March 19, 2007

"While I could never advocate censorship... the three young women... harmed by AutoAdmit... deserve a way out of this electronic shock."

Elizabeth Wurtzel -- the "Prozac Nation" memoirist, now a Yale Law student -- opines rather incoherently about the AutoAdmit dustup.
[T]he Washington Post ran a front-page story about some young women here at Yale Law School whose careers--if not their lives--had been ruined by some salacious postings. The descriptions of them--sluts and whores--and the suggestions about what might be done to them--rape and sodomy--were showing up on Google searches of their names, and had prevented at least one of them from securing employment.

Since then, Dean Elena Kagan at Harvard Law School and Dean Harold Koh here at Yale have sent out open letters, condemning the nasty communications. We've had speak-outs and write-ins, organized blue-ribbon panels and worn red outfits for solidarity. There's talk of legal remedies and media campaigns....

In such a world, what to do about AutoAdmit? To start with, pray for mercy, because based on the content of its postings, the future of jurisprudence does not look good. Having done that, plead for civility. Just because we can say anything, does that mean we must say everything? While I could never advocate censorship, I would certainly ask for sensitivity....

Because people are delicate. The neighborhood rumormongers of yore could cause enough trouble in a small town, but the unpoliced World Wide Web is really a mess. It's unpoliced, which demands that we be better people, gentler and more humane. Because if not we will surely all go mad. As it is we are overwhelmed: It never stops, we don't know how to stop it, we wouldn't want to anyway, and then we relish complaining about it. This is how we live now. Do we want to add random postings about ourselves, our private selves, that aren't even true, into this volatile mix? AutoAdmit for adults?

In the mean time, the three young women here at Yale Law School who've been most harmed by AutoAdmit--beautiful and brilliant all--deserve a way out of this electronic shock.
"In the mean time"? Well, I guess we are living in a mean time. Maybe sometime in the future, people will be nicer.

In the meantime, I'm still recommending laughter and a thick skin. It's much more liberating than asking your professors to nurture your sensitive soul.

Speak-outs and write-ins, organized blue-ribbon panels... oh, my.


Ernst Stavro Blofeld said...

The real danger here is that of a drugs and depression-fueled memoir of being Yale Law School student.

Anyway, I think she was trying to write judiciously instead of her traditional no-holds-barred style, and she doesn't have it down yet. It wandered all over the place and had contradictory conclusions.

stoqboy said...

There's an old joke about the Lone Ranger and Tonto being surrounded by Indians about to attack. The Lone Ranger says something like "We are in trouble now," and Tonto replies "What's this 'we' shit, Kimosabe?"

Joe said...

After reading this editorial this morning, my reaction was, once again, "Grow up."

The entire notion that "careers were ruined" is ludicrous; none of these people had careers and seemed to be already hell bent on destroying an prospective ones on their own.

My second response was that this is just one more evidence of The Big Lie; the crock of bullshit spoon fed to young people, especially young women, that "you can do anything you want to do." So these women got to Yale and now expect that simply because they desire to work for some specific law firm, they are entitled to it.

Here's a life lesson from a cynical old codger; life is unfair, get over it and move on.

MadisonMan said...

What joe said.

Let me throw the author's words right back at her: Some lawyers-to-be should exercise their right to remain silent. Okay, maybe those are the headline-writer's words.

And what Ann's mother said: You're only encouraging them. (That mean time slip up is hilarious.)

monkeyboy said...

My five year old:"Thats not fair!"
Me: "Life's not fair."
My five year old:" always say that!"

One of my jobs as a dad is to teach my kids that life is not fair. You accept it and move on.

Drew W said...

I've never been on AutoAdmit, but I'd formed an opinion about Yale Law student Elizabeth Wurtzel's breasts year ago. Of course, that's because my route to the subway station went past a bookstore where the hardcover version of her book "Bitch" was on display in the window.

I'd first heard of Elizabeth Wurtzel years before that, when she'd been hired to write about pop music for The New Yorker. After music biz publicists (like my ex wife) came into contact with her, it was obvious to all that she knew nothing about the music she was being paid handsomely to cover. The music media crowd soon pegged her -- and quite correctly -- as another self-promoting twenty-something airhead who got in on looks and attitude. And, true to form, she felt not the least bit self-conscious about her glaring lack of knowledge of her subject. In the years since, that assessment keeps following her around, no matter what she's writing about. (Although I suppose when she devoted herself to personal memoirs, she could at last write about something she truly loved.)

I tried to read her op-ed this morning, but couldn't get through it. I was kind of surprised that the WSJ would actually give her the space -- but then again, I shouldn't have been. Her greatest talent apparently remains self-promotion, and there are still some people out there unacquainted with her shtick.

Oligonicella said...

"Because people are delicate."

This is part of the problem, not a reason to suppress speech.

Ron said...

Laughter and a thick skin -- boy, do I agree with that! Brava, Double A!

These people think because they've watched Elmer Fudd go duck hunting, that they're ready for Stalingrad. They're not!

From Inwood said...

Dare I suggest that it seems to me after reading this article that Ms W. is off her Prozac as are the editors of the WSJ for not editing?

Who caused this "development", the law students or some vague or amorphous "others"? If, as Ms W seems to say, the law students are ultimately the cause of their alleged victimhood, what "way out" do they "deserve" [repeat, deserve] "of this [their self-inflicted] electronic shock"?

At this point, my money's on Joe's simple analysis rather than Ms W's simplistic non analysis.

Roger Sweeny said...

Good manners are always a good idea, and too many things are spoiled by people being jerks.

But it's quite an assumption that these students didn't get jobs because of things on AutoAdmit. And the idea that their careers are ruined is ludicrous. People now know that what's posted on AutoAdmit isn't necessasrily reliable. They will discount it accordingly.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Auto Admit is obviously what her crazy books did for her Yale Law application.

paul a'barge said...

people are delicate

Good lord. What is she talking about here, hot house flowers?

People are not delicate. Wussies are delicate. People who've been coddled in the arms of political correctness are delicate.

Welcome to the real world, where the objective still is to get tough and get to work; not to start whining about your feelings.

From Inwood said...

Low-tech issue (warning, the analogy-impaired need not read this:

Candidate A at the end of a long day says something in front of a reporter or worse, from the candidate's POV within reach of a reporter's parabolic mike (OK, some high tech), which off-hand remark will not play well with some of the electorate.

Should the candidate have said this? Can the candidate whine if it's published? Does the answer to the latter Q depend on whether the candidate is a woman?

Should the reporter report on this? Suppose the candidate is “beautiful & brilliant”, which Ms W seems to feel matters?

Will the reporter report on this? (My guess: yes if said reporter hates the candidate; maybe no if the reporter loves the candidate.)

Does Ms W think that the candidate would, er, automatically "deserve a way out of this" low-tech "shock"? (My guess how Ms W would answer: yes if she hates the candidate; no if she loves the candidate; bonus points for the candidate if she’s a woman.)

Fen said...

and had prevented at least one of them from securing employment.

That was unproven last time this came up. Echo?

KCFleming said...

Such fragility from the author who praised 'difficult women', the "feminist manifesto" book called "Bitch", about "bad girl heroines" no less, who seems now ready to get all victorian or southern belle about it, claim she's got the vapors and ask for special favors because she's always depended on the kindness of strangers.

So are women tough enough for the real world, or in need of a governmental mommy to kiss it and make it all better and call Johnny's parents to make him stop?

J. Cricket said...

What deliciously hypocritical advice, given that you howl so much about "attacks" on you!

Where's the thick skin and laughter, Annie?

Ha ha, indeed.

reader_iam said...

Because if not we will surely all go mad.

Most amazing sentence in the piece.

In contrast, here's a line from Cathy Siepp's final post (her daughter reports today she has 1-2 days left):

Amazing what can traumatize people these days. For me once it might have been the $7,000 plumbing bill I discovered today I need to pay. But really, all things considered, what's the point of being traumatized by something like that?

Sanity itself.

reader_iam said...


PatCA said...

"This is not a case about drugs (sex) or (sex) drug policy. This case is about freedom of speech and teaching our young people the importance of free speech."

Right, Ms. W?

JP said...

I've never quite understood why people over the age of 16 have this complex about other people saying not nice things about them. I'm a math major, but that doesn't mean I'd get furious at someone with a megaphone insisting that one plus one equals three. Who cares? Lots of people think lots of stupid things. If you start judging yourself on the basis of what any numbskull on the internet says about you, you're asking for your own depression.

But what about her employers, right? I don't know how that's any different: If a law firm won't hire you because of what anyone can say about you on the internet, you might not want to work there to begin with. Life is about dealing with it, not controlling it.

Joanne Jacobs said...

I find it hard to believe that a Yale Law grad would get no job offers because of sexual comments by anonymous men posted online. There must be something else going on here.

Does "free speech" protect threats of violence, such as rape, against an individual?

The Drill SGT said...

I was struck by the tag line:

Miss Wurtzel?

I thought that nobody under 70 would be using that label.

The Drill SGT said...

Joanne Jacobs said...
I find it hard to believe that a Yale Law grad would get no job offers because of sexual comments by anonymous men posted online. There must be something else going on here.

I don't think ANYBODY was ever talking about a grad without a job. The original story was apparently about a first year law student (e.g. 1L) who did not get a job with one of the top firms she wanted. Apparently the normal path is that 2L's get summer jobs with firms and come back for future employment. The 1L summer seems much less structured or with far fewer expectations, unless you have overly high ones.

Ann Althouse said...

Joanne: Free speech doesn't protect "true threats." I don't think what AutoAdmit had (if I'm looking at the right thread) could count as a true threat. Basically, we're talking about young idiots saying they want to have sex with her.

Susan said...

Reader, Yes, Cathy Seipp is the exact opposite of these wussy women. My hero. She'll be missed.

Dave said...

Two comments:

1) Yale is renowned for attracting the naive and the immature.

2) Many big NY law firms won't hire Yale law school grads because they don't make good lawyers.

Phoebe said...

Yeah yeah, prozac punching bag, fine, but she is right that people shouldn't be jerks. Not an original or interesting point because kind of obvious, but maybe not, given the whole "pummel women so they develop thick skins" theme here. I don't know what the original posts about the women were, but that kind of stuff could conceivably be very damning - people could be excused of cheating on exams or sleeping with a prof for a better grade on a paper - anything. I don't think it needs to be shut down, but they shouldn't allow anonymous postings.

mikemike said...

Wurtzel's thesis is really broad, I don't see how anyone could disagree with it. If you're attacked unfairly, you obviously should have some redress. Is this so shocking a thesis?

White girls with asian guys, man. White girls with asian guys. (WGWAG). By the way, is full of typical law students.

MadisonMan said...

Phoebe -- I daresay if a bunch of Yalie men were complaining about the mean things being written about them, the reaction here would be the same: Life is unfair, deal with it. People shouldn't be jerks, yes. But they are. Especially, in my experience, on the east coast.

JimM47 said...

Speaking as an adminstrator of a publicly editable website, I have to ask, what's wrong with censorship? I am constantly deleting crap from our site, because no one has a right to use my community to spread their stupidity. If you really want to make sophomoric comments about someone's breasts, get your own website.

AutoAdmit should be doing the same thing. There's no reason to let that stuff go on in your forums. And I don't see what is wrong with complaining to AutoAdmit about it, or boycotting them. We live in a free market, so don't tell me it's not fair to punish a company monetarily for preforming actions of which you disapprove.

Wade Garrett said...

Its easy to say that the best approach is just to 'laugh it off,' but I think that's missing a larger part of the issue. Professor Althouse, her commenters, and myself are all bloggers, accustomed to using the internet. We know how to seperate the what from the chaff.

Older people, including many older partners at law firms, are less familiar with the blogosphere than we are. My dad, for example, still dictates letters, rarely uses e-mail, and is perpetually afraid of being "ripped off" on the internet. He's not Ted Stevens, but a lot of people his age don't really understand how the internet works, and are more likely to take what is said about someone on a blog seriously than either you or I would be. The think of blogs as being more like newspapers instead of just online diaries. This is just anecdotal, but I know a lot of older people who would flip out and refuse to hire a person if they read comments like that on a blog.

This is just a longer way of saying that its easy for us to underestimate the potential harm that these women are facing. The harm isn't that WE will misjudge them, so much as it is that people unfamiliar with the internet mores will judge them unfairly.

dave™© said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mortimer Brezny said...

Good thing that's trademarked, Dave. Wouldn't want that to get diluted.

monkeyboy said...

So Dave support a nicer internets for women by using hateful language?

Still mad from the spanking Badger 6 gave you?

Mellow-Drama said...

Did Miss Wurtzel really graduate from Yale Law School, and she writes like that? I think that's the big story here.

Shinobi said...

The question I have about this whole debacle is, at what point was this funny?

I mean, what is funny about taking pictures of women without their knowledge? And what is funny with then sexually harassing the photographs of these women? (Discussing having sex witht hem, calling them names etc.) I mean how funny is it that these guys who are talking about raping these women have access to them without their knowledge.

It's not really funny ha ha funny, it's more Funny oh my god these guys are such pathetic jerkholes funny.

But, y'know if a pathetic jerkhole came up to a woman in a bar and said anything similar to what these guys are saying about those women to her, they'd probably punch him in the face and call security.

Unfortunately we are allowing the AutoAdmit jerkholes to continue their harassment, because there is no security to call, and we can't find them to punch them.

Ann Althouse said...

Shinobi: Did anyone ever say it was funny? I agree that the guys are childish and inept. The best approach is to ignore them. Getting all outraged is counterproductive.

Revenant said...

I mean, what is funny about taking pictures of women without their knowledge?

Ask the producers of "Candid Camera".

But seriously, when were these women actually photographed in secret? The only articles I've seen on the subject just say that one of the woman was afraid it MIGHT happen.

Fen said...

AutoAdmit should be doing the same thing. There's no reason to let that stuff go on in your forums. And I don't see what is wrong with complaining to AutoAdmit about it, or boycotting them. We live in a free market, so don't tell me it's not fair to punish a company monetarily for preforming actions of which you disapprove.

I agree completely, but...

AutoAdmit's side of this tells a different story. They were not contacted until after the "victims" had created a blog swarm and hired attorneys. Same attorney's demanded the offending posts be removed but would not tell the admin which posts were offensive [!?] I don't have a link to the admin's letter handy but will try to locate it tomorrow am for you.