Live by the Mob, Etc. etc.


Do you believe in karma? We may be seeing it play out in real-time.

One of the most memorable long-form pieces of last year came in Reason from Emily Yoffe, and discussed the canceling of a journalist at the hands of #MeToo activists. I highly recommend opening another browser window to read it in full, but this is a relevant portion for our conversation today:

That day, [Jonathan] Kaiman saw that he had a message from an old friend, Felicia Sonmez, and assumed she was contacting him to offer advice. She wasn’t. She was writing to him about a sexual encounter they’d had the previous September that unfolded after a long, alcohol-filled day and night of partying. She wrote in part that “it has taken me a while to fully process what happened that night….I remember thinking your behavior was aggressive at the time; it’s taken me a while to realize that actually, that kind of forcefulness totally crosses the line into inappropriate behavior.”

Kaiman immediately called Sonmez, a journalist who had recently completed a year of Chinese language study and who now works for The Washington Post. Though he offered her an apology, he was shocked by her assertion. He says what happened was “a messy, drunken hookup,” one that they each pushed forward at various points. After that night, they had discussed the encounter; he thought they had thoroughly excavated an event that both agreed was a mistake, especially because Kaiman was in a relationship with Arneson at the time. But now Sonmez was telling him that Tucker’s blog post had galvanized her to reconsider it. They talked for about 20 minutes, with Sonmez telling Kaiman she was uncertain what she was going to do next.

What resulted is the utter ruination of Kaiman’s career and life, and it came at the hands of Sonmez.

That isn’t the first time Sonmez has taken aim at someone’s career, either. Sonmez tried, and failed, at taking out the Atlantic’s Caitlin Flanagan after she discussed the Kaiman situation on NPR:

And then, the mob came for Sonmez. Yesterday, after the death of basketball star Kobe Bryant, Sonmez posted an old Daily Beast article about the 2003 rape allegations against the star. What resulted was an absolute mob deluge at the Post writer by fans angered that Sonmez chose the moment of Bryant and his daughter’s death to relitigate the matter. In response to the outrage, Sonmez posted again, portraying the backlash as toxic to ongoing national conversations about sexual assault.

The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple, who covers media for the paper, writes about what happened next,

The Post has suspended reporter Felicia Sonmez following her social-media activity over the death of NBA great Kobe Bryant. Here’s the explanation from Managing Editor Tracy Grant: “National political reporter Felicia Sonmez was placed on administrative leave while The Post reviews whether tweets about the death of Kobe Bryant violated The Post newsroom’s social media policy. The tweets displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues.”

What did Sonmez do to deserve this brushback? She tweeted out a very good story from the Daily Beast.

Wemple objected to Sonmez’s suspension, and on principle, I do as well. But in the case of Sonmez, I’m on the fence. Sonmez put her faith in the mob, and it turns out, the mob doesn’t discriminate between those marshalling it one day and falling prey to it the next.

Journalists are rightly aghast at the precedent the Post set by taking action against Sonmez because of a tweet many Twitter users didn’t appreciate.

I recall little mainstream concern when the Atlantic did the same thing when the mob took aim at Kevin Williamson. Back then, everyone, including Sonmez, were perfectly comfortable with the mob, confident that only bad guys like Williamson could ever be targeted by it. Now that one of the supposed good guys, one of the Grand Marshalls, have fallen victim now suddenly we have a crisis.

Someone with more grace probably would argue that two wrongs don’t make a right, but I’m having a hard time gathering the strength to defend Sonmez.

There are 10 comments.

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  1. Tex929rr Coolidge

    Reading the account of Kaiman’s encounter with Tucker is very disturbing.  She frankly sounds crazy.  How do these people convince themselves that they were abused when it sounds like her entire take on sexuality is full of confusion?  It’s like all the people who still believe in Mattress Girl when her story is full of holes.  

    It’s not that there aren’t predatory men out there, but that the ups and downs of human interaction can’t be taken at face value and all have to be put into some bizarre decision tree after the fact until they can be assigned into some behavior box.

    • #1
  2. Percival Thatcher

    Why would she go public—giving Kaiman no warning—with this story of a long-ago, private event that, while regretted, did not involve a sexual assault? Especially since in telling it she was sure to damage someone who had been a friend and who held no power over her? Tucker provided both a societal and a personal explanation. She wrote that in the wake of #MeToo, she wanted to “add my voice to the broader outcry against sexual misconduct.”

    She  needed to be somebody’s victim, and he got picked.

    As far as defending her from the cancel culture that she herself participated in? What happened to her was bad. There. I’m done.

    • #2
  3. Arahant Member

    Gee, looks like the Kobe tweets have been memory holed. Suhprise! Suhprise! Suhprise!

    • #3
  4. Jon1979 Inactive

    Haven’t listened to Andrew Klavan’s podcast today, but I’d think he could use this one as particularly schadenfreude-filled example of how the modern-day Committee for Public Safety will eventually come for its truest believers. He’s been in their cross-hairs recently for a comment he made, and Sonmez had gone after his sister to put into the digital guillotine, before Sonmez’s feminist zeal derailed her on Sunday, when she put being first to remind the world about Bryant’s rape allegation was more important than the consideration of his and his daughter’s deaths, and the deaths of seven others in the helicopter.

    • #4
  5. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks

    The official story says she was suspended for tweeting out the contact details of people who sent her hate-tweets, which is contrary to company policy. That might have been a pretext for someone in the upper-reaches of management losing his bleep over employees who are Very Online and screw with the brand.

    • #5
  6. Suspira Member

    I’m with you, Bethany. It’s bad to give in to online pitchfork brigades, but I can’t ignore the poetic justice in the case of Sonmez.

    • #6
  7. Sabrdance Member

    In the words of David Hines: This is the bed you mad.  Lie in it.

    • #7
  8. Ross C Member
    Ross C

    I am astounded that the Washington post gives a (*)!  I expect her tweet has zero shelf life in the real world and would be forgotten in a matter of days. How could a piece of contrary opinion be released in the midst of such public fawning for an admittedly great former pro basketball player.  And by a journalist no less! [snark alert]

    • #8
  9. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda

    What is remarkable is that the social justice warriors who lead a mob are always surprised when a mob turns on them.  One would think they would realize that they are playing with fire and may possibly get burned themselves, but it always seems to be a surprise.

    • #9
  10. Suspira Member

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):

    What is remarkable is that the social justice warriors who lead a mob are always surprised when a mob turns on them. One would think they would realize that they are playing with fire and may possibly get burned themselves, but it always seems to be a surprise.

    I know. It’s like they haven’t read history and don’t know that Robespierre went to Madame La Guillotine, and not all that long after Marie Antoinette.

    • #10
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