Activist of the Week: Alaa Abd Al-Fattah

Happy Martin Luther King week! (Yes, it’s a week. I make the rules ’round these parts. Shush your face.)

Rather than focus on King himself, though, it seems more relevant for this blog to honor his legacy by recognizing the sacrifices being made by activists around the world today. Like King, they have suffered physical danger, imprisonment, and separation from their families in service of their goal. Unlike him, however, they are still struggling, still in danger, and still in a position to benefit from our support and attention.

So, this post is the first in an ongoing series highlighting the work and sacrifices of individual activists. (And not in a “I sacrificed my summer vacation to work with poor brown children” kind of way – whites in shining armor need not apply.) Enjoy.

This week’s activist is Egypt’s Alaa Abd El Fattah.
Photo of Alaa Using His Laptop
Congratulations, Alaa! I would send you some Lucky Charms or a certificate suitable for framing, but we’re pretty sure that it would be confiscated by your jailers.

Nature of Activism: Support for political freedom and civil rights in Egypt.

Activism Highlights: Contributed to freedom of expression in Egypt by founding the Omraneya blog aggregator. Participated in protests against all Egyptian governments that have been in power during his lifetime: the Mubarak regime, (most notably during the climactic Tahrir protests in February 2011), the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (“SCAF”) which replaced Mubarak, the elected Muslim Brotherhood-led government which succeeded SCAF, and the current military regime which took power last summer.

Notable Sacrifices: He has been arrested and imprisoned three times: by Mubarak in 2006, (45 days in jail); by SCAF in 2011 (56 days in jail, during which he missed the birth of his son), and by the current military government (55 days and counting, he is still in prison).

Degree of Success Thus Far: Mixed. On the one hand, the Mubarak regime was overthrown, and eventually replaced by a democratically-elected government. On the other hand, that elected government proved somewhat less than awesome, and was itself overthrown by a popular uprising. The military-led government that replaced it has not exactly embraced democratic ideals.

Alaa’s friends on his work, and its value:

From Jillian York:

“I’ve said it to reporters so many times that it’s almost lost its meaning, but I’ll say it again: Alaa is in prison not because he committed a crime, not because he said too much, but because his very existence poses a threat to the state. Those who are bold, those who do not relent, will always threaten the terrified and ultimately weak state which must, to survive, squash its opponents like flies. But Alaa will not allow himself to be crushed like that, I know.

There is little more I can say that hasn’t been or wouldn’t be better said by Egyptians, those who fought these battles on the street while I merely watched, an observer with a few good friends on the ground. But the one thing I know is that we must not give up. Alaa hasn’t, and we cannot.”

From Alia Mossalam:

“Alaa is in jail because he openly speaks against injustice. He is as open in his opposition to the failures of the Muslim Brotherhood as he was of the crimes of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, as he is with the new regime. As a result he has been tried by every regime, from Mubarak to the current military state.

[…]

There is no bigger threat to despotism than hope. And Alaa inspires hope wherever he goes, because he believes justice is an achievable reality, and because he believes in the rule of law, despite those who oppress us in its name. Alaa is dangerous because his ideas and enthusiasm are contagious. Where would we be if we all had hope? How could a system that breads futility, survive us?

In an article he wrote months ago, Alaa described the excessive arming of civilians (in popular committees) as well as security forces as “khan’ misahit hub al-hayah” (a stifling of the capacity to love life). The term has stuck with me since, because somehow, in the ugliness of battle, we tend to forget that the root of this struggle is the love of life.
If I were to articulate why it is that Alaa would risk so much, what it is he is resisting with all his might, it would be exactly that — he is resisting the stifling of our scope to love and to live.”

More thoughts on Alaa from his friends can be found here, here, and here – all are well worth a read.

Get It While It’s Hot: War Don Don Now Available Online

Exciting news for all fans of thoughtful media about mass atrocity prosecutions: War Don Don is now available on VOD! Find it here. (Currently it’s only available on iTunes, but director Rebecca Richman Cohen tells me that it will soon be on Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, and X-Box as well.)

The film will also play on PBS on January 27th, as part of the AfroPoP series.

My original review of War Don Don from 2010 is re-posted below. Since writing it, I’ve used the film as part of my human rights classes at Fordham, and it never failed to prompt an extremely interesting classroom debate about the interaction between our ideals of justice, and the institutions we expect to make those ideals a reality. Highly recommended for classroom use.

Original June 2010 Review:

Things I Liked Quite a Bit: War Don Don
If you’re in New York this week, or DC next week, I highly recommend checking out War Don Don, a new documentary about former RUF leader Issa Sesay’s trial in the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Director Rebecca Richman Cohen has a J.D. from Harvard law school, and she puts her legal knowledge to good use in this film. Rather than pushing a particular narrative, or view of the international justice system, War Don Don allows the individuals at the heart of the trial to speak for themselves. This leads to some unintentionally funny results at times – at one point prosecutor David Crane (who has since further distinguished himself by becoming an advisor to that ridiculous “to catch a war criminal” show) looks into the camera and says, in an ominous tone, that Sesay’s trial was “the first time I looked into the eyes of a human being and realized that he had no soul.” By contrast, defense attorney Wayne Jordash is prone to wistful sighs about how nice a guy Sesay is, and how he wishes that he weren’t in prison so that they could hang out more.

Amidst the amusing soundbites, however, War Don Don manages to highlight some serious issues with the way the tribunal has administered justice. For instance, although both sides offered payments to witnesses to cover the costs associated with their testimony, the prosecution was able to pay far more than the defense, as well as to offer perks like resettlement in a wealthy country. More troubling still, Sesay receives little credit for his efforts at resolving the war: he was the RUF commander who presided over the disarmament process, a task which he undertook over the objections of much of the RUF’s senior leadership. In a statement delivered to the court during the sentencing phase of his trial, Sesay pointed out that rebels who had refused to disarm were being courted by the UN, while he – who had actively participated in the peace process years earlier – was now in the dock.

To the film’s credit, it doesn’t feel forced to answer the questions it raises. War Don Don is a way to start a broader conversation about international justice, not to end one.

In sum: go, and take your interns with you! War Don Don is showing today at 2 PM and Wednesday the 16th at 4 PM here in New York, as part of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, and then on June 22nd and 26th in Silver Spring, as part of the AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival.

The Recently-Discovered Secret Diary of Kim Jong Un’s Ski Instructor, Alex

[For background, see here, here, here, and here]

Day 1:
“Ski instructor” is the best job in entire world. Today, sky was clear, powder was perfect … and yours truly was hired by group of NBA stars! Dennis Rodman! And other less famous NBA players whom I did not recognize! All v. exciting.

(Philosophical question: why is satisfaction of being excellent ski instructor less than satisfaction of being more awesome at skiing than “The Worm”?)

Day 2:
Love job! Best job job eversss. More Rodman skiings then brilliant night at bar with brilliant new friends Rodman and other new Korean friends. Me and Rodman going to start cover band singing Backstreet Boys songs, thing will be a big hit.

Tried to get Koreans to sing with us but they refused. Kept asking Rodman “are you sure he is the right one?” and showing him photos of something. Ridiculous questions, obviously am right one, was born to sing Backstreet’s Back. Koreans nice later though, bought me special drinks just for me. Serenaded my thanks: “I want it that way.”

Idea: other less-famous NBA players can be backup singers instead! Backstreet Backups hahahahaha.

Day 3:
Woke up. Splitting headache. Room unfamiliar.

Rodman came in with coffee and a bowl of rice. Coffee + rice quite good hangover remedy, as it turns out. (Suppose is not surprising that Rodman would know that.)

Asked Rodman where I am. He said “Still the Alps, man! Definitely still the Alps! Really.” Then laughed uproariously, left room.

Am not sure what was so funny re: Alps.

Day 4:
Peculiar day.

Went skiing with NBA friends again. To my great surprise, who should join our lesson but my former student Un-Pak! Taught Un-Pak years ago when he was just a chubby teen. Hadn’t seen him for years – one day he called to say that he couldn’t make it to ski lesson because he had to go home to Korea to run his family business. Asked him how Korea is. He said “you tell me!” and then giggled with Rodman. (????)

Strange thing, though: ski runs this afternoon v unfamiliar. And strangely empty. Didn’t see any other skiers all day. Views don’t look right either. Tried to find the Matterhorn, in order to orient self, but couldn’t. Rodman pointed at peak in the distance, and said “there it is, man, now will you stop asking so many questions?” but shape of that mountain appeared quite different from Matterhorn.

Also! Noticed that the signs that say “You are Totally in the Alps” and “Matterhorn This Way –>” were just posters taped over other signs, which were in Korean. When asked Un-Pak about this, he started shouting that this was a real ski resort, and pointing to all the “European” lift chairs and other equipment. Something about human rights, too.

So, to recap situation: woke up in unfamiliar room after long night of hard drinking with NBA stars and unknown Koreans. Head v. painful. Resort empty. Ski runs unfamiliar. Matterhorn wrong shape.

Pretty sure have figured out what is going on here.

Clearly, Rodman & Un-Pak have built a ski resort on newly-discovered Alp, and want self to join as partner, due to excellent ski-instructing prowess! Probably are waiting for right moment for big “reveal” of new resort catering to Korean tourists!

Will say nothing, so as not to spoil surprise.

Day 5:
Today Un-Pak brought more Koreans skiing with us, presumably investors in the resort. Bit of an odd day.

Other Koreans seemed quite unclear on “skiing” concept. Put on their skis, but just stood at top of the run, observing us. They applauded Un-Pak constantly, even when he fell down. (He clearly hasn’t skied much lately.) When I tried to explain to them, for educational purposes, that remaining upright is a key element of good skiing, they began to shout at me that I was violating their human rights.

Am not a lawyer, but if there was a human right to fall down while skiing, imagine I would have encountered it previously.

Tried to make conversation with them, but found it a struggle.  They kept bringing up strange hypotheticals, such as:

“Which do you think is better, having enough food to eat, or starving to death but knowing there is a world-class ski resort in your country?”

“Which would be worse, being executed by firing squad or by being devoured by hungry dogs?  What if you really like dogs, and wouldn’t want them to be hungry?”

“Which is a more important human right, access to imported ski lift equipment, or access to nuclear weapons?”

Perhaps they have downloaded a new version of Cards Against Humanity.  Must remember to check that out next time am online.

Day 6:
Worried may have upset Un-Pak and Korean investors. While on ski lift this morning, attempted to demonstrate ease with Korean culture by casually mentioning that several previous ski-instruction clients live in Seoul, and suggesting we all visit them there.

Response was not as hoped. Perhaps “I hear Seoul is lovely this time of year” sounds similar to a mortal insult in Korean? Investors recoiled, and began to look around frantically to see if anyone else had heard.

Confusion only increased throughout day. Later, one of the investors who initially seemed insulted by Seoul comment (think is named Tong?) sidled up and said quietly “yes Seoul is lovely in winter, I too have many friends there.” If that is true, why initial horrified reaction?

Still, was happy to be building alliance with Tong. Is my understanding, from watching The Apprentice, that alliances are v. important in business.

At lunch, attempted to extend new alliance with Tong to other investors. Turned to others at table, and said “Tong and I are making plans to visit some clients of mine in Seoul this winter. Why don’t you all come along?”

Tong must have wanted me all to himself, because when I made my offer to others, he got a funny expression on his face. Left table without a word! Other investors began talking amongst selves in low voices, in Korean. Rude, if you ask me.

Attempting to stay cheery by keeping mind on ski-resort opportunity. Rudeness of investors unimportant in face of potential career success. Shall be resort mogul! Perhaps own branded ski-wear line for Korean market? (Un-Pak and investors inexplicably all wear full-length wool coats on the slopes. Market for parkas must be wide open.)

Day 7:
Growing annoyed by investors’ behavior. This morning, realized had not checked in with boss in days, and asked to borrow investor’s phone. Rudely denied, told that boss already has “all necessary information”!

Find that hard to believe. Surely, would not have wanted boss to know that they are planning to poach me for new resort?

Worrying thought: perhaps they took new-resort idea to boss first, and he declined? What does he know that I don’t know?

Skied in afternoon, but heart not in it. Un-Pak and Rodman did ski runs together, made great show of being good friends. Felt bit left out, if am being honest. Who taught them to ski, anyway?

Absurdly cold out. Have never known it to be so cold in Alps before. Perhaps is just my bad mood, making weather seem worse than really is.

Very, very cold though.

No sign of Tong.

Day 8:
Seriously annoyed now. Tong failed to show up, yet again. Does he think our Seoul trip is going to plan itself?

Rodman noticed my foul mood, attempted to placate me with promise of one-on-one basketball game and signed jersey. Informed him that being beaten at basketball by geriatric ex-NBA player was unlikely to make me feel better.

Rodman said he was shocked that his “basketball diplomacy” offer was rejected. Informed him that “basketball diplomacy” is not a thing.

Un-Pak wanted Rodman to play with him instead. Made us all watch as Rodman played comically badly in order to let him win. (He must really want in on this resort deal.) Other investors acted like it was a real game, heaped ridiculous praise on Un-Pak. Noticed that they keep calling him “Jong-Un” – some sort of nickname?

Could not stop myself, loudly asked Rodman why he let Un-Pak win. Rodman claimed had done no such thing, but Un-Pak became enraged. Threw both his sneakers at my head, and said never wanted to see me again.

Assume this means ski lessons this afternoon are off.

Feeling regretful of outburst now. Hope have not lost chance at resort opportunity. Apparently whole group going drinking this evening, perhaps can patch things up then.

Day 9:
Another splitting headache. Last thing I remember was doing shots while Rodman held me upside down by ankles over a snowdrift.

Awoke in own bed, in own apartment, though. Unsure how I got here, but am impressed with own resourcefulness while drunk!

Signed NBA basketball next to me. Inscription from Rodman: “great hangin’ with you, man.” Inscription from someone else: “You are being watched. Say nothing or Tong’s fate will be your own.” Not sure what that’s supposed to mean – is Tong off the resort deal?

Day 10:
Shocking day.

Police showed up at apartment, questioned self for nearly 6 hours. Wanted to know where I had been. For some reason seemed reluctant to believe story of new Korean-only resort on untouched Alp. Reshaping of Matterhorn seemed to be particular sticking point.

Police claimed that my pal “Un-Pak” is really despotic leader of North Korea. Showed me photos from North Korean government sources. Supposedly is common knowledge, but as I pointed out, can’t be that common if I didn’t know.

Is true that it did look like him.

But is just too hard to believe.

… right?

Rodman is going to be so surprised when I tell him.

Ski-slope photo credit: nonanet on Flickr, under a creative commons license. The use of the photograph in this post should not be taken as a sign that the photographer endorses this post, the North Korean regime, or the services of Alex the fictional ski instructor.

Starting As I Mean to Go On: Resolutions for 2014

Hello, 2014, I’m so happy to see you!  

So, so happy. Happy … and a little surprised?

Not that I didn’t think you’d show up, but the highlights of my 2013 included “not getting blown up by that bomb that time,” and “all those great funerals,” so at times it felt like my luck was running out. Guess not, though!

To honor my unexpected success in making it out of 2013 with only some light singeing around my edges, I’ve made some resolutions. As I’m sure will surprise no one who knows me, I don’t believe in resolutions to do more things that I don’t want to do, but seem prudent. Rather, I only resolve to do more things that I do want to do, and might be tempted to deny myself in the name of prudence. And so:

The 2014 Resolutions of A. Taub:

1. Make and eat more desserts and other delicious foods. Self-explanatory. Delicious food is awesome, and shifting the balance between delicious food/just okay food towards the former seems like a clear win. In fact, because I am working from home today on account of Polar Vortex, I shall start right now, and make the Peanut-Butter Brown-Butter Rice Krispie Treats that are described in the recipe at the end of this post, after the jump. (If you have suggestions for the leftovers, you should email me.)

2. Watch more TV. I love TV, it is the best! And yet sometimes there is TV out there that I want to watch, and don’t, because I think I could use the time more productively by doing something else. That is clearly fear talking, and in 2014 I am going to face the fear and do it anyway. And by “do it,” I mean “watch television like a boss.” A boss of television watching.

3. Go to more of my favorite absurdly expensive exercise classes. I discovered Refine midway through 2013, and found that it offers exactly what I look for in a physical activity. Namely: a supervised, encouraging environment with good lighting in which to absolutely fucking destroy myself until all that remains is a damp little heap of Amanda-scraps bathed in endorphins.

I don’t care that it costs a gajillion dollars a class, I need more of that in my life. (That sentence was lies, in fact I do care, I wish they weren’t priced so decadently, but these resolutions are about finding a way to go anyway.)

4. Write more ridiculous blog posts.  From the beginning, this blog has been primarily a humorous site about atrocities, so we have never made any claims to seriousness, but I feel that perhaps I have not done a good enough job of plumbing the depths of my own un-seriousness in the last year. So, in 2014, whenever I have an idea to which my initial response is “I think that’s hilarious, but no one else would ever want to read my New Year’s resolutions/brief imagined memoirs of Kim Jong Un’s first ski instructor/travel skin-care advice for places with limited running water,” I resolve to write it and post it anyway, for the non-enjoyment of you, our long-suffering readers. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

(Obviously, with this post, I am starting as I mean to go on.)

Salted Peanut-Butter Brown-Butter Rice Krispie Treats

A perfect choice to brighten up those dreary winter days when you’re inside hiding from the Polar Vortex, South Sudan’s peace talks seem shaky, and Rwandan government officials are being astonishingly dickish – even for them – about a murdered opposition figure.

Continue reading

Egyptian Military Deploys Unstoppable Army of Nationalist Tots

The Egyptian military would like you to know that its primary activities these days consist of kissing adorable small children on the cheek, accepting bouquets of flowers, and dance-marching to a jaunty electro-folk beat.

The children, for their parts, have an absolutely adorable song for you about the prospect of martyrdom and their love for the army, particularly General al-Sisi (note the “I love you Sisi!” in English at the 2:30 mark).

I have to say, this is a big relief. Events of recent weeks, such as the arrest of prominent young activists Alaa and Mona Abd el Fattah and Ahmed Maher, the detention of four al-Jazeera journalists, the raid by security forces on the office of the Egyptian Center for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the sentencing of 21 schoolgirls to prison for demonstrating in support of deposed president Mohammed Morsi, had made me a bit concerned that the Egyptian military might be wielding its considerable strength to crush dissent and crack down on any potential challenges to its consolidation of political power.

I sure am grateful to the 4 year old girl in army fatigues for setting me straight.

(Hat tip for the video goes to The Arabist, whose posts and very useful Twitter feed were probably originally responsible for bringing many of the other linked stories to my attention as well.)

A Partial List of People Against Whom I Am Currently Waging a “Sex Strike.”

“And lurking in Waldman’s novel, as in many portraits of the dating scene (ahem, Lena Dunham, ahem), is a kind of moral traditionalism that dare not speak its name — or that can be spoken of only in half-jest, as when the novelist Benjamin Kunkel told Traister that the solution was “some sort of a sexual strike against just such men.”

Because Kunkel is right: One obvious solution to the Nathaniel P. problem is a romantic culture in which more is required of young men before the women in their lives will sleep with them.”

– From “The Daughter Theory”, Ross Douthat, published in the New York Times on December 14th, 2013

Ross Douthat has revealed women’s secret superpower: the ability to get people to do whatever we want by simply not sleeping with them.  Now that the secret’s out, I have decided to go public with my own “sexual strikes,” in order to ensure that I get credit for their eventual success.

That’s right, folks.  Although it may appear to the casual observer that I have been in a committed monogamous relationship for the last 13 years and ten days, I have in fact just been engaged in a very comprehensive organized campaign of sexual protest.

Targets include, but are not limited to:

  1. Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad: No sex with me until chemical weapons renounced and destroyed, violence targeting civilians ended, and government successfully transitioned to a representative democracy with robust civil liberties protections.
    • Success of strike thus far: Partial. Assad showed some initial responsiveness to the strike when he agreed to abandon the use of chemical weapons, but very little progress has been made since then. I am steadfast in my resolve: I absolutely, categorically refuse to have sex with President Al-Assad until all of my demands are met.
  2. U.S. Director of National Security James R. Clapper: No sex with me until the NSA ends its program of massive computer-based surveillance of Americans, and also stops lying to Congress about it.
    • Success of strike thus far: Limited. On July 1, 2013, Clapper apologized for his “clearly erroneous” answers to questions posed by Senator Ron Wyden in a March Senate hearing, and claimed to have “forgotten” about the Patriot Act. An apology for lying that pretty clearly contains new lies only strengthens my resolve to continue this strike. I therefore continue to not have even a tiny bit of sex with Retired General Clapper.
  3. Goddess of Commercially-Successful Pop Music Beyoncé Knowles: No sex with me until she releases a new album in 2013.

Readers, feel free to share news of your own strikes in the comments.  (And Bey, call me.)

For the Stylish LRA Supporter in Your Life

This is the “Call to Action Stanley Tote” From Kate Spade:

I Heart KONY Tote

It has a matching iPhone case:
I Heart Kony iPhone

Obviously, the Lord’s Resistance Army has decided to take a page out of Al Shabaab’s book and begin recruiting in the United States, and has managed to enlist the help of Kate Spade.

Given American young people’s proven susceptibility to accessory-based campaigns, it’s only a matter of time before legions of young women accept this “call to action,” snap on some enameled bangles, have their colorists update their highlights to something “low maintenance, for, like, the jungle,” and head off to the bush.

And ye shall know them by their sparkling tote bags.

H/T @Laurenist.

A Field Guide to the North American Responsibility Troll

I would like to thank Emily Yoffe for her article The Best Rape Prevention: Tell College Women to Stop Getting So Wasted, in which she spends more than 2,700 words explaining young women’s “responsibility” when it comes to preventing their own rapes. Not because I like it – it’s infuriating – but because it serves as a perfect example of a particularly insidious form of concern trolling. Let’s call this sub-species of troll, who criticizes women’s behavior in the guise of being concerned for their well-being, a “responsibility troll.”

The responsibility troll has a problem: he or she has a lot of thoughts about the way Women Ought to Behave, but knows that it’s socially unacceptable to insist directly on double standards for men and women. Luckily, however, our society is totally fine with restricting women’s lives if it’s for their own good (or, sometimes, for their children’s). Problem solved!

The responsibility troll won’t say that it’s not ladylike for women to drink the way men do – but she wants you to be aware that studies show that women who get drunk are more likely to get raped. The responsibility troll knows you think your right to choose is important, but he feels you ought to know that studies show that women who have abortions end up sad ladies who are full of regret. The responsibility troll doesn’t tell women that they should prioritize their babies over their careers – but does feel a need to point out that studies show that exclusive breast-feeding is best for the infant. Studies show, you know. The responsibility troll loves studies.

Responsibility trolls mimic the markings of genuinely helpful friends, so it can be difficult to distinguish them on first glance. However, if you know the signs, you’ll be able to easily spot these trolls in the wild.

1. It’s not your fault you do dumb things.  You can’t be expected to know any better.  (Because you’re dumb and the responsibility troll hasn’t told you what to do yet.)

The responsibility troll can rarely resist insulting the people he or she is supposedly trying to help. Emily Yoffe, for instance, refers to college women as “naïve” and “inexperienced,” repeatedly references their lack of “responsibility,” and suggests that they won’t know intoxication increases their vulnerability to sexual assault unless they are specifically trained on that subject – preferably via a program that includes older students describing the horror of their own assaults. Genuinely concerned friends won’t start from the assumption that you’re a moron, so if this happens to you, you’re probably dealing with a responsibility troll.

2. Double Standards = Double the Fun!

The responsibility troll loves double standards. Except, he or she will hasten to point out, they aren’t really double standards – it’s just that women should address woman problems, and men should address man problems. See? Fair!

Getting raped, for instance – that’s a woman problem if ever there was one. (You would never know, from listening to a responsibility troll, that men can be raped too.) That’s why Yoffe tells her daughter to remember that “it’s her responsibility to take steps to protect herself” from sexual assault.

Being falsely accused of rape, on the other hand, is a man problem.  Yoffe tells her hypothetical son that “it’s in his self-interest not to be the drunken frat boy who finds himself accused of raping a drunken classmate.” (No mention of anything the imaginary lad might do to prevent rape, such as intervening if he sees an acquaintance trying to take advantage of an inebriated woman. That would be asking a man to solve a woman problem, and therefore unjust.)  Personal responsibility!

3. It’s not that it’s your fault, it’s just that you have to take responsibility for your choices, and if you had made different choices, this would never have happened.

The responsibility troll can’t imagine any effective way to solve woman problems except via improvements in women’s behavior. It’s all about “personal responsibility,” remember? That’s why, to a responsibility troll, the victim’s intoxication is the most relevant part of this particular story:

“As she dealt with her shame and guilt, she talked to friends about that night, and the real story emerged. She was so intoxicated that her friends were worried about her when she stumbled out of the bar disoriented and without her shoes. They said they saw her being led away by the male classmate who was not drunk. She came to understand that she had been raped. “Since I realized it wasn’t my fault, I crawled out of a deep, dark hole,” she says. She also knew he’d done it before. “He had this reputation if you were going to be drunk around him, he was probably going to have sex with you.”

That’s right: this perpetrator was apparently a known sexual predator. The rapes this man had committed in the past had not led to his ostracization from their social group, so he was still around, trolling for victims. This victim’s friends, who were sober enough to realize what was going on at the time and remember it later, failed to intervene when they saw this known rapist leading away their inebriated companion. And yet Yoffe focuses on the victim’s behavior. Personal responsibility!

To the responsibility troll, the solution is always more personal responsibility – preferably on the part of women. Later in her article, Yoffe spends several paragraphs bewailing the non-rape-related dangers that binge drinking poses to students of both sexes, but then brightly offers a solution: “If female college students start moderating their drinking as a way of looking out for their own self-interest – and looking out for your own self-interest should be a primary feminist principle – I hope their restraint trickles down to the men.” (Emphasis mine, because of wow.) Apparently, it’s not even worth considering asking men to act differently until women’s behavior is perfect – at which point we should just cross our fingers that the runoff of from all that feminine rectitude will have magical dude-improving powers.

Readers attempting to spot a responsibility troll in the wild will do well to remember that no one who actually cares about you will suggest that you rely on “trickle-down” anything. Such statements are a sign that you’ve fallen into the clutches of either a responsibility troll, or a Reaganite Republican. Either way, it’s time to make your escape.

4. Pat Riarchy? Didn’t he play first base for the Yankees?

The responsibility troll is very, very uncomfortable examining any role that patriarchy, racism, or other such societal-level issues might play in the problem at hand – or the degree to which his or her trolling might be reinforcing those same harmful norms. The responsibility troll will make the obligatory references to societal obligations in order to defend herself against snarky bloggers like yours truly, but they’ll be tossed off in a cursory fashion, and usually followed immediately by the word “but.”

For instance: “[o]f course, perpetrators should be caught and punished. But when you are dealing with intoxication and sex, there are the built-in complications of incomplete memories and differing interpretations of intent and consent.”

“Built-in complications?” Wonder what those could be.

The source Yoffe cites – a guide to prosecuting alcohol-facilitate rape issued by the National District Attorneys’ Association – contains an extensive discussion of the ways in which social disapproval of women’s drinking makes it difficult to prosecute rapists. For instance, “jurors may view a voluntarily intoxicated victim with skepticism or dislike, and may assume that she put herself in danger with her behavior.” (Apparently responsibility trolls serve on juries, too.)

Articles like Yoffe’s bolster those harmful beliefs, but she doesn’t engage with them.  Instead, she compares the difficulties of prosecuting rape-by-intoxication cases – in which the victim’s intoxication must be proven – to the relative simplicity of prosecuting DUIs, in which the perpetrator’s drunkenness is at issue. By doing so, she manages not only to subtly equate being the victim of rape to being the perpetrator of a DUI, but also to completely miss the fact that her own source says that such judgmental attitudes are one of the reasons why alcohol-facilitated assaults are so difficult to prosecute in the first place.

5. Who cares about the facts? Personal responsibility!

The claims made by the study-spouting responsibility troll are often at some variance from the facts on the ground.  For instance, as Yoffe’s colleague Amanda Hess pointed out in her excellent response to Yoffe’s article, statistics suggest rates of rape and female binge drinking are actually negatively correlated with each other: the Justice Department’s national crime victimization study shows that there has been a precipitous fall in the number of rapes per capita since 1979, while rates of binge drinking among women spiked in the 1990s and have remained steady ever since.*  And it’s also quite odd that Yoffe responded to claims that a 14-year-old high school student was assaulted by her teenaged schoolmate by criticizing the choices of … college students?  It’s almost as if the responsibility troll is just looking for any excuse to make a trollish point.

All joking aside, though, this kind of thing does real harm.  It shames victims.  It supports norms that demand that women choose between their freedom and their safety.  And it distracts from strategies that might actually lower the incidence of sexual assault.  It needs to stop.

* The pedantic nerd in me notes that I have not examined the methodology of those two studies, and so can’t say if it’s reasonable to match their results against each other in this way.  That being said, I haven’t seen any evidence that the correlation goes the other way, as Yoffe seems to be claiming.

Because We All Love Amy Poehler: Her Speech In Support of the Worldwide Orphans Foundation

Amy Poehler, offering an important insight into the value of charity work: “it’s good for your skin, and it makes your ass smaller.”

Because I am blinded by my love for the Poehler Bear, I have no idea if the Worldwide Orphans Foundation she’s supporting here does good work or not. Anyone have more information about them?

This Kerala Tourism Board Video is Going to Haunt My Nightmares

The Kerala Tourism Board has an important message for everyone, which is that Kerala is a good vacation destination because of the high prevalence of demonic possession, some of which occurs during spa treatments.

Another good activity to do in Kerala, apparently, is to get cloned, dress your clone in an outfit that matches yours, and sit in a daze in the middle of a lake as your doppelganger gets paddled around you in a canoe.

Or, if you would prefer, you can have a psychotic breakdown in the woods, during which a group of silent men and boys will dress you in burlap, tie your hands together, and watch silently as you writhe in agony. This will make your hair really, really messy.

(The elephant at the end clearly regrets his decision to appear in this ad. You can tell from his face that he is counting down the seconds until the shot is over so that he can call his agent and berate him for sending him out on this terrible job.

He is going to be all “Bernie! What the hell? I trained with the Paris Opera. I want to do La Bayadere, not La What-the-hell-is-this-lady-doing-to-my-trunk-adere.)

h/t The Daily Dish