Letter to Romenesko
My name in Chris Herries. I was mentioned in a recent piece by Bloomberg News entitled “Hookup Culture at Harvard, Stanford Ebbs Amid Assault Alarm” by John Lauerman.
The content of the original Bloomberg piece regarding my views on the concept of victim blaming were highly misleading. The article made it seem like I endorsed the practice of victim blaming when the opposite is true. After I raised concerns with Bloomberg News, they did a fantastic job reevaluating my position, listening to what I had to say and coming up with an acceptable edit. That edit more accurately reflects both my present views and my two previous articles on victim blaming written in 2012 and 2013. My latest piece for the Stanford Daily sums up the situation fairly well, and is worth the read.
My frustration now rests with three additional articles that fed off the Bloomberg piece. I wrote to .Mic regarding at least two pieces that have appeared on their website, entitled “Worried About Coming Off as a Creep?” and “One Stupefying Dumb Quote Sums Up Rape Culture in America” by Elizabeth Plank and Jared Keller, respectively. Both these articles contain content regarding me and my alleged views on victim blaming that is blatantly false./CONTINUES
One might wonder if I simply changed my opinion after the “backlash” from outlets such as .Mic. The answer is, unequivocally, obviously, no. My views, and in particular my antivictim blaming stance, are clearly written down in the Stanford Daily pieces from 2012 and 2013. Some of those authors did not take the time to read my work. If they had, they would have come across this conclusion from the 2013 piece: “I’m tempted to say that victimblaming is universally wrong, not only because it is an attempt to limit the freedom of the victim but also because it’s an attempt to take blame away from the perpetrator. In reality, only the perpetrator can prevent a crime from happening; crime is the criminal’s decision. We try to use victims as extenuating circumstances to lessen, or at least explain, an offense.” Even a cursory review of my previous work should have sent up red flags about the veracity of Bloomberg’s original piece. It certainly should have proved to Mr. Keller, one of .Mic’s authors, that I do not need the term “victim blaming” defined.
Jezebel also came out with a piece blatantly mischaracterizing me entitled “Stanford Student Compares Rape to Not Locking Up a Bike” by Kara Brown. What vexes me most about Ms. Brown’s piece is that she did read my previous work, to her credit. Ms. Brown must have come across my above quote condemning victim blaming. Rather than stop and think about the dissonance between my articles and the unedited Bloomberg piece, Ms. Brown simply alleged that I had regressed as a human being between then and now. Rather than trust roughly two thousand of my own words to represent my views, she chose twenty decontextualized words written by someone else. Does anyone feel this is characteristic of honest writing?
I harbor no ill will toward any of these authors. I never attribute to malice what can be explained by ignorance. However, I have contacted all these authors and their editors asking to open a dialogue. .Mic’s editor blatantly refused and none of the authors got back to me. Of course I care about the defamation of my character but there is another issue that bothers me just as much. Where is media accountability? There are verifiable facts Bloomberg’s edited piece, my latest OpEd and, crucially, the OpEds edifying my views years ago that directly contradict their characterization of me.
I do not understand why an author would want to villainize someone falsely. They do a disservice to everyone who wants to participate in this conversation meaningfully by bastardizing my views. I had always thought media was supposed to truthfully portray issues and people so we, the readers, could elevate our discourse on the subject. These authors have failed to do that, and seem willfully proud that their portrayal is wrong. Moreover, a glance at my work shows that these authors and I are actually allies in this matter. I may be young, but my time in college has taught me that owning your mistakes is a path to growth and progress. It bothers me that these authors are not even willing to dialogue with me about how to move forward, but my invitation to them stands.
The Mic and Jezebel writers haven’t responded to my invitation to comment.