|Vengeful Panopticon, Bully God Posing As Holy Trickster
||[Dec. 3rd, 2013|03:16 pm]
I wonder if the internet is a good thing. For every moment of actual speaking truth to power, there are about a billion of these:|
Wendy Gordon still feels a need to set the record straight. “I’m not a lush, I don’t have sexually transmitted diseases, I’m not a cougar,” she says, noting that she also doesn’t plaster her images all over the Internet.
Any close watcher of Beltway media affairs knows why Gordon wants to make such odd proclamations. She was the personality behind [NOTE: This is poor wording, by behind they mean the target of] “Wendy Wednesdays,” a formerly weekly feature on the FishbowlDC media site. The posts commonly grabbed a picture of Gordon off the web and surrounded it with disparaging commentary that wouldn’t get past most tabloid editors. They attacked her alleged sexual habits, her alleged drinking habits and her fashion choices, all with an overlay of misanthropy.
Early this year, Gordon brought a civil complaint for defamation and false light invasion of privacy against FishbowlDC, a property of New York-based Mediabistro.com, along with then-FishbowlDC editor Betsy Rothstein and contributor Peter Ogburn, author of the most objectionable “Wendy Wednesday” features identified in the complaint. The parties recently reached a settlement in the case, about which they decline comment. Unsettled, then, is a central question: Why did FishbowlDC decide to pick on Wendy Gordon in the first place? Why did it spend about a year trashing her?
“I didn’t kick a puppy, I didn’t spill red wine on a white dress — I didn’t do anything. I live my life,” said Gordon in her first interview about the case.
...Gordon had a clear-eyed take on what FishbowlDC was all about. “They snipe at people — that’s what they do,” she says. And over her several years of reading FishbowlDC, the site was attacking other people. When she became a snipee, Gordon says that her “recollection was just being surprised."
...In the months that followed, the “Wendy Wednesday” series took a turn toward nastiness. “They got increasingly mean — they got beyond mean, they got disgusting,” says Gordon, presumably referring to the items that peddled jokes about STDs and drunkenness.
...There are lots of things about the case that Gordon can’t talk about...What she can say, however, is that trying to live with the harassment of a popular website takes a toll — a toll that returned again and again like clockwork, in this case.
...Gloria Gordon, Wendy Gordon’s mother, died on a “Wendy Wednesday” — June 13, 2012. “I’d never seen her cry till there was a post that came out the day that her mother passed away,” says Robinson. “The first thing I wanted to do was rip the phone out of her hand because I knew that she was aware of what was going on on Fishbowl.”
... To suppress future “Wendy Wednesdays,” she “cut down a lot” on her appearances at parties and events, which provided the raw material for her tormentors. In her wanderings, she encountered folks who knew her only as a target for the site’s abuse. “It was not pleasant,” recalls Gordon of such encounters.
Though Gordon expresses annoyance over the racier allegations of the FishbowlDC series, she’s confounded by its organizing principle. FishbowlDC accused her of showboating...This alleged infraction — that of seeking attention — appeared to compel and self-justify the FishbowlDC postings. You can almost hear the authors saying, Hey, she asked for it.
Gordon insists she did nothing. In many instances, the photos that drove “Wendy Wednesdays” resided on private Facebook pages and were taken at private events; Gordon says that even before the series hit the web, she instituted Facebook’s most restrictive privacy settings for her page.
Robinson didn’t appeal to FishbowlDC to leave her friend alone: 1) “Knowing what I did about how they treated other people who had spoken out on behalf of Wendy and their response, I thought it was best not to.” 2) “I didn’t want to exacerbate the situation.” And 3) “I myself didn’t want to become a target. They had taken some of those photos from my personal Facebook page, so I thought they’d have as much access to me as they did to Wendy,” says Robinson. That’s a grim set of considerations, one that feeds into Gordon’s very own take on the power dynamic of “Wendy Wednesdays”: “I see it as a sophomoric form of cyberbullying masquerading as journalism,” she says.