Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Sherman Alexie and Daniel Handler

Yesterday, NPR broke the Sherman Alexie story. It's been an odd one, even in this moment of "me too," because the allegations went public and then viral long before the story, followed by an Alexie statement that generated more news, and then finally the women's voices were heard. NPR did a great job.

I did a few days' reporting on the story after my Daniel Handler article went live, as people reached out to me. This meant that as the story emerged, but before NPR's story was published, I watched Alexie's statement land and generate news with some tiny inside knowledge. As a result, I had a few thoughts on the journalism issues of taking Alexie's statement as a simple apology.

It wasn't. It said: 1) He did bad things. 2) But not the worst things. 3) And then he smeared the source, a woman with whom he had an affair. That's not an apology and reporting it as such reinforces rape culture.

I wrote a short thread on the issue here:

Ideally, one would take such a statement and describe it more or less as I did, factually, rather than embracing Alexie's "apology" frame.

In my Daniel Handler story, I referenced a series of anonymous comments accusing Alexie. I received a little pushback on that, but felt confident in the appropriateness of citing it. I brought it up because of this twitter thread from Allie Jane Bruce, one of the women who talked about Handler.
Bruce writes, "What you will hear, if you listen, is two cis men who speak the language of liberalism, progressivism, and feminism *perfectly* and are capitalizing on it. Using it to promote themselves and their books."

We have a lot of work to do unraveling patriarchy (more on that in a forthcoming piece). Each field is going to have to reckon with how it promoted abusers to celebrity status and consider how to undo celebrity culture. One of my new mantras: community, not celebrity.

The work continues.

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