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Perfect Disguise: Isaac Brock, Samantha Shapiro, and the Ethics of Journalism In Rape Culture

Okay, SO, you will probably not be getting a Rosemary’s Baby review today. This is because I am having trouble getting my hands on the film Rosemary’s Baby! The reason for this is pretty simple: Roman Polanski, the director of Rosemary’s Baby, raped somebody. And I have a little game that I like to play, called Don’t Give Money To The Rapist.

While it is totally inadvisable to “revenge” rape with a gun, a la Ms. 45, and impossible to revenge rape with vagina teeth, a la Teeth, I have come to the conclusion that it is totally acceptable to shoot rapists in the face with the metaphorical gun of purchasing power!

Basically, most rapists have jobs. Sometimes they’re really good at their jobs! But if, for example, a rapist is someone who makes movies which you want to see, you have to balance what you don’t know with what you know. Here’s a little breakdown, as far as this relates to noted rapist Roman Polanski, and the film Rosemary’s Baby:

WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW: Whether or not you are going to enjoy Rosemary’s Baby, a film made by noted rapist Roman Polanski. It could go either way!

WHAT YOU KNOW: Roman Polanski raped someone.

Now, ask yourself: is it worth contributing, in any way, to the well-being of a rapist? Probably not! But you might enjoy the movie! So I recommend seeing the movie and not paying for it. There are several means of doing this, some of which relate to downloading them, which is TOTALLY ILLEGAL, and the official position of Tiger Beatdown is that you should NOT DO ILLEGAL THINGS. Oh, hey, here is another illegal thing: rape! An activity engaged in by Roman Polanski!

If you, too, would like to participate in my totally fun game, I will share with you another version, which I am playing right now. It is called Don’t Give Money To The ALLEGED! Rapist, and I am playing it with Modest Mouse singer Isaac Brock.

So, now, a little storytime for you: in 1999, Isaac Brock, then a resident of Seattle, took a 19-year-old girl home from a bar. A few weeks later, she went to the police and reported that he had raped her. YIKES! That seems pretty newsworthy to me! This was a feeling evidently shared by Samantha Shapiro of Seattle’s alternative weekly, The Stranger. Samantha Shapiro, a reporter, used her reporting skills to report on the alleged crime that had been reported to the police. Then, after she wrote that story (on March 18th, 1999), and a follow-up on the same subject in which she reported that Isaac Brock had still not been charged (on June 24th, 1999), her articles started to appear more infrequently, and she disappeared entirely between the months of August, 1999 and September, 2000; she wrote two articles in the year 2000, and after that she no longer worked for The Stranger! YIKES, again!

Oh, and also: although letters to the editor on the original Modest Mouse story (all, again by magical coincidence, negative toward Shapiro) are easily Googlable, I have been unable to find either of her articles on the subject on The Stranger’s website, and they do not appear in the list of articles credited to Samantha Shapiro on that site.

There are other mentions of the Isaac Brock rape charges do appear on the website! Such as an interview where someone rips into a novelist for writing what would appear to be a fictional account of the event. [EDIT: I originally got an attribution hugely wrong in this paragraph, which is hugely embarrassing. I've taken it out of the post for that reason, but since this is a post about accountability, I want to let you know that I made a mistake and recognized it as such. I'm being more careful with this post than usual, because it's about truth and what deserves to be heard, and am looking over the article to make sure that it only contains things that I can verify for you with links, or else my personal opinion on the matter, and nothing in-between.]

So, did Isaac Brock rape someone? I don’t know! The woman later retracted her claim. I have this crazy theory, that when you report a rape to the police, and your ALLEGED! rapist is so well-connected and powerful within his community that he can levy substantial social pressure against you – when even reporting on the fact that a rape claim has been made draws reactions such as “a rape case shouldn’t be brought to public attention,” or “I have no opinion on the guilt or innocence of either party, but the money I get for [my Stranger article] is going to any future legal defense fund for Isaac” or “funny how [the ALLEGED! victim's] identity is protected when Isaac is the victim of the crime here” or “[it was] poor judgment [to make] a case against Brock using only the woman’s side of the story,” and when the reporter who interviews you is apparently penalized for doing so – you might just be so pressured as to retract your report whether or not it was true. So, I don’t know whether Isaac Brock raped someone!

What I know is that this is how it happens. This is how rape culture is created. The social penalties for reporting a rape are so severe, and the odds for successfully making a case are so small, that we effectively encourage women to let rapists get away with it, and discourage them from holding rapists accountable. Rapes happen, and then they disappear, and the Isaac Brock story seems to be a remarkably clear example of exactly why and how that happens, whether or not he did it: the mechanisms of silencing talk about rape charges are kind of unmissable. So, I’m in the mood for holding folks accountable today! Because, you know, you can get rid of Samantha Shapiro, you can erase the articles from the record, you can take that girl’s story out of the public eye to such an extent that people – people like myself, for example – may listen to Modest Mouse and enjoy them and consider themselves fans without ever hearing about it and may feel disgusted and betrayed when the topic eventually comes up in an off-hand aside in a drunk conversation with someone who was aware of the event at the time, but what you can’t do is fire me from Tiger Beatdown.

The Internet changes everything, right? Here Comes Everybody, and they heard about that time a girl accused you of rape! So, you know, while I don’t have many Legitimate Journalist credentials, I do have tens of thousands of hits per month. Also, unlike Samantha Shapiro’s articles on the Isaac Brock rape charges, I am easily Googlable. [EDIT: You can find the article here, copied into what looks to be a mailing list archive; if you click on the link, it doesn't lead to the original article.] So, I am encouraging [EDIT, AGAIN: Though not requiring! It is a personal decision!] you, the readers of this non-legitimate publication in which I literally cannot be censored or fired, to play a game with me: the game of Don’t Give Money To The ALLEGED! Rapist, which we will play with Modest Mouse albums, concert tickets, and other merchandise which profits Modest Mouse and Isaac Brock.

Oh, look, here is a new Modest Mouse EP! It is called “No One’s First, And You’re Next,” and it will be out on August 4. Hey, let’s Don’t Give Money to it! Wheee!

24 Comments

  1. sympathyxo wrote:

    If you have a decent local library system (which I would think you do, because you live in New York, right?), you can probably order in DVDs. No payment and totally legal, although it might eventually indirectly lead to the library system ordering more things by Roman Polanski, but there's only so much that you can personally take responsibility for, right?

    Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 11:24 am | Permalink
  2. KJD wrote:

    The disappeared articles are available here:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20010121172900/www.thestranger.com/1999-06-24/city2.html

    http://web.archive.org/web/20020606170507/www.thestranger.com/1999-03-18/city2.html

    Ha! It's not so easy to erase things forever on the internet.

    Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 11:30 am | Permalink
  3. smadin wrote:

    This is related only insofar as it's additional "this is exactly how rape culture works" stuff, but, well, that seems related: see Boston Brahmina and the Yes Means Yes blog on the accusations against Ben Roethlisberger. (Though, my options for not giving him money are limited, as I only barely pay attention to football and, being from Boston, am the farthest thing from a Steelers fan.)

    Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 11:41 am | Permalink
  4. meloukhia wrote:

    It looks like Samantha is now working for the New York Times as a Middle East contributor, unless there are two journalists with the same name (which is always a possibility), so I'm pleased to see that her journalistic career proceeds apace despite being erased by The Stranger!

    Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 11:47 am | Permalink
  5. Pandora83 wrote:

    I understand where you're coming from, Sady, but I'm pretty uncomfortable with the 'Don't Give Money to the Alleged Rapist Game'. In this insistance, it may be that he really did rape this girl. I'm not particularly upset with the idea of you not supporting Modest Mouse. But I'm uncomfortable with the general concept of trying to hold someone accountable for something when it hasn't been proven yet. There's a reason people are considered innocent until proven guilty, and not that other way around. Just saying.

    Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 12:08 pm | Permalink
  6. Sady wrote:

    @KJD: Perfect! Thanks!

    @Meloukhia: That's awesome! I think it's likely that it's her, considering that the byline ("Samantha M. Shapiro," with the middle initial) is the same and her the 2000 articles for The Stranger were about Middle Eastern matters. I heard some rumors as to the circumstances of what happened over at The Stranger, but ultimately they were rumors that I couldn't verify, so I decided against including them. I'm glad that she's doing well and publishing in good places.

    Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 12:11 pm | Permalink
  7. ChelseaWantsOut wrote:

    Ugh, there's just so much rape everywhere all the time. I'm so sick of it. Why won't all these rapists just stop raping people? Also, stop trying to friend me on Facebook. I am not going to friend you, rapist. We are not friends. I dealt with you because I had to for school, but now I have graduated and I never want to see you again ever.

    Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 12:26 pm | Permalink
  8. Sady wrote:

    @Pandora: I get where you're coming from, and I've added an edit just to let people know that it is a highly personal decision.

    My feelings are that the vast majority of rapes aren't even reported, and that stuff like this is why. I'm upset with, and don't wish to support, Isaac Brock, because (a) in at least one interview I've read, he's cited his anti-rape activism credentials as a reason he couldn't have done it, and (b) he's been complicit with, has played some part in creating, or has failed to oppose the narrative of the accused rapist as "hounded" and nearly "ruined" by rape charges, whereas last time I checked the only lasting consequence to his life was that he left Seattle for a while, and has had to answer some questions in interviews. He's still a fucking famous rock star. And that's something anti-rape activists just don't do.

    Honestly, if he had just come out with a statement along the lines of, "I oppose rape, and I believe that it's important for every rape allegation to be taken seriously, since so few rapists are successfully prosecuted, I need to tell you that I perceived what happened that night as consensual, and here is my version of the story," I would be less upset and suspicious.

    Instead, he's evaded the issue or given statements like "even the police knew it was bullshit," which: I'm being more careful with my statements about all this, and more open about how and where I've been wrong, than Isaac Brock has. We're in a situation where the Modest Mouse biography (unauthorized, although the writer says he tried to get it authorized) contains several pages devoted to slamming Shapiro for reporting on the story. And that's just fucked up.

    Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 12:28 pm | Permalink
  9. X. Trapnel wrote:

    (All very tangential, but: similarly, even renting a DVD doesn't directly give money to him, except as it has some marginal impact on the video store's decision to buy more–same as getting it from a library. And the political philosophy literature is pretty skeptical about the existence of any general obligation to obey the law!)

    Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 12:56 pm | Permalink
  10. Eleniel wrote:

    Ugggh, I know what you mean by feeling betrayed. "Dashboard" is one of my favorite songs ever! But Brock may be a rapist and definitely helps perpetuate rape culture! Argh!

    So I support this motion! I will gladly purchase the music of people who at the very least haven't been accused of rape and haven't made pro-rape statements, or even better, the music of people who it is 99.9% likely they have NEVER raped ANYONE, on account of being ladies! And the rest I can get… from a friend.

    Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 2:44 pm | Permalink
  11. Sarah wrote:

    I have never liked Modest Mouse's music…

    BUT, I used to really like the Shins, you know? And I saw them play live all the time and listened to their albums (this was before Garden State, so No! They didn't "change my life"!)

    Anyway, Marty Crandall was their keyboard player, and he was dating a former America's Next Top Model contestant Elyse Sewell, who has an amazing blog on Livejournal and I have a huge girl-crush on her. Then one day last year, Marty allegedly assaulted Elyse during a fight and their music was totally soured for me. He's apparently not in the band anymore, but it's still hard to listen to their early stuff.

    OK, I realize now that this is way off-topic but I'm trying to illustrate a point or something.

    Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 3:06 pm | Permalink
  12. Sady wrote:

    @Sarah: Ha, yeah, I thought of that too. I was listening to Modest Mouse when I heard about all of this, and almost immediately my reaction to the music just… through the floor, I tell you. Like, all of a sudden I just did not WANT him to float on! Some of this is because I was listening to "Dukes Up," which is about beating up people, partly so that they will shut up, and I was just like: EEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKK.

    Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Permalink
  13. snobographer wrote:

    I like Eleniel's idea of only paying for the work of lady-artists. And maybe that of some exceptionally anti-misogyny dude-artists, if any exist.

    Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 4:00 pm | Permalink
  14. Sady wrote:

    @snobographer: Well, someone in the comments here yesterday mentioned Le Tigre's song "Hot Topic!" Which is just basically a list of people who are pro-lady and to whom you should give your money, if you can!

    "Gertrude Stein, Marlon Riggs, Billie Jean King, Ut, DJ Cuttin Candy, David Wojnarowicz, Melissa York, Nina Simone, Ann Peebles, Tammy Hart,
    The Slits, Hanin Elias, Hazel Dickens, Cathy Sissler, Shirley Muldowney, Urvashi vaid, Valie Export, Cathy Opie, James Baldwin, Diane Dimassa, Aretha Franklin, Joan Jett, Mia X, Krystal Wakem,
    Kara Walker, Justin Bond, Bridget Irish, Juliana Lueking, Cecelia Dougherty, Ariel Skrag, The Need, Vaginal Creme Davis, Alice Gerard, Billy Tipton, Julie Doucet, Yayoi Kusama, Eileen Myles"

    That is just part of the song! They also mention Yoko Ono and such! So that's a good starting place.

    I wish James Baldwin were alive so I could pay him money. SAD.

    Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 4:33 pm | Permalink
  15. maevele wrote:

    okay, 'even the police knew it was bullshit'

    srsly? like, because the police didn't believe a possible rape victim, she must be lying? Because police automagically believe all the real rape victims, right?

    so whether he's actually rapey or not, he reinforces rapeyness. yay! i think if I even have any of their stuff, i pirated it, so at least I never gave him any money.

    on one hand, I wish I had a list of all the people reinforcing the rapeyness to not buy their art, but otoh, that list would depress the fuck out of me.

    Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 6:05 pm | Permalink
  16. Tangoing with Evita wrote:

    A guy from Modest Mouse was rapey? Ugh, that sucks. :( I was such a fan. Fuck, I'll have to take the "Bukowski" music video down from my facebook profile now. Ugh, Sady, I wish I didn't know that.
    Oh well, at least I haven't bought any of their albums!

    Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 7:38 pm | Permalink
  17. wildlyparenthetical wrote:

    @Pandora: I really wish that 'innocent til proven guilty' was… y'know, entirely unaffected by privilege and such, coz it seems like a good principle. But have you ever noticed how swift the world is to assume that the perpetrator of a rape *is* innocent, and that the woman in question is lying? It's seriously amazing! Police refuse to take down reports of rape in some cases. There's all that social pressure Sady outlined above, to withdraw charges. There's the actually pretty punitive nature of a case that goes to trial, for the victim (yes! please do relive your horrible experience for the jury!). There's the fact that lawyers will point out a whole bunch of stuff that is supposed to suggest a woman is lying, including but not limited to – she had sex this one time with another man! – she consented to sex earlier that evening – he totally thought she was consenting, and who are we going to believe, really? (a particular favourite of mine) – she was wearing jeans, and they're really hard to get off a woman who doesn't want to have sex, so she must be lying (yes, that's for real) – she was dressed sexy, which is the same thing as consent, so she's lying aboout not wanting it coz her CLOTHES DID SPAKE FOR HER – she has depression/anxiety/issues with her parents/whatever – she was so drunk she wouldn't even have known if she was consenting, or more recently, she was unconscious, but if she had been conscious, she might have consented, but we will never know, therefore she must be lying about the rape bit (http://viv.id.au/blog/20090722.5872/there-is-nothing-technical-about-it). And in fact, in many places (even, til recently, here in NSW, Australia), a woman could only be raped if a man thought he was raping her. If for any reason – drunkenness, drugs, or a husband who told his buddies that she'd say no but was really totally up for it boom-chicka-wow-wow-kinky-as-huh? (yes, again, terrifyingly, that's for real) – the man believed she was consenting, that was considered enough. I guess my point is, I'm totally all in favour of the innocent til proven guilty principle, when the legal system we have actually provides the means for finding the guilty guilty. Until then, I'm going to offer whatever meagre counter I can to a legal system that seems to find it so fucking hard to trust women.

    Sorry. It's not you, Pandora, who's making me angry, not at all, if that's not clear. It's the rapists and the extraordinary culture that has produced, sustained and protected them. A culture I am not so hapy to be a part of.

    Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 8:12 pm | Permalink
  18. CaitieCat wrote:

    Brava, wildlyparenthetical – that's very well said.

    Sady, precisely targeted as always. :)

    Friday, July 24, 2009 at 8:59 am | Permalink
  19. snobographer wrote:

    Thank you, Sady. I'm too old and unhip to have been listening to Le Tigre and must have missed that post. I'll be using those song lyrics as a reference-type-thingie.
    maevele, it would probably be much less work to compile a list of people who don't reinforce rape culture.

    Friday, July 24, 2009 at 12:31 pm | Permalink
  20. TheDeviantE wrote:

    I totally love the "don't give the [alleged] rapist money" game.

    Thanks Sady, it's always nice to know about one more person I should be playing about.

    Friday, July 24, 2009 at 9:51 pm | Permalink
  21. rikibeth wrote:

    Aargh. But I wanted to give Johnny Marr money. This thing where bands have more than one person in them is inconvenient.

    Saturday, July 25, 2009 at 8:28 pm | Permalink
  22. lungfish wrote:

    I'm upset with, and don't wish to support, Isaac Brock, because (a) in at least one interview I've read, he's cited his anti-rape activism credentials as a reason he couldn't have done it, and (b) he's been complicit with, has played some part in creating, or has failed to oppose the narrative of the accused rapist as "hounded" and nearly "ruined" by rape charges

    I understand the frustration with a system that routinely stacks the deck against victims of rape, but I mean, your complaint in (b) is coming in the context of a post asking people to punish someone for having been accused of rape.

    Let's say – hypothetically! – there exists some person X such that X is accused of rape but is not actually guilty of rape. Is it okay at all to sympathize with this (purely hypothetical!) person, to allow that being falsely accused of committing a serious crime might actually mess up their life, to separate the fact that lots and lots of rape victims never report their assaults from the possibility that not every person accused of a crime is necessarily guilty? Or are we supposed to want to reconfigure our justice system in order to selectively assume guilt rather than innocence?

    Wednesday, July 29, 2009 at 1:39 pm | Permalink
  23. angrylemur wrote:

    @lungfish – no one is suggesting that we REWRITE THE ENTIRE JUSTICE SYSTEM OMG. This is a strawman argument and it is bullshit, no matter how politely you phrase it. What is being suggested is that people make private, individual decisions as to what to do with their money, when they have knowledge that someone has been accused of rape or someone is a bona-fide rapist.

    Not giving someone money is not the same thing as sending someone to jail without a trial.

    Friday, July 31, 2009 at 2:48 pm | Permalink
  24. Anonymous wrote:

    This just peeves me. Not everyone who sells something we like is by default entitled to our financial support, where therefore our lack of monetary contribution is a punishment. If I don't wanna buy someone's stuff, I don't wanna buy their stuff, and I can use any darned reason I want, because no one is entitled to it! Jeez, next thing you're gonna tell me is that others are by default entitled to my body, and lack of access is a punishment. How silly does THAT sound? /sarcasm

    Saturday, August 8, 2009 at 6:22 am | Permalink