about Aziz Ansari, Babe, the legal vs moral or ethical debate, and publishing

EDIT/UPDATED TO ADD:  I should have probably mentioned the context of why I wrote about the Babe article the way I did in the first place, and then followed it up with the above link, but frankly, I don’t think most people care about the context.

I’ve been participating in a non-public conversation about accountability, the platforms used for call outs, education and rehabilitation, legal vs moral or ethical, and the nuance (or lack thereof) in the existing vocabulary and current public dialogue about consent. We’ve been breaking things down to their ugly roots, examining all the various steps that need to be taken, and brainstorming ways that folks can collectively move forward.

So, when I say that I’m less interested in the Babe account itself and more interested in the context of the article, that’s why. I have no wish to derail the greater conversation or to get folks to stop thinking about Grace’s account. In my mind, her account is fully valid and I support her speaking up. All of these accounts, all of these experiences — they’re important and they need to be told.

I find the context of Grace’s story important only in the greater sense of how things should change. In retrospect, I probably should have shared my thoughts only with the folks in the ongoing non-public conversation that I mentioned above. I can understand how my take on all of this is troubling outside of its own context and I apologize for the misunderstanding. Providing context is something that I forget to do a lot, but I’m working on catching myself with it.

* * *

I have had dates like this one. I have come away feeling assaulted and sometimes feeling raped. I fully believe that “Grace” feels the way that she does and that it happened the way she says it happened.

If Ansari does not believe he did anything wrong, he’s just another example of the old school of thought about consent. Until those old school believers start switching around their moral compasses, people are going to keep getting hurt/feeling victimized in this way.

Call out culture isn’t fixing anything. It isn’t changing the minds and beliefs of (most of) those accused. Instead, it’s making these men angrier, and the men around them angrier (and paranoid). I’m terrified that the increasing anger and paranoia is going to end up being a huge backlash, both for individuals and on a society level.

* * *

In my mind, this is one of those instances where people are quick to use legal terms which are not currently nuanced enough to encompass our growing understanding of consent. Nothing Aziz did is *technically* a crime in the State of New York. (https://apps.rainn.org/…/policy-crime-definitions.cfm…)

Did Aziz violate a moral or ethical boundary? That’s a lot more complicated because there are so many flavors of morals and ethics. With the current *progressive* understanding of consent, did he fuck up? Difficult to say. He clearly hurt “Grace” emotionally/mentally, but did not harm (legal definition of harm) her physically.

It’s not a crime to have different morals and ethics from someone else. That’s [one reason] why progressive and radical educators are pushing to have “consent” (the non-legal definition) become an ongoing conversation, not a monosyllabic answer given once, or worse, silence as consent.

* * *

Going back to Babe running with this story, which is an entirely different conundrum of ethics, morals, and boundaries. I take a lot of issue with Babe’s publication. As follows, in no particular order:

1. Babe.net claims to publish “news,” but can anyone here think of a time when they had an actual news story that wasn’t mostly rehashing another source? Babe’s readership is significantly lower than other sites who aim for the same demographic. (https://www.rank2traffic.com/babe.net)

2. Something to consider for the bigger picture (aside from whether what Ansari did was a crime or a moral violation, and aside from whether “Grace’s” story being published is a crime or an ethical violation): a story like this significantly boosts traffic, which boosts advertising, which makes a site brand worth more. Babe only recently (mid-2017) began paying its writers, and from what I’ve read in Binders groups, the pay is dismal. This is absurd because the main financier for babe (and the company that owns it, Tab Media) is News Corp — whose executive co-chair is Rupert Murdock. News Corp also owns HarperCollins Publishers, which is one of the five biggest publishing houses in the world. One of the other five is Penguin Random House (PRH), which publishes Ansari’s book, Modern Romance. PRH is owned by global media group Bertelsmann; News Corp is a major competitor of theirs. (I’m pointing all of this out to show that there was no conflict of interest from investors involved with Babe and that there might be benefit.)

3. *Some* folks in the world are starting to talk about different forms of justice and accountability. Right now, the only established method is legal recourse, but the past several months have demonstrated that some people are fed up with that system of power (patriarchal) not working (and often making things much worse). Folks are turning to social media and news outlets to tell their stories in the hopes that there will be recourse against the men the stories are about. There’s a lot of problems with this.

3a. Yes, accused men are being fired — but they’re also being given enormous severance payments to go away quietly. Their careers might be over for now (how many folks remember the awful shit men like Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Wahlberg have done? those men are certainly still getting enormous paychecks after “enough time” has passed), (Enough time meaning that folks have forgotten.) but what about in ten years?. Men are not just being awarded for their behavior, they’re being paid as a result of it.

3b. Public accusations make the public judge, jury, and executioner (by calling for those accused to lose their jobs). This goes against the principles of our (and many other) countries. It goes against the laws and against a morality that a great deal of people say they subscribe to (when it benefits them). These public accusations are leading to mob mentality and calls for vigilante justice. (Note: I’m not saying I’m against any of this. I’m only stating that it’s happening and that it goes against much of our cultural mores.)

4. Why was this published with Babe? Did “Grace” approach Babe? This is fully conjecture, but I believe that Grace is friends with someone at Babe. I believe that someone is one of her close friends that she was texting after her date with Ansari. I believe that the friend at Babe and Grace got to talking, the friend approached the editorial staff at Babe, and the editorial staff decided to run with the story regardless as to whether it was ethical, moral, or legal to do so. Why would an editor do that? Because site traffic turns into money, which keeps financiers from pulling their money, which keeps brands/sites/whatever alive. I believe that the author of the article, Katie Way, is either the friend at Babe whom Grace is friends with, or Way was given this story to protect the friend. I believe this because looking at Way’s publishing history with Babe (https://babe.net/author/katieway1) (and this ties in with the first point about Babe not being a news site), it’s clear that Way’s clips (assignments) have not been journalistic in the slightest. Oh, and Way’s Twitter profile? She calls herself “temporarily powerful.” Babe’s website and social media keep mentioning that Grace’s account is exclusive to Babe, too.

The whole thing, when viewed through the lens of publishing, stinks.

Bah, there’s more but I give up for now.