Dingus of the Week: The AP

Every fortnight, we sacrifice one of our own. Why aren’t the online gods happy?

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Last week, junior staffer Emily Wilder was fired by the Associated Press after she was targeted by an online mob because she was politically active in college. Wilder, a Jewish woman, led a group called Students for Justice in Palestine at Stanford University. In 2017, she helped organize a protest against the Jewish group Birthright. In a Facebook post promoting the protest, she noted that it would coincide with a Trump fundraiser held by “that naked mole rat-looking billionaire Shel Adelson.”

The social media posts were dug up by The Washington Free Beacon. An outlet that can be generously described as a website that traffics in conservative troll wars. 

In response to the firing, Wilder issued a statement noting, “I am one victim to the asymmetrical enforcement of rules around objectivity and social media that has censored so many journalists — particularly Palestinian journalists and other journalists of color — before me.… What future does it promise to aspiring reporters that an institution like The Associated Press would sacrifice those with the least power to the cruel trolling of a group of anonymous bullies? What does it mean for this industry that even sharing the painful experiences of Palestinians or interrogating the language we use to describe them can be seen as irredeemably ‘biased?’”

For its part, the AP said firing Wilder was correct, and it only made an error of process.

Wilder isn’t the only journalist who has been sacrificed to appease the online mobs. And she won’t be the last. Trust me. I should know. I too was held to vaguely worded standards applied inconsistently in order to justify offering fresh blood to a conservative movement that has a stranglehold on news outlets across America.

These mobs aren’t accidental. They are contrived in the seedy chumbuckets of the internet. In forums and on social media, where thousands of alt accounts regularly engage in games of whack-a-mole. Except, in this case, the mole is a journalist or news outlet that made them mad, by being a woman, trans, or having non-white skin. The formula is always the same. Find a tweet or Facebook post. Get performatively mad about it. Demand that person be fired.

It has a silencing effect.

If it didn’t work, they wouldn’t do it. If companies didn’t bow to the pressure, they wouldn’t do it.

It’s a false idol to sacrifice to. And all too often the ones sacrificed are the very journalists newsrooms need to have diversity of voices and, well, actually good reporting. Reporting that isn’t just sanctioned by the powers that be. Reporting that challenges the status quo rather than enforces it.

That is not just cowardice. It’s bad business. 

Read: The Real Reason Local Newspapers Are Dying

And these annual sacrifices don’t make anyone stop. They don’t make the local GOP more likely to attend your editorial board endorsement meetings. They don’t mean that Ted Cruz will stop calling you fake news. It’s like fighting the hydra, cutting off the head only makes the monster sprout new heads.

What I Am Reading:

Please read this really smart analysis of American conservatism by Ryan Broderick. You can also read Margaret Sullivan’s column, which says the AP was not great. Nicole Chung wrote about anti-Asian racism and how she’s done educating white people. Rent the Runway is back! Also, a few weeks ago, I was looking at renting a dress from Rent the Runway, and reading the comments on each dress, and looking at the time stamp was an incredible document of a pandemic year. Women in dresses for weddings and vacations and parties all dated to right when the virus was at its peak, which shows, once again, that we weren’t all in this together. 

Summer is here and that means body anxiety. Anne Helen Petersen wrote about the history of fatphobia. And Tressie McMillan Cottom wrote about what we talk about when we talk about hotness. And I am gonna pop this quote in to make you click a little harder. 

I despise the cultural gaslighting we do to women, especially women who are deemed “undesirable.” Whether we are undesirable because we are fat or dark or oddly shaped or too witty or too smart, the pattern is the same. We obscure the brutal reality of how much subjective ideas about beauty matter for how some women get to live their lives. Which is what that “svelte” business is about—what they really mean is underweight or thin. And then when a reasonable woman registers that people treat her differently because of how she looks, we rush in to assure her that she is delusional. Worse, we call that assurance “kindness.” 

In case you missed it, I had a “end of school” review. And the review was: it sucks. 

Jessica Valenti is here to remind us to stop talking about how young girls dress and ask ourselves why we have such a problem with their bodies. A professor went to a TikTok house and wrote about it.

What I Am Drinking:

This week, I went with my friend Kristie to the Cedar Rapids (kinda annual) Cocktail Classic. Kristie and I first attended this event together in 2018, when it was sponsored by the ill-conceived group that gave Cedar Rapids its own Fyre Fest. There we drank bubble shots, and we had to hide from my various pastors and former Tinder dates. I eventually crawled under a table and hid. This year, it was back, so Kristie and I went and, wow, look at you Iowa, just congregating without masks. You’ve been doing this a long time, huh? I’ve come up with a mantra to get me through these moments. It’s this: If these assholes want to give each other COVID, that’s not on me anymore.

I realize this statement belies the privilege of not having an underlying health condition and being very vaccinated. But it has helped me let go of some of the anxiety that I feel. I think I should stitch it onto a sampler. If I stitched. That said, we split early and ate pizza.

But it was kinda great to be there. While I was there, I saw someone who has made my personal and professional life a living hell. So, I smiled, took a sip of my drink, and raised my middle finger. It’s so great to do that IRL.

But here was one of the drinks. This drink came from Cedar Ridge Distillery, and I hope they don’t get mad at me for sharing it. It was wonderful! 

Men Yell at Me is a newsletter about the places where our bodies and politics collide and yes, the occasional yelling man. Learn more about it and me (Lyz) here. You can sign up to receive the free weekly email which includes interviews, essays and original reporting. The Friday email is a weekly round-up of dinguses, drinks and links. On Monday I have a subscribers-only open thread where we discuss politics and our bodies and more.