Katha Pollitt, David Graeber Fight, Make Up, Put Libeled Marxists Behind Them


h/t Anthony Galluzzo (werthersorros)

Color me manarchist — Gay Scapegoats for White Dudes Division — but I am having such trouble keeping up with the rules of our lofty left discourse. Here I am, still puzzling out how a bizarre Twitter orgy of misogyny and red-baiting fortifies women’s safety, when I come upon this June 10 tweet from venerable liberal feminist Katha Pollitt:

@davidgraeber, did you actually see these rape threats supposedly sent to @sarahkendzior by writers for Salon and Jacobin?


She continues:

was to @davidgraeber, who (in a now deleted tweet) seemed to accept @joshfoust’s claim that these threats came from Jacobin & Salon writers.

Pollitt’s addressee, Graeber, feels life keenly, and pursues his varied commitments — from women’s safety to vehement hatred for Jacobin magazine — with unwavering zeal. So Pollitt’s standing as a widely-respected feminist did not immunize her from the tweet barrage Graeber now unleashes on anyone, male or female, too blind to see that rape threats against one of Graeber’s associates is a mandate to let him think for them. Here’s less than half of what he tweeted at a mostly unresponsive Pollitt:

“seemed to”? No I didn’t Give me a break. This is a classic way of spreading a smear with plausible deniability.

you owe everyone an apology now – I never even saw foust’s claims & frequently said I’d never heard of the guy

and if you’re saying I went back since your tweet & deleted one of mine, this is an absolute, utter falsehood

ok I’m trying to come up with a scenario where you’re not just lying here but can’t do it. Yr claims make no sense.

if I’d deleted this purported tweet before your intervention, why did you pretend I was still making the claim?

if the imaginary tweet still existed, why didn’t you respond to that?

very hard to escape the impression you just made the whole thing up entirely

well I know nothing about [Foust], but her attack vs SK & me seems decidedly calculated

I’m still waiting for your apology for this.

“Oh, David, me me me, I, I, I. . .”,  a less enlightened person might sneer, failing to understand that the truly empathic and enlightened feminist ally feels Kendzior’s oppression as if it were his own. Of course it naturally follows that the iron-clad protection from scrutiny Graeber repeatedly insists those rape threats impart to Kendzior, also places a shield around Graeber too. To asperse the men closing ranks around Kendzior and her libels, is to asperse Kendzior herself, and we know what that means:

you’re a rape threat enabler because you think the appropriate response to such a threat is to attack the victim.

After failing to rouse Pollitt to an apology with indignation, innuendo, and his obviously superior grasp of rape culture, Graeber, feminist ally par excellence, slides on the brass knuckles:

I want to be able to once again have respect for someone who was once my favourite political columnist ever.

letting go would mean coming to terms with not being able to respect her. I don’t want to do that yet.

am after all offering her an opportunity to redeem herself in the eyes of many – which is an act of generosity

Hear that Katha? Apologize, or else Dave here, who, by the way, is playing a crucial role in a smear campaign against three women, might have to withdraw his protection support. Time’s running out on his “generosity”.

Meanwhile, caps-lock enthusiast Kendzior is busily providing incentives:

Katha Pollitt of The Nation joins the growing list of leftist writers using my RAPE THREATS for their own reasons. Please stop. Please.

Two days pass but at last Graeber’s entreaties yield the desired fruit. Pollitt retweets Foust’s mea culpa and tweets this:

@davidgraeber, Perhaps I misunderstood your support for Sarah Kendzior to include @joshfoust’s now retracted charge. If so, I apologize.

Graeber, replying:

@KathaPollitt @JoshFoust thanks! accepted!

Just like that. No explanation required. No matter that Kendzior’s smears differ from Foust’s only in to whom they attribute the threats. For Pollitt, clearly, it’s one thing to attribute them to fellow writers, but attributing them to ‘brocialists’ and a uniquely rape-prone Left, no evidence needed. The smears Foust didn’t retract, such as the claim that Kenzior was being ‘disciplined’ with mockery, are left unexamined.

It’s also clearly immaterial that Sarah Kendzior never once repudiated Foust, even though he is her friend and colleague of 11 years, and she had interacted with his timeline between June 9 and June 11. No matter that Graeber felt no obligation to repudiate Foust himself. What’s it to to him? He doesn’t know the guy. Had any of the libeled women recently complained of rape threats? No? Well then.

Pollitt closes the deal:

Right! Let’s just put this behind us. We are better than this. @davidgraeber@JoshFoust

Yes. We’re better than this. Let’s not argue over red-baiting and three maliciously defamed women as if any of those people matter.  It’s not like they’re rich liberals.

UPDATE: Graeber Calls Me  a Conspiracist

I have moved this update to a separate post.


Notes on David Graeber and Conspiracism

Useful Discussion of Thought-Stopping Dogmas

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21 Responses to Katha Pollitt, David Graeber Fight, Make Up, Put Libeled Marxists Behind Them

  1. Prom Queen says:

    As a woman who has been raped by a random stranger in a life-threatening situation, I will just say this:

    I didn’t report that rape right away because the person was a biker and I was afraid of retribution if I said anything. I reported it to the police four years later because it ate away at me all that time. I hoped that perhaps by reporting the crime, it would help the police gain evidence to prosecute this man on another rape he committed for which there would still be physical evidence. Sarah Kendzior is not in any such situation, and her actions are not typical of myself or any other rape survivor I know.

    If a random person on the internet threatened to rape me in writing, I would turn over the evidence to the police. If the police were unable to investigate and prosecute the accuser, I would post the evidence online for all to see.

    For all of the above reasons, I believe her claims should be held up to scrutiny.

    • Tarzie says:

      I am very sorry that all that happened to you. It is interesting that so few people have expressed an interest in finding out who is sending these emails as a matter of women’s safety.

      However, this piece is primarily to show how status and political affiliation affects public performances of concern. It is mostly about Graeber and secondarily about Pollitt. I would rather not dwell on Kendzior’s threats, beyond the enforcing of rules around their discussion.

      But since you brought it up, I don’t think demanding proof of the threats would yield anything commensurate with the erosion of taking the victim’s word by default, to say nothing of how divisive the discussion would be. I have no cause to doubt that Kendzior recieves threats. It’s things that Kenzieor said that I don’t think she really can know — like the true politics of the senders — that I believe we have a right to scrutinize. Social-climbing bullies settling scores, like Graeber, should get out of the way.

  2. sheenyglass says:

    Wow, Graeber’s really taken it up a notch. Funny that just a week ago I thought he was a basically an ok writer despite his showboating.

    Using a twitter beatdown to score cheap points is maddening, but the oily manipulativeness of the Politt exchange is something else entirely. Saying “am after all offering her an opportunity to redeem herself in the eyes of many – which is an act of generosity” is just fucking creepy. Normally when lines like “letting go would mean coming to terms with not being able to respect her. I don’t want to do that yet” come up in the context of violence against women they are referred to as “Exhibit A”. I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but that exchange just feels really disturbing to me.

    • Tarzie says:

      I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but that exchange just feels really disturbing to me.

      I completely agree. The later tweets are veiled threats, given weight of course, by his participation in a smear campaign against three women to Pollitt’s left. Amazing this asshole considers himself a feminist.

    • nimbus says:

      For my part, I don’t see why the tone of the exchange between Graeber and Pollitt has anything to do with “violence against women”. Could this not just as easily be a debate between 2 men? If anything, Graeber is the one playing the role of Hysterical Bitch. Pollitt (not someone I tend to agree with or like, generally) doesn’t seem to need anyone’s protection here. More on that in a moment.

      Granted that the culture of misogyny is a serious problem in America, it is also one of the most effective means of derailing any substantive political discussion. As with all identity politics, feminism can be used to distract and divide us – as in this case, where (as Tarzie intimated) the real issue of smearing radicals is being lost in a fog of pseudo-feminism. Sadly, sex always trumps politics in the media and coffee houses. Would it not be better to adopt the view that rape is a form of violence (one which can be perpetrated against men and boys as well), and that violence in all its hideous manifestations is the problem? That way, rape threats become a part of the whole political discussion, not a diversion.

      Here’s a statement I would never make on a more public forum: women who play the “he threatened me” card when no physical danger exists are themselves responsible for perpetuating the culture of violence. They use this culture to their own ends – e.g., to discredit others and to stifle debate – and this (ab)use is as reprehensible as any other, including the making of such threats.

      Now I am going to rant. As a person of the double-X persuasion, I find it incredibly frustrating having to fear that the minute my sex is known, my comments will be judged through a filter – sometimes misogynistic, sometimes paternalistic, always unwelcome – despite the fact that I would have made the same comments, held the same views, had the same level of intelligence and same moral code even if I had been born male(!!!) It’s almost impossible for a woman to get an honest reaction from a man, because (if he doesn’t dismiss women’s views from the outset) he worries about avoiding offense. The phenomenon is quadrupled the minute the word “rape” rears its ugly head. I realize that men are often labelled sexist if they treat a woman as an equal, even in argument, but the hypocrisy factor there is off the scale. Be brave, men! Be humble! Stop worrying about protecting women! The world would be better off if the concept of gender were eliminated from human psyches.

      • sheenyglass says:

        For my part, I don’t see why the tone of the exchange between Graeber and Pollitt has anything to do with “violence against women”. Could this not just as easily be a debate between 2 men?

        This dynamic certainly could come up in a debate between two men, I didn’t mean to imply it was a woman specific problem. When I referred to the context of violence against women I was referring to the overall discussion of rape threats made to public women. Since Graeber was explicitly positioning himself as a defender of women, it’s particularly glaring when he uses bullying and manipulation in a dominance play against a woman intellectual (demanding submission in the form of an apology). This was highlighted to me by the last three lines of the exchange, particularly:

        letting go would mean coming to terms with not being able to respect her. I don’t want to do that yet.

        Which is not that far away from to a stalker’s language and mindset: “I love you too much to allow you the autonomy to think of me in a way I don’t like”

      • Tarzie says:

        Pollitt (not someone I tend to agree with or like, generally) doesn’t seem to need anyone’s protection here.

        When I wrote the bit about protection, I was not suggesting Pollitt can’t handle herself, or that Graeber was being particularly sexist. But what’s going on in Graeber’s tweets are clearly threats to embroil Pollitt in the smear campaign that had already at that point gotten three women smeared via the deliberate mischaracterization of what they’d said. Those last few tweets read like an ultimatum.

        But what happens when time’s up? Well, while Greaber was robo-tweeting Pollitt, Kendzior was firing little libel shots across the bow. Pollitt’s much higher social capital would have likely immunized her had she not capitulated on largely meaningless grounds, but that’s largely beside the point. An accomplished bully like Graeber would certainly be aware of the leverage his association with serial defamer Kendzior was buying him, and is clearly using it to secure an apology.

        Yes, he might have behaved the exact same way were Pollitt a man, though in light of his campaign’s aim to increase his status as a feminist ally, it seems unlikely he’d have worked so hard at it. In any event, considering the orgy of pent-up misogyny Kendzior was playing on, and considering the individuals she seemed most keen to crush, it seems somewhat beside the point.

  3. availablealias says:

    Those Graeber tweets with no response are like leaving a dozen messages on someone’s answering machine. What a psycho.

    • thedoctorisinthehouse says:

      The content is more indicting than the number. If tweets were set at 400 characters, he would have only sent one.

    • thedoctorisinthehouse says:

      I mean I never left a tweet-length voice message on anyone’s machine or cell yet. That would be weird, a one sentence message.

  4. “People rise to places of influence because of their service to power”

    So, is this what goes on when power doesn’t need its PR shock troops?

    What I mean is, Occupy isn’t stepping out yet, as far as I know. There are no big U.S. elections happening, and no widely televised senate hearings. There is no particular gathering of international leaders to protest, and no significant shift in foreign or trade policy on the way (and, anyway, it’s tricky to know just what the latest approved line is on Africa or Chinese-manufactured Apple products).

    How to spend one’s down time? How to be ready when and if the call comes, and deal with the boredom in the meantime? Maybe they do it by practicing their attack skills on the kid they don’t like who sits three tables down.

    • Been thinking about the Chris Hedges thing. For me, Hedges is two people. The one who writes and talks about the history of liberal politics in the West, and the one who goes into prisons to “teach” – which is to say, to share ideas and stories with other human beings to help them believe that they aren’t crazy, bad, helpless or wholly to blame for the bad place they’ve come to. I think the second person is the more important, but that’s only because that’s what I do – connect with socially-constructed criminals and poor people under the guise of “teaching.” But I think it’s going to be the first person – the writer, talker, *performer* – who the online world will condemn or defend or turn into some kind of impersonal metaphor. I don’t want to watch that. Or another twitter beat-down. Or anything Greenwald. Not for a bit.

      Which is a long-winded way of saying that I’m going now. Summer’s here, and I’ve got a chance to become part of a neighbourhood association that helps out moms and dads and kids. And I have new neighbours I haven’t met. And I have books on local history I haven’t read. And I promised my learners that I’d write them some easy-read stuff about climate change. And, well, like that.

      Probably, come winter, I’ll drop around to see what’s happening. But, for now, I’m going to paint and garden and talk with the people around me. Thank you so much, guys, for all the conversation! Love you all. Take care. 🙂

      *cue Duran Duran, “Ordinary World”

  5. davidly says:

    this blog contains an outright lie, claiming I'd backed Foust's claims. I demand the blogger w/draw it. http://t.co/BSPNKny2rX— David Graeber (@davidgraeber) 14. Juni 2014

    See that. In no way might Graeber have been backing a Foust’s claims, but anyone questioning them is an enabler of rape threats. Check.

    Graeber is someone whose past work I respect, but his role in this kerfuffle has proven him to be an utterly reprehensible douche-bag. I’m not sure one can take something like that back – being a reprehensible douche-bag, not calling someone one – but I will nevertheless not be demanding apologies for, or retractions of his reprehensible behavior – as if that will restore some kind of honor to his standing. That will always speak for itself and color my opinion of him.

    A nice response:
    “A hallmark of your typical Social Justice Warrior is that they are cowardly little weasels, which is why they don’t contact you directly with their complaints – or say, when they wish to hint to their Twitter followers that you have defamed them. They just whine about you on Twitter.”

    Allow me to amend my previous aspersion from “utterly reprehensible douche-bag” to “utterly reprehensible little weasel”. I hope no one holds me in lower standing for that clear outbreak of misogyny.

  6. Pingback: Notes on David Graeber and Conspiracism | The Rancid Honeytrap

  7. sunchoke says:

    That has to be one of the most embarrassing exchanges on twitter, ever. The sparse commentary you interject makes it almost uncomfortable to read, but also even more hilarious.

    A related question to this post is perhaps whether or not we even can be free of currently existing celebrity lefts dominating the discussion. Pollitt, David Graeber’s favorite political columnist, has worked for the Nation at least back to that mag’s ringing endorse of the Afghan invasion back in 2001. How could a ‘serious’ left work there? Why are these people not laughed out of twitter? Because they have money of course. Several days ago, one wanted to feel sorry for Graeber; now I just wish he had friends to take away the internet for several months so he can realize his asshattery in all its swollenness.

    • sheenyglass says:

      Several days ago, one wanted to feel sorry for Graeber; now I just wish he had friends to take away the internet for several months so he can realize his asshattery in all its swollenness.

      Yeah, it seems like no good can ever come of being on twitter to address anything more serious than cat pictures. You’re either cruising for a school yard beating or just killing time until your inevitable public meltdown. Although I don’t have too much sympathy for Graeber now that he’s revealing himself to be the anarchist Hugo Schwyzer Lite.

  8. Pingback: Uh… | The Rancid Honeytrap

  9. Just more proof that Twitter makes people stupid. It’s as if Graeber just discovered both feminism and rape and is falling over himself to complete a really embarrassing act of performative feminism. Go back to anecdotes about historical issues, buddy.

  10. Pingback: The Celebrity Left Wars | The Rancid Honeytrap

  11. Pingback: Here’s @DavidGraeber politely entertaining idea that postmodernism was a CIA invention, Foucault a CIA recruit | The Rancid Honeytrap

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