“Thinking about Image and Truth”
“Thinking about Image and Truth.” With those words, last week the Missoula Independent in its “etc.” editorial column took the Jezebel article that has been making waves around the country, to task:
“Last week at the Indy, there were groans as staffers read the website Jezebel’s article “My weekend in America’s so-called rape capital.” It was the product of writer Katie J.M. Baker’s recent trip to Missoula…
Clearly, Baker came with an agenda, coupled with the belief that she was the only feminist to step foot in town, and she ignored the kinds of complexities that could have made her story interesting.”
Wow. So the Indy now believes that anyone who tries to come to Missoula to get an independent outsider’s view of what may be going on also gets tagged as distorting the truth about rape culture in Missoula. That they are unable to comprehend the “complexities” of this town that would make the story more interesting to them.
Instead of just letting the story stand on its own as adding to the body of information to be written about what is wrong in Missoula — the story contains extensive reporting from interviews Baker held with Missoulians — the writer of the Indy’s editorial decided to invoke “Image and Truth” in such a way as to discredit Baker. What an un-friggin’-believable ad hominem attack on Baker. And kudos to the Missoulian and our own jhwygirl for following the story wherever it may lead, and to expose whomever needs to get some light shone on them.
Then the Indy author had the temerity to attempt some back-handed hypocritical and censorial journalistic slap by telling Baker her work was useless, and instead suggest what should and shouldn’t be written about Missoula:
“And yet, to depict Missoula as a place overrun with dumb kids who condone rape is disingenuous and useless. A better story might have asked how a town with such a good reputation, one constantly spotlighted in outdoors and travel magazines, fell so far—and a better story would have asked what we’re going to do about it.”
Well, no… Baker did not depict Missoula as “a place overrun with dumb kids who condone rape”, that’s the Indy’s strawman at work. Baker simply let the words of Missoulians speak for themselves and reported them with some commentary and factual context. What is disingenuous and useless is for Missoula’s so-called liberal and progressive alternative weekly to lambast other journalists, when they have yet to do any useful reporting on the one topic that is roiling our community. So watch out all you journalists and bloggers out there. If you don’t write about rape in Missoula to the Indy’s standards, you’re going to get attacked. Must defend image, even at the expense of the truth.
Hey Indy, why don’t you write the stories you wish others would have (instead of writing the ones that got your staff groaning). Why don’t you write some articles about how far Missoula has fallen from its celebrated high-lights and what we are going to do about it? Isn’t that your job? Or is your job to criticize those who are attempting to put some outside perspective on our good-ole-boy network and tolerance of rape culture, because… maybe it hurts your bottom line somehow?
So yeah, you got me thinking about image and truth. About how our community gets so caught up in the fishbowl phenomena that we can’t even comprehend an outside perspective on our problems (and yeah, I’m talking about you too, Fred Van Valkenberg and your disbelief at being the subject of a federal investigation).
And you know what, I think the Indy’s editorial take on Baker’s story on rape in Missoula — let’s beat up on the messenger — is about as unproductive and damaging as can be, and will do nothing to bring the dialog and soul-searching needed in this community to address the issues and bring about change. It serves to stifle independent thought, investigation and debate. You are a part of the problem here, Missoula Independent. Try being a part of the solution, instead.