For posterity’s sake, today’s email exchanges with Gawker.
Today, I was a little bit incensed about this post from Gawker, comparing a poor dating start-up to Imperial Japan’s war crimes. My position was that the title and first sentence were in very poor taste and insulted the legacy and memory of Chinese and Korean World War II victims (and Filipina and Indonesian victims as well. I apologize for the East Asian-centricness). So, I started tweeting about it, and Nitasha Tiku, the post’s author, asked me to move the conversation to email because Twitter was “an unproductive forum” for this discussion. Similarly, Max Read, an editor at Gawker asked me to reach out to him via email.
I complied and emailed Max and Nitasha and for the purpose of documenting our discussion publicly, I am including our email exchange below. I am happy that Nitasha has apologized, but overall, I’m unhappy with Gawker’s handling of this, and I’ll be more leery of Valleywag in the future (even though I appreciate their posts calling out obnoxious Bay Area behavior). I’ll just allow the emails to speak for themselves.
My initial email:
Okay, Max, you can review our tweets for our take on the post.
So, what is your response? Do you have an apology for the post’s insensitivity?As I already pointed out on Twitter, your own publication calls “satire” a B.S. defense / response, especially when the Internet is upset. Here is a quote from your own Sam Biddle, “‘He calls it “satire.’ The rest of the internet calls it defiantly dumb, insulting garbage.” And for your reference here is the link.
Thank you for emailing. To be clear, I’m not using the “satire defense” here as a Get Out of Jail Free card. I’m saying, we don’t retract satire. I agree that satire doesn’t always land for everyone, as Sam, and Bryan Goldberg, and I, all know. But I don’t think Bryan Goldberg should’ve retracted his Pando Daily story. And I don’t think he needed to apologize.
I can’t and won’t tell Nitasha how she should feel or respond to the writers (in fact, she has apologized here: http://valleywag.gawker.com/i-was-aiming-for-satire-im-very-sorry-that-it-was-offe-1536280603). But I don’t think she has an obligation to do so. We have spent a long time at Gawker making hyperbolic comparisons between the stories we cover and horrible world-historical events; I don’t imagine we’ll stop soon.
Some of those jokes will work and some of them won’t. And to me, the fact that the comment system provides a broad platform for dissent—specifically permanently attached criticism of any length—provides accountability and pushes behavior adjustment in a much greater way than a quick apology and erasure would.
I wasn’t asking for a retraction, but an apology and an acknowledgement that your joke was tasteless and offensive. From perusing the Internet, it appears that Gawker’s policy is to refrain from retracting, unless there is a court order or threat of a law suit.
I do think that your editorial position was wrong to publish this post in this case. I believe had Nitasha’s joke been about Germany’s “Joy Division,” instead of Japan’s “Comfort Women,” you would have nixed the language of her post. I think that you would have been more willing to back down and apologize (and maybe even retract the post) if the Anti-Defamation league had called you out. But instead, Gawker continues to belittle the Chinese and Korean female WWII victims through its “cute joke.”
I have no idea how the editorial process at Gawker works, but I do feel bad for Nitasha. I feel that she made a mistake and has apologized for it to other people on Twitter. At the same time, I feel that Max and Sam Biddle may be preventing her from truly righting her error.
Max’s final (?) response:
My mistake–someone on Twitter was calling for a retraction. I think we’ve reached a point of equilibrium here, and both said our pieces—all I can do is assure you that we would have been just as likely to run a “Joy Division” joke, and probably, honestly, less likely to back down if the ADL had complained. But assurances about hypothetical situations aren’t worth much.