Tag Archives: sexual assault

21st Century Boycott: Fox News, O’Reilly, retaliation and institutional protection for sexual harassment

I appreciate the strong reporting in the New York Times article: “Bill O’Reilly thrives at Fox News even as harassment settlements add up.”  Authors Emily Steel and Michael S. Schmidt cover the systematic protection of Bill O’Reilly who comes off as a serial predator.

The article looks at five settlements that have been paid to women who have alleged and often documented harassment from the Fox News star.  Two of the settlements were known, but three were uncovered by Steel and Schmidt.

The article is phenomenal journalism and highlights the pattern of toxic behavior and the costly efforts to retaliate against those who have complained.   This is a good opportunity to examine some of the patterns of retaliation that were visible in this article.

Most of the women who complained were threatened with professional harm when they didn’t comply with threats or when they came forward.  Andrea Mackris filed a sexual harassment suit against O’Reilly in 2004.  The New York Times article describes the retaliatory threats:

“Two years later, allegations about Mr. O’Reilly entered the public arena in lurid fashion when a producer on his show, Andrea Mackris, then 33, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him. In the suit, she said he had told her to buy a vibrator, called her at times when it sounded as if he was masturbating and described sexual fantasies involving her. Ms. Mackris had recorded some of the conversations, people familiar with the case said.

Ms. Mackris also said in the suit that Mr. O’Reilly, who was married at the time (he and his wife divorced in 2011), threatened her, saying he would make any woman who complained about his behavior “pay so dearly that she’ll wish she’d never been born.”

Fox News and Mr. O’Reilly adopted an aggressive strategy that served as a stark warning of what could happen to women if they came forward with complaints, current and former employees told The Times. Before Ms. Mackris even filed suit, Fox News and Mr. O’Reilly surprised her with a pre-emptive suit of their own, asserting she was seeking to extort $60 million in return for not going public with “scandalous and scurrilous” claims about Mr. O’Reilly.

“This is the single most evil thing I have ever experienced, and I have seen a lot,” he said on his show the day both suits were filed. “But these people picked the wrong guy.”

A public relations firm was hired to help shape the narrative in Mr. O’Reilly’s favor, and the private investigator Bo Dietl was retained to dig up information on Ms. Mackris. The goal was to depict her as a promiscuous woman, deeply in debt, who was trying to shake down Mr. O’Reilly, according to people briefed on the strategy. Several unflattering stories about her appeared in the tabloids.

After two weeks of sensational headlines, the two sides settled, and Mr. O’Reilly agreed to pay Ms. Mackris about $9 million, according to people briefed on the agreement. The parties agreed to issue a public statement that “no wrongdoing whatsoever” had occurred.”

Emily Steel and Michael S. Schmidt. “Bill O’Reilly thrives at Fox News even as harassment settlements add up.” April 1, 2017. New York Times.

It is worth noting the techniques used to attack the victim.  The perpetrator attacks the survivor personally, the company defends the perpetrator with a heavy-handed lawsuit, and the company hires a PR firm and private investigators to destroy the survivors reputation.

And then they settle.  That means that all the personal attacks and reputation smearing that ruin someone’s life were essentially pressure to beat someone down so they will take less money for their silence.  I can imagine the meeting where someone at 21st Century Fox has to run the numbers on how much they could save in destroying the lives of sexual harassment survivors.

The cost-benefit-analysis strategies of corporations who decide to try to ruin the reputations of employees who come forward to complain about sexual harassment may undervalue the public relations costs of being associated with a serial rapist or a serial harasser.

The Brock Turner survivor letter, Emma Sulkowicz and the performative mattress carry, an Obama/Biden administration with a robust advocacy for Title IX have changed public opinion about sexual harassment and rape.   The ascendance of a generation of young activists like Know your IX committed to fighting rape culture will not return to the cover-up and blame-the-victims days.

Which means that large corporations who are in the business of making money are going to have to factor in what explicit boycotts and affiliated bad PR will cost them when they defend a prominent figure like Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailles.

It seems grotesque that an institution would protect a serial predator because they make the business a lot of money.  Steel and Schmidt’s expose does a good job documenting how much advertising revenue O’Reilly’s show pulls in ($446 million from 2014-2016).  So what would a boycott have to cost the parent company to dump O’Reilly?   A couple of hundred million dollars?

More importantly, I wonder how little effort it would take for people on social media to destroy the 21st Century brand.  A dozen volunteers could watch O’Reilly’s show, note advertisers and then illustrate businesses which give money to support victim-blaming.  Simply posting the New York Times article in the publicity threads for each new 20th Century Fox blockbuster movie would convince me to spend my movie money elsewhere.   Artists who might record soundtrack music for Fox Music can be gently reminded through fan pages or tweets about the retaliatory behavior of the parent company.

Steel and Schmidt’s article is a good piece of investigative journalism that makes visible the retaliatory behavior of one of the largest companies in the world.  It also exposes how much the company has to lose if they mishandle the public relations associated with their brand being tainted by O’Reilly’s harassment lawsuits.

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Filed under capitalism, communication, gender, media, protest, representation, resistance, sexism, sexual assault

Law and Order: rape and culture

Salute to the well-argued piece about Law and Order: SVU from the perspective of a survivor of sexual assault.  From Stacey Mae Fowles:

Any rape survivor who has watched her rapist live out his life in relative bliss, while hers is a wreckage of fear and mistrust, will tell you that justice is a fiction we all consent to. While she struggles through the slow tedium of recovery others live in willful ignorance, believing that some sort of redemption is possible. The survivor lives a life redefined by the actions of another—every victory against him, every loss endured in his shadow.

via “The Truth Is Embarrassing”: Olivia Benson and the Timeline of Trauma.

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Run the jewels and rape culture

It ain’t my fault.  I’m too critical.

If you like rap music, then El-P and Killer Mike’s Run the Jewels is the best thing of 2013.  Kanye?  Jay-Z?  J. Cole?  Naw.

If you like your rap head-nodding with great verses, then get this album.

***

One premise of life of refinement is that purity is foolish.  Understand that you can simultaneously enjoy something and wish it were different.  Watching that TV show and enjoying it 99% until the anti-gay joke?   Live in both places — that you like the show and you dislike the joke.

It seems easy, but a lot of people get it twisted.  The idea that if you don’t like one iota of a piece of media that you have to pick teams and persecute the makers is rampant.

***

So I LOVE this tape.  Love it like fried tofu.  Love it like summer days.  Love it like sleeping late.  Love it and played it a dozen times since it came out.

Then there is a “twin back hype,” laced with spoken word from ‘Chest Rockwell’ AKA Prince Paul.  The line that sticks in my craw is sleaze ball stereotype rape culture shit.

Prince Paul/Chest Rockwell:  “How you feeling now, sweetheart, a little more relaxed?  Maybe it’s the half a molly I put in your Mountain Dew.  Yeah, works like a charm.  Just chill out for a second.  Relax.  Relax!  I got it under control.  I got you a glass of Beefeater, I got a brand new deck of Uno Cards.  Oh yeah, baby, tonight’s just getting started.  Okay, how ’bout I come over tonight pick you up in my brand new Segue?  We can go over to Long John Silver’s and get a fish platter.  You can take me home and massage me with butter all on my neck.  I love you.”

What?  My interpretation of this little vignette is that Prince Paul is making fun of Rick Ross who recently was dropped by Reebok because of his lyrics suggesting that he drugged his sex partners.  (“Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it/ I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it” — U.N.E.O.)

I think the mockery is evident if you consider the Uno cards, Segue, Long John Silvers stuff etc.  Of course, Chest Rockwell seems to announce his drugging unlike Rick Ross.  And Chest Rockwell is the character from Boogie Nights suggested as a porno name, taken by a great rap producer for his Handsome Boy Modeling School character.  This is parody within parody.

But it doesn’t mean shit to people listening.  Intention and even humor are irrelevant to the choice of symbols presented.  I bet there is a kid listening to the El-P and Killer Mike song who not only get to model some great rhyming AND that drugging people for sex is funny or okay.

***

I don’t think the politics have to be perfect in rap music.  But you make fun of raping someone I’m going to call it out.  You might call it splitting hairs to say that I like the album, bump the album AND think people need to talk more about this skit in order to explain rape culture.

Frankly, given how much rape is part of our media saturated existence, then the explanation of why that line is messed up requires more thoughtfulness than to just suggest that you not listen to the album.  I think that everyone who is a conscious ethical being should be ready to bust up rape culture whenever they see it.  Even if it comes on the best album of 2013.

Get the album at Fools Gold.   Listen to it with your nephew or niece and talk about rape and why that skit isn’t funny.

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Juxtaposition: legal immunity for soldiers in Iraq and South Korea

Artifact 1: US soldiers in Iraq and immunity from prosecution

One of the sticking points in the negotiations with Iraq was a US demand that American forces remaining in the country after December would enjoy the same immunity from prosecution as they do now. The Iraqi government, conscious of public anger over many controversial incidents involving US troops and defence contractors over the last decade, refused.

via Iraq rejects US request to maintain bases after troop withdrawal | World news | guardian.co.uk.

Artifact 2: US soldiers in South Korea and immunity from prosecution

Still, attitudes toward the 28,500 U.S. servicemen and women stationed in South Korea have deteriorated. Many residents call for the South Korean government to end its diplomatic agreement that allows for the U.S. troop presence, claiming that they’re more afraid of the U.S. military peacekeepers than the North Korean regime they are supposed to be protected them from.

Seoul dance clubs once frequented by U.S. military now bar admission to American soldiers after concern expressed by female patrons, according to local press reports here. South Korea also created a task force to seek revisions to the Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA, that governs the legal status of U.S. troops in South Korea and elsewhere.

Activists here say that the SOFA, signed in 1965 and amended in 1995 and 2001, is unjust because it goes too far in protecting U.S. soldiers. Many want the police here to be given more legal jurisdiction to investigate sex crimes involving American soldiers.

via Alleged rapes by U.S. soldiers ratchet up anger in South Korea – latimes.com.

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