That was what happened in the dark

That was what happened in the dark

You've probably seen a few photos of Elon Musk standing around in his backwards cowboy hat on his tour of the southern border in Texas on Thursday – and yes we all had a good laugh about that – but now let's look at another photo that's considerably less delightful. It was posted by Rep. Tony Gonzales who was hosting Musk and it's some of the most evil shit I've seen in a long time.

I'm not sure which point of view makes it worse. Rounding up a bunch of desperate migrants to display for one of the richest men alive like it's a fucking zoo or having to sit there while such a man is playing pretend cowboy in front of you.

“So there's roughly 350 million people in the U.S. but there's 8 billion people on earth,” Musk said. “This is an open border to 8 billion people.”

Gonzales pointed out that some of the migrants had gang tattoos as the Daily Beast noted.

He said that one asylum seeker he saw at a facility in El Paso on Monday had tears tattooed on his face.
“A teardrop is when you kill someone,” Gonzales said.
“We really don't know who some of these actors are. Many people you’ll see are fleeing poverty. I get that.”
“Sure, sure, sure,” Musk said.
Gonzales suggested others, like the tattooed migrant, are simply “fleeing you know, incarceration.”
We are basically, it seems like the place where you can go to get away from the law,” he continued.

That night people on Staten Island continued their demonstration outside of a shelter for newly arrived migrants beeping their horns and shining bright lights into the windows and using megaphones to prevent them from sleeping.

That Viral News NYC account fucking sucks by the way so don't follow it or anything.

Check out how stoked this guy is. I'm at the harassment campaign everyone. Get  a load of me.

I don't feel very good all of a sudden man. I don't know what to do about this shit.

Next up we have a piece about Joseph Roberts. Formerly the right wing poster boy for how the #MeToo movement has gone too far – promoted by Betsy DeVos and many others – Roberts was recently arrested for the murder and dismemberment of his girlfriend.

I'm as sick of asking people who enjoy this newsletter to pay for it as you are of hearing it. Not sick enough to stop doing it but please know that I do not enjoy it.

He saw his future dashed

by Sam Thielman

We’ll get to the murder. Back in 2011 President Obama did something pretty savvy which was to explicitly make federal funding for universities contingent on them providing reasonable protections to students who’d been sexually harassed or assaulted. This scared a lot of people at big schools, because it basically meant that if your administration persistently dragged its feet every time some donor’s kid got reported to campus safety for not taking “no” for an answer, the Department of Education could just yank a crippling amount of your funding. One accusation by a college girl could put you over the line in theory. One!

More or less simultaneously, newsrooms started paying attention to incidents, especially of rape, on college campuses. 60 Minutes did a big piece on a woman who’d been raped by three members of the basketball team. In 2014, Yale suspended a fraternity after a bunch of its guys marched around chanting “no means yes, yes means anal.” Right-wing media got desperate for a counterexample and by the end of that year, they had Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s infamous Rolling Stone piece about a rape at UVA, which Erdely hadn’t sourced adequately and which got the magazine sued for millions in verdicts and settlements, and probably contributed to Jann Wenner selling the whole magazine off. The Daily Caller ran sixteen stories on the “UVA rape hoax.” A largely forgotten reason that story got so much traction is that it dropped two months after a UVA freshman vanished. They caught the guy—he’d been charged with sexual assault twice at other colleges and he’d abducted and murdered the woman.

People really don’t like to think of sexual harassment and assault as being on a continuum with other forms of violence. That’s a failing.

If you’re looking for a starting point for the whole online incel culture thing this early-to-mid 2010s period is a reasonable candidate. There were already all these guys in stupid hats who were trying to sell you their books about how to be a pick-up artist or get you to come to their seminars, but after the Title IX change a lot of them got really aggressively political and right-wing and whiny. That was how you got “the manosphere” and “gamergate” and “comicsgate” and a bunch of other really sickening, violent subcultures of divorced guys in their fifties telling virginal guys in their teens that women were vile succubi who wanted to drain their life forces.

That was what happened in the dark, though. In the daylight, around 2014 at The Weekly Standard and The National Review and Reason and all the other solid gold toilets, groups called things like Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) and Families Advocating for Campus Equality (FACE), mostly run by a woman named Cynthia Garrett, started fundraising and outrage-mongering off of dudes who had been “falsely” accused of rape or harassment by those awful sexy college girls. A big popular one was a guy named Joseph Roberts, who had been in the Navy, and was tall and handsome and had gotten kicked out of a historically black university in Georgia called Savannah State two weeks before he was supposed to graduate. Some women had accused him of verbal and online harassment, or at least that was what he said. Nobody ever got the women to talk, which is great news for them. They’d probably have had a pretty bad time if Cathy Young or whoever else was writing about him had figured out who they were.

Cathy by the way did paid speaking gigs for SAVE and FACE and if you scroll down past the paywall in her Arc Digital and New York Times pieces about how the work SAVE/FACE do is terrific and helps college boys who’ve had their lives ruined by vindictive sluts, you’ll see where she’s disclosed that. I personally think if you go around telling people you’re a journalist you probably shouldn’t write nice things about people who give you money, even in Arc Digital, whether or not you mention that fact in a parenthetical, but maybe I’d feel differently if my main beat was “accused Ivy League pervert speaks.”

After Trump got elected, nobody could get enough of Joseph Roberts, because he was a Black Trump supporter, and the fact of Donald Trump having Black supporters seemed to be a satisfying counterpoint to his racism in the same way that Rolling Stone retracting their UVA piece discredits all the other stories of campus rape. Every time I see a picture of Roberts in his sailor suit or his red baseball cap I can sort of hear a sunburned orthodontist on a shitty boat shouting “that PROVES it!”

Roberts soon did panels and spoke to important people and his Republican committee campaign website from 2020 has lots of fancy pictures on it.

In 2017 rich Christian idiot Betsy DeVos, who had been made secretary of education by a racist game-show host, changed Title IX to allow rapists to cross-examine their victims through an intermediary, and relaxed some of the stricter reporting requirements of the Obama-era rule. One thing people forget about DeVos is that because of her absurdly wealthy background she does not have that evolutionary survival mechanism that makes a normal person’s flesh crawl when they encounter people who work with, say, the Home School Legal Defense Association or the SAVE/FACE weirdos, and so she spent lots of time with them and believed every word they said. When she gave campus rapists the all-clear, she made a little speech in which she told the sad story Joseph Roberts had been telling everybody.

[T]hree weeks before graduation, he saw his future dashed.
This young man was suspended via a campus-wide email which declared him a “threat to the campus community.” When he tried to learn the reason for his suspension, he was barred from campus.
He was not afforded counsel by the college and couldn’t afford counsel himself. Eventually, he found a lawyer who submitted a Freedom of Information Act request pro bono — but would do no more.
Only through the FOIA was he able to discover he had been accused of sexual harassment, but he was still denied notice of the specific allegations, and he remained suspended.

After that Joseph Roberts became even more popular on the right, because he was now the innocent man whose suffering had caused Title IX to be gutted. The context is pretty important here: A bunch of editors and staffers and news anchors were getting fired for raping and groping and jerking off in front of their colleagues, and a lot of people were glad that they didn’t have to work with those guys (they were all guys) any more, but then the Influential Rapist Friend contingent was pretty sure that this sort of thing had Gone Too Far. So there was a counter-movement of hateful burn-book articles about people like Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez, who’d reported one of her colleagues for groping her.

This all reached a fever pitch around the time of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings in 2018. While those were going on, Kyra Phillips did a ten-minute long Nightline segment on ABC about Roberts with lots of longing shots of him in his MAGA hat. She didn’t interview his accusers but she did show Christine Blasey Ford swearing to tell the truth.

In 2020 USA Today gave Roberts a byline in their op-ed section called “If Black Lives Matter, Due Process Must Matter.” He compared himself to Emmett Till. He ran for San Francisco Republican County Central Committee that same year; Cynthia Garrett is listed as a contributor to his campaign, alongside five other people, including Roberts himself and his girlfriend Rachel Buckner. He won. Nobody ever checked up on his story about his time at Savannah State or asked around for police reports about him or looked to see whether he’d been named as a defendant or a plaintiff in public court records.

And so in July when Roberts killed Buckner, beheaded her, cut off her hands and feet, and left the rest of her body in a trash bag in Alameda, it was a big surprise. Matthias Gafni, the first journalist to report on Roberts with an understanding of his own professional duties equal to or exceeding that of, like, a horse, wrote a nuanced, detailed, immaculately reported feature about him for the San Francisco Chronicle this month, explaining all the horrifying stuff he did to women over the years—assault, harassment, really weird shit at Savannah State, stalking several women including San Francisco mayor London Breed, which got him flagged to her security people—and it’s all brand new information, as far as it concerns the public, which has been hearing what a good, maligned guy he is for nearly a decade.

I hope Gafni wins prizes and gets raises and insurance that covers a good therapist because Jesus Christ, but a lot of what he reported—what every investigative reporter reports, I’ve done a little of it—was just sitting there, waiting for somebody to look at it and recognize it for what it was. And nobody did, because journalists understand that The Weekly Standard and The Washington Examiner and Arc Digital and the opinion pages of most major dailies, but especially of USA Today, have no ethical criteria for what they run. It’s not that they only publish trash, it’s that you can never be sure that what you’re reading is written to a basic minimum standard of credibility, by someone who understands all the boring cub reporter shit about he-said-she-said and two sources and the five Ws. Nobody outside the industry groks this, and why should they? Normal, smart people assume that because it’s printed in The Washington Post or The New York Times, it’s held to the same standard as the Pentagon Papers, because it self-evidently should be. But it isn’t.

You can put some of the leeway that Roberts got down to the utter madness that gripped national newsrooms when Trump got elected. Suddenly it seemed to a lot of people like there were no rules at all. Everything the fervent institutionalists who run the political press thought was true turned out not to be—Donald Trump was president. Who was the Real America, in this unthinkable case? How should we cover them? Maybe we should commission a sympathetic profile of some random neo-nazi? Maybe we should hire some columnists who want to outlaw gynecology? Maybe we should do a bunch of really hostile, adversarial coverage of trans people, since this all seems to be their fault? More important than any of that: What’s happening at Oberlin?

And right-wing journalism is purely reactionary; Gafni found all the dirt because he actually went looking for it. Nobody at a conservative magazine wanted to know what actually happened at Savannah State, they just wanted a counterweight, somebody at least notionally credible they could point to any time Christine Blasey Ford came up.

Those are enormous cracks through which to fall, and Roberts was able to slip through them easily. He was happy to talk, but he never seemed passionate about journalism or even politics. He wanted to do other things. And, with the media’s help, he did.

Sam Thielman is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn. He has written widely on technology, business, media, and comics.

I forget if I wrote about this already but a few weeks ago I was on the bike at the gym and some kid came up and started talking to me. I had my headphones in so I didn't really understand what he was talking about at first and then he sat down on the bike next to me and kept talking and I noticed he was wearing nothing but a tiny speedo and that's when this sense of revulsion washed over me. Not because of the speedo but because I realized I was in the midst of some kind of YouTuber prank video. It felt like the Chinese food scene in Lost Boys. "You're eating maggots Michael. How do they taste?"

Like turning over a log and seeing all the wriggling beetles and worms eating each other.

I said something like whatever the bit is it sucks man and he said I think it's funny and then I was worried for a second I was going to have to fight a teenager lol. Thankfully I did not and he left to go bother other people around the gym until they kicked him out.

I was thinking about that again today because of what many are calling the Most American News Story of All Time. It's about hair-trigger gun violence and DoorDash drivers and YouTube pranksters two of the only careers left for anyone this country.


LEESBURG, Va. (AP/7News) — A jury sided with a delivery driver who shot a YouTube prankster at Dulles Town Center earlier this year. Alan Colie, 31, was found not guilty of aggravated malicious wounding.
Earlier in the day, the jury said it couldn't agree on whether to convict Colie, who shot a YouTube prankster who was following him around a mall food court.
The jury sent a note to the judge after deliberating for about three hours in the trial of the DoorDash driver charged with aggravated malicious wounding and firearms counts in the shooting of Tanner Cook, 21, who runs the “Classified Goons” YouTube channel.

Check out the video here:

Obviously I do not think being annoying in public should result in being shot in the chest instantly and the guy getting off on the more serious charges here sets a bad precedent in a country already awash with stand your grand style violence. On the other hand here's the kid's YouTube page.

Getting shot on video now there's a prank. Look at all the views.

I heard people liked to read about "crime in San Francisco."

The Press Democrat:

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has ordered the owners and operators of 14 Bay Area Subway restaurants, including six in Sonoma County and three in Napa, to pay employees nearly $1 million in back wages and damages.
In a rare action, the consent order — meaning all parties agree to its directives — also requires the owners to sell or shut down their businesses by Nov. 27, a term the U.S. Department of Labor said it insisted upon to resolve the case.
The actions against John Meza and his wife, Jessica Meza, follows a Press Democrat investigation that revealed a long trail of abuses by the Subway franchisees.
Federal investigators confirmed much of the reporting, finding that the Mezas directed children as young as 14 and 15 to use dangerous equipment and assigned minors to work hours not permitted by law; failed to pay employees their wages regularly, including by issuing them hundreds of bad checks; and illegally kept tips left by customers.

Man things seem bleak right now but occasionally you can still stumble upon sudden and unexpected beauty in the world.

We drove north and east to go look at the ocean and then along the road over the salt marshes passing by the dilapidated but still striking pink house yesterday.

That's basically the opening line to my short story Newburyport, MA but it's also what we did yesterday in real life as well.

The pink house is a lot more dilapitated and lot less stirking of late however. Here's the last time I took a picture of it and used it as album art:

This Living Wage, by no hope / no harm
from the album Swimming in the Charles EP

You can find that story excerpted here in Protean Mag if you never read it.

Newburyport, MA • Protean Magazine
From Issue IV: Luke O’Neil’s short story “Newburyport, MA” renders a memory in the timbre of modern experience, where diffuse horrors punctuate the everyday.

It goes in part like so:

Some short time later on a different beach the tide was so low and the ocean was so far away and as they walked and walked she was delighted by all the hermit crabs dinking around in the wind-blown rivulets and it made him love her like when they were young for a minute.
There must have been hundreds of them and they leaned down to get a closer look at one in particular because it seemed like it had a long silver tail reflecting bright off the sun but no it was just some kind of mackerel or something it had hanging out of its crab mouth. It was way too large for a hermit crab to have taken a bite of and maybe it was the hangover from the night before or the realization that everything is about to be fucked again from the sickness but the same disquiet from the earlier beach day returned.
The gulls were screaming in their horrible bird tongue like they were supremely pissed off about something like when you want to explain how you feel to someone so badly but instead you lash out and later feel poorly about it.
Nearby one of them was rhythmically jackhammering its bird nose into the ground so aggressively like you would if you were trying to break your head open against a wall if you were in solitary confinement. It erupted from its sandy effort with a crab of its own in its bird mouth and the crab was also too big for the bird and then horse flies were eating the humans even though they were too big for them.

A Creature Wanting Form is available now.