35-Year-Old Sluts and the Death of Interesting Reporting

The internet isn’t the only reason that newspapers are struggling financially. Dull reporting is another. There has to be a middle ground between the fake interviews of turn-of-the-century yellow journalism and today’s often sterile and incomplete reports. Not even the obituaries are interesting anymore, at least for those of us who want to know why or how someone died.

The change in obituary reporting can be laid directly at the door of the AIDS epidemic. Yours truly can proudly proclaim a week-long stint as an obituary reporter when it was still necessary to ask the family—in a sympathetic yet insistent tone difficult for a nervous journalist student to master—”And what was your husband’s cause of death, ma’am?” In those days if someone had died of Kaposi’s sarcoma, cerebral toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus or some other opportunistic disease—or the cause of death was simply omitted—readers would begin speculating on how the deceased acquired HIV. When they were pillars of the community or married, their relatives felt particularly intruded upon.

Today morbid readers like me have to extrapolate from the family’s favored foundation. For example when reading “In lieu of flowers, the family welcomes donations to MADD,” most of us would guess a car accident with alcohol involved. The American Cancer Society is obviously code for one of the 200 different kinds of cancer. This method is unreliable at best. Only people who die ahead of their time through no fault of their own have relatives who plug a foundation. Old people? Forget it. People who suffer death by aneurism or autoerotic asphyxiation? Forget that, too. We can’t even know when obits are purposely misleading: e.g., a couch potato may have a jokester in the family who urges mourners to donate to the Waterfall Rappelling Club.

Some members of society would argue readers shouldn’t be riveted by others’ misfortunes, and these paragons spend a lot of energy lecturing reporters on what they should report and how they should report it. Case in point is L.V. Anderson’s recent criticism in Slate magazine of an AP news article about a 35-year-old woman who was sitting on her 17th-story balcony railing, enjoying a late-night cigarette when the railing suddenly broke, and she plunged to her death. Her fall was witnessed by a man who had brought her home after their first date and had just cautioned her against sitting there.

Anderson purports to be unhappy with the AP version of events because of its sexist slant, which she says leads readers to conclude: “…this smoking slut totally had it coming. A reader is left with the distinct impression that if Rosoff hadn’t invited her date inside, hadn’t gone outside to smoke a cigarette, and hadn’t defied the advice of the wise and logical man she was with, she would still be alive. According to the AP story’s subtext, the problem wasn’t that Rosoff’s balcony railing was shoddy and unsafe—it was that Rosoff defied gender norms by being unmarried at 35, by being sexually liberal, and by insisting on making her own decisions instead of deferring to men’s logic.”

Let me briefly deal with Anderson’s critique of the lead: the slut had it coming. Did I read the wrong story? Was the woman servicing the local soccer team when the railing gave way? Because Americans don’t condemn a woman as a slut for trying to find a love connection at age 35. Nor would Americans outside of California condemn her for smoking on the balcony. No. The sympathetic (or empathetic) reader sees a modern woman doing her best to survive in a hard, cold world only to be given one last cosmic slap.

Anderson ably rewrites the lead into the more professional, “just the bland facts, ma’am,” style that fills newspapers but leaves readers cold:

The Great American Daily

The Other Side of the Femi-Nazi Coin

Recently I’ve been wandering over to the male-centric websites aka the “manosphere.” Like every other real or imagined issue in the internet world, the male-centric blogs are teeming with passionate followers. For some reason these marriage-bashing, bitch-watching, bed-hopping or at least bed-hoping, foul-mouthed and embittered XY chromosome carriers took me by surprise.

I don’t know why. Ever since I tried to purchase a pair of riding boots for my husband’s George Washington costume and got routed to a porno site targeting the gay male boot fetish, nothing should surprise me. Seeing a California state patrolman whipping a pouty, bare-bottomed Greek god should have forever imprinted in my brain that the distinctive “other” is just a mouse click away. But that was before Christmas, and I must have been lulled into complacency in the intervening months.

Two weeks ago I followed a link to therationalmale.com, then other links from there. Yes, the blue pill/red pill crowd–you’ll have to do your own research–has legitimate grievances against our feminist culture. And that’s why I kept lurking. Even as a woman, I see the institutionalized bias against males. I am unbearably irritated by those man-haters who sit around all day and grieve over the penile hierarchy. Recently some female activist out west suggested male politicians be tested and treated for high testosterone levels so they don’t do damage while in office. Those kinds of attitudes demean men. Furthermore, objectification of men is far too common. Personally I abhor women talking about a man’s abs and butt just as much as I do men talking about a woman’s tits and ass.

It was refreshing, for a while, to read men’s rebellion against emasculation. But I realized it’s just talk, and whiny talk at that. The edge of hysteria lurks in almost every post. Emotions are thick on the ground. The word cunt flies around more often than in a performance of the Vagina Monologues. Some guy named Mark Minter, the king of anti-marriage diatribes, just got married (oh, the humanity!) resulting in a shocked air of betrayal among posters worthy of the Kardashians. This is what “alpha” males talk about in their internet salons? They are dreaming if they think they are alphas. Betas in their PJs wishing their girlfriends hadn’t dumped their asses is more like it.

Frankly, I’m bored with these girly men. I’m headed back to the blogs where real men (and women) think and talk about timeless issues: liberty, conscience, ethics, and the public good…

Moshe the Beadle and the Death of the Sun

In The Republic, Plato envisions a philosopher-king returning to the cave to lead the citizen-prisoners still in chains. During his reluctant leadership, he puts their welfare ahead of his own because he has basked in the light of Good. The light of Good (the Sun) is the only thing that can illuminate Absolute Truths.

In reality, except for prophets and reformers—and here I’m thinking along the lines of Jesus, Buddha, and William Wilberforce—it seems that most of the prisoners who see the surface come back saying the sun, or the light of Good, has been extinguished, perhaps permanently. An excellent and tragic example is Moshe the Beadle, a crucial figure in Night by Elie Wiesel. Moshe is the first to make an appearance in Night, a stark retelling of Wiesel’s Holocaust experiences. Moshe, a barefoot mystic enthralled by the intricacies of the cabbala, leaves the Hungarian town of Sighet, only to return months later, still barefoot but with his look of distant rapture replaced with the horrors of mass Jewish graves in the forests of Poland.

Like Plato’s freed prisoner, upon his return to the cave Moshe’s description of the realities beyond are treated with contempt by the Jewish inhabitants. Perhaps their contempt is laced with fear, making them even less likely to believe his story. Wiesel’s viewpoint as a child narrator doesn’t explore this possibility. At any rate, I imagine myself more amicably disposed to being seduced by the glowing possibilities expounded by an optimistic madman (are you SURE that vegetables planted by naked gardeners put out double the produce??!!!) versus my susceptibility to the depressing options presented by one who has glimpsed Armageddon. We can only pity the Jews of Sighet for their decision to remain ignorant of the horrible reality about to engulf them.