Keith Olbermann responds to #MooreandMe Twitter protest in the worst possible way

If you’ve been on Twitter in the last week, it’s probably been hard to miss the Twitter protest against Michael Moore for dismissing and mischaracterizing the rape accusations against Julian Assange—first in a post announcing he was posting bail for Assange and then on Keith Olbermann’s show.

Launched by Sady Doyle and Jaclyn Friedman last Wednesday and waged under the hashtag #mooreandme, the campaign has called for Moore (and Olbermann) to correct the misinformation they spread, offer an apology for minimizing rape allegations and smearing the accusers, and preferably donate $20,000 to an anti-sexual assault organization.

Almost a week later, there’s still no response from Moore (although he has written a letter to the entire government of Sweden) but the protest is still going strong, has attracted the inevitable anti-feminist trolls, and even caused Keith Olbermann to quit Twitter for 3 days “until this frenzy is stopped.”

But yesterday Olbermann was back with a response—claiming to sympathize with #mooreandme’s goals and referencing his previous “apology” (in which he demanded an apology in return), while completely ignoring the protest’s main point and condemning its “tactics.”

“I endorse, sympathize with, and empathize with, the rape consciousness goals of #mooreandme, and have already apologized accordingly. But I cannot defend and will not accept their tactics which mirror so many of the attitudes and threats they fight. I do not know of what Julian Assange is guilty, if anything, and neither does anybody else. But given the extraordinary efforts by Sweden to extradite him, to say he is benefiting from some form of rape apologism is not fact-based. It is also unfair to condemn as anti-feminist those who merely address the juxtaposition of this prosecution to the fact that Assange threatens the secret and nefarious activities of dozens of governments.”

As Tracy Clark-Flory and Amanda Marcotte both pointed out yesterday, that’s pretty much missing the point. That “juxtaposition” is not at all what the #mooreandme tweeters have been demanding Olbermann apologize for. Many, many feminist bloggers have made it abundantly clear that you can question the political motivations behind Interpol’s prosecution of Assange without engaging in rape apologism. And Olberman ignored the primary criticism against him: that he helped spread the myth that this is all just a matter of a broken condom during consensual sex–and has yet to offer a correction.

Given that he did not acknowledge any wrongdoing or address the real complaints against him, you’d think Olbermann wouldn’t have been surprised when #mooreandme tweeters kept at it. But when they did—with increasing frustration because really—really!—it should not be that difficult to admit you said something that was inaccurate, correct it, and offer an apology—Olbermann just slammed the door. Calling the whole thing a “stupidfest,” he proceeded to block countless prominent feminist writers (as well as not-so-prominent ones like, um, me) who continued to try to engage him, and took off at the end of the day tweeting: “OK, taking a break now. Feel free to continue flaming, just remember, nobody’s reading, and blocks are infinite.”

And here’s the thing: I can’t speak for anyone else, but, in my opinion, until then Olbermann hadn’t done anything totally unforgivable. Yes, he had helped perpetuate a dismissive media narrative around the Assange accusations that contributes to a dangerous rape culture. Which is something many folks have been guilty of. And yes, he had responded to being called out by getting pretty defensive. Which, again, is something many–even well-intentioned–people do when they are told they are wrong on the internet.

But the whole reason #mooreandme was hatched was because feminists believed that Moore and Olbermann would actually listen. Thought that once it was pointed out to them—in many an eloquent blog post and hundreds of 140-character tweets—why this is so important, they would get over themselves and get on board. From the very beginning, #mooreandme was about progressive feminists calling on their progressive brothers to stand with them against rape and rape apologism. Because that’s what progressives do. Because we’re supposed to be on the same team.

And it wasn’t until yesterday, when, in the midst of blocking countless feminist tweeters, Olbermann tweeted, “Feminism has no greater male supporter in tv news than me,” that I really started to believe that we may not be.

I’m easy when it comes to male feminist allies. They can fuck up a lot and I’ll still believe in them. Because we need them and because being an ally can be hard sometimes. Pretty much the only thing they can’t do is stop listening. So when a powerful liberal dude is claiming to support feminism while indiscriminately blocking tons of progressive feminists who disagree with him, treating them like “frenzied,” irrational crazies who aren’t even deserving of a public dialogue, and quite literally shutting out their voices?

Well, shit. I can’t think of anything that’s a bigger slap in the face to feminists who genuinely believed—or at least dared to hope—that we were valued players on the team.

Atlanta, GA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

Read more about Maya

Join the Conversation