Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sympathy For The Devil?

So here's the situation: in January, I had a blogger publicly take me to task for writing "blind items" about sexual harassers in comics, among other things. It was this long pedantic post. Was it addressed to me privately? No. It was meant to be this big finger-wagging thing. Given the blogger and her own unique history, I was kind of shocked she did this.

Recently, the same blogger has taken me to task again for allegedly expressing sympathy for a screwed-up freelancer who was bothering her. The freelancer in question, who is obviously in need of some mental help, was talked about by name through two posts by this blogger -- thus, of course, making him infamous and even mentioned in Lying in the Gutters.

I didn't say the person in question was a saint, or even that all the things said about him in the referenced posts were untrue. Quite the contrary. In fact, I specifically said that I believed just about every story told in that post about him. And -- I was harassed by not one but TWO of his friends in a manner similar to the situation the blogger described had happened to her.

However, I knew him personally, and knew his situation in life, and I felt since his name was put out there anyway, I should provide the full spectrum of who he is.

Basically, I was saying that he's not a worthless dog who deserves to die. That there were steps that led to this point. That he *was* employed as an inker's assistant and so not completely detached from the industry. That there was a time when he was better. That things are extremely dire for him now. And that I believe (oh yes I do) that an overriding obsession with both comics themselves and working in the comics industry is part of the reason he fell.

I don't think the men who sexually harassed me were worthless dogs who deserve to die, either. That's why when I speak to somebody who knows them well or is involved with them professionally, I don't say anything, and I certainly don't post long screeds with identifying information like names. When I write this in my memoirs:
"Because putting all the hoopla about the topic aside -- the catalogs of "atrocities" that make for such tasty sound bytes and quick and nasty Internet reading -- at its core, sexual harassment is just a goddamn sad situation for everybody involved. It is not simply a story of white hats and dark hats, Good vs. Evil. It is SAD.

It is just all so fucking sad.

Casualties. Me and *blank* both. And everyone caught in the middle."
I'm not writing that because I blame myself. I'm not writing that because I want to garner sympathy for the other parties. I'm writing that because it's the goddamn truth. And sometimes I get real angry and forget that truth, but I always try to steer myself back to it, because I know thatway lies some semblance of rationality. I'm doing it for myself more than anyone else, or else it all just devolves into continuous hate -- and I lose.

Sympathy for the devil? Once we start think of these people as "devils," we're finished.


  1. I've got personal stuff in a similar vein, from a different perspective, that I won't go into here. I will say that I am on board with your multi-faceted approach. Turning anybody into a cardboard cut-out isn't helping.

  2. Holy crap, people on the internet not getting along! kiss your grandma goodbye and run for the hills!

    If you don't want to slap fight via blog with Colleen Doran then don't. There's nothing that says you have to respond to everything anyone ever says about you. I think most people here know you weren't defending this Scott guy (who sounds like he needs a hug therapist style) but trying to paint a broader picture of the story. Getting bent out of shape at someone that hass mispercieved your actions/intentions is just not a fun way to go about your day.

    Of course I could be completely wrong about what's going on here. You and your pro-nouns and lack of proper names /shakes fist

  3. Anonymous8:39 PM

    honestly just say fuck her and don't give it a second thought

  4. It was a very kind reaction (yours) to a bad situation. Its the kind of thing that keeps me reading this blog even when I get a little annoyed at all of the DC Comics bashing ;)

  5. You have a kind and understanding heart Val.

    I don't know the folks in the situation you have described, but in my own life I tend to wish a plaque upon the house of those that wrong me in some manner.(and at times a punch)Hopefully, I will become more understanding with age.

  6. This son always remember me the film "Interview with the vampire"!

    Pitt + Cruise...blood...oOOohhHHHH...:P

  7. I'd never sell a bunch of materials to someone who doesn't have the credit card they're supposedly charging things to, but that's my two cents.

    I get that she's a *legend* and therefore no one should disagree with her. That seems to be a common thing.

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  9. Anonymous8:55 AM

    I can't really blame the woman's hostile, angry, enraged reaction to being stalked and harassed, having her privacy invaded, her ability to make a living impeded, due to the poor social skills of two sad men.

    Are the perpetrators to be pitied? I certainly feel sorry for them and their misbegotten lives. But it doesn't excuse them, and the victim here is fully entitled to express her outrage at her mistreatment.

  10. Oh, I indulge myself in nice quiet revenge fantasies about certain people from my high school graduating class. Do I harass them in public (which includes Facebook, MySpace, the Internet)?

    The same happens with idiots in the City. I'll let the situation simmer and stew for a few minutes, enacting a nice little MAD-like "Scenes We'd Like to See" comic in my noggin, and then get on with whatever we're doing.

    Would I love an excuse to vent that anger on someone, like a mugger? Sure. Will I actively wander dark alleys at night searching for such an opportunity? No.

    Instead, I remember what I've felt from others, and try to be the nicest guy I can be. Doesn't mean I won't make stupid mistakes, but I try to correct them.

  11. It's funny that I never got the feeling from your original post that you were making excuses for the guy or even trying to solicit sympathy.

    I thought you were just trying to give a more detailed picture of him which broadened into your discussion of those whose lives are consumed with breaking into an industry that doesn't want them.

    I'm fortunate enough that I can say that I've never personally known anyone who has done such unsavory things as this stalker did. I have, however, known many people who held onto the dream of 'comic stardom' longer than they should have to great detriment to their lives and relationships.

    Which is not to say that such is an excuse for ANY type of stalking behavior. But you're right when you say ALL of it is just plain SAD.

  12. For what it's worth, I agree with your stance Val. It's too easy to paint people as monsters and psyhocs, when actually most peopel ahve good and bad in them.
    Ordinary people are quite capable of doing bad things, by relegating people to monster status means that we brush the real issues under the carpet and don't deal with them. Doing a jerkish thing does not make you a jerk, as Mordicai said, situations and people are multi-faceted.

  13. And yet I got criticized by the same person for writing posts mentioning other unsavory people. I guess the difference is, she gave personal information and I didn't.

    It seems to me that it's easier to personally and publicly bash the creepy oddballs and outspoken extreme cases (Dave Sim) than it is to do the same with those who sign the checks.

  14. Anonymous12:07 PM

    I personally prefer your way. Some would call it the high road, but really, it's the human road. We forget that all of us on this planet are some kind of screwed up. Not that that excuses loathsome behavior, but if people are going to name names, they have no right to criticize others for filling in the sketchy picture. Besides, once your put something out there, it's not really yours anymore. People can react in whatever way they want to.

  15. i'm a little unclear - did this person criticize you for airing your grievance publicy, or for not naming names? i actually think that men play the sympathy card a little too much when trying to wiggle out of a sexual harassment charge. i had a friend whose co-worker said she could "sleep her way to the top" and that "plenty of men in this company would sleep with you". Their supervisor - a woman and lesbian no less - felt that his humor was inappropriate but that it was disloyal of her to file a complaint.

    in a world like this, its hard to have sympathy for any one who enables any form of sexual deviancy. i agree that we shouldn't send them to the firing squad, but honestly its hard to get past the anger.

  16. I can't put myself to criticizing or questioning Val for airing her thought in the way she did. I would only add a couple of things; sexual harassment can be both an outrageous and sad crime at the same time, for reasons different for victims and aggressors. It's sad that victims should have been able to live a life free from such violations and indignities that they never asked for, never consented to, and never even negotiated for. It's sad that I now know the aggressors here is basically a pathetic loser (excuse my description of your acquaintance) who should/could have, with some aid, made a different choice in his life (or come to a realization that he cannot have everything he wants, or getting to do all the things he wants CAN make him criminal and despicable. I understand both. I can even have a modicum of empathy --- as opposed to sympathy for the truly wronged --- for the guy. I just do not forgive his actions, as Val doesn't, either. And these two things are not necessary contradictory things, as long as one can maintain the sense of who wronged whom and what the consequence should be, though having this sense doesn't lead me to see anyone in such a situation a triumphant gold-medal winner.