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Blame The Victim

That's some damn fine work you're doing there, Richard Cohen. Now could you explain to us again why you supported the Iraq War? A few more liberal columnists like this and we won't even need rightwingers. Margaret Carlson, an actual woman, has a different take. The truly unforgivable thing here is that Cohen has made Carlson look good. Damn him.

UPDATE: Look, obviously I have no way of knowing whether the underlying allegations made against O'Reilly are true. And I have no love for O'Reilly's accuser who, apparently, believed that working for The O'Reilly Factor was a dream job. But Cohen's column is willing to stipulate the truth of Mackris' account for the sake of argument and still blame her for what (purportedly) happened to her. This is classic blame-the-victim stuff right out of the "what was she wearing?" textbook that demonstrates about zero awareness of what life is like when you're not a big fish in the media (or, I would assume, other professional) pond.

October 21, 2004 | Permalink

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Comments

"Now could you explain to us again why you supported the Iraq War?

See your previous post.

Posted by: R.Cohen | Oct 21, 2004 9:08:49 PM

>Margaret Carlson, an actual woman....

Um, what the hell is this supposed to mean? That Richard Cohen is a fake woman?

Posted by: raj | Oct 21, 2004 9:34:07 PM

I have a question about the political spectrum, because the distinction MY made is an interesting one.

Is it "liberal" or "left-wing" to assume guilt on the part of O'Reilly?

Is it "conservative" or "right-wing" to prefer a term like "accuser" to "victim" until either all the facts are out or at least until there's a decision in the lawsuit?

Maybe, I suppose. O'Reilly is an egotistical, pompous windbag who I can easily imagine would be guilty of sexual harassment. That doesn't necessarily mean he is, though.

When people defended Bill Clinton against accusations from Paula Jones, were they being "right-wing" or "conservative"?

I didn't feel right-wing when I defended him to others.

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Oct 21, 2004 9:58:45 PM

For US$60,000,000 I'd be a happy victim too, thanks very much.

For Matthew to blithely assume that this has nothing to do with it would appear to be a case of ideology uber alles.

Posted by: am | Oct 21, 2004 11:03:33 PM

Wow, apparently we have more people who can't read on blogs all the time! Matt's post has nothing to do with O'Reilly speifically, it has to do with Cohen complaining that the woman may have been treated like dirt but that's her fault since she didn't stand up soon enough.

Posted by: Rob | Oct 21, 2004 11:19:17 PM

I don't see how Matt's post was assuming O'Reilly's guilt, SoCal. All he did was criticize Cohen for assuming that Andrea Mackris was lying.

Posted by: JP | Oct 21, 2004 11:19:55 PM

What's liberal is not whose side you take in terms of attackers or accusers. What's liberal is to excoriate the hypocrites. Bill Clinton never pretended to be a chaste paragon of virtue, nor did he denigrate others' foibles. O'Reilly does, and as such he joins the swelling ranks of hypocrites, sharing the pedestal with Bill Bennett, Ralph Reed, Rush Limbaugh and all the other mean nasty hypocritical moralizing scumbags.

Posted by: ch2 | Oct 21, 2004 11:21:17 PM

JP writes: I don't see how Matt's post was assuming O'Reilly's guilt.

Amongst other things, the thread is titled "Blame the Victim."

You don't think the word "victim" assumes a guilty perpetrator? (O'Reilly's general odiousness nothwithstanding.)

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Oct 21, 2004 11:33:40 PM

ch2: wrong. Dead wrong. There is no linkage between the validity of a person's views and their own faithfulness to those views. Their statements stand alone and should be discussed and evaluated in their own right.

In fact, if you criticize O'Reilly over any part of this except for personal inconsistency and you personally do not adhere to his views then you are being hypocritical, no?

Posted by: am | Oct 21, 2004 11:33:49 PM

Clinton denied sexually harassing Paula Jones; so far, O'Reilly hasn't denied anything. We are free to assume, until he argues otherwise, that he doesn't dispute the facts and only disputes whether his behavior rises to the definition of sexual harassment.

Posted by: son volt | Oct 21, 2004 11:44:26 PM

speaking of dead wrong, am, you're dead wrong on the $60M claim, but saying that am is wrong is like saying that i breathe.

and you're dead wrong again on the subject of hypocrisy: self-appointed guardians of the moral order are, in fact, subject to a different standard, and rightly so. why in heaven's name not?

you do recall who should be casting the first stone, don't you?

Posted by: howard | Oct 21, 2004 11:45:44 PM

You don't understand, SoCal. I should have been more precise with my language, however. Cohen's argument is not that Mackris is lying per se. His argument is that even if she's telling the truth about all of her factual claims, she still has no right to complain. As such, by Cohen's own admission, he is blaming the victim - he just thinks that he's justified in doing so. That's accepting Cohen's premises, not setting out any competing premises of one's own.

For myself, I have no idea whether these allegations are true or not. But I do think that O'Reilly should be smacked down pretty hard if they are, regardless of whether Mackris behaved unwisely or manipulatively. Cohen evidently disagrees with that, which I don't consider to be a position that's worthy of anyone's respect.

Posted by: JP | Oct 21, 2004 11:50:06 PM

Well I think Cohen wins on the Kobe defense.

Some women can be pretty dumb, and some men can be pretty smart. Some women can be pretty smart and some men can be pretty dumb. Often times, the law assumes the women are dumb, and the men are abusers.

This may be a swing of the pendulum, but it may also be just more of the history of treating women as children. I have no clue as to why Andrea Mackris, or Kobe's accuser, or even Mike Tyson's accuser went back to their hotel rooms. Were they "asking for it"? No. Was anything that happened there deserved? Probably not.

Could they have avoided their outcomes using a bit of common sense? Yes.

That said, I hope O'Lielly burns.

Posted by: jerry | Oct 21, 2004 11:53:02 PM

JP,

Let me just also say that I read this column this morning too, and the reason for the question in my first post is merely because the politics of liberal vs. conservative didn't really enter into my thought process at all.

Instead, I was thinking that irrespective of O'Reilly's guilt in this matter - which may be a a reality even if he's victorious in his legal defense - that based on certain facts that have been made public, his attorneys do have a lot to work with here. And I just looked at Cohen, who clearly doesn't like O'Reilly either, as pointing those facts out.

Indeed, he writes: But it was a young female television producer who suggested I write about this because, if I may paraphrase, lawsuits such as Mackris's infantilize women. They portray women totally as victims, without recourse or remedy at their disposal. It insults common sense.

What if that young, female television producer had written this op-ed instead of Cohen? Would she then also be guilty of an unforgivable transgression because she made Margaret Carlson look good too? Or would her chromosmes qualify her for forgiveness?

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Oct 21, 2004 11:58:20 PM

JP, you write: You don't understand, SoCal.

Look, now you are using the word "victim" too, which presupposes guilt. That's your right, but prefering a more objective term like "accuser" is not a sign of being illiberal. It's a sign of not rushing to judgment.

You write: For myself, I have no idea whether these allegations are true or not.

Then why insist on the word "victim"?

You write: But I do think that O'Reilly should be smacked down pretty hard if they are.

So does Cohen (and everyone else for that matter.) Read his column again.

He writes: If the allegations are true, there is no excusing O'Reilly. He would not only be a sexual harasser but an old goat drunk with power.

That's pretty clear. He doesn't add something like "but because Mackris appears to have acted irresponsbily and contrary to notions of common sense, even if O'Reilly is guilty, he should go unpunished."

You're imagining that this is what Cohen wrote.

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Oct 22, 2004 12:09:09 AM

Who said that the column is unforgivable? If you're asking whether or not it would be less misogynistic coming from a woman, then no, it wouldn't be.

It would, perhaps, have been better for Mackris to go to her HR director sooner, but we can't know her reasons for avoiding that. We don't know what motivated her conduct, but this article is written assuming that her account is true and still lays blame on her. If what she says actually happened to her, then O'Reilly was entirely out of line, regardless of her not explicitly rebuffing him. No offender ever gets to assume that his victim "wanted it" in other sorts of crime, and it's a privelege that we shouldn't extend to sexual harassment, either.

Posted by: Nick Simmonds | Oct 22, 2004 12:11:24 AM

Nick Simmonds,

Good points.

But is the only way to write a non-mysoginstic column about this story to assume that everything Mackris claims is not only true, but that all of her (self) reported actions are meaningless?

As I've said, I have no problem believing that O'Reilly is possibly guilty. I also have no problem believing that O'Reilly is possibly still guilty even if Mackris didn't take common sense opportunities to remove herself from threatening situations, or even lodge a timely complaint. I also have no problem believing O'Reilly is possibly still guilty even if she left an environment of harassment for another job, and then returned to that environment fully aware that she might be harassed again.

If O'Reilly is guilty of sexual harassment, no amount of "contributory" (scare quotes to denote the subjectivity of that term) behavoir on Mackris' part absolves O'Reilly of that guilt.

I just don't think a column highlighting the potentially "contributory" behavior, and the effects that has on a legal case, or the work place in general, is necessarily mysoginist.

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Oct 22, 2004 12:30:10 AM

Look, now you are using the word "victim" too, which presupposes guilt. That's your right, but prefering a more objective term like "accuser" is not a sign of being illiberal. It's a sign of not rushing to judgment.

I think you're misunderstanding my point here. Just because I used the word "victim" in my comment doesn't mean I called Mackris a victim. What I said was that Cohen has decided to blame Mackris even if she was a victim. I may or may not be imagining what Cohen wrote, but you're definitely imagining what I wrote.

Shessh, now I know what John Kerry feels like:
"I want to reduce terrorism to a nuisance."
"Hey look, he said he thinks terrorism is just a nuisance!"

Posted by: JP | Oct 22, 2004 12:32:44 AM

OK, so Matt just explained it a lot better than I was able to. That's why they pay him the big bucks.

Posted by: JP | Oct 22, 2004 12:34:30 AM

JP,

Quite the melodramatic response. You clearly are a "victim" here too.


Posted by: SoCalJustice | Oct 22, 2004 12:38:48 AM

He writes: If the allegations are true, there is no excusing O'Reilly. He would not only be a sexual harasser but an old goat drunk with power.

Ah yes, the good old "to be sure" paragraph. Well, you're right on this point, of course. But you'll forgive me if I suspect that Cohen's heart isn't really in it when he says this.

Posted by: JP | Oct 22, 2004 12:39:02 AM

Let's talk about my kids and yours, folks that may be victimized and will essentially be powerless to stop it, seeing as how we aren't rich enough to belong to the other America.

(Matt, yes, I know I am leaving you out since you do belong to that America, but you may wish to try to follow along.)

So let's stipulate that what happened to Mackris really did happen to Mackris. So what? The courts will never be in a position to determine "the truth." If Andrea Mackris didn't want to be victimized why did she go to that hotel room?

It's not right or fair, but it is common sense.

Let's stipulate that Matt was a 5' tall Harvard grad and went around NYC screaming that everyone was an idiot. And he gets punched in the nose. The person that punched him in the nose was wrong, but did Matt have no responsibility?

And the reason this matters, is that if you tune the legal system and reward prosecutors for protecting Matt in all cases, what sort of false negatives will they also prosecute?

Since the legal system has a non-trivial error function, and justice is a limited resource, I guess I'd prefer a society where people are rewarded for using their common sense than otherwise.

And so yeah, I'll be teaching my daughters to stay out of those hotel rooms, or risk becoming a victim and never finding justice.

Posted by: jerry | Oct 22, 2004 12:41:26 AM

And JP, sorry about my last post.

Take a free swing at me, I was in lawyer mode and deserve to be flogged (and not in a Mackris v. O'Reilly, NewsCorp. et. al. way).

I promise that any and all of my misunderstandings of your comments were just that, and I didn't intend to pull a non-vulgar Cheney on you.

Apologies again.

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Oct 22, 2004 12:42:52 AM

Dude, you're being pissy. Cut it out.

Posted by: JP | Oct 22, 2004 12:45:08 AM

Oh shit. Never mind.

Posted by: JP | Oct 22, 2004 12:46:01 AM

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