Jezebel, a blog that targets women with toxic, clickbait-y articles, attacked The Vigilant Citizen site in a hit piece article. Maybe they should look into their company’s shameful past instead.
Throughout its decade of existence, The Vigilant Citizen has been mentioned several times by major publications. Some articles were objective, well researched and motivated by a desire to inform. Others, like this Jezebel article, have been all-out hit pieces aimed at discrediting my work, probably because it doesn’t comply with the agenda they’re trying to shove down people’s throats.
I usually don’t bother replying to these articles because, simply put, I don’t care. I write articles analyzing various topics and I let people draw their own conclusions. Unlike sites like Jezebel, The Vigilant Citizen is about presenting facts, not dictating what you should think about facts.
But when I read this purposely misleading article on Jezebel that attempts to discredit the Vigilant Citizen with contorted arguments, my face scrunched up in incomprehension. Is Jezebel actually giving a lecture about “credibility”? Really? Jezebel? The same Jezebel that was founded by the infamous Gawker media empire?
The now-defunct Gawker was a marketing company that founded several websites including Lifehacker, Clickhole, Kotaku, Jezebel and its flagship website Gawker.com. Its Wikipedia entry states:
“Throughout its existence, Gawker maintained a reputation as one of the most unscrupulous elements of new media and a constant example of yellow journalism.”
– Wikipedia, Gawker
So, yeah, if they could not lecture other sites about credibility, that would be great.
Distorting the Facts
In typical Jezebel fashion, the article began with a personal attack, not on me but on a columnist named Rod Dreher, who is apparently a terrible person. Then, the reporter Anna Merlan, went on to attack The Vigilant Citizen because Dreher linked to my article “The Occult World of Asia Argento“.
The analysis in my article is factual and well-sourced. Merlan even calls this site (perhaps sarcastically) “extremely credible-seeming”. Nonetheless, she made it a point to portray me as a lunatic, lumping me together with someone I have never heard of and have no connection to, and drastically distorting my message. Instead of objectively reporting the contents of my article, like a journalist would do, Merlan heavily exaggerates to come up with her own dubious conclusion.
“Vigilant Citizen identifies Argento as “occult elite,” because she’s the daughter of famed horror director Dario Argento and has talked online about esoteric spirituality and magic and witchcraft.
In the world that Dreher and the Vigilant Citizens inhabit, of course, that’s tantamount to inviting Satan right into your house to delicately dismember babies on your kitchen counter.”
Nobody said that, Anna. However, since she wrote several glowing articles about the Satanic Temple and its PR stunts, she might know a little more about “inviting Satan” than I do.
Of course, this is not the first time that Merlan has used falsehoods to fit her narrative. In 2014, she heavily promoted a Rolling Stone story about a gang rape at UVA … which turned out to be completely false. When people tried to shed light on the story and bring out the truth, she flat-out insulted them.
Then, the Columbia School of Journalism published a full report about this journalistic blunder, concluding that the story “failed to follow basic, even routine journalistic practice” in terms of fact-checking and due diligence. The story also led to a defamation lawsuit that was won by the University.
Faced with undeniable facts, Merlan was then forced to issue an apology. But not before proving, once again, that the agenda was more important than the truth. In short, it was yet another low point in Gawker’s history of crass journalism.
Gawker Died Due To its Own Sleaziness
After years of annoying the internet with terrible content that often included privacy violation, damaging gossip, vicious libel, and inflammatory accusations, Gawker died due to its own sleaziness. And the way it went down was as surreal as it gets.
Indeed, Hulk Hogan came out of retirement, marched to his theme song “Real American” to the Supreme Court, and metaphorically leg-dropped Gawker into financial ruin.
In case you did not follow this sordid episode in modern journalism, people at Gawker obtained a tape of Hulk Hogan (whose real name is Terry Bollea) having sex with his friend’s wife, which was secretly recorded without his consent. In what its editor probably thought was the clickbait catch of the century, Gawker promoted the video on its flagship website, even after Hogan requested to video to be taken down.
During the trial, the people at Gawker stunned the world with bizarre responses. Here’s what happened when Bollea’s lawyer interrogated former Gawker Editor-in-Chief and article author AJ Daulerio on his claims that the sex tape was “newsworthy”:
“Can you imagine a situation where a celebrity sex tape would not be newsworthy?” asked the lawyer, Douglas E. Mirell.
“If they were a child,” Mr. Daulerio, Former Gawker Editor In Chief.
“Under what age?” the lawyer continued.
Huh? So you would publish a sex tape involving a 5-year-old? Later he said he was joking. In his sworn deposition. OK, AJ.
Anyway, the jury ruled in favor of Bollea and he was awarded $140M from Gawker and $10M from Gawker founder Nick Denton. Though they settled for much less, the ruling bankrupted the company and caused Gawker.com to shut down. Its other sites, including Jezebel, were sold to the media conglomerate Conde Nast, which owns a long list of magazines and digital publications.
After being sold, Jezebel kept doing what it does best: Exploiting feminism for clicks.
Jezebel: Exploiting Feminism
Jezebel describes itself as a “feminist liberal blog about style and fashion”. The true description of the site should be: “Gawker pandering to women with clickbait articles”.
The name of the site itself, based on a biblical story from the Old Testament, is extremely telling of the mindset behind it all.
“Jezebel” was the name of a Phoenician queen who incited her husband, King Ahab, to abandon the worship of God and replace it with the worship of the deities Baal and Asherah, which included blood sacrifices, ritual sex, and sacred prostitutes. During her reign, she persecuted prophets of God and had them slaughtered by the hundreds. She also fabricated evidence of blasphemy against an innocent landowner who refused to sell his property to King Ahab, causing the landowner to be put to death. As punishment, Jezebel was thrown out of a window by members of her own court, and the flesh of her corpse was eaten by stray dogs.
For thousands of years, the name “Jezebel” was used to describe an immoral, scheming woman who deceives, manipulates and destroys people to reach her own nefarious goals.
The name is rather appropriate. Since its creation, the publication Jezebel has been poisoning the public space with toxic content based on manufactured outrage, personal attacks, and exploiting “feminism”.
In her article “Why Jezebel Has The Wrong Approach To Feminism, Period”, writer Kyria Abrahams wrote:
“In order to say how Jezebel is ruining feminism, I guess I’d need a good idea of what feminism is in 2014. And God only knows at this point, because Jezebel has ruined it. Before the Internet, being a feminist meant that your boss couldn’t fire you just because you refused to let him grab your t--s. That was a good thing. These days, feminism is more about hurt feelings and trigger warnings, blogs about rape jokes, ironic racism, and fat shaming. It used to be about the pill and the right to be a female priest. Now it’s about outrage and clickbait.
Jezebel plays upon the worst female stereotype: that of the gossipy, shrill, cliquish, therapy-tethered, cast of Girls-style spoiled brat. Jezebel writers act the way misogynistic men mistakenly believe all women act, with a stick up their a-s and their nose in an iPhone. This website, and sites like them, have single-handedly set back badass chicks faster than Sleater Kinney in a tractor beam.”
Howie Reith, a writer at Huffington Post and Time, concluded that Jezebel was actually “parasitic on feminism”.
We need to talk about a tale of two “Feminisms.” I put “Feminisms” in quotes because, as I hope to demonstrate in this answer, one of these “Feminisms” is not, I think, properly called by that name. This other movement is, in fact, a parasite on Feminism, and though a parasite flourishes best when its host is alive and healthy, its goals are ultimately opposed to those of its host, and we should not mistake one for the other.
Jezebel is a subsidiary of Gawker Media, a for-profit viral media marketing company. It was created with the goal of writing more material friendly to Gawker’s female audience which already represented the majority of their readers.
There are several categories of content that do well in viral marketing: videos of cute things, shocking things, cats, and so on, but by far the best content to generate views, comments, shares, reposts, and all other varieties of attention-grabbing is content that makes people angry.
We are operating in an environment that systematically encourages radical, hateful, angry thinking and behavior. (…)
There is thus a series of organizations and Internet users that seek to exploit Feminism as a means of producing rage, and thus views, and thus profit. The more controversy and animosity they can create, the more they profit and grow.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to say that provoking a gender war is not, ultimately, in the long-term interest of Feminism, but it is in the short-term interest of businesses that profit off of sensationalized hatred and anger. In the process of appealing to feminists and enraging non-feminists, it is in the best interest of such organizations to call themselves “Feminist.”
While Jezebel exploits “feminism” to pump-out toxic, hateful articles, its sister site does the same with race relations.
The Root: Exploiting Racism
The Root uses the same anger-inciting formula as Jezebel. Here are some headlines taken from The Root:
Rationalize and use mental gymnastics all you want, but these posts are racist. I am fully aware of the many underhanded ways Black people have been undermined throughout American history and these topics deserve proper research and attention. However, none of this is happening at The Root.
What’s actually happening is that the “reporters” at The Root get a paycheck from their bosses to drum up hate and racial division because it fits their owner’s social and political agenda.
Through unfair generalizations, dehumanization of “the other”, and low-grade insults with expressions such as “white tears”, The Root exploits race relations the same way Jezebel exploits feminism. And, like Jezebel, they are ultimately hurting their own cause.
What happened to the dream of not judging people by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character?
This article was mainly about giving Jezebel and its entire company a small taste of their own medicine. However, unlike them, I do not need to resort to twisted facts and exaggerations to prove my point. I just did what I always do: I stated the facts.
Unlike The Vigilant Citizen, Jezebel is owned by a media conglomerate and its higher-ups expect their “journalists” to push a specific, precisely defined agenda. Right now, the agenda is about “divide and conquer” – driving a wedge between races, genders and political affiliations. And of course, the agenda is also about suppressing and discrediting facts that go against its narrative, thus the hit piece of Jezebel against The Vigilant Citizen.
What they don’t seem to realize is that their agenda is so obvious, tone-deaf and out-of-touch with reality that they’re actually driving people away from the causes they’re pretending to be championing. They are the reason why a growing number of people distrust and reject mass media.
In-depth analysis aside, just look at the names. A “Jezebel” deceives and destroys people for personal gain. A “Vigilant Citizen” informs fellow humans to improve their lives.
Which would you rather be?