The Russia Reversal: Misogyny Is a National Vulnerability

Back in January, I wrote of the pervasive misogyny that was leveraged in the 2016 election to put an unqualified, temperamental predator in the White House. In particular, I referenced the mainstream media's complicity in this political situation which has undoubtedly weakened our nation.

If you remember, for instance, the major news media covered Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server for 600 consecutive days, effectively rendering a portrait of her as being - unlike Trump - dishonest and suffering from a transparency problem. I have long believed that this coverage was grounded in the misogynistic perception that women are inherently deceptive and men, even the worst of men, automatically genuine.

That stolen emails detrimental to Clinton's campaign were then repeatedly amplified by the press also fit into a larger context of Internet culture wherein women are harassed, doxxed, and victimized by revenge porn on a daily basis. In this same context, the US legal system and tech companies have been slow to develop effective victim-centered regulations and policies to address these issues. That is to say, Internet culture has come to encompass the wider, offline norms of rape culture.

In my January piece, I noted:
"With this framework in mind, I was troubled with Wikileaks' involvement in Election 2016 from the get-go. With the stereotype that women are inherently deceptive comes the idea that digging must be done to get 'the real story' beyond the surface of what women say. It thus seemed so obviously suspicious to me that only stolen emails detrimental to Clinton's campaign - the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and John Podesta emails - were reported on, but not those of her opponents.

With a shrug, those on the left and right used these stolen emails against her. Women's boundaries are violated everyday on the Internet. No big deal, right? So, the US media uncritically reported on, hyped, and amplified this stolen content. Hillary Clinton warned us in front of millions of people during the final debate between herself and Donald Trump, that Russian operatives were interfering with the election in this way. But, Donald Trump interrupted her and people made a million jokes about his 'no puppet, no puppet' line.

But then, as The New York Times later extensively reported after the election, it turned out she was right.

But before that, for 18 months we lived in an absurd moment in time where the media gave more coverage and portrayed as more scandalous a hypothetical risk of national harm due to security breach, than its own complicity in an actual, ongoing national harm that was occurring due to actual security breaches and foreign interference.

That's right: The US media spent 600 straight days covering Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server from which there is no evidence of hacking, under the ostensible reasoning that it was a vital matter of national concern. At the same time, many of these same media sources were effectively serving as, in the Times own words, 'a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence' by uncritically citing the stolen DNC and Podesta emails.

You almost have to laugh to keep from crying. Or, grab a bottle of vodka, because it gets better. In September 2016, at the Center for Public Integrity, David Levinthal ominously warned:
'There’s no Trumpian analogue to what’s been Clinton’s most enduring transparency saga: her use of a private State Department email server.'
This take was mainstream: Hillary Clinton Was Hiding Big Things, Unlike Trump!

As with the obsessive coverage of Clinton's email server, I struggle to understand why Russian interference wasn't a bigger story during the election. I struggle with the media's casual, uncritical reporting on stolen content and now, even worse, the lazy cover-their-ass defenses, like one Los Angeles Times editor: 'My default position is democracy works best when voters have as much information as possible about the candidates and their campaigns.' Or, on the left, Kevin Drum's take at Mother Jones:' ...I never put two and two together long enough to think about what this hack might mean. In my defense, no one else seems to have given it much thought either....'


Those with some of the largest media platforms probably missed the biggest, Watergate-level story in recent political history, and ....why? How? We're supposed to be okay with, Well, everybody else was doing it.

Going forward, I see it as a travesty that those with the most unexamined of privileges have the largest media platforms, mostly because they seem to so consistently fail women and, in the process, our nation."
Misogyny is a national vulnerability and it was leveraged against our nation to our detriment. Donald Trump and Mike Pence have continued to lead a racist, misogynistic backlash to progress that proves to be profoundly stupid in that it will harm not only women/people of color, but many of the people who support these men.

Further, as more information is brought to light about Trump's possible collusion with Russian agents, it turns out that, whooooooops, Trump actually does have a "transparency saga" of epic proportions despite the benefit of the doubt so many pundits were willing to undeservedly grant him.

Going forward, a good thing to keep in mind is that those with the loudest and largest media platforms to cover these current events continue to be white men, many of whom are entertained by or actively complicit in the oppression of women.

As Rebecca Traister noted in a recent piece, "Our National Narratives Are Still Being Shaped By Lecherous, Powerful Men":
"[Admitted harasser Mark] Halperin’s view of Hillary Clinton in particular was two-dimensional: Through his lens, she was a grasping and scandal-plagued woman; her exaggerated misdeeds and the intense feelings she engendered were all part of propelling his profitable narrative forward. His coverage of Trump, meanwhile, in this last campaign cycle, was notably soft, even admiring: Halperin once argued that the sexual-assault claims leveled at Trump would only help the now-president’s brand.
Yet his view of the history we’ve just lived through was the one that was amplified and well compensated; there was not just the book deal but Showtime and HBO deals, too, and a regular perch on Morning Joe. (HBO, Penguin, and NBC have dropped him.) The same power that afforded Halperin the ability to allegedly rub up against younger colleagues — colleagues who shared stories with one another but never felt they had enough power to file a formal complaint at ABC, where he held so much sway — also meant that he got to shape the nation’s view of a woman whose political story had already been shaped by other men who abused their power, including her husband and her 2016 opponent Donald Trump, not to mention Anthony Weiner. Lots of people still strain against the argument that gendered power structures helped determine Hillary Clinton’s (and thus our nation’s) fate, but when they do they are too often thinking of gender as an attribute that belongs only to her, the woman, and not to the men whose gender-afforded power ensured that she would have to work around and against so many dicks — by which I mean literal penises — in her efforts to become the first woman president
Aphra's Twitter thread about Matt Taibbi is also a must read.

Courageous truth-tellers are also helping lead a progressive feminist revival, outing men across industries and the political spectrum as sexual harassers, predators, and rapists. Rape culture is everywhere, it seems, and contrary to rape culture's usual wisdom, so are rapists. Yet, as Traister notes, for every predator outed, dozens more are not, because women are scared to go on record against powerful men.

Back in 2009, Melissa wrote:
"Rape culture is the myriad ways in which rape is tacitly and overtly abetted and encouraged having saturated every corner of our culture so thoroughly that people can't easily wrap their heads around what the rape culture actually is."
More than any time in my recent memory it has become apparent that a fundamental way rape culture has saturated our culture so thoroughly, and yet sometimes so imperceptibly, is because so many national narratives in the news, politics, and Hollywood are told by misogynists who tip the scales for other misogynists, the massive effect of which has been to normalize the widespread hatred and subordination of women.

Here's me, earlier this year:
"...[W]ho does narrate the world, and what exactly are they narrating?

What's abundantly clear to me is that many white men, including those with hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers and/or op-ed space at major media platforms, do not understand the Trump discontent as they sit on their perches of presumed, detached objectivity and scold women and minorities for engaging in identity politics, instruct us to not call people bigots, act 'stunned' that a man as incompetent as Trump could have won, suggest Chelsea Clinton shouldn't use Twitter because it's 'bad for the Democrats,' suggest Chelsea Clinton should never run for office, and demand that we empathize with Trump supporters so they can live happily ever after."
With this backdrop in mind, keep your eyes on the Russia Reversal, as Melissa has coined it.

Actively seek out, follow, and amplify the narratives of women/people of color, feminists, and dissidents at this crucial moment in our nation's history. The Trump team is already pushing hard the narrative that Hillary Clinton is the real traitor with respect to Russia collusion. Cultural misogyny and media misogynists have already done a lot of heavy lifting in service putting Trump in office, via  the narrative that Hillary Clinton is less trustworthy than Donald Trump, who lies to the public about 5 times per day.

This trend will continue and it's up to us to resist it.

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