Dissecting Nir Rosen’s Justification: Sexual Assault And The Blindness Of The Political Left

On February 11, Lara Logan, a CBS reporter, was sexually assaulted and beaten in Tahrir Square while covering the Egyptian riots against Mubarak.  She was rescued by a group of Egyptian women and the Egyptian army.  Both sides of the political aisle have issued disgusting comments about Logan’s tragedy–either personally attacking her, advancing a political agenda, or both.

The most shocking and now infamous of the comments came from the journalist Nir Rosen who wrote via Twitter: “Lara Logan had to outdo Anderson. Where was her buddy McCrystal.” and “Yes yes its wrong what happened to her. Of course. I don’t support that. But, it would have been funny if it happened to Anderson too.” and “Jesus Christ, at a moment when she is going to become a martyr and glorified we should at least remember her role as a major war monger” and “It’s always wrong, that’s obvious, but I’m rolling my eyes at all the attention she’ll get.” and “Look, she was probably groped like thousands of other women, which is still wrong, but if it was worse than [sic] I’m sorry.” and “She’s so bad that I ran out of sympathy for her.”   Rosen tried to retract his statements, but the damage was done.  He “resigned” his position as a fellow at NYU.

On February 17, Salon, like the good little leftist rag that it is, gave Rosen a forum to publicly explain why he wrote what did.  Rather than apologize (or better yet, say nothing), he dug himself in deeper.*  His mea culpa made me dislike him far more than I did.  It revealed quite a bit about him personally and professionally–far more than he no doubt intended, and far more even than what his Twitter comments suggested.  He showed how flawed he is as a both a human being and a journalist.

Before I begin this post, let me say upfront that–like many people–until this week, I had never heard of Nir Rosen.  Now having an awareness of who he is, I consider him a hatemonger, and I am glad his career appears over (although no doubt in a few months he will spew his bile again in the safe confines of leftist rags like Salon or The Nation.)  The lowest form of argument is the ad hominem attack, but because Rosen has made this all about himself, both through his Twitter messages and his non-apology on Salon, it is impossible to separate him from his arguments.

Lest it be said that I am hiding what was really written (as I am excerpting), here is Rosen’s explanation in full.  (I should also link to his mea culpa–and subsequent takedown by Anderson Cooper–on CNN.)

With 480 characters I undid a long career defending the weak and victims of injustice.”

From the get-go it an insight into Nir Rosen’s ego.  Tellingly, he does not begin with an apology or regret for his comments; he begins with the damage he did to himself.  “[T]he weak and the victims of injustice.”  That is an almost superhero-esque way of describing his own work, which, on any scale you choose, is of no consequence.

There is no excuse for what I wrote. At the time, I did not know that the attack against Lara Logan was so severe, or included apparent sexual violence. Even so, any violence against anyone is wrong. I’ve apologized, lost my job, and humiliated myself and my family.”

He says he apologized, although how he did so, remains unclear (perhaps on Twitter?)  Also, note the use of the word “apparent”.  It is a weasel-word adjective that can be used to cast doubt upon its noun.  Logan was apparently sexually assaulted.  Do you hear the lack of decisiveness?  “I didn’t see her raped, therefore it may or may not have happened.”  Instead of recognizing his failings, he talks about his own humiliation and his family’s.

But I, at least, don’t want to go down looking like a sexist pig. I am not. I am a staunch supporter of women’s rights, gay rights and the rights of the weak anywhere in the world.

My first comment would be “too late; you look like a sexist pig.”  But that’s a cheap shot without backing it up.  However, Rosen gives the ammo in his next sentence.  Notice how he juxtaposes the people he claims to staunchly support–women, gays, and the weak anywhere in the world.  It is very patronizing.  The weak need his help!  Rosen conflates “weak” and “oppressed”, and he insults those people he claims to support.  Women are not weak.  Gays are not weak.  They are however, oppressed.  Weak is internal, oppression is external.  The oppressed need allies to help in their struggle.  The weak need people to fight for them.  Rosen’s words are extremely telling about how he views the world–he is not an ally of the oppressed, he is a savior to the weak.  And women are among those he classifies as weak.  Ergo, he has to save them.  This is how he feels about women, and that is sexism.  You don’t have to personally oppress someone to be a sexist pig.  And as a gay man, let me personally assure Rosen that I am not weak.  (Of note, in his interview with Anderson Cooper he says that he is working on the harassment of women by security forces trained by the Americans.  In Rosen’s world, that harassment could only come from America and not from the men of Afghanistan or Iraq, but more on that later.)

This is not the first time my words have landed me in trouble. I have been challenged many times on my support of resistance movements and my support of engaging with America’s enemies, and I have never and will never apologize for those stances.

This is a deflection.  Nir Rosen is still not really apologizing.  Instead, he is conflating his horrific comments with his own brand of journalism (i.e. terrorists can do whatever damage they want to a larger power because lack of might makes right.)  He is making himself the victim, a victim of a conspiracy to destroy him for being a champion of the oppressed.  But he would, because Rosen loves victims.  He associates with victims, and now he has an excuse to join them.  For the record, these “resistance movements” as he calls them, are in fact, terrorist organizations–Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban and, of course, Al Qaeda.  These groups, not coincidentally brutally mistreat women, gays, and the other “weak” people who Rosen allegedly staunchly supports.  But in Rosen’s eyes they are not American or Israeli, so it’s okay.

I continue to apologize for this comment because it in no way reflects the way I feel about women or violence. Sexual assault is never funny, and it is a terrible crime. I have apologized to Ms. Logan and her family, and to victims of sexual violence everywhere.

As far as I can tell, he has only talked about how ashamed he is and how his career has been destroyed.  I don’t believe he has actually in person ever said, “I am so sorry” and then stopped talking.  (He did not even bother to apologize to Anderson Cooper for making fun of him and suggesting that he too should be sexually assaulted when Cooper interviewed him.)  I am also fairly certain that Rosen does in fact believe in violence–so long as the people he supports are the violent ones (a la Christopher Hitchens, whom Rosen also hates.)  Just read Rosen’s Twitter feed if you can stomach it.  It reveals an anti-US, anti-Israel narcissist who champions not the weak or oppressed, but rather the terrorist and the purveyor of violence.  He also champions himself above all.  My personal favorite tweet is this–“If read [sic] my book and liked it, some asshole wrote a terrible review of it on Amazon, so feel free to respond.”

So why did I write it? It was a disgusting comment born from dark humor I have developed working in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and Lebanon — and a need to provoke people.

Let me translate:  “I am a jerk.  That’s just the way I am.  I worked in war-torn countries, which excuses my jerkiness.”

I have a few think tank friends on Twitter, and we often banter about the morality of WikiLeaks, counterinsurgency and other issues. When I first heard the news about Logan, I assumed she was roughed up like every other journalist — which is still bad — but I was jokingly trying to provoke one of my think tank friends on Twitter, thoughtlessly, of course, and terribly insensitively. Stupidly, I didn’t think the banter between myself and a couple of other guys would amount to anything.

Basically, Rosen has said over and over again–although in the next breath he denies it–that if a journalist is “roughed up” then it is okay.   Anderson Cooper getting beat up is fine because that is happening all over, although maybe sexual assault is over-the-top (or it is if you get caught for making fun of a sexual assault victim.)  This also proves how stupid Rosen is.  Time after time, errant Twitter comments have become the focus of nation-wide stories.  He is not the first Twitter-buffoon.  Yet those idiots who write these controversial tweets are always surprised when they get caught.

Now, Twitter is no place for nuance, which is why I should have stuck to long-form journalism.

And yet, he still maintains a Twitter account.  Two more points about this: (1) his long-form journalism is horrendous, and (2) what could he have possible said in a long-form piece about a sexual assault other than “it’s horrible.”  What more nuance is there?

And I have been frustrated by the ideological opportunists who have used this ordeal for their personal gain. People whose words have helped create and justify war and genocide are now jumping onto this issue to attack me for my previous journalism (which, naturally, I stand by). People like Jeffrey Goldberg, who has blood on his hands, and now acts like he’s never heard of me, jump in and use the disgusting situation of Logan’s assault as a lever against a longtime rival. Others include Michael Totten, Lee Smith and Jim Geraghty of the National Review, who led the crusade against me. I used a horrible situation as a way to provoke some friends. They are using it to further their careers.

Whatever one thinks of the left/right divide or of the so-called crusaders whom Rosen names (and I do not think much of them), the ego that he displays is astounding.  First, none of them are furthering their careers; they are all very well-established (particularly Goldberg).  Second, while they may be scoring political points, but (1) Rosen gave them the opportunity, and (2) he is trying to do the exact same thing by turning himself into their victim.  Third, why is using Logan’s tragedy to “provoke some friends” any less horrific or more justifiable than to advance one’s career (even if that were the case)?  It seems to me, both are equally callous and deplorable.  Rosen neglects to mention that his provocation was done in a completely public medium regardless of the intent.  In other words, he was making fun of Logan in front of everyone, even after everyone knew she had been sexually assaulted.  Fourth, once again Rosen’s ego and narcissism are truly on display here at full strength.  Again he mentions his writing (which again he says he stands by).  Additionally he casts himself into the lone voice of truth against the bloody, genocidal right-wing media.  As much as I dislike Goldberg, I think he is spot-on in his takedown of Rosen.  More of Rosen’s narcissism: it really pisses him off that Goldberg genuinely had no idea who he was before his Lara Logan tweets.

So, given the opportunity here for some nuance, I feel I should explain the point I really was trying to make. Had Logan been a non-white, non-famous journalist, this story would have never made it to the news.

This is neither nuanced nor accurate.  The savage assaults of women in places like Bosnia, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and yes, the Middle East are very much in the news.  Do we (the American public) know all their names.  Obviously not, there are too many.  What makes Logan’s story into national news however, is not that she is a white, famous, journalist, but rather than she is a name and a face that millions of Americans already know.

So why all the focus on Logan? The U.S. media did not care when Egyptian journalists (or any other Egyptian) were being jailed. Only when pretty white people showed up did Egypt really start to matter, and then, they were preoccupied with the scary Muslim Brotherhood possibly taking over, or what would happen to poor Israel now that there was a “threat” of democracy in Egypt.

First, the U.S. media has in fact reported on jailed Egyptian journalists.  It is not in the news every day, that is true, but the world is incredibly big and lots of injustice goes on everywhere.  There media tends to focus on the latest and not decades-long stories.  That is the nature of the beast. Once the riots started, suddenly Mubarak’s oppression became news again.  The “pretty white people,” as Rosen derisively calls them, showed up because Americans wanted to know about the riots–not the other way around as Rosen believes.  And this dismissal of both the Muslim Brotherhood and the fear of democracy in Egypt shows an appalling lack of historical sense about the Muslim Brotherhood and revolutions in general–which almost never end in democracy.  And of course, it always comes back to Israel.  Israel is the bugaboo of the left.  Everything in the Middle East, in the entire world, revolves around Israel.  There is this delusion that if Israel weren’t there than the Middle East would be a happy conflict-free place.  The political left refuses to acknowledge what blatantly stares them in the face: (1) everyone in the Middle East hates each other, and (2) if Israel ever let down its guard, there would be a genocide of Jews on par with the Holocaust.  Israel’s neighbors can lose a hundred times, Israel cannot afford to lose even once.

“I really have been outraged by Logan’s stories in the past, which I feel have defended American imperial adventures that cost the lives of many thousands of people in the Middle East, glorified American special forces even while they were killing innocent Afghans, and praised Gen. Stanley McChrystal, while condemning her own colleague, Michael Hastings, of Rolling Stone (because he hadn’t served his country, she said). My resentment of Logan was because I felt she was a terrible journalist who supported wars that I had covered.”

And here we go.  He is not defending what he said, but he’s defending why he hated Logan.  It’s an implicit blame-the-(real)-victim.  He has to justify his dislike of her, which he has tweeted about prior to February 15th.  It’s a cheap way of trying to get himself sympathy.

Racist right-wing pundits can say whatever they want on serious platforms, Ann Coulter can call for more journalists to be jailed in Egypt at CPAC (and be met with applause) but I made a callous joke on Twitter, a medium far less serious (I thought), and an entire mob turns on me.

In other words, Rosen believes that he is the real victim.

It’s hard not to be cynical about many of the sanctimonious responses I have received. Especially when they come from people who support every kind of American war (or Israeli war), tolerate racism against Arabs and Muslims, and — while focusing on the plight of celebrities — ignore outrages like our scorched-earth policies in Kandahar. The attacks have aimed at ending my career, but my career will endure because my work stands on its own.”

Once again he manages to tout his own writing, as well as condemn both America and Israel.  Everything he writes is self-justification, a way of placating the leftist masses whom he knows will support him, as they do Julian Assange.  The last sentence shows exactly what a muddled wreck Rosen is–first he ruined his own career, then the right-wing journalists ruined his career, then they tried to ruin his career, now they will never be able to ruin his career.  What a progression in just a few short paragraphs.

I’m baffled by the fact that 1,000 new people started to follow me on Twitter. What do they expect to read? It’s a bizarre, voyeuristic Internet culture and everybody in the mob is looking to get in on the next fight first, to be at the center of the thing that’s happening, even if there’s nothing really there.”

This rings incredibly hollow.  People go on Twitter to communicate with the larger world and to follow celebrities–even if the only cause of celebrityhood is by being a controversial figure.  If you read Rosen’s Twitter feed from before the incident you would see that he is trying to reach a larger audience.  Now he condemns people for following him.  A cynic might even think his attacks on Logan were a cynical way of getting more Twitter followers.

I hope that one day people will believe me when I say that I did not mean it and that it does not reflect who I am. I hope that people will take time to read my work and understand that I have spent my career taking a lot of heat for defending victims of all kinds, not just Arabs and Muslims. And I hope Ms. Logan and other victims of sexual violence will one day forgive me for my terrible mistake.”

See now, here is the problem.  After reading his Salon screed, I believe that Rosen completely meant it, and it does reflect who he is.  He is a believer in the cult of victimhood, and that anyone who is poor and/or oppressed cannot possibly be bad, whereas nothing that comes out of America or Israel could possibly be good.  What’s more is that Rosen has only expressed remorse about how this incident has affected his own career and how he is viewed.  I believe that deep down Rosen is glad this happened to Logan.

What strikes me most about Rosen’s sob story is that although he while uses the word “apologize” four times, he never actually said that he is sorry or that he regrets what he said on a personal level.  What I see is someone who is sorry because his career has been destroyed, and because his sanctimony has been stripped from him.

The truth is that sexual violence toward women has always been as much a blind spot for the left as for the right.  Most recently, the Julian Assange case has shown the depth of sexism and downright misogyny that exists in the political left.  Should we be surprised that Rosen is a supporter of Assange and Wikileaks?  Just as Keith Olbermann and Michael Moore, two self-proclaimed champions of the oppressed, rushed to defend Assange, so too does Rosen rush to defend himself.

No matter how into equality they claim to be, men on the left (and some women too) have always pushed women aside.  The abolitionist movement split in two because so many men would not support women’s suffrage.  During the 1960’s student riots at Columbia University, female students were shut out of the leadership by the men.  They were implicitly told to go do women’s work, while the men led the charge.  Even in the early 1970’s heyday of the gay rights movement, the lesbians (and transgendered) were pushed out by gay men.

I am currently reading a book about the great William Brennan, possibly the most significant Supreme Court Justice of the 20th century.  For years he flatly refused to hire female clerks, despite being a champion of women’s rights.  Even after he hired his first female clerk in the early 1970’s it was years before he hired a second one.

Elected female leaders are few and far between, and two of the most significant (Thatcher and Merkel) are from the political right.

The truth though is that in politics, the oppressed do not matter so much.  Supporting oppressed groups is a way of jockeying for power between the political left and right.  The American political scene has, since the 1980’s (and especially since 1994), become all too similar to that of historical Latin American.  The Latin American left and the right had different opinions on many things, the role (and power) of the Catholic church in particular, but ultimately, they two sides were mirror opposites of each other.  They used the same brutal methods against each other and against their people.  Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, and the military juntas of Latin America were from the political right.  Stalin and Mao were from the political left. The French Revolution ended the reign of the Bourbons but brought about Napoleon.  The Iranian Revolution replaced the reign of the terrible Shah with the even more terrible Ayatollahs.

I feel secure in saying that Nir Rosen does not regret his statements about Lara Logan.  What he regrets is that he will no longer be an effective mouthpiece for his political ideology.  And having seen his ideology, I can only be grateful.

Footnotes:

*  Rosen’s apology generated hundreds of comments.  From the four pages of reader comments that I could stomach (out of many more), reaction has been split between (1) those who believe (as I do) that what he wrote was a self-serving way to attack the powers-that-be and (2) typical Salon foot soldiers who “forgave him” despite never actually being angry with him at all.  Salon‘s editor-in-chief Joan Walsh (whom I blame for the site’s steady decline in quality) did not defend Rosen exactly.  She sidestepped the condemnation by issuing a tu quoque argument on the equally vile comments coming from the political right.

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