Seaton: An Unrung School Shooting Issue

As fall begins and kids start their trek back to school, an issue lingers in the back of everyone’s mind. Is there going to be another school shooting? If so how bad will it be?

The previous nightmarish year of gun violence in schools was horrendous, and the horror of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida is still fresh on many parents’ minds. Some students from that very school used their anguish to lobby for gun reform. Others are just concerned about getting back to class.

During a heated debate over the subject, G.C. Hutson, a mediator colleague of mine, posed a rather interesting theory over the cause of so much gun violence in schools: what if social media was part of the problem? Continue reading

Meyer-Lindenberg: An Ode to Better Partisans

My (German) dad, who’s a lot smarter than I am, patiently puts up with my claim that not everything in American politics is currently as nightmarish as it seems from the outside. And it’s a fact that a lot of valuable work is done away from the headlines and the outrage.

But if all you had was a media’s-eye view of what’s happening in America, you’d likely have an extremely skewed idea of the state of the nation. From the outside looking in, the obsession of the press with Trumpian scandals and banal palace intrigue is nothing short of ridiculous. And then there’s the constant drumbeat of fear, the mad scramble for something to feel oppressed about, the sense of gloom and impending apocalypse that rules social media. Is it any wonder that if the commentary on America were all you had to go by, as is typically true of us Europeans, you’d conclude that the country was going to hell in a handbasket – as is typically true of us Europeans?

The truth, of course, is that the scandalmongering and outrage so common in the media poorly reflect the reality of life in the States. I speak from experience: Even in DC, if you are working and keep your head down, politics is hardly the dark all-enveloping cloud Twitter users treat it as. For the vast majority of us, following politics is a game, a distraction. Continue reading

Will DoJ Add Students To SORA?

A press release from FACE, Families Advocating for Campus Equality,* put the shocking news on my radar.

The SMART Office is exploring how institutions of higher education share, respond and coordinate information to prevent sexual assault perpetration. This project will collect information about current policies and practices utilized by colleges and universities regarding registered sex offenders who may be students or employees; individuals found responsible and sanctioned for campus sexual misconduct policy violations; and the review of criminal or disciplinary sexual misconduct history of prospective or current students.

The SMART program, DoJ’s Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking, one of the many horrific acronyms beloved by government, proposed to expand its sources to include information from colleges and universities about their handling of sexual misconduct on campus, including information about “individuals found responsible and sanctioned for campus sexual misconduct.” Are they talking about adding Title IX violators to the dreaded sex offender registries? Continue reading

A Four Finger Welcome Home

There is a sense of helplessness that victims of crime experience, when someone with overwhelming force does something to them that they can’t stop, they can’t prevent, they can’t fight. We live our lives in the belief that we have control over our physical integrity, and when that’s violated despite our most strenuous desire that it not happen, and there is nothing we can do about it, we realize that our sense of autonomy is a delusion. We are helpless.

We can’t eliminate the existence of bad people. Criminals who beat, rape, murder. All the wonderful expressions of love and joy are crap. They exist. And their existence doesn’t cease because we want to pretend they don’t, or rationalize why they do. When someone hits you over the head from behind with a club, your first thought isn’t their impoverished upbringing.

But when the violent predator isn’t some bad dude on the street, but a person wearing the uniform of your country, when his weapon isn’t blunt force from behind but the authority your government gives him to act upon you, against your will, or suffer the consequences, it’s different. This isn’t the criminal who exists despite your best wishes. This is your government at work. Continue reading

Goldberg’s Dilemma: When The Rapist Is A Woman

The New York Times, much to its credit, broke the story of Asia Argento’s payoff of Jimmy Bennett. They name the “victim,” something they don’t do except when they do. They speak of his financial woes, suggesting he was in it more for the money than the mental anguish and suffering of a person sexually abuse. Blaming the victim isn’t usually part of the narrative either. But still, they told the story, which meant that an icon of #MeToo was knocked off her pedestal.

The Italian actress and director Asia Argento was among the first women in the movie business to publicly accuse the producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. She became a leading figure in the #MeToo movement. Her boyfriend, the culinary television star Anthony Bourdain, eagerly joined the fight.

But in the months that followed her revelations about Mr. Weinstein last October, Ms. Argento quietly arranged to pay $380,000 to her own accuser: Jimmy Bennett, a young actor and rock musician who said she had sexually assaulted him in a California hotel room years earlier, when he was only two months past his 17th birthday. She was 37. The age of consent in California is 18.

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The Link Rots From The Head Down

When I started SJ, it was on a whim, with neither much of an idea why, where it would go nor whether it would be something that I would stick with for any length of time. That was in February, 2007, when the internet was still young, blogs were still a relatively new thing and no one quite knew what would become of them.

Much has happened since then. My original host and blogging program decided to “end of life” itself, meaning that I had to find a new host and program, and somehow manage to get the content out of there and onto here, even though the programs were very different and my original program had no mechanism to move content from one platform to another. It never occurred to GoDaddy back then that it would be needed. Continue reading

Rehabilitating Ronell

The Chronicle of Higher Education has always had a decidedly progressive tilt, which is hardly surprising. After all, it’s about higher ed, and what could be more higher ed than social justice? But in the case of Avital Ronell and her sexual abuse of her student, it was harder to figure out on which side of your social justice toast to put the butter.*

On the one hand, you had a victim of sexual harassment, even if NYU managed by bury the more serious claim of sexual assault pretending that it wasn’t sufficiently proven even though the evidence was overwhelming compared to the evidence in cases involving lesser scholars. The victim was gay, so that was an extra point, but then, the abuser claimed to be a lesbian (not that it should matter, but Ronell raises it at every turn), even if Salon recounted when she wasn’t so lesbian and had an affair at 27 with the 16-year-old son of her mentor, Jacques Derrida.

On the other hand, you had a philosophy “superstar,” renowned throughout a certain segment of academia for whom coherence and logic were foreign concepts.** Backing Ronell means they get the appreciation of a wealth of “renowned” scholars. Reitman brings nothing other than the ugliness of what Ronell did. There are no friends to be made, no debts to be paid, by treating a star like Ronell poorly. Continue reading

Up Or Down, Nobody Wants To Take The Punch

This has nothing to do with Sarah Jeong. Don’t tell me what you think of her, or her twits. Don’t bother to mention her name. It’s not about her. It’s about the issue that bubbled to the top during the discussion about her. It’s about the issue. Not her. The issue. Focus instead on what Cathy Young had to say about it.

The recent blowup over New York Times editorial board hire Sarah Jeong and her racially charged Twitter trail turned into a brawl over a key question in today’s cultural polemics: Whether derogatory speech about whites should be considered racist and, more generally, whether there is such a thing as anti-white racism.

Most of Jeong’s defenders on the left not only argued that she shouldn’t lose her job but insisted that there was nothing particularly wrong with her white-bashing tweets, whether they were meant to mock racist trolls or criticize “white privilege.” “To equate ‘being mean to white people’ with the actual systemic oppression and marginalization of minority groups is a false equivalency,” wrote Vox reporter Aja Romano in a supposedly objective “explainer.”

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My Time In Twitter Jail

It was only a brief stay, and the time of it couldn’t have been better. You see, I go to sleep at exactly the right time for me, but probably somewhat earlier than a lot of other people. I also tend to shut down the computer after dinner and not turn it back on until the following morning, when I awake at around 5 a.m.

That means that there is a period of time during which others are busy defending their feelings idiocy honor on twitter while I’m dreaming of world peace and other happy things. When I finally checked my email, I learned that I had been in twitter jail.

What twits did the twitter gods demand I delete? Continue reading

NYU Sued Over Handling Of Prof. Avital Ronell’s Sexual Abuse (Update)

The New York University “response” from spokesman John Beckman was issued last Tuesday, which is fascinating since he had nothing to respond to until early evening yesterday when the complaint was filed in New York Supreme Court.* Not that NYU needs to actually see something, know what it says, before issuing a statement about why it’s wrong.

In a written statement on Tuesday, John Beckman, an NYU spokesman, defended the university’s handling of the matter.

“We have tried to work with Mr. Reitman to help him put this unfortunate chapter behind him, and we are sympathetic to what he has been through. However, given the promptness, seriousness, and thoroughness with which we responded to his charges, we do not believe that his filing a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the university would be warranted or just.”

Despite this deeply moving expression of advance empathy, Reitman sued NYU, although the ad damnum is left to the court and includes no “multi-million dollars” demand. Good try, though, NYU, even if it might have been wiser to wait until you knew what you were talking about before issuing a statement next time. Consciousness of guilt is a terrible thing. Continue reading