My Own Private Guantanamo

Pranks, Power and Pop Culture



December 16, 2010


Sady Doyle is one of my heroes. She’s one of the sharpest, funniest and most tenacious bloggers we have. Today, she launched a Twitter campaign to shame Michael Moore for his comments about the Julian Assange rape allegations. Doyle’s argument is strong on its face, but there are some serious problems with it too.

First, contrary to her statements today, Doyle is not simply angry at Moore’s dismissive and inaccurate remarks about the rape charges. Instead she’s angry at the very notion of offering Assange financial assistance for his bail. Yesterday, in her opening salvo against Moore, she wrote:

God damn, dude. You pledged bail to help a dude avoid a sexual assault investigation. YOUR PROGRESSIVISM HAS BEEN INVALIDATED.

Doyle is conflating Moore’s financial assistance for Assange’s legal costs with being a rape apologist. These are not equivalent. In any event, one wonders why Doyle hasn’t extended her contempt to Jemima Khan, who also helped with Assange’s bail.

There are, of course, very good reasons why leftists and feminists might want to support Assange’s release from solitary confinement at this critical time, when the US appears poised to have him railroaded for conspiracy.

Doyle is clouding the issues here. She refuses to allow that one can be an agnostic on the charges against Assange, while also advocating for his fair and humane treatment during a truly extraordinary and disturbing campaign of political persecution.

The second and more critical observation is that Doyle herself is no agnostic on Assange’s guilt. Last Thursday, she wrote:

“I really, really, do tend to believe that he raped those girls.”


“he (Assange) — in my opinion, probably, allegedly — happened to be a repeat rapist…”

I point out these statements because Doyle is positioning her #mooreandme campaign, solely as an effort to speak out against rape apologist discourse, and to shame Michael Moore for lying about the charges against Assange. Doyle demands that we should all be agnostics on the rape charges, while she asserts without evidence that Assange is “probably” a “repeat rapist.”

When I asked her today on Twitter, to substantiate that claim, she responded with:

“Since statistics consistently report only 8% of rape allegations are unfounded, there’s a 92% chance.”

Got that? According to Sady Doyle, there’s a 92% chance that Julian Assange is a rapist.

I responded with a link to statistician Nate Silver’s New York Times piece on the Assange case, which cautions that we must put these allegations in context, in order to weigh their probability. Is Silver simply mansplaining away the prevalence of rape? Maybe. But if Doyle is going to employ statistics in such a dubious manner, then it is fair to consider another perspective, from a statistician.

Doyle disregarded my question, responding:

“You are interested in maintaining that Assange is innocent. I’m interested in eating chicken wings now. Please go away.”

I responded that I did not know whether Assange was guilty. This has always been my position. It is instead Doyle who claims to know (with 92% certainty) what happened between Assange and his two accusers.

Doyle apparently lost interest in her chicken wings, long enough to respond with:

“From where I’m standing, you look like yet another Assange fanboy slash rape apologist. I can see why #Mooreandme bothers you.”

With all due respect Sady, where are you standing?

UPDATE 12/18

Yeah, I’m aware that Doyle has claimed that I’m “trying to launch a #doyleandme campaign.” Not true. It’s just the name I gave to this post. Also, to be very clear, since Doyle wasn’t, I am not the author of the misogynist tweets in the screenshot above the paragraph referencing me. I have not accused her of “bias,” but I have pointed out that she believes Assange is guilty. It is her right to believe this, of course, but it’s also my right to point it out. I read Sady’s Tumblr because I am a fan of Sady Doyle’s (though admittedly, less a fan these days) not because I’m a troll or a stalker, or anything else. She’s a writer, a very good one and her writing is available to the public. I agree that Moore and Olbermann should be held accountable for spreading misinformation about the rape accusations, but I am not a fan of the tone of her campaign, nor of some of its underlying assumptions.

Finally, I shouldn’t have to point out that nothing on my website, and nothing in these articles I have linked to is “rape apologism” and I really wish Doyle would get some perspective on this. Feminism is not solely hers to define.

I also want to recommend two other articles. Aaron Bady is a much more thoughtful, careful and less combative writer than myself, and he has a very civil discussion on #mooreandme happening here.

This comment from Dan C. gets at the heart of my concerns about our discourse around rape, Assange and Wikileaks:

“From the standpoint of political rhetoric, the real danger here is that the narrative of rape will become metaphorically conflated with the narrative of wikileaks. The assholes in our mediasphere seem all too eager to imply that the violation of state secrecy is something like the sexual violation of real human beings.”

This was my primary criticism of Amanda Marcotte’s framing of the accusations against Assange. I am encouraged to see that Marcotte has begun to defend Wikileaks itself in a subsequent post.

There is also a very measured critique of #mooreandme by two feminist lawyers here.

I am also disturbed by comparisons some are making between Roman Polanski and Julian Assange. The former is a fugitive child rapist, with a lot of celebrity defenders, who could use a public shaming themselves. The latter has not even been charged with a crime. Jezebel makes the Polanski comparison, and then proceeds to tell its readers that they don’t need to worry their pretty little heads over cablegate.

Despite Michael Moore’s rhapsodizing about the importance of WikiLeaks, the most recent cables have mostly been of the “Berlusconi parties too much” variety.

This is seriously lame. Jezebel is telling its readers both that the news is gossip, and that gossip is news. Jezebel’s readers might benefit from a discussion of stories likes these:

US contractor Dyncorp procuring adolescent boys for Afghan police

The Vatican ducking an Irish investigation into clergy sex abuse

Obama pressuring Spain to drop torture prosecutions

Hilary Clinton ordering diplomats to spy on leaders at the UN, collecting email passwords, credit card info and other private data (ie. state-sponsored stalking).

In dismissing these issues,  Jezebel is no different from the mainstream press, or the “liberal” media. (Torture apologist Jon Stewart dismissed cablegate as “chit chat.”)  The stories emerging from cablegate are worthy of serious feminist discussion. Unfortunately, it seems the only discussion many want to have about Wikileaks is a conversation about sex and rape. Sex and rape sell. War crimes do not.

UPDATE 12/19

We learn today that Israel Shamir, a representative for Wikileaks is a Holocaust denier. He also co-authored the Counterpunch hit piece on one of the accusers, connecting her to the CIA while scarily intoning against feminists. That article formed the basis for the story by Kirk James White that appeared on Firedoglake and was then subsequently tweeted by Bianca Jagger, and later by Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann. It seems very likely that Shamir was given either tacit or explicit approval by Assange to write that story. Whatever the case, he’s still employed by Wikileaks. And did I mention the dude’s a Holocaust denier? This is pretty damning stuff.

This could turn the tide of liberal public support for Assange, if not for Wikileaks itself. Very disturbing. What a way to sabotage your own organization.

I am now and truly Wikifatigued.

  • If You’ll Pardon the Presumption « zunguzungu

    [...] to the actual case at hand, as Matt Cornell argued with Doyle on twitter, assertions like [...]

  • Carlos231

    1st world pro-imperialist bourgeois feminists (should I put under quotes or does my penis prohibits me?) are being a huge disappointment in all this (at least mainstream watered down folks like Wolfe/ Olbermann’s shitness you sort of expect). Marcotte has flat out decided he did it (check her tweets and blog posts – Wikileaks is just some cute gossipy thing, apparently – brown lives, imperialist pedophilia, colonialism in Africa, survival of 3rd worlders in global warming, threats and exploitation just doesn’t register) while keeping a 1% of doubt just in case – so she won’t appear to be the disgusting caricature she truly is.

  • Victoria

    I don’t know if Assange is a rapist, but he seems to be a pro zionist piece of shit
    Why aren’t more people talking about this?
    And these feminists are not pro-imperialist (is Naomi Klein, who refuses to make fun of the charges,a pro-imperialist bourgeois feminist? I don’t think so. They are just saying that rape is an important issue. The only one who is not recognizing the privilege of a white man is Michael Moore. And Assange is not Wikileaks, he’s just a man. Where are the activists protesting Bradley Manning’s detention and the torture he’s suffering?

  • Anonymous


    There’s nothing in either of the links you’ve posted that suggest Assange is “pro-Zionist.” His choice of attorney is not necessarily an indication of his political sympathies. Also, Assange’s promotion of Netanyahu’s statements about cablegate is not the same thing as endorsing Netanyahu’s policies. In fact, it seems highly unlikely that Assange supports the occupation. I have no doubt that future cables will shed light on the “special relationship” between Israel and the US.

    As for Marcotte and Doyle, they are not *only* saying that rape is an important issue. They are also saying that they think Assange is guilty. These are very different issues, and should not be conflated.

    Finally, Naomi Klein has spoken out against sexist, rape apologist rhetoric, but she has also, notably not thrown her lot in with Marcotte and Doyle.

  • Allthinky

    I’m not sure what you are confused about … she thinks he’s probably guilty. That’s okay — she’s a blogger. It’s not unusual for ‘public’ figures to repeat evidence against an alleged criminal (journalists do that all the time) or ‘opine’ about people’s guilt or innocence.

    She thinks he did it. That’s where she stands. She’s upset w/Moore, as she explained at length, because he was a childhood hero and he’s not *only* donated to Assange’s bail fund (as did Khan), but publicly trivialized the assault charges, having inferred that they could *only* be part of an attempt to smear Assange.

    I dunno why this has hit her quite this way, but the question of why Moore, et al., couldn’t be gleeful over the work Wikileaks is doing, AND believe Assange is entitled to a fair trial, AND apologize for repeating misinformation about the allegations remains open.

    It’s an awful situation. If Assange is guilty of rape, I want him punished. I *don’t* want him punished for making important, history-making documents public. I do want everyone on all sides to be careful about slinging accusations — but my guess is, none of those things is likely.

  • admin

    “I’m not sure what you are confused about … she thinks he’s probably guilty. That’s okay — she’s a blogger. It’s not unusual for ‘public’ figures to repeat evidence against an alleged criminal (journalists do that all the time) or ‘opine’ about people’s guilt or innocence.”

    Yes, but isn’t that *exactly* what Moore has done? Isn’t Moore entitled to have an opinion on Assange’s innocence, just as Doyle is entitled to her opinion of his guilt?

    For the record, I do not have a strong gut feeling about Assange’s guilt or innocence. I believe that the only ethical public position is agnosticism, regardless of how big your megaphone happens to be.

  • Anonymous

    “I’m not sure what you are confused about … she thinks he’s probably guilty. That’s okay — she’s a blogger. It’s not unusual for ‘public’ figures to repeat evidence against an alleged criminal (journalists do that all the time) or ‘opine’ about people’s guilt or innocence.”

    Yes, but isn’t that *exactly* what Moore has done? Isn’t Moore entitled to have an opinion on Assange’s innocence, just as Doyle is entitled to her opinion of his guilt?

    For the record, I do not have a strong gut feeling about Assange’s guilt or innocence. I believe that the only ethical public position is agnosticism, regardless of how big your megaphone happens to be.

  • Withercanada

    I think the issue about Michael Moore is that he repeated the myth that this all over a broken condom which you yourself refuted by posting this:

    I understand the frustration though.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent post. I’d missed those comments of hers, though they’re consistent with her tone in what I did read.

    I haven’t a clue whether she’s getting CIA or NED funding, but if she isn’t, she’s dancing beautifully to their tune, whether Assange is guilty or not.

  • Allthinky

    Nope — that’s not *exactly* what Moore has done. He’s repeated and boosted the signal of *misinformation* about the allegations.

    Moore’s skepticism about Assange’s possible guilt and conviction about the smear campaign (all of which was fine and dandy) was couched around the trivialization of the allegations (“sex by surprise”, “the condom broke — that’s a crime in Sweden!” etc.) … which, hey! it turns out was a smear campaign *against the complainants* apparently orchestrated by Assange’s lawyer.

    Not. The. Same.

    If the charges aren’t ridiculous, Moore and Olbermann can’t ridicule them — but that’s all they have to lose by correcting what they’ve said.

  • Anonymous

    We agree that Moore repeated false information about the accusations.

    Again, my point was that Doyle has attacked Moore and others for assuming Assange’s innocence, while she asserts his guilt. This is exactly the line of argument she took with me in the post above, even though I have no opinion on Assange’s guilt.

  • Withercanada
  • angela

    (this is my first time here, so do let me know if I’ve missed out on some earlier discussion that would’ve clarified this, but…)

    From what I can tell, that’s actually not what Doyle’s issue is. She’s stated that she thinks Assange is guilty, but that’s not why she’s up in arms at Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann. She’s angry — and I can really, really see why — because (a) they repeated false information, /on the news/, about the allegations; (b) because Olbermann tweeted an article which contained the names of Assange’s accusers, which is a HUGE no-no for obvious reasons; and (c) because not only did they come to a view [which is their right] — they came to a view based on no evidence, and then /ridiculed/ the idea that Assange could have done it. Which is problematic.

    So in sum: they lied about the charges. They gave out the names of the alleged accusers. And they ridiculed the prospect that the accusers might be telling the truth, on no evidence whatsoever. Again, I emphasize that it’s not the taking of a position, but the way they did it, that is really problematic. It wasn’t “We don’t know the facts, but I’m inclined to believe that Assange wouldn’t do that” — it was “who the hell do these women think they are? Obvs they are totally in the pay of the CIA.” Moore and Olbermann perpetuated lots of old, tired victim-blaming myths about rape, told lies on air, and chortled about it. That’s completely separate from whether Assange is innocent or guilty. Either way, Michael Moore has something to apologise for.

  • Anonymous


    I agree that Michael Moore should apologize for misrepresenting the rape accusations. But, as I’ve detailed in the post, Sady’s campaign is also criticizing Moore for posting Assange’s bail, saying that it “invalidates his progressivism.” Doyle’s rhetoric is rooted in a belief that Assange is guilty. If you really take the measure of Doyle’s remarks, any support for Assange– financial, legal or rhetorical, and any skepticism about the rape accusations leaves you open to being attacked as a rape apologist.

    I am also glad that you mentioned Doyle’s complaint that Moore and Olbermann leaked the name of an accuser, and is thus responsible for any consequences. The same woman’s name was also “leaked” by the Huffington Post, CBS News and Doyle’s friend Anna North at Jezebel. Has Doyle leveled the same charge at North? Of course not. The accuser’s name is just two clicks away from Kate Harding’s piece in Salon here:

    Also, perhaps the most ironic thing is that the accuser herself is currently tweeting under her real name, and has even referenced the case in her tweets. Should we all pretend that she doesn’t exist, and doesn’t have something to say?

  • Anonymous

    Can we stop with this CIA silliness? Doyle isn’t working for the government. And, she is right to criticize some of what Moore has said. One of the larger points of this blog post is that it’s possible to have substantive, nuanced disagreements without assigning shadowy motives to the people you disagree with.

  • jack

    A woman using twitter to talk to a small group of people that already know her and most likely about her rape case, is not the same thing as someone giving out her name and personal information on a widely viewed media outlet. The implantation that her trusting this group of people is the same as outing herself to the world seems to take it far out of context.

  • Anonymous

    Not saying she worked for them. I’m saying her false claim that Moore is supporting rape culture is a distraction from the issue, and distracting people from what Wikileaks is actually doing is the kind of work that the CIA and the NED have traditionally done. Yes, she’s almost certainly a dupe, not an employee. But she’s still doing their work.

    We can’t assume both sides are innocent, but we should assume both sides are not guilty until proven otherwise. Sady Doyle has failed to do that, and the enemies of Wikileaks benefit thereby.

  • Anonymous

    I should’ve been clearer in my first comment: I never seriously thought Sady Doyle was getting a check from the CIA or the NED, and I did not mean to imply that she might be. Sorry about writing in haste.

  • Aperson

    I understand your “proven innocent until guilty (agnosticism)” viewpoint. I’m less impressed with your wikileaks linkage and tone of this article implying that the Assange accusers/victims don’t matter or should have their privacy respected and not be treated like criminals because Wikileaks is too important.

    Also, please take the time to explain to me why Moore is too good to apologize for contributing to rape culture with his allegation dismissal. Note that I did not call Moore a rape apologist because he hasn’t been proven guilty yet. But his dismissive attitude adds to rape culture because adds to the atmosphere that many victims suffer through. The atmosphere which dictates that their rapes don’t matter and by thinking otherwise and reporting it makes their harassment justified.

    I mean it must be so difficult for Olbermann to apologize for putting those women in possible danger by posting their information in a public domain. It’s must be very difficult so difficult that he’s cancelling his twitter account instead. What a sacrifice.

    I could point out the obvious, that wikileaks is not just one man and that without Assange wikileaks can still continue, but pointing that out is just appeasing you because it’s so obvious that you consider wikileaks to be a free-pass.

  • JoannaOC

    Yes, because the real issue is what you decide it is, and all of this frenzy about how women who try to report their rapes are liars and sluts and a distraction is not real. To you. Because you don’t have a fucking clue.

  • Anonymous

    No. The vast majority of men and women who report rapes are telling the truth, and these women may be telling the truth, too. But no one should assume that everyone who is charged with a crime is guilty. Mobs have taken judgment in their own hands in the past, only to discover that the accused was innocent. The presumption of innocence matters for everyone, accused and accuser alike.

  • JoannaOC

    thank you for mansplaining what my poor lady head wasn’t talking about because of course I don’t know what my own point is.
    Sady Doyle and many many other people are not debating the presumption of innocence of the man. We are pissed at the presumption of guilt of the women who say they were assaulted and whose identities were revealed. we are pissed because this sort of shit happens all the time. All the time. All the time. Just about every woman I know has been raped. Some by strangers, some by lovers, boyfriends, spouses, relatives, acquaintances. How many even reported their rapes? why not? maybe it has something to do with the fact that people like you are so busy telling us that our own experiences don’t exist, never happened, arent’ important?
    I have no clue if Assange is innocent or guilty. THAT”S NOT THE TOPIC OF DISCUSSION FOR THE WOMEN WHO ARE ANGRY that Moore and Olberman and hundreds of others are making jokes about rape, posting threats of rape, and mansplaining to the ladies what is REALLY important. Did I say you were clueless?

  • Anonymous

    Quite all right. Thank you for femsplaining what I do not believe.

  • Withercanada

    Message for you sir:

    Don’t be so fucking condescending and dismissive, this shit’s serious

  • Anonymous

    Of course this shit is serious.

    Rape is serious.

    Revealing embarrassing government secrets is serious.

    Charges that have not been proven are serious.

    This shit is serious every way you look at it. That’s why the presumption of innocence is so important for everyone involved.

  • Anonymous

    “I’m less impressed with your wikileaks linkage and tone of this article implying that the Assange accusers/victims don’t matter or should have their privacy respected and not be treated like criminals because Wikileaks is too important.”

    Nowhere have I asserted that the accusers don’t matter. And I have explicitly condemned the smears against them. You are welcome to read my Twitter feed and the post entitled “A smear for a smear” to see exactly how I feel about the discourse around rape. I am mostly in agreement with Doyle. The objections I’ve raised still stand, and have been echoed by other feminists.

    “I mean it must be so difficult for Olbermann to apologize for putting those women in possible danger by posting their information in a public domain. It’s must be very difficult so difficult that he’s cancelling his twitter account instead. What a sacrifice.”

    Olbermann is a buffoon. But the specific charge that he “leaked” an accuser’s name is only fair if also applied to Anna North of Jezebel. Will you start condemning her for this article?

    “I could point out the obvious, that wikileaks is not just one man and that without Assange wikileaks can still continue, but pointing that out is just appeasing you because it’s so obvious that you consider wikileaks to be a free-pass.”

    I have never argued it should get a free pass. Read both of my posts on this subject carefully and tell me where I make (or even imply) this argument.

  • Zinc

    Both Moore and Doyle seem to have major knees that are jerking all over the place with this one. If Doyle want’s to take the “high ground” over Moore though, she needs to stop misrepresenting facts, such as claiming that Assange “fled” or “ran away.” The prosecutor dropped the case, and he legally left for the UK. How long was he supposed to hang around waiting for a potential change of mind? Perahps he believes he is innocent, and that was the end of it? And once in the UK, now that it’s a political football, should he not exercise his rights and resist extradition?

  • Anonymous

    You have no evidence, no evidence whatsoever that the CIA is in any way involved with this. How is your casual smearing of them any different from when conservatives brand us all aiders and abetters for terror?

    You want to talk about a tradition of obfuscation? How about the historic role of the media and partisan fans in trivializing or outright suppressing rape allegations made against famous people? How about the abysmal record of progressive groups when one of their own is charged with rape, the inevitable “how dare you harm our cause” reactions which are directed not against the accused, but the accusers?

    I don’t give a shit if the enemies of WIkileaks benefit from this. That is either the fault of Assange or of his accusers, not of those of us who refuse to allow defenders of Wikileaks to dismiss everything outright.

  • Anonymous

    There is a fairly straight line that goes from Miss A to Ladies In White to the NED to the CIA. Which doesn’t mean they’re involved, of course, but any reasonable journalist would notice it and investigate. Considering possibilities is part of not rushing to judgment.

    And who is smearing who? I’ve been calling for the presumption of innocence for *everyone* all along, unlike folks like Sady Doyle who begin with the assumption that Assange is guilty. You don’t have to take sides, and you don’t have to assume that people who don’t take sides are against you. I prefer “those who are not against us are for us” to “those who are not for us are against us”.

  • Withercanada

    Shamir just said that she was linked to the CIA just due to some schmuck in Oslo telling them so:

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure if you should maintain even minimal respect for Sady Doyle after these careless and flippant remarks.

    They reflect an immaturity of character that seems at the root of this whole campaign of public vilification just as noxious as the one she decries as has happened for the alleged victims in the case.

    However, this is not the only problem. It seems even more telling that these twitter mobs can be so easily manipulated and mobilized for the enemy du jour.

    When merged with an authoritarian perversion of feminism that serves as the handmaiden of the police state (or in Newspeak, the sexcrimes unit of the thoughtpolice), you have a powerful tool that rallies the public itself to do the dirty work of the state (although not so different from the hooded night riders of the turn of the century who defended white womanhood against the slightest hint of sexual impropriety as a means to political terror. I mean screw Tom Robinson and Dr. Aziz, they were probably guilty too, right?).

    Moreover, Sady seems to have accepted her role to police public opinion. Using rancorous and highly prejudicial rhetoric, this policing makes it impossible for anyone to even express the basics of jurisprudence that guarantees the presumption of innocence (not guilt), without oneself becoming a target of the mob. That this bloody crusade handily serves the powers that be, seems to be never questioned, even as it creates victims of us all.

    Strange fruit indeed.

  • lke

    it’s hilarious the extent to which this subset of feminists have consistently exaggerated the allegations, even as they attack Moore et al. Doyle repeatedly makes claims about the first woman being raped, but um, the woman herself stated she never alleged rape only molestation, the prosecution never said it was rape. initially they called it sexual molestation, then downgraded it to the less severe nonsexual molestation, then the 3rd prosecutor upgraded it 10 days later to include not only sexual molestation but sexual coercion (which is a lesser crime than rape…rape requires intercourse, coercion does not–hence the “holding her down in a sexual manner–not the way anyone let alone a prosecutor would describe forced intercourse, rape gets 2-4 years, coercion has no minimum jail sentence, and so on).

    The actual text of the prosecution’s allegations never indicates the woman was held down during intercourse, nor that she demanded that sex stop. Yet over and over again these emotionally incontinent ninnies are peddling narratives about a woman being screwed without a condom while demanding it stop, in the most serious variation being held down at the same time!! They never stop to think logically about how all of that would naturally bring…a RAPE allegation. The lack thereof re: “Miss A” suggests that’s not what happened. The woman’s own narrative says that’s not what happened, in fact it’s not even clear when she became aware the condom was defective. Without that critical detail we cannot presume there was any reason to demand sex stop, let alone any such demands being actually made. The misdemeanor molestation allegation re: the broken condom incident would seem to imply a scenario in which it was only discovered after the fact, or at least not protested during. We can’t presume to know more than that. But the liberties they have taken with what has actually been alleged are incredible, even as they blast Moore et al. It’s pretty funny, the lack of self awareness and utter hypocrisy.

  • DaisyDeadhead

    Better late than never:

    I am thoroughly disgusted with Feminist Blogdonia, at this point.. but since all the hubbub has died down (for now), I figured I’d post this here. (thanks)

  • AussieMale

    There’s a lot of vitriol swirling around this issue. People getting carried away hurling abuse at each other. Assange is not a rapist. The accusations by the Swedish women have nothing to do with rape, and to keep repeating that word in connection with this politically motivated extradition attempt does a grave disservice to rape victims and their advocates. Stop reading tweets and start reading in detail all the evidence, including the testimonies of the “victims” and then have another long think about it.

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