Let Me Exploitain You!

[Trigger warning.]

Last month, I posted about Jaycee Dugard, a 29-year-old woman who was abducted in 1991 at age 11 and just found 18 years later in good health, still with the couple who abducted her. More information about Dugard's horrendous circumstances in captivity have slowly emerged, including that she has two daughters, ages 15 and 11, fathered by her male abductor, who was already a convicted rapist at the time he snatched Dugard. There is no question that Dugard was raped and tortured.

For 18 years.

But Orange County Register sports columnist Mark Whicker evidently didn't think Dugard had been exploited enough—so he decided to use her incomprehensibly horrific ordeal as a literary conceit in which to recount some of his favorite moments in sports over the past 18 years. He set up the bullet-pointed list with this charming opening salvo:
It doesn't sound as if Jaycee Dugard got to see a sports page.

Box scores were not available to her from June 10, 1991 until Aug. 31 of this year.

She never saw a highlight. Never got to the ballpark for Beach Towel Night. Probably hasn't high-fived in a while.

She was not allowed to spike a volleyball. Or pitch a softball. Or smack a forehand down the line. Or run in a 5-footer for double bogey.

Now, that's deprivation.

Can you imagine? Dugard was 11 when she was kidnapped and stashed in Phillip Garrido's backyard. She was 29 when she escaped. Penitentiary inmates at least get an hour of TV a day. Dugard was cut off from everything but the elements.

How long before she fully digests the world she re-enters? How difficult to adjust to such cataclysmic change?

More than that, who's going to explain the fact that there's a President Obama?

Dugard's stepfather says she's going to need a lot of therapy — you think? — so perhaps she should take a respite before confronting the new realities.

So, Jaycee, whenever you're ready, here's what you've missed...
Wow. I'm hard-pressed to decide whether "Now that's deprivation" or "You think?" is the most smug bit of fuckery in those few paragraphs rife with what I can only regard as a sociopathic indifference to unimaginable human suffering.

What's stunning is that it was not just Whicker who found appropriating Dugard's torment to churn out a sports nostalgia column to be acceptable, but his section editor, and the paper's editor-in-chief, and anyone else who put a set of eyes on that hot mess of callous apathy before it got published. It's quite genuinely dismaying that no one at the paper realized (or cared) how deeply disgusting the piece actually is.

Many of the OC Register's readers did, however, and contacted the paper with angry and appalled letters, prompting Whicker to apologize.
For Tuesday's Register, I wrote a column that clearly offended and outraged large portions of our readership.

It was not my intention to do so. But it's obvious that I miscalculated the effect the column on Jaycee Dugard, and the events that she might have missed during her captivity, had on those who read, buy and advertise in our newspaper.

For 22 1/2 years at The Register, I feel like I've had a good and direct relationship with our audience and I think most of the regular readers know how I go about reporting and commenting on sports.

This column appears to have disconnected that bond with at least part of our readers. For that I apologize.

It's impossible to unring a bell or to bring back a column that has already been transmitted. In many ways the damage is done. I'm hopeful that I can be forgiven for this lapse of professionalism by those who were affected most profoundly.

I'll try to earn back the trust of those customers in my future endeavors.

Again, I regret this incident and apologize to all concerned.
The thing that strikes me most about this apology is that he still seems totally mystified as to why people are so angry. He's apologizing for, as best I can tell, "miscalculating" that using a woman who spent the last 18 years being held hostage, raped, tortured, forced to bear her rapist's children when she was still a child herself, kept from the sunshine and her family, kept from everything dear to her, in order to fart out a lazy column of "Sports' Greatest Hits," would be received unfavorably. Gee, sorry, didn't realize that would be TOTALLY FUCKING OFFENSIVE.

But he shows no real evidence of understanding why it's totally fucking offensive, what's actually wrong with further exploiting a woman whose life has been permanently changed by the most brutal exploitations—and the seeming absence of that capacity for empathy is terrifying.

Not because it is unique, but because it is not.

[H/T to Shakers Petulant, Paul, and BlueRidge.]

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus