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Thread by @bookofriot: "feel free to mute me, I'm in the mood to livetweet every mendacious and foolish thing in the New Yorker piece on the Ronell affair. It'll la […]" #SundayMorning #IDontDoCrosswords #MeToo #Letters

, 27 tweets, 8 min read
feel free to mute me, I'm in the mood to livetweet every mendacious and foolish thing in the New Yorker piece on the Ronell affair. It'll last about 30 minutes is my guess. #SundayMorning #IDontDoCrosswords /1
the objective, journalistic setup is at pains to complete some contradictory tasks. On the one hand, the 2 parties are described in a way to make them seem intractably inequal in experience, work status, and most importantly, intellectual gift. Note: could use more "accounts." /2
The inequality missing from this objective lol opening & never mentioned is that one of these people was the other person's boss (as an advisor of dissertations, I do not make this claim casually), had power over their future employment, & had an ethical burden of care. /3
So, there is the absurdly misleading setup if who they are. Because of the structuring absence, it can also claim that, on the other hand, they were pretty much equal parters in the events. That's what "Their relationship" is doing. We are still in the second graf, people. /4
While we are dealing with the setup, it is probably worth mentioning that the author has written *multiple essays* for The New Yorker identifying #MeToo as a "sex panic." But now suddenly we need to be thoughtful. Hmm. newyorker.com/search/q/%22se…
Let's move on to the very next paragraph's first sentence. *Again* it lists various social characteristics a human can bear, noting that none of them precludes anyone from being an abuser or harasser. Who could argue? /6
Uh almost anyone. If one were to say, "anyone...can be a racist, and anyone can be a victim of racism," we would identify this immediately as a racist trope. Racism is a structure of domination based in preexisting, violently enforced racial hierarchy. /7
Workplace abuse & harassment are also consequences of a preexisting, violently enforced hierarchy, which *can be* & *often is* gendered, racialized, vested in sexuality, but is *always* premised on workplace power over employment/employment outcome. So, bad premise. Real bad. /8
the graf following this sentence multiplies this disingenuous defense pretending not to be a defense to a comic degree. We hear that no, the "complicating details" do matter. Phew! Then we get the details. /9
Still on 3rd paragraph of many, and already we are unsurprised to discover that, among the *total catalog* of details that matter in this case, the detail that this was a teacher & student with a clear, official, legal relation of professional hierarchy is not one of them. /10
Then we get to The Letter, dun dun DUN. The article admits the letter defending Ronell because she is extremely successful & Reitman is a scheming slut was a "terrible letter." Cool. But wait, check this out. /11
What's up there? This is true of literally every letter collectively signed by lots of people in the history of letters. The implication is, they're not responsible for the letter somehow? Dear academics who specialize in reading things: you sign it, you own it. #Letters. /12
It might be hard to trust this article's textual acuity by now but let's read on. While we are on the subject of genre, check out the action in the next graf, about the legal complaint. /13
As a friend wrote to me last, "I've read a lot of romance novels, and “sexual assault in Paris” is not a popular genre." I suspect further that the author here is not familiar w/ legal complaints, which universally suck, but are commonly subheaded per specific episodes /14
Anyway the rhetorical work this is doing is straightforward enough, even aside from the particulars of the romance genre: it renders the complaint as fiction, with "chapters," etc. But don't worry, this article is not a polemical taking of sides. /15
This is actually too demoralizing to sustain; I think I'll leave it at this, but just to note a couple last things. /16
One, @theorygurl has been awesome on this all around and is awesome in this article on capacity of the prof to delude themselves they don't own hierarchical power, & the reminder that academia is vastly misogynistic in ways that don't rule out the predatory nature here. /17
This is an exception. The article's purported core—to show this thorny case has elicited important thinking about #MeToo—VASTLY favors contribs to bullybloggers & theoryilluminati, or those associated w the infamous letter: venues that are all in on defenses of Ronell. /18
Well-circulated and superlative pieces by @keguro_ and @ncecire that are perhaps less invested in defending "one of the great academic minds of our time" are totally unmentioned. /19 natalia.cecire.org/teaching/new-a…
But the article has a lot of time for Judith Butler, whose core role has been to be awesomely wrong and then to say, um, I was awesomely wrong. Here is Butler's last of many words. /20
You may well find yourself saying, 🤔 /21
Again quoting a friend, "left-liberals are so up in arms about detained migrants not getting due process what about college professors," hmmmmmmm? But the statement is even more absurd than that. /22
The *but what about due process, hmm?* argument is neither true nor false. It is, however, a staple of all defenses of faculty against harassment charges even as the evidence piles up, and it is always entangled with implicit ideas about who deserves this due process. /23
Maybe that can be the mildly optimistic takeaway here. The Gessen article is exemplary of a journalism that pretends to thoughtful, nuanced, objectivity while tilting the scales toward power literally at every turn. It should be in a textbook under "Language of Hierarchy." /24
And in that sense it is identical to Title IX, the legal structure that pretends to objectivity, is claimed to persecute professors, and is instead tilted dramatically toward power. /25
I think the goal of a neutral, objective-as-possible mechanism for confronting these violations is a good idea. As long as this is the model for it, it largely operates as a big megaphone to make alibis for power, which is the whole deal with power. /26
I've said this before, but if any one of these people was serious about what they say they are serious about they would set about unmaking the power of powerful professors & elite institutions w/o letting abuse off the hook, much less defending it. The end. /27
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