March 16, 2007

Let's talk about AutoAdmit.

If you've come here because some blogger has informed you that this post shows me in a contradiction, you need to read the UPDATE below.

Over on Instapundit, I wrote:
DEFENDING AGAINST REPUTATION DEFENDER. If you followed the AutoAdmit controversy -- see this WaPo article -- you should check out this response from Jarret Cohen of AutoAdmit. Where do I stand on AutoAdmit (a website where law students and prospective law students sometimes talk raunchily about particular individuals)? Well, my original response to the WaPo article was somewhat supportive in the face of what I thought were demands for too much repression, but then I Googled "althouse autoadmit" to find my old post for that link, and check out what came up first. Now, I've got to laugh and say yes, this is life here on the internet, but I'm old and I have tenure. I really do see how something like this can disturb a young woman who's in the job market, though I still don't think law firm partners are dumb enough to take obvious junk like this seriously in hiring decisions. (And given this attitude, I couldn't get too steamed when feminist bloggers railed about my failure to exhibit proper deference to the fears and feelings of women.)

If you want to talk about all this, come over to my blog, where I'll set up a post with comments.

This is that post, so talk.

ADDED: To the fool who thinks that the post about me on AutoAdmit made me see the problem a different way: You are utterly and completely wrong! Learn to read, fool.

UPDATE: I see this post has been linked again by someone who thinks he's discovered some amazing inconsistency between this and my earlier post. But this blogger is wrong and is either vicious or a poor reader. Let me spell it out for people who don't know how or won't take the time to understand something that is written in a sharp, short style.

(So, really, to my readers who understand, don't bother with what I'm about to write. It's in a style that doesn't represent what I'm trying to do here.)

Some people seem to think that my position in this post shows me changing my position and becoming more sympathetic as result of reading a thread on AutoAdmit that was about me. These people are absolutely wrong. Let me spell out why they are wrong.

My position was originally and has remained that I simply do not believe what was in the Washington Post article: the theory that some Yale Law students failed to get the jobs they wanted because some nasty boys expressed sexual thoughts about them on a website called AutoAdmit.

I never said the boys who expressed those thoughts were wonderful. I was concerned that the women were overreacting and inclined toward the repression of free speech. I don't think you can control the internet the way you might control speech in a school or workplace (using a "hostile environment" theory).

In the Instapundit post, I drew attention to the thread about me to demonstrate my own ability to laugh, to accept the internet for what it is, and not to react with demands for repression. That is, I was modeling what I believe to be the right Free Speech position.

I then concede that my demonstration of the right attitude is not as strong as it would be if I were younger and had job insecurity. I anticipated a reader who would say, sure, it's easy for you to laugh it off, you're not in the same position as those women.

I wanted to make it clear -- though when you have bloggers standing by to denounce you, you can never be clear enough -- that I knew my demonstration of how to laugh it off was not fully convincing, because it's easier for me to laugh at what I think they should laugh at too.

I "really do see" that a "young woman" -- that is, a woman with less experience learning how to deal with life's hard knocks -- might be "disturbed." Being disturbed doesn't mean you are justified in making causal connections between the things that disturbed you and other problems you are having in life, like not getting the job you wanted. And being disturbed doesn't mean you ought to have the power to control the things that are disturbing you.

To say that I can understand how something disturbed you doesn't mean I think you're better off getting disturbed than laughing it off the way I did. It just means I'm not going to criticize you for not having the ability to laugh it off. But I still do think that you should.


Kev said...

(the other kev)

'Employers, including law firms, frequently do Google searches as part of due diligence checks on prospective employees.'

So, do the employers just accept what they find on Google at face value? Make any assed or half-assed effort to determine the source and veracity of the comments? Maybe they should also send people to check out writings on the restroom walls while they're at it.


The Drill SGT said...

I'd rather not. I had my dose for the whole month, maybe the year.

hdhouse said...

This is an impossibly evil issue and I mean that seriously. A family member was slammed on an "opinion board" a year ago. There was no recourse and the more one tried, the worse it got.

When Yahoo took "comments" on news stories (since discontinued) there was a warning that the IP addresses were available - mainly to the federal government and law enforcement (not sure about a civil action demand) but the mere nature of the internet and unvarifiable nature of postings (by whom?) makes that unworkable.

On reading the article, however, I am amazed that anyone would "search the internet" for information on a potential hire. Amazed. What are people thinking?

Earlier threads talked about a newbie out of law school earning 150,000 first year out...that means someone is or should be doing something besides a google search to determine where $150k in client fees is going.

What is more amazing is that this thread concerns a lawyer and I guess unfortunately lawyers write the laws and by in large are those who decide a lot of the legal issues under which us non-lawyers live. You guys, above all, should be able to figure this out and do something.

Simon said...

Re searching for old posts - if you add "" to your search terms, you'll confine the results to posts and comments at this blog. It's much more efficient a way of finding a particular post you've made.

Re the autoadmit post at the top of the google search - that kind of backfired on the original poster. LOL.

Tearfree aka Reject the Koolaid said...

I think this is just the new way of the world and we have to get used to it. As a prof myself, I have had some very nasty things said about me on and then had my dentist ask me about them as he was preparing a crown. Double horror!!

I also blogged about the whole googling effect for potential employees and students after the NYT "ethicist" tackled the subject last week.

As for the photos, if you post photos of yourself on the web, people are going to talk about them and its disingenuous, at the very least, to complain.

IN the end, the old Oscar Wilde dictum applies. "there's only one thing worse than being talked about..."

MadisonMan said...

He sounded sensible 'til the very end: Once again, I would have helped at least one of these girls earlier if Reputation Defender had made any genuine effort to get in touch with me.


brotherfee said...

"Now, I've got to laugh and say yes, this is life here on the internet, but I'm old and I have tenure."

Ah, Ms. Althouse, do not consider yourself old, instead say that you are percolating in the prime of life!

Ann Althouse said...

"Re searching for old posts - if you add "" to your search terms, you'll confine the results to posts and comments at this blog. It's much more efficient a way of finding a particular post you've made."

That removes the element of fun and surprise. Where will I get my random bloggable nuggets if I start restricting my searches?

Ann Althouse said...


Okay... I was going to make a joke... but it fell below the taste level I've set here... which isn't that high... had to do with comparative coffee machines... can't do it...

Ronald Coleman said...

If you'll pardon a little self-plug, Ann, I wrote about this a while ago and called the phenomenon "asymmetric cultural warfare," something born of the new barrier-less entry into the realm of public expression combined with a regime of no-cost slander. Perhaps, as I wrote today in response to your post, it's really asymmetric personal warfare. Call it what we want: something has to give.

Simon said...

Ann Althouse said...
"[Re adding '' to your search terms:] That removes the element of fun and surprise. Where will I get my random bloggable nuggets if I start restricting my searches?"

Touché. Certainly there's value in that too, but sometimes you'll be in a hurry and just want to get the link as fast as possible. No harm in having options. :)

Simon said...

Ann Althouse said...
"'percolating' Okay... I was going to make a joke... but it fell below the taste level I've set here... which isn't that high... had to do with comparative coffee machines... can't do it..."

I don't have a joke, but that does call to mind a citation:

"The resulting uniform and final pronouncement will have travelled through a thick, textured filter of context making it better law ...

If this all sounds like making coffee, consider the frequent use of the word "percolate" to describe the process of making law. On the use of the hidden concrete metaphors in statements of abstract ideas, see the immensely enlightening GEORGE LAKOFF & MARK JOHNSON, METAPHORS WE LIVE BY 46-47 (1980), which discusses, among other things the pervasive metaphor of ideas as food (though not specifically law as coffee). An important lesson to be learned is that the concrete image may seem more meaningful than it is. Law is not coffee and analogies to coffee-making technology may misleadingly suggest ways to improve lawmaking.

Althouse, Saying What Rights Are, In and Out of Context, 1991 Wis. L. Rev. 929, 942 n.65 and accompanying text (emphasis added and some citations omitted).

TMink said...

This reminds me of my divorce. The ex's attorney said all kinds of interesting things about me, and my lawyer just stood up, accused the other attorney of slander, and demanded proof. After I was accused of harrassing the ex, my attorney objected and demanded proof. The other attorney brought up a HUGE stack of emails and waved them around, so my attorney asked for them an gave them to the judge to read.

The judge read three out loud and laughed telling the attorney that the claim was baseless and she owed me an apology. My daughter lives with me half time now.

The point is that anyone can type anything on the internet, but documentation and proof is another matter. "Trey has a wooden leg and is really an unemployed gigolo." There, glad I run my own practice.


Simon said...

Trey - apparently, Freder didn't get that memo.

Evil HR Lady said...

Internet searches on potential employees is a whole can of worms. On the one hand, if you are stupid enough post unflattering things about yourself on the internet (hey it's me and Bob, drunk and half naked at spring break!) then you get what you deserve.

However, if Bob starts posting things about you, then should I not hire you because you have stupid friends? And how do I know that Bob really is your friend and not your enemy? And for that matter, how do I know that you are the owner of the myspace page that broadcasts your name?

On the other hand, I've never been a big fan of personal references either. Why would you give me the name of someone who didn't like you? And then even if I call your previous direct supervisors, how do I know that they are rational human beings?

AJD said...

I really do see how something like this can disturb a young woman who's in the job market.

Ah. Classic Annie! Ridicule the woman, play to your base, get your attention, and then quietly allow, days later, that you "really do" see the side you were dismissing.

Glad to see that the wave of common sense forced you to backtrack, even if it was in classic Annie form.

"I am not backtracking," she says while backtracking!

johnstodder said...

On the Internet, everything is public. Privacy is over. On the other hand, anyone who has spent more than a week looking at it knows that a lot of the information is bad. Don't believe everything you read.

Even though I'm in my 50s, I'm perfectly comfortable in this world. Pre-internet, rumors grew like mold in an attic. Now the rumors are out there, and can be refuted easily. Which is not to say some people won't believe a false rumor, but that's an old problem, not an Internet problem.

Ilyka of Pendragon will appreciate this subtle shift in your position. Well, she probably won't. I defended you on her site, commenting on that long post you couldn't bear to read. I threw in that "the differences between you and Ann are more rhetorical than real." I didn't feel a lot of love after that comment.

These punks think they invented feminism.

tiggeril said...

I wonder what the reaction is if basically nothing comes up. Like, when you google my real name, all you find is two old sites listing me as someone who wasn't moving back into the dorms back in college and that's it. Does it mean I'll be penalized for not having websites singing my praises or rewarded for not having posted drunken pictures all over the place?

Ronald Coleman said...

Now the rumors are out there, and can be refuted easily.

"Easily"? Howzat? Okay, I'll grant you this: In the old printing-press days, you might never get a retraction, and you'd be the one with the mimeographs stuck up on the windows of the 7-11. On the other hand, retractions and to some extent corrections are now almost meaningless, because there is no single "record" any more. Archived posts are forever, as are those that quote them.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm not "backtracking." I had some sympathy for the women in the original post and I have exactly the same amount of sympathy now. You hypocrisy ferrets are wrong again.

TMink said...

Simon, there is a large crowd here that does not get that memo! I used the term "the usual suspects" and someone thought I was referring to Democrats. Not I, Democrats are fine people that you can have a great discussion with. Liberals are the problem, shrill, fact avoiding, ideologically blinded liberals. They are as bad as the Republicans.

And I am trying to think of something more appropriate than the phrase "hypocrisy ferrets." Ferrets I am told are in fact excellent trackers. They find what they are looking for and seldom go down a false lead.

Instead, if Ann posts an opinion that is not High Church Socialist, or is on the right page for them but just not ferverent enough, the usual suspects come in to try to shame her into obedience. I do not know the animal metaphor for that! Maybe someone more versed in biology than I can turn it up.


Rich V. said...

doesn't matter how old you are or what you the're still a beautiful woman! 60's, 70's, 80's, the thread though, the subject is truly silly. Take the compliment at face value or not, it's a free country and people are free to make fools of themselves.

Omaha1 said...

Some young female lawyers-in-waiting
Mugged by websites' "attractiveness" rating
Saw trouble a-brewing
Perhaps grounds for suing
Wake up and smell strife percolating!

YLS Student said...

I go to school with some of the students affected by AutoAdmit’s posts and I think it would be helpful to clarify two points.

First, many of the comments and Ann’s earlier post seem to imply that these women posted pictures of themselves (or otherwise put themselves out on the internet) and therefore should have expected this and are at least partially to blame. Many of the women targeted by these comments, however, did not post any publicly-accessible photos on the internet. Some students at individual law schools forwarded photos from the law school’s private yearbook, which were then posted for the “T 14 contest.”

Second, the issue is not whether employers might believe these “rumors” to be “true.” With the exception of the occasional comment about LSAT scores, the vast majority of the offensive comments are talking about are threats to commit various kinds of sexual acts or violence on the targeted women.

Obviously, rational employers should not blame the targeted women for this depravity, but it isn’t that surprising that they, consciously or not, steer clear of candidates who seem to be associated with it (perhaps they assume they must have had some sort of relationship with some people on the board and therefore demonstrated poor judgment in the past). Potential employers might also be concerned that the harassment would somehow make an impact on the workplace (now that one of these cyber-harassers emailed every member of Yale Law’s faculty nasty things about a Yale Law student, this concern does not seem particularly outlandish).

Ann, your initial post on this really didn’t express much sympathy toward the students (“Too beautiful to appear in public? Too hot to be hired? Come on!”). While one can’t be certain the student would have gotten offers if not for these sick posts, firms (probably wrongly) do go after even the least competent Yale 2Ls with gusto, so I don’t think a Yale student would have to be more arrogant or entitled (at least not any more so than the average Yalie) to suspect the intense cyber-harassment google results as a possible explanation.

Your restraint and demand to wait for the facts in the UW Professor/Hmong situation was so much better. I wish you’d looked into this situation a bit more before piling on these students who are already having to deal with more trouble than they deserve.

Jon Swift said...

Every time you say something like "Learn to read, fool" in your short, sharp style, I feel a kind of tingle and a kind of chill. What your detractors don't seem to understand though you explain it again and again and again and again is that misreading is always the fault of the reader and never the fault of the writer; that is why it is called "misreading" and not "miswriting." It must be so hard to be you.

Ann Althouse said...

I choose not to spoon-feed, Jon. If that catches you out, that's not my problem. It's my choice. And I will whirl around and mock you when you get it wrong, you pissy old fool.

Jon Swift said...

I certainly do look forward to the the day when you whirl around Stevie Nicks-like and mock me. I just hope that I "get it" when it happens and you won't have to explain to me repeatedly that it's happened. That would be very exasperating for both of us.