Friday, January 05, 2018

When plutocrats write about the 99% - the dread Daphne Merkin returns

Oh dear god I really hoped I would never have to write about Daphne Merkin ever again and then the NYTimes asked her to share her opinion and the opinions of her friends and random anonymous strangers at the supermarket on the issues surrounding workplace sexual harassment.

I've disliked the work of Daphne Merkin for years, and when I first wrote about that subject twelve years ago, I heard about it from Merkin herself irately emailing me, insulting me and my feminism. This did not make me feel warmer towards her. And things have only gone downhill from there.

One issue that has remained consistent for me is why Merkin gets paid to write, since she's so mediocre on most topics. I never really thought much about how she managed to get published so often, figuring it was just random bad luck for the reading public. But I finally realize that it's because we have a class system in this country and Merkin is part of the .01% .  Thanks to the affirmative action program for the upper class, the editorial staff of the New York Times would rather hire a plutocrat to write about the lives of working women. Merkin displays her class-enabled victim blaming:

Merkin cannot imagine having to worry about paying the rent. Her response is something like: "these women reacted differently from the way my friends and I would surely have  reacted, therefore there is something wrong with them." Well nobody said plutocrats had excess empathy. Let them eat cake.

So how wealthy is Daphne Merkin? Well in the middle of her defense of Bernie Madoff, she drops:
I remember attending a small dinner party where George Soros was one of the guests; it made sense to me that he held the floor when he discussed matters he was expert on, but I couldn’t figure out why all of his opinions, on whatever subject — be it interior design or the value of single-sex schools — were treated as equally valid. And then it occurred to me: he was much wealthier than the other dinner guests, which meant that everything he said was ipso facto of sovereign interest.
Clearly wealth leading to ones opinions being excessively valued is not exclusive to Soros, but I doubt Merkin possesses enough self-awareness to see how it applies to her.

Her defense of Madoff was called out for its faulty ethics, by the way:
In the fifth paragraph, Merkin noted parenthetically, “I did not know Mr. Madoff nor did I invest with his firm, but have a sibling who did business with him.” True as far as it goes, but about as forthcoming as saying that Milton Eisenhower had a sibling in the United States Army in World War II. Merkin’s unnamed sibling, her oldest brother, is J. Ezra Merkin, a prominent financier and philanthropist who fed more than $2 billion of clients’ money into Madoff’s scheme, collecting more than $470 million in fees, according to New York’s attorney general, who accused him of civil fraud and sued him last Monday.
Daphne Merkin’s mini-acknowledgment, worked out with her editors at The Times, raised the old question of how much disclosure a newspaper owes its readers so that they can assess a writer’s connections and motives. In this case, the answer seems obvious to me: a lot more.
Now the thing is, I don't hold it against Merkin for being born into wealth. I discussed this in my blog posts about my working class bona fides. But the fact is, not only is she not a good writer and so not deserving of being paid to write, she doesn't even need the money.

As I blogged about last week, I do think there's some gray area when it comes to harassment/assault accusations, as I argued with Rebecca Traister. But Merkin doesn't just say that, she has to go all the way into standard anti-feminist rhetoric used for decades by the likes of Camille Paglia and Katie Roiphe (a pal of Merkin.)

Or as Traister and a friend Tweeted in response to Merkin's NYTimes piece: Date Rape's Other Victim - in which Katie Roiphe suggests that the other victim is female sexual agency because feminists are such fun-hating prudes.