“Believe women” doesn’t make sense to a society whose core judicial fiction is the presumption of innocence. In America no one, neither men nor women, neither accusers nor the accused, earns the right to be believed by virtue of their gender. Being believed is a zero-sum right, one that inherently comes at the expense of another person and so must be earned by a combination of corroborating evidence, witnesses and the intangible social currency of credibility.

Sensing that #MeToo had overreached, yelling too loudly and deploying slogans that reeked of overcorrection, McConnell and his fellow Republican leaders rallied their party’s base in two steps.

A Supreme Court confirmation hearing usually feels like a job interview. Despite Susan Collins’ denials the Republicans did everything they could to frame Kavanaugh’s as a trial instead, complete with a hired-gun prosecutor from Arizona to provide a veneer of legalishness.

After they’d made the spectacle look and feel like a trial it was easy to convince fence-sitting moderate Republican viewers that to be denied his seat Dr. Ford and her Democratic allies would have to follow the familiar rules of a criminal proceeding: establishing guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, adhering to sharing of evidence (which is why they attacked Dianne Feinstein for withholding Ford’s letter), the burden of proof on her, not him.

Of course, the fix was in. Ford was the one really on trial; she fended off the questions of the rent-a-DA whereas Kavanaugh didn’t have to. It was all so clever. Once Democrats allowed Republicans to set the bar at beyond-a-reasonable-doubt guilt — something the he-said-she-said nature of the 36-year-old allegation made impossible — Kavanaugh was in like Flynn.

Shaunna Thomas of the women’s group UltraViolet Action, said: “This doesn’t end [on Saturday],” she said. “It ends in November.” But not, perhaps, the way she would like. Polls show that Republicans are so energized by their win on Kavanaugh that the Dems’ chance of recapturing the Senate are dropping in part because they’re buying the argument that the #MeToo movement is dangerous. “It’s a very scary time for young men in America when you can be guilty of something you may not be guilty of,” President Trump said in his memorably illiterate way.

Fair or not, right or wrong, the perception of many men is that #MeToo is willing to sacrifice 100 innocent men in order to end the career of one guilty one. In the same way that the civil rights movement needed white allies in order to succeed, #MeToo needs men not to fear them but to support them.

Whatever happens in the midterm elections, the #MeToo movement has arrived at a tactical crossroads. Should we Believe Women? Or Listen to Everyone?

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Trump Has Revolutionized Politics. Can Democrats Catch Up?

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Donald Trump may last; he may go away. But the influence of his revolutionary approach to American politics will endure. What he learned and taught about campaigning will be studied and emulated for years to come.

Social media matters. In 2016 his free Twitter feed defeated Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion fundraising juggernaut.

Foot soldiers don’t matter. Clinton was everywhere—every state, most counties. In many states Trump didn’t have a single office.

It’s not location, not location, not location. Clinton dropped buckets of cash on events in big expensive cities. Remember her Roosevelt Island launch announcement, the fancy stage using Manhattan as a backdrop? Trump rode the escalator down to his lobby. He held rallies in cheap, hardscrabble cities like Dayton and Allentown. He understood that his audience wasn’t in the room. It was on TV. It doesn’t matter where the event is held.

Stump speeches are dead. Stump speeches originated in the 19th century. In an era of mass communications you’re an idiot if—like Clinton—you read the same exact text in Philly as you read in Chicago. CNN covered Trump’s rallies more than Hillary’s because not because Jeff Zucker wanted Trump to win. TV networks are in the ratings business; Trump’s free-form extemporizing was entertaining because you never knew what he was going to say.

Now Trump is revolutionizing governance.

The biggest revelation from Trump’s first term—at this writing, I assume he’ll be re-elected—is that bipartisanship is dead. Even with the slimmest majority, a political party can get big things done. You don’t need the other party. Not even a single crossover.

The president can be unpopular. Ditto your party. All you need to govern successfully is party discipline. Keep your cabal together and anything is possible.

Trump’s approval ratings hover around 38%. That’s Nixon During Watergate level. Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate. Conventional wisdom, based as it is on historical precedent, dictates that controversial legislation can only pass such a narrowly-divided legislative body if the majority entices some members of the minority to go along.     There’s a corollary to that assumption: the implicit belief that laws are politically legitimate only if they enjoy the support of a fairly broad spectrum of voters.

Not any more.

In this Trump era major legislative changes get rammed through Congress along strict party-line votes—and Democrats suck it up with nary a squawk. Trump’s Republicans passed a huge tax cut for corporations and rich individuals. Protesters? What protesters? The GOP gutted Obamacare and suffered no consequences whatsoever…not even a stray attack ad.

The same goes for judicial nominations. Time was, a President would withdraw a nominee to the Supreme Court if the minority party wasn’t likely to support him or her, as Reagan did with the controversially far-right Robert Bork. Trump rams his picks through the Senate like Mussolini, Democrats be damned.

Rightist extremist Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court by a slim 54-45. Considering that Democrats were still seething over Republicans’ refusal to consider Obama high court nominee Merrick Garland (a centrist) for 10 months, that was a remarkable success. We don’t know what will become of the battle over Brett Kavanaugh, hobbled by multiple accusations of sexual assault and his anguished, furious performance trying to defend himself on national television; if confirmed it will be by the slimmest of party-line votes.

One can, and perhaps should, deplore the new normal. In the long run, it can’t bode well for the future of a country for its citizens to be governed by laws most of them are against, passed by politicians most of them despise, and whose constitutionality is assessed by court justices most of them look down upon. But this is reality. Sitting around tweeting your annoyance won’t change a thing.

Darwinism isn’t survival of the fittest; it’s survival of the most adaptable. Crocodilians have stuck around hundreds of million of years in part because they’ve learned to eat just about anything. The same goes for politics: if Democrats want to win power and score big victories after they do they’ll learn the lessons of Trumpism or die.

Party discipline is everything. Traitors, Democrats In Name Only, cannot be tolerated.

There is no room in a modern political party for “moderates” or “centrists.” Only a strong, strident, unapologetically articulated left vision can counter the energized GOP base and its far-right agenda.

Politics as bloodsport? It was always so. Republicans knew it. Thanks to Trump, Democrats can no longer deny their clear options: get real or get left behind.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

I Don’t Trust Judge Kavanaugh to Hear My Case

As I watched Judge Kavanaugh blubber-rant incoherently last Thursday, several thoughts went through my mind.

First, emotion-shaming. Turns out, I’m old-school. I cry sometimes. But not often. It’s not for long. Right or wrong, I think a man who can’t keep it together is undignified and unworthy of respect.

Second, this is not a guy who does well under stress. No doubt, the stress was undeniable. But we’ve all seen other men and women under tremendous stress and they behaved with considerably more composure. Consider Dr. Ford. Her eyes watered but she kept it together. A Supreme Court Justice, I think, should pretty much be like Spock from Star Trek. Highly logical.

Third, and I think this is most damning, I wouldn’t trust this guy to hear my case.

It could happen. I’m suing the LA Times for defamation and wrongful termination in the California court system. Theoretically, there could be appeals all the way to the US Supreme Court. How on earth could I trust Justice Brett Kavanaugh to vote intelligently about my fate?

He has made very clear during his testimony that he dislikes Democrats. I lean further to the left than the Democratic Party. I assume he would despise me. When you go to a court of law in search of justice, you shouldn’t have credible reason to believe that one of the judges is biased against you, but that would certainly be the case.

My case, like many others, is complicated. It has a lot of moving parts. There’s a lot of case law to consider. As I watched him the other day, I did not see a disciplined logical mind. He jumped around from one concept to another, repeated himself constantly, failed to make points that might’ve helped him and said things that hurt him.

I wouldn’t trust him to judge my case. Not because he’s a conservative. I know plenty of conservatives who are logical, fair, and very intelligent. I wouldn’t trust him because I don’t think he’s any of those things, and I think ultimately the U.S. Senate should vote against him for that reason.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Brett Kavanaugh Sex Scandals Teach Us That Extremism, Even Supporting Torture, Are A-OK

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What is wrong with us? Specifically: what is wrong with liberal Democrats?

Liberal Democrats are out to get Brett Kavanaugh. They are right to be; he is dangerous. Confirming Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court would lock in a right-wing majority for a generation. Abortion rights would be imperiled, true, but his rulings would also impact us in countless ways no one can predict: privacy, technology, balance of powers, corporate influence.

What’s weird is how the “Resistance” is going after the nominee: they’re #MeToo-ing him.

They’re only #MeToo-ing him.

One woman says he tried to rape her when she was 15 and he was 17. Another says that he pulled out his penis and shoved it in her face at a college party. U-S-A! Best country ever!

At this writing a third accuser waits in the wings.

If true these are—obviously, undeniably, absolutely—nasty acts. They prompt serious questions about whether Kavanaugh has the judgment—pun intended—required of the highest court. The fact that these charges date back decades, even to his childhood, does not change that. If he were up for a less important job, one could perhaps chalk them up to youthful douchebaggery. But he’s not applying for deputy undersecretary of agriculture.

What I don’t understand is: how did Kavanaugh’s candidacy get this far? How did his bid last long enough to get to the point where it was imperiled by #MeToo-related personal misbehavior? Why didn’t it founder first on the rockier shoals of his insane ideology?

As a judge the nominee was quoted saying that the NSA’s mass surveillance of every American’s emails, phone calls and texts is “entirely consistent” with the Constitution. As a lawyer once told me, that is not and cannot be true. “In my view, that critical national security need outweighs the impact on privacy occasioned by this [NSA] program,” Kavanaugh wrote. It is impossible to overstate the importance of this issue. The NSA programs exposed by Edward Snowden transformed the United States from the supposed “land of the free” to an authoritarian Orwellian dystopia. Surely Senate Democrats might have found something to object to there.

As George W. Bush’s White House lawyer Kavanaugh worked on Alberto Gonzalez’s notorious “torture memos,” the flimsy legalistic covers Bush used to justify waterboarding and murdering innocent Muslim kidnap victims at Guantánamo concentration camp and CIA dungeons around the world. We don’t know what he told other lawyers when the memos were written but even if he opposed them he had a legal and ethical obligation to resign, contact the World Court and speak publicly about these brazen war crimes. He did not.

Not only did Kavanaugh enable Bush’s merry band of torture goons, he played what Senator Chuck Schumer described as “a critical role” in Bush’s novel use of “signing statements.” The vaunted John McCain-sponsored bill banning torture was a classic example. Bush signed it. Then he signed a signing statement that amounted to crossing his fingers behind his back: the federal government would not enforce the law. McCain’s bill became law but torture continues.

Most disturbing of all—this is a high bar given the above—Kavanaugh is a fervent devotee to the weird counterconstitutional “doctrine of the unitary executive” promoted by such fellow neocons as Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz. “In its most extreme form, unitary executive theory can mean that neither Congress nor the federal courts can tell the President what to do or how to do it, particularly regarding national security matters,” explained Watergate alum John Dean.

You can see why Donald Trump is into this guy.

Supporting torture. Undermining Congress and the rule of law. Contempt for habeas corpus. Giving the president the powers of a king. Any of these are more than enough reason to oppose Kavanaugh but Democrats ignored or barely mentioned them during judiciary committee hearings. There were no rants, no floor speeches. Liberal protesters did not gather to condemn Kavanaugh on torture. Liberal groups did not air ads about it.

Give the Democrats benefit of the doubt: maybe they determined, perhaps via focus groups and tracking polls, that the sexual allegations would have longer legs, would make more headway, than Kavanaugh’s judicial extremism. Marketing money is limited. Better to focus on what works.

Trouble is, we’re not just filling a court vacancy. We’re sending messages to the world. The message Democrats are trying to send, the one that powerful men will remember if Kavanaugh’s confirmation fails, is that women can no longer be disrespected. That’s fantastic. It’s long overdue. It needs to be repeated.

But it isn’t enough.

The Democrats’ decision to ignore Kavanaugh’s stances on important policies tacitly conveys that they either endorse torture themselves or don’t much care about it, that they either tolerate the imperial presidency or don’t care about it, that they sign off on un-American views about government or are willing to look the other way.

A reasonable reading of political tea leaves has to conclude that Democrats are now a pro-torture party. In 2009 Obama refused to prosecute Bush-era CIA torturers. In 2013 Obama appointed John Brennan, also a torturer, to CIA director. In 2018 Senate Democrats like Dianne Feinstein voted to give the top CIA job to Gina Haspel, a monster who personally conducted waterboarding sessions.

Those messages to the world are toxic and dangerous. Our national moral high ground has been further eroded because Democrats took the easy path to non-confirmation.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Ted Rall v. LA Times Update: Now We’re Waiting for the Court of Appeals to Rule

Now we’re waiting for the court to rule. Guesstimate is that it will happen in early 2019. If they rule for me (the plaintiff in Ted Rall v. LA Times et al.), anti-SLAPP is no longer an issue, the Times is out of stalling tactics, and we begin discovery: subpoenaing the Times’ secret documents and deposing their employees in preparation for trial in LA Superior Court.

If they rule for the Times (the defendant), my defamation and wrongful termination case ends. I will have to pay the Times hundreds of thousands of dollars in their padded $715-an-hour fees.

More importantly, losing my case would be a major defeat for anyone who works for what a California court defines as an employer of a “media company” with First Amendment rights: a newspaper, a magazine, a website, a social media platform, any number of Silicon Valley tech companies. If I lose, it means the Times’ argument that they can defame, retaliate and discriminate against their employers — even for sexist, racist or homophobic reasons — would become case law. Any “media” company in the state would become exempt from these important protections.

That’s why I’m fighting so hard. It’s not just for me. Tens of thousands of California workers, most of whom have never heard of me or my case, are in danger of losing their rights because of the Times’ reckless arguments.

In summer 2017 the Times won its abusive anti-SLAPP motions against me in LA Superior Court. We believe that Court made a number of errors in its decision that will be corrected when the Court of Appeals considers my case “de novo” — without considering the decision of the lower court.

Earlier this summer we filed our Opening Brief in the Court of Appeals. The Times filed its Respondents Brief. Now we’ve filed our response to their brief. There will be no more filings.

Next the Court will schedule oral arguments. They will either rule from the bench right there and then or issue their decision in writing shortly thereafter.

Some of you have asked whether Dr. Pat Soon-Shiong, the biotechnology entrepreneur and physician who purchased the Times earlier this year, has tried to resolve my case. The answer is no. Upon acquiring the Times Dr. Soon-Shiong said he intended to turn over a new leaf at an institution infamous for mismanagement and corruption; we still have yet to see any sign of improvement.

Thank you for your support. The fight for a free press continues.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From

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Christine Blasey Ford accuses Brett Kavanaugh of trying to rape her during a party while they were in prep school. The political stakes are high: if Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote fails in the Senate and Democrats win the body back in November, conservatives will watch their dream of a solidly reliable 5-4 majority go up in smoke.

What makes the research psychologist’s charge culturally interesting — why people can’t talk about much else this week — are its many layers of debatability.

Is it right to derail a man’s career, or anyone’s anything, over a charge that can’t be verified? Is “innocent until proven guilty” still a thing?

Assuming Ford is truthful (and no new victims of Kavanaugh’s alleged piggery step forward), is a single disgraceful act by a 17-year-old (she was 15) a dealbreaker? 17-year-olds are more aggressive and impulsive than adults. It’s not their fault. It’s their brains’. Out-of-control teens don’t necessarily become crazy adults. That’s why we have a separate justice system for children. On the other hand, most of the people I knew as kids haven’t changed that much.

If Kavanaugh’s school buddy hadn’t busted up the scene, would he have raped Ford? Maybe, maybe not. But what she alleges, pinning her down and covering her mouth, would be unlawful restraint — a serious criminal offense.

I don’t know what happened. If this were a jury instructed to convict beyond a reasonable doubt, I’d have to let Kavanaugh walk.

My gut tells me Ford is telling the truth. She told her own shrink in 2012. She passed a polygraph. Her account describes an encounter that, though terrifying, could have gone worse. If she wanted to destroy Kavanaugh’s bid for the high court, she could claim that he’d raped her. Kavanaugh was a prep boy. He’s still a douche. Ford’s description sounds like vintage late-1970s/early-1980s douchbaggery. Douches gonna douche.

Again, I don’t know.

But here’s the thing: we can’t know. He said-she said is a cliché for a reason. This took place, or didn’t, in an age before smartphones and security cameras. People had privacy. Which they sometimes abused.

Republicans want the he and the she to testify under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 24th. Anita Hill 2.0! Ford’s lawyer says that’s too soon because her client wouldn’t have enough time to prepare. For what it’s worth, Ford’s lawyer is right; Kavanaugh had months to prepare for his cakewalk; she deserves the same before getting grilled.

If and when America gets its spectacle — Monday, Monday, Monday! Ford vs. Kavanaugh! Visit the concession stand! — we will know nothing more than we do today. She says it happened. He says it didn’t. She can’t prove it did. He can’t prove it didn’t.

What’s really on trial here is #MeToo.

Some dude, a pompous, angry “white knight,” tweeted the semi-official motto of #MeToo the other day: “BELIEVE ALL WOMEN! DISCUSSION OVER.” Nice try, but fascism isn’t the law yet. Discussion continues. Discussion will continue for the foreseeable future.

Because this discussion is inherently unresolveable.

It will not be resolved. But it will end.

#MeToo will end with a whimper. Give us a few more Aziz Ansaris and we’ll be too exhausted to continue. Yet #MeToo will have accomplished a lot. Its “Believe All Women” battle cry will be dismissed as the ridiculous attempted overcorrection it obviously is. No one deserves to be believed, not at face value, not without evidence, just because they’re a woman (or a man).

What people need and deserve, accuser and accused alike, is to be respected, taken seriously, and listened to. Pre-#MeToo, too many female accusers were dismissed out of hand, even mocked, frequently disrespected and revictimized. Too many male offenders were believed simply for belonging to the half of the population privileged under patriarchy.

Society needs to arrive at a place where people of underprivileged status are heard as much and as intelligently as those with wealth and power. Well, society really needs to eliminate differences in social and economic status. But until then, equal respect and dignity will have to suffice. #MeToo will help us get there.

In the meantime, we’ll have Ford vs. Kavanaugh.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

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?

Some Cartoonists Need a Lesson in Critical Thinking

The highly insular world of comics is talking about another defamation case: this one filed by a comics industry figure accused of sexual harassment, anti-Semitism and other offenses. I have absolutely no idea whether there is any truth to these allegations.

Read the article.

Important people within the industry, including some who I consider friends, have rushed to the defense of the defendants in the defamation lawsuit. There’s even a gofundme seeking to raise $120,000 for the defendants. It’s doing great.

What disturbs me is that details are still sketchy and so hard to come by. No one has posted the defamation complaint so that we can read it. Yet an inordinately high number of people within the industry are expressing support for the 11 defendants and donating money. That’s a lot of strong opinion without a lot of information.

Again, I have absolutely no idea if the plaintiff in this case is as much of an asshole as alleged. Obviously the courts will sort this out. If he is, the odds are that his lawsuit will be dismissed or that he will lose at trial.

What if he’s right? What if he’s telling the truth? In the age of #MeToo, no one seems to be asking that question.

I’ve seen this sort of behavior before, especially within the world of cartooning. You’d think cartoonists would be a punk-rock crowd but they aren’t. Most are a timid lot. Filing a lawsuit makes a lot of them uncomfortable. I’ve seen it twice. Many of my colleagues don’t like the fact that in 1999 I filed a lawsuit against an identity thief who tried to destroy my career and in fact destroyed one of my most important relationships. Many others don’t like the fact that I’m now suing a media company. Don’t poke the bear, seems to be their mantra.

They don’t dispute that I’m right. They don’t dispute that I was victimized. They just think I should take my licks. It’s a weird culture of submission.

I talked to a Pulitzer-winning cartoonist shortly after the LA Times screwed me to try to enlist his support. I don’t believe you, he told me. I asked him if he had listened to the audio? No time for that, he replied. It’s six minutes long. He spent hours telling other people he didn’t believe me but couldn’t be bothered to spend six minutes to see if his strong opinion held water. Lazy mofo. Stupid.

Critical thinking calls for less knee-jerkery and more careful consideration of the facts and evidence. If I don’t know enough about a cause, I don’t take a side.

Game Time! Here’s the Key Brief in the Most Important Stage of Ted Rall v. Los Angeles Times

Ted Rall v. Los Angeles Times et al. – California Court of Appeals – Reply Brief – September 10, 2018

(Duplicate first page – keep scrolling, please.)

It’s game time! We have reached the most important stage in “Ted Rall v. Los Angeles Times et al.”

Let me explain.

From the beginning of this case attorneys have told me that the toughest barrier to clearing my name and getting my day in court would be California’s anti-SLAPP law, a statute frequently used by publications to defend themselves against defamation lawsuits.

Upon being sued a defamation defendant can file an anti-SLAPP motion. Discovery cannot begin until it is resolved. If defendant prevails, plaintiff’s case is thrown out and plaintiff pays defendent’s legal fees. If plaintiff prevails, the case begins discovery, subpoenas, etc. A lower court, the California Superior Court in Los Angeles, heard the LA Times’ anti-SLAPP motion. They ruled for the Times, awarding them $356,000 in legal fees.

But that decision is automatically appealable de novo (without consideration for what the lower court decided). So I appealed to California’s Court of Appeals.

We filed an Opening Brief. The Times filed a Reply Brief. This is our Reply Brief to their Reply. No more briefs now. Now we wait for the court to assign a hearing date. At that date or shortly thereafter, probably in early 2019, the Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments.

Although lawsuits are always long and time-consuming and stressful, most attorneys believe that a jury will side with me in this matter, rather than the Times/LAPD.

Please read the brief!

I look forward to reading your thoughts and comments. This case is important to me, but it also has sweeping implications for employment law and the freedom of journalists to operate free of censorship by government agencies and officials.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: All the Anonymous B.S. That’s Fit to Print: Self-Serving Newspapers Like the New York Times Ditch Their Own Ethics Rules

Image result for new york times anonymous op-ed

The most disturbing aspect of the New York Times op-ed by an anonymous “senior official in the Trump Administration” isn’t its content.

The content isn’t significant enough to make an impression.

“Meetings with [President Trump] veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back,” writes Mr. or Ms. Anonymous. The “revelation” that Trump rambles incoherently and can’t keep a thought straight is not news to anyone who has watched Trump speak more than a minute and a half.

What is scary is that the stewards of a grand 167-year-old publishing institution can cavalierly abandon the basic standards of journalism in search of a social media splash in their tepid jihad against a sitting president.

My first response upon hearing about the anonymous op-ed was to read it. What a letdown! This #ResistanceInsider narrative contains nothing we didn’t already know about Trump or his mess of a White House. A trilogy of tell-all books by Michael Wolff, Omarosa Manigault Newman and Bob Woodward, plus a day-to-day geyser of leaks, confirm that the president and his monster’s ball of astonishingly nefarious idiots act just as stupidly behind closed doors as they do when they babble in front of cameras.

Next I checked the Times’ rules for anonymous sourcing.

Reliance on anonymous sources within the government has gotten the Times burned on a number of occasions. “Times editors are cracking down on the use of anonymous sources,” public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote on March 15, 2016.

The most recent word on anonymous sources comes courtesy of Times standards editor Philip B. Corbett. “Under our guidelines, anonymous sources should be used only for information that we think is newsworthy and credible, and that we are not able to report any other way,” Corbett wrote on June 14, 2018.      What was newsworthy about the “I Am Part of the Self-Congratulatory Resistance” piece? Nada. What was in there that the Times was unable to report another way? Nothing. The Times has run other pieces covering the same exact ground: “Trump’s Chaos Theory for the Oval Office Is Taking Its Toll,” March 1, 2018. “Trump Tries to Regroup as the West Wing Battles Itself,” July 29, 2017. “Does Trump Want Even More Chaos in the White House?” May 9, 2018.

Americans are weird. Smokers wake up in the morning wheezing and hocking up loogies, but they need the Surgeon General to convince them tobacco is bad for them. People who live in the same place feel the weather get warmer every year but they still aren’t sure about climate change. Jesus, people, why can’t you trust yourselves?

Now it’s the media’s Trump-bashing. These Captain Obviouses keep flailing from the ridiculous (two years in, there’s still no evidence of Russia-Trump election collusion) to the inane (Trump is cray-cray, it’s really true, some anonymous person, trust us they’re important and know what they’re talking about, says so).

The obvious truth is, Trump was impeachable the second he took office. Temperamentally and intellectually, he wasn’t ever and never will be up to the job. Chief Justice John Roberts ought to have refused to swear in this loon; Congress should have blocked him taking office; the Capitol Police shouldn’t have let him and Melania move into the White House.

The guy shouldn’t be president. Why is the Times breaking its rules to tell us what everyone already knows? Clicks?

During these times of disruption and collapse, it is tempting for struggling legacy media outlets like newspapers to discard their standards to compete with the young Turks (or Millennial techs) who often eat their lunch. But old-school institutions can only survive by maintaining their credibility. They must adhere to their own ethical guidelines, or die.

The Los Angeles Times violated numerous parts of its published Ethical Guidelines when it fired me as its staff cartoonist as a favor to the LAPD. Like the New York Times, one breach was violating their own rules about anonymous sources.

The LA Times repeatedly lied to their readers in their two articles about me. One lie was their claim that the LAPD had officially released documents that proved I had made up a story about being mistreated by a cop who ticketed me for jaywalking. Not only did the documents show I had told the truth, the LAPD wasn’t the source. It was the then-police chief, Charlie Beck, a sleazy official whose tenure was marked by one scandal after another. He was acting on his own, outside official channels, using documents of unknown provenance. Seducing a gullible publisher with a handoff of sketchy documents in a backroom meeting was par for his course.

If the LA Times had told its readers that Beck was the source, people from Santa Monica to East LA would have rolled their eyes and turned the page. Everyone knew I had been making fun of the LAPD, and Beck personally, for years. Everyone knew Beck was a turd.

So the LA Times granted Beck anonymity.

On paper, the LA Times and NY Times had similar standards. “When we use anonymous sources, it should be to convey important information to our readers,” read the LA Times’ Ethical Guidelines, published in 2014. “We should not use such sources to publish material that is trivial, obvious or self-serving. Sources should never be permitted to use the shield of anonymity to voice speculation or to make ad hominem attacks. An unnamed source should have a compelling reason for insisting on anonymity, such as fear of retaliation, and we should state those reasons when they are relevant to what we publish.”

In real life, corrupt publishers and craven editors ignore their own rules. Nothing could have been more “self-serving” than the chief of police of a department whose pension fund owned the parent company of the paper firing a cartoonist who made fun of him. Since there was no actual proof I had lied — there couldn’t be since I’d told the truth — the LA Times “speculated” that I probably lied. Nothing could be more “ad hominem” than falsely accusing a journalist of lying. As police chief, Beck had no “fear or retaliation.”

I’m suing them for defamation and wrongful termination. This could have been avoided had the LA Times adhered to their own stated principles.

Even if you hate Donald Trump, it shouldn’t be hard to see that the New York Times is on a dangerous path.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)