Mansplainer, for Men: What Is and Isn’t OK to Say About the Lara Logan Story

Female readers, pardon me for a little bit. This post is not for you. You already know the points it’s going to make, and you could explain them better than I could, but the goal here is to get a few things across to men, and—well, sometimes men are absolutely terrible at listening to women. Technically, this post isn’t really ” mansplaining ” (except this part that’s going on right now) because mansplaining is when men start blathering at women about something the women are in no need of being blathered to about. Whereas this is strictly remedial coverage for men. Please, female readers, enjoy some other part of this Web log.

Now: men!

So there is this horrible news about CBS correspondent Lara Logan . People are reacting strongly to it. You may feel an urge to say something or write something about it. But many of the things you are producing are stupendously inappropriate and wrong and offensive.

Here are some things that are OK to say about the news of the attack on Lara Logan:

1. “What a horrible, horrible thing to have happened.”

2. ” … ”

No. 2, there, is the sound of you refraining from saying the other things it might occur to you to say. It might even be the sound of you being quiet and listening! Sometimes that’s worth doing.

Now, for comparison, here are some things that are not OK to say about the news:

• That this incident was “the closest call of a danger-filled career .”

OK, Howard Kurtz, imagine that you, yourself, got beaten and sexually assaulted* by a mob. (It can happen —though it less often does—to a man.) Does that seem like a “close call”? Or does it seem like something horrible would have actually happened, to you?

• “How was she saved? How bad were her injuries?”

You wanna ask her about it? (Hint: No.) Because if it doesn’t seem appropriate to ask her, just now, don’t go asking the cosmos, as if the cosmos is going to have to answer your question by reconstructing the events of the sexual assault that was committed against the cosmos.

(Also, whoever SEOed up the Daily Beast page title “Lara Logan of CBS News Attacked in Egypt’s Tahrir Square: What She Faced” is dishonest and depraved.)

Yes, this is a news story. And yes, the initial reports were vague. If you want more facts, then by all means, go out and get them, if you can figure out how. But this sort of assignment-memo meta-coverage, where you toss out some questions for the sake of speculative discussion about what the facts may be—save it for picking apart obfuscating government news releases, not this.

• “[S]he’s a newswoman, and what happened to her in Tahir Square was news . CBS should not have withheld that story.”

And how is it that you are on the Internet, discussing the news story, Richard Cohen of the Washington Post? The story is out there to be discussed because CBS did release it (though after the AP had reportedly been making inquiries). (Clarification: the claim that the AP had been inquiring was reported by the New York Post ; an AP spokesperson describes that report as “100% untrue” and writes that “No one from the AP—not in the U.S. or abroad—phoned CBS about Logan BEFORE the network’s announcement.)

No, the network didn’t fold it into the breaking-news coverage of Egypt and throw “LARA LOGAN SEXUALLY ASSAULTED” up on the crawl. Maybe they wanted to get Logan back to the United States first, and to figure out exactly what had happened.

• ” i’m rolling my eyes at all the attention she will get.”

• “she was probably groped like thousands of other women.”

Again, you see: facts! Do you have them? (No.) Then why are you talking about what the facts probably are?

At least the author of those last two, Nir Rosen, resigned his NYU fellowship and apologized. Although if you do apologize, don’t describe yourself as “someone who’s devoted his career to defending victims and supporting justice” in the apology. It’s like Eliot Spitzer pointing out his track record of battling the sex trade.

• “Lara Logan and Nir Rosen were attacked by the same thing . Or more precisely, the same sociological profile.”

Denouncing someone publicly, on the Internet, can become a self-reinforcing group activity. Gang sexual assault is a self-reinforcing group activity. Clever! And really, unbelievably, monstrously wrong.

The “sociological profile” of a mob of critics is not like the profile of a mob of men bent on sexual assault. Nir Rosen was criticized for having expressed opinions; people replied to words he had used, using words of their own. However furious it may have been, it was still an exchange, for a broader audience. Logan encountered the wrong people at the wrong moment in a public place, and was dragged away by them to be brutalized, anonymously.  

• That an anonymous reporter “who’s been in Egypt” praised your “big fucking balls” for comparing an incident of Internet criticism to an incident of gang sexual assault.

Note: the writer who published a comment about that “balls” comment about his commentary about the commentary on the assault (about which this is a comment!) later edited that part out of it , which is better than pretending it wasn’t gross and offensive, but the Internet, being the Internet, still remembers things. Again, you know, back to the top: before you say anything, strongly consider the merits of saying nothing!

• Basically the entire rest of the Internet .

Seriously, just can it. The world seems to be asking for your opinion about everything that happens, but really it is not. Everyone will get along fine for a while without your thoughts on the subject. Some of the men above have by now figured out that they, themselves, would have been better off without sharing their thoughts. Maybe while you’re busy not making opinions, some more facts might even come out.

(*For instance: in this blog entry, I was originally much too careless about using “rape” and “sexual assault” interchangeably. I’ve cleaned it up accordingly, and I apologize.)