For those of you unaware of the fire storm unleashed on Colin Mitchell, former editor of Bitter Lemons, L.A.’s ground zero for theatre criticism—and perhaps the city’s best scratching post for its artistic Kilkenny’s cats—here, briefly, is the tale.
The Chicago Reader, the Windy City’s equivalent of the LA Weekly, came out with an expose on one of its most touted equity waver houses the Profile Theatre.
The article chronicled 20 years of abuse, both physical and emotional, inflicted upon the actresses, actors and others working there by its artistic director.
It was thorough, well researched and devasting.
Colin Mitchell reprinted it on the Bitter Lemon web site – along with his own observations on the subject of abuse in the theatre community.
In it, he castigated the Profiles’ Artistic Director while calling on Los Angeles to be aware that its own house was far from untainted by the wrongdoings of such malefactors locally.
And Colin being Colin, he pivoted his spotlight on those reproached with charges of mal-treatment under the color of authority and did so by name, as well as questioned why it had taken two decades before the abuse in Chicago found itself to be acknowledged in a public forum.
In addition – and here is where Colin treaded upon the tail of that prodigious slumbering beast “public opinion” – he questioned the culpability of those involved.
The rumors surrounding the theatre itself and the misconduct of its artistic director were widely known in the Chicago theatre community – a “suppurating wound” it was described to me.
Yet there were actors, actresses and others who willingly placed themselves in harm’s way by seeking to work there, and—for whatever explanation or justification they offered—endured the outrages they found awaiting them.
With but a single exception, all those quoted in the Chicago article were adults and recognized the inappropriate conduct of the Artistic Director but nevertheless endured it.
“Where is personal responsibility?” Colin asked and, in so doing, unleashed onto himself a vicious and venomous onslaught of furious slander and unbridled vilification brought to bear under the banner of “Never Blame the Victim!”
The few voices who sought to carry the debate forward with reason and an open dialogue on our attitudes about abuse—both in the theatre community and our society as a whole—were brushed aside.
No one cared any longer about the abuse ended in Chicago or possible abuse that continued in L.A.; now it was the pack mentality that emerged and Colin was their fox.
The spewing rancor and venom dripping from the comments directed at a man whose only sin was in asking a question first, stunned me and then, enraged me.
What you have here is my 14 page response to those comments and the events as a whole.
The Chicago Reader which brought out the original article was not interested in mine.
The LA Weekly which had fanned the flames of the frenzy and then penned a gleeful announcement of Colin’s downfall was not interested in printing my eulogy of the event.
This piece did appear on the Bitter Lemon’s site with which I have had a long and productive relationship.
One of the publishers who stepped up to the helm after Colin’s departure, thanked me for writing it.
The article appeared, then under pressure it came down.
So the world, as the recent election demonstrates further, remains in the lock step of the thoughtless raging mob whose only solution is found in the act of tearing down.
Anyone wishing to read the original Chicago Reader article, Colin Mitchell’s response and the mass of commentary it provoked should be available on the Bitter Lemon’s site.
I want to thank those who voiced support – if not for my opinion then for my right to express it, as well as my deepest thanks to Darwyn Carson editor of The Tvolution who agreed without the least hesitation to give my banished words a new forum to appear in.
Looking back on the whole disheartening affair, I recall an expression I would often hear from my Aunt Grace, in whose care I was placed during my childhood:
One hound bays and all the curs take up howling
♦ ♦ ♦
Congratulations to all those who voiced their indignation towards Colin Mitchell, former editor of this site, over his remarks concerning the Chicago Reader article chronicling the alleged physical, mental and sexual abuse of actresses and actors involved with Profiles Theatre in Chicago.
Forced to resign from the helm of Bitter Lemons, ostracized by the Hollywood Fringe, pilloried by the LA Weekly, bombarded by the searing comments of many, and now Colin has left LA.
Pity. Cause like it or not, LA. Theatre is better because of Colin Mitchell.
As the banner stated “Bringing Los Angeles Theatre Together. Whether it likes it or not.” And he did.
But good riddance, Colin Mitchell, you….
“Cis-white ass hole.’
“Piece of victim blaming, rape culture upholding, human garbage.”
Yes, the vitriolic is harsh, but when something terrible happens, when individuals are harmed, we wish to comfort and protect them. We clamor “justice” be done. A very human reaction.
Sadly, there was a sizable segment, closely akin to those getting air time at the Trump rallies, who it seemed to me, weren’t concerned with ”justice.” Theirs was an eye for an eye mentality driven to extract revenge. It’s regrettable that their shrillness did discredit to the commentaries of others. But it serves to emphasize one of life’s great lessons – “Beware those who are keen to punish.”
Colin was my friend, but his sins are his own.
I am only writing this as a footnote to the whole sorry affair, because in going over the comments there were certain reframes I felt needed some clarification.
One that peppered through the comments like a call to Jihad was the repeated injunction of:
“Never blame the victim!”
“How dare you blame the victim!”
“The victim is never to be blamed.”
“…it is our responsibility as a culture to take care of those individuals….”
Again and again that statement popped up, it was the battle cry:
That victims are felt to be due certain entitlements is understandable.
They are not responsible for whatever befell them, morally they are in the right and are not accountable. They deserve our unfailing sympathy and their victimization justifies their indignation.
“Never blame the victim.” That’s what Colin needed to be taught.
Fortunately the events in Chicago were pretty straightforward, and could be clearly grasped.
Some cases are not so cut and dry.
In 2010, German pop star Nadja Benaissa was put on trial. Her “crime?”
Diagnosed as HIV positive in 1999, Benaissa was charged with endangering three men by having unprotected sex with them without informing them before hand of her medical status.
As a result one of the men contracted the virus.
In court Benaissa acknowledged she did not disclose to the men that she was infected with the AIDS virus, but was quick to shift blame by pointing out that none of the men had requested that information of her. The defense she offered for her lack of candor was that if the public and her fans learned she was HIV positive it could have had negative repercussions for her singing career.
I suppose that’s some what the same excuse the individuals in Chicago gave for not coming forth.
At the time of the trial, there were cries of “blaming the victim.” But who was the victim(s)?
Benaissa could be blamed for placing her career – in the worst case scenario – above the lives of others.
The men could be blamed for not asking the appropriate question however there is no reason to believe if they had done so that Benaissa would have responded with any less deceitfulness.
Another pronouncement appearing repeatedly in the comments was when writers labeled Colin’s opinions as:
“That’s textbook victim shaming – ”
“Text book blaming the victim B.S.”
Actually, it’s apparent the individuals making these statements never read the “textbook” in question.
The term originated from the title of William Ryan’s 1971 book, Blaming the Victim, which only marginally concerns itself with either rape or sexual exploitation, but rather the historical, systematic suppression of blacks in the South during the period leading up to the civil rights movement.
Blaming the Victim, Ryan defined as a method of reinforcing the racial hierarchy by disempowering the victims through, I quote, “the lies we tell ourselves about race, poverty and the poor.” The blame Dr. Ryan spoke of was those “myths about poverty in America.” For him the psychic underpinnings of racial and social injustice relied on “justifying inequality by finding defects in the victims of inequality.’
For Dr. Ryan “blaming the victim” described “the mindset that causes us to blame the poor for their poverty and the powerless for their powerlessness.”
So whatever else you might call Colin’s remarks on the events at the Profiles Theatre, “textbook victim shaming” could not be applied in this case; at least not according to the textbook.
From its introduction, however, the term “blaming the victim” had an immediate resonance with the public, and removed from its original context and Ryan’s precise definition, the concept took on the wider frame of meaning we associate with it today.
Once the “victim/blame” Memes fixed itself into society at large, the psychiatric community, never comfortable with its mutation, would suffer an unforeseen consequence in the sudden dearth of research projects investigating the dynamics of victimology.
To quote from a later study of the problem, “most scholars have avoided this field altogether, for fear of being accused of ‘blaming the victim.’ Do not blame the victim has been translated into: do not explore the role of the victim.” (italics added)
Now researchers seeking grants would not chance the loss of funding by being accused of “blaming the victim”, and suffering the same fate as Colin. Scholars on mass shunned researching the dyad of Victim\Victimizer, other than in a domestic setting, resulting in a 20 years period where needed work was simply not done.
The misconceived Memes migrated outward into social arenas, but it wasn’t until converging with the legal field that the issue was seen as reaching a critical level.
The system of lawyers and judges imposed a “black and white” view on social activities. In theory as well as practice, one party is assigned 100% of the guilt, while the other party is exonerated of all responsibility. These are the dynamics of a courtroom. That both the world and reality are more complex does not commonly enter into the equation. The legal system therefore was ideally suited to promote greater inroads of the Memes including into the political environment which began legislating on it.
As observed by Doctor Ofer Zur, “The victim stance is a powerful one.
Victimhood was overlaid with a special aura dismissing responsibility, a mantle of which was eagerly sought out and exploited by some….
After supporting a three-pack-a-day habit for forty years, and being told consistently by her doctors to quit, Rose Cipollone blamed her lung cancer on the tobacco industry and sued. She won her case and $400,000 in damages.
Former mayor of Washington D.C. Marion Barry was caught in a sting operation smoking crack cocaine. He blamed his arrest on racist prosecutors and that “bitch who set me up.” He got off practically scot free.
On trial for the killing of his wife, Robert Blake painted his accusers as pot heads and ex-cons and insisted his wife was physical and emotionally abusive towards him. He was acquitted.
A suicidal man jumped in front of a New York subway. He survived but lost his legs. He sued the subway engineer for negligence in not stopping in time. The man won $650,000.
Amber Carson sued a Philadelphia restaurant where she had slipped in a puddle of soda on the floor. The soda was there because Carson had flung a soft drink in her boyfriend’s face moments before her fall. She
was awarded $113,500.
OJ Simpson blamed racist police of framing him for two murders and was acquitted.
Casey Anthony accused her father of molesting her, the resulting trauma of which was offered as the reason for her original dishonesty regarding the disappearance of her three year old daughter. She was acquitted.
Clarence Thomas during his senate confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court decried the questioning of sexual misconduct on his part as “lynch-law” mentality. He won confirmation.
Francine Hughes endured thirteen years of abuse at the hands of her ex-husband. She had moved back in with him after he was involved in a serious accident to nurse him. On the night of March 9, 1977 he beat her then passed out in a drunken stupor. After sending her four children to wait in the car, she set fire to him in his bed then drove to the police station and confessed her crime. At her trial the jury heard she feared her husband would turn to abusing the children. The Michigan jury found her not guilty by reason of temporary insanity. Her story was told in the book The Burning Bed,filmed in 1984 with Farrah Fawcett. For a while she was the icon of blameless victimhood. She later remarried. Her second husband was later accused of molesting her children.
A deep concern arose in the psychiatric community when faced by a system that did not just cater to the concept of victimization but now actively cultivated it. This concern finally found voice in Charles Sykes’ A Nation of Victims (1992). As Sykes observed the sense of “victimhood” had extended beyond interpersonal relations –
“…the legal system, the ‘rights movement,’ the recovery movement, and especially co-dependency groups have contributed to the development of a nation of victims, so, too, do politicians, attorneys, and military generals often justify their actions through blame. U.S. foreign policy is based on claims of ‘self defense’ and blame. America got into the war in Vietnam and sustained 40 years of cold war to avoid ‘becoming a victim’ of the spread of communism. Later America felt victimized and threatened by the tiny island of Granada, Noriega of Panama, and Saddam Hussein of Iraq, and more recently by Somalia’s so called War Lord Adid.”
To quote Doctor Zur again, “The problem with ‘never blame the victim’ is that it is misleading, and it doesn’t allow us to put our best foot forward in combating sexual assault. It is misleading in that the real question is not about blame, but responsibility.” (Italics added).
There’s that word, “responsibility”, which a majority of the comments treated as a slander.
“C’mon, people,” wrote Colin “where is the personal responsibility?” For this sin he was pilloried.
In 1974, B. Mendelson attempted to bring common sense and “responsibility” back into the discussion with his landmark publication, The Origin of the Doctrine of Victimology. In it he tried to classify victims according to their relative degree of responsibility in their victimhood. These five classifications are still accepted as the standard by most therapists today.
THE INNOCENT VICTIM:
Individuals in this category are truly innocent and have no share in their victimization.
Those who were sexually\physically abused in childhood. Rape and murder victims of random attacks by strangers. Victims of spree shooting, terrorist’s attacks, and those who suffer by way of natural disasters or due to corporate corruption and greed.
VICTIMS WHO BEAR MINOR GUILT:
Included here are individuals who with some fore thought, planning or awareness should have recognized the danger of their situation and either avoided or lessened the potential of harm to them.
Basically you find listed here adult victims of domestic violence, and victims involved with alcoholics or abusers where the danger signs were evident (and the danger signs commonly are) but the patterns of abuse had not yet been introduced into the relationships.
Also collected in this grouping are victims of crime who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but whom by some caution could have prevented their victimization. (The guy who parks his car in a high crime area and leaves the door unlocked.)
And though I’m sure it will outrage a good number of you, also included under this heading are men and women who choose to become intoxicated in potentially hazardous situations generally resulting in rape.
Again, please remember, these are not my categories.
VICTIMS SHARING EQUAL RESPONSIBILITY WITH THEIR VICTIMIZERS:
These are people aware of the situation they are in and chose (for whatever justification) to remain a part of it. They are not dragged into an alley by three assailants or surprised by a gunman at an ATM.
You have here men and women who contract STDs from engaging prostitutes or through unprotected sex. Victims of bar fights or road rage who instigated or engaged in confrontational behavior, and co-alcoholics, co-addicts and those participating in the victim-victimizer Dyad after the initial phase of their relationship when the patterns of abuse are established. (Italics added.)
VICTIMS WHO BEAR SLIGHTLY GREATER GUILT THAN THEIR VICTIMIZERS:
Those who willing join cults and end up in Jonestown. Drunks whose harassment of a passersby ends up with them being beaten, peeping toms who are shot outside windows they are staring in, and abusive husbands who are killed by their wives. (Mendelson acknowledges the husband as having the main responsibility but views the abuse itself as an interaction.)
VICTIMS WHO CARRY TOTAL RESPONSIBLE:
Those in this category are legally sane adults not under the influence of drugs or alcohol who come to be injured or worst through their own folly or when their intended targets engage in self-defense. Rapists and kidnappers killed by their intended victims, students who are electrocuted climbing power poles, smokers who get lung cancer knowing the dangers of smoking, and suicides not suffering from mental illness.
Those individuals written about in the Chicago article would fall in the second and third categories.
Mixed among the comments, I found a staggering level of….hatred…disgust…viciousness directed at Colin. There was a chorus of:
“…and it is our responsibility as a culture to take care of those individuals….”
“The victim is never to be blamed.”
“Your definition of the word victim is ignorant and obtuse… my guess is you are an abuser who uses this narrow definition to relieve your own guilt.”
Assertion after assertion was piled atop Colin that he understood nothing about the mechanics of “victimhood.” However the majority of the writers attacking Colin on this point displayed far less comprehension as to the Victim-Victimizer Dyad.
First they had taken their accusations of victim blaming to an illogical extreme, where one could imagine them claiming that a victim of child-rape at the age of five and a woman who willingly dated a man who had previously attempted to rape her were both equally absolved of responsibility. Nor did I find any awareness of the damage that reducing an individual to the limits of “victimhood” is capable of doing.
I saw no appreciation that, in dealing with those who have been victimized, the therapist’s goal is to guide the individual from the torment of self-blame to recognition and acceptance of personal responsibility (whatever its degree).
Only when the “victim” has found the path from helplessness to accountability, can they hope to cross from hopelessness to empowerment.
The following was written by Leah, herself a survivor. I suggest her views on “victimhood” and “victim blaming” be compared:
“Being a victim is where people blame others for what’s happened to them, continuing to be helpless to what happens in their life. They see themselves at effect of the world; simply the result of what their environment produces. They have no control over what happens in their life, and thus are powerless to change it. This also allows them to not take any responsibility for the misery in their lives because it’s always somebody else’s fault. They’re quick to place blame or fault on others. Often bitter, resentful, lost, and angry.
Victim blaming is where people place fault onto the person who was hurt to essentially disempower (sic) and make them feel shameful. It’s the idea of “they were asking for it”. It’s also driven by the need to blame and make somebody at fault – the person who was mistreated….
Seeing others as victims only reinforced the idea that they can’t take responsibility for themselves. Stop worrying about “victim blaming” and start creating positive change. If you believe others are helpless victims, you are teaching victimhood.” (Italics added)
The following is from Doctor Ofer Zur’s Rethinking ‘Don’t Blame the Victim’: The Psychology of Victimhood:
“We are all culpable for our choices. As adults we must take responsibility for ourselves and take the potential consequences of our choices extremely seriously. To adhere to a victim ideology which states that victims are always and completely innocent is absurd…. It has yet to be widely understood that by alleviating all women or any victim from any and all responsibility to predict, prevent, or even unconsciously invite abuse, is to reduce them to helpless, incapable creatures, and in fact, re-victimizes them.
Victims’ blame behavior and lack of accountability are the very reasons they may continue to get hurt, injured, and abused. It is apparent that the blame approach is neither effective in resolving the problems of violence, nor in protecting the victim from further victimization, nor protecting future generations from continuing the cycle of abuse.
At the heart of the blame approach is a system of warfare, which centers on the outcome of moral or legal battles rather than on the resolution of conflict and the prevention of future violence. As such, it neither reduces pathology nor protects the victim. Sending an abusive husband to jail stops the beatings, and may give the wife a feeling of justice and revenge. It will not help the husband deal with his violent behavior, and it will not teach the wife about her more subtle role in the violent relationship. By confirming the wife’s status as a victim, the legal solution is likely to perpetuate further violence.”
And to let Sykes have the last word:
“A single event, such as robbery, war, plane crash, or rape, does not transform a person into a victim. It takes a certain consistency in the environment to raise a victim.”
I am not insensitive that some of those who responded to Colin’s piece saw it as victim-blaming. I suppose my concept of victim-blaming differs from most of them. Take the actions of Connor Brown, a footballer with Sheffield United, who after a team mate had been sentenced to five years in prison for the rape of a 19 year old woman began a social media assault labeling her, “Money-grabbing little tramp.” Despite a rape victim’s guarantee of anonymity, the woman was eventually identified over 6,000 times on both Twitter and Facebook.
I see this as victim\blaming as any clear headed soul would.
Another problem I found with some of the commentary was impreciseness. Let me just mention two examples:
Gwynedd Stuart in her LA Weekly piece, “A Victim-Blaming Screed Lands a Local Theater Writer in Hot Water” (the very title of which does not affirm a high standard of detached objectivity) Stuart assails Colin starting with selections from his piece that she introduces with:
“Here are three particularly egregious excerpts from the piece …
“What everyone seems to be either ignoring or intentionally skirting with this bizarre story coming out of Chicago is this: These were all consenting adults.”
(Why Stuart finds this egregious is a tad mystifying as except for one teenager they all were “consenting adults.”)
“Clearly this Darrell W. Cox dude is some kind of messianic, power-hungry, disturbed freak and it’s right that he’s been found out and called out, but these were not children in these shows, these were adults, and they all decided to just go along with all this crap?”
(I assume Stuart isn’t finding Colin’s assessment of Cox as a “disturbed freak” to be “egregious.” In the rest of the quote she selects, as well as the one below, Colin is not accusing anyone, rather he is aggressively demanding, perhaps overly so, answers to why this abuse occurred and why it endured of so long a period. And do notice that his pointed questioning is extended beyond the “victims” to the “stage managers and directors.”)
“Was everyone hypnotized and mesmerized like some kind of Manson Family Member? Were all these women and stage managers and directors bedazzled by all the attention and full houses to the point where they simply had to submit to the abuse? Were they drugged?”
(Stuart, in her rush to hoist the banner of “do not blame the victim” has propagated the far more destructive attitude of “Do not investigate the role of the victim.” And finally—)
“C’mon, people, where is the personal responsibility?”
Now my question, not merely to Ms. Stuart but to the majority of those leaving comments, when did it become “egregious” to demand answers?
Stephanie Courtney was one of the more vocal commentators and in expressing her indignation, put forth mistaken statements and engaged in erroneous arguments:
“Colin didn’t take Cox to task in his article,”
she wrongly asserts.
To quote again from Colin’s article:
“Clearly this Darrell W. Cox dude is some kind of messianic, power-hungry, disturbed freak and it’s right that he’s been found out and called out….”
Colin follows that by admitting:
“We certainly have our Cox-like characters here in LA: the Kenne Guillory’s and Zaccahrin Thibodeou’s who are so deluded and twisted and self-indulgent that they think having improvised hot tub audtions [sic] are okay or that telling actors they will get paid and then bugging out on them is okay. Sounds like this Cox fellow is from the same ilk…”
Colin, then in his article was trying to awaken LA theatre to the problem within our own community. And did one comment, one, even mention these individuals? Did anyone ask who they were, what had they done?
No, and Ms. Courtney, like so many others, overlook all that’s in the article.
Ms. Courtney’s rage leads her to displaying numerous fallacies in her arguments, including that of the “slippery slope” when she manages to link Colin’s demand for “personal responsibility” to the outrages of ISIS:
“It’s like those 19 women Isis burned last week. Women can either agree to be sex slaves and accept being fucked all the time and have people like Colin jump all over us when we’re finally in a place and position in the world where we can stand up for ourselves or we can be burned to death by the system for deigning to stand up and say no in the first place.”
I’m sorry, but the women captured by ISIS saw their husbands machine gunned, before they were beaten, bound and kidnapped to a distant military compound where they were beaten and assaulted further, chained and auctioned off as sex slaves.
That is not “like” being an actress in Chicago.
One may excuse the passage as being written in the heat of the moment, but the mere comparison is an insult to what women throughout the Middle East are enduring.
Again, what is underneath all the words that Colin wrote, regardless of whatever else may be read into them, is the demand for “personal responsibility.” Colin is demanding to know why the women, the stage managers, the producers, the actors, the Chicago theatre community didn’t stand up against what was occurring at this theatre.
At one point Ms. Courtney writes of Colin, “…, he took the women to task for not standing up to Cox.” Then she follows this with a quote:
“As Ghandi [sic] said, be the change you want to see in the world – why not take the asshole who caused the mess to task?”
Blinding herself again to the fact Colin had taken the “asshole” to task, Ms. Courtney is also unable to discern the irony of her statement; castigating one writer for the same sin she is defending a whole community (the women, the stage managers, the producers, the actors of Chicago) for making.
Also, let’s direct the question back at her, why is she not taking “the asshole who caused the mess to task?”
Let me draw a quote from the original Chicago Reader article, one that was echoed throughout it:
He had power over the people who were there,’ says an actress who starred in several shows, and who asked not to be identified out of fear of professional retaliation.
I am sorry, but he “had power” because people allowed him to have it. There are instances in the original article reporting individuals who stood up to Cox and by doing so ended his abuse. I would also suggest that the actress “who asked not to be identified out of fear of professional retaliation” is still enabling and empowering him.
“The disappearance of a sense of responsibility is the most far-reaching consequence of submission to authority.”
That quote is from Stanley Milgram. If you don’t know who he is I suggest you find out.
This is a subject I speak on, by the way, from personal experience:
The best director I ever worked with it turned out was also a sadistic psychopath.
The director mounted a number of my plays and the productions were very successful. Every one told us we were a “perfect” team, and honestly we felt that too. Now my only excuse for the longevity of our association is that the relationship was focused on the work and conducted almost entirely via the phone.
Once the productions were up, over a single weekend I would fly in to see the show, tell him what a great job he’d done (which he always had) then fly back to Los Angeles the next day.
Then the director was offered the opportunity of mounting a show at the Mark Taper. Now I had just finished a rather ambitious play which I had penned specifically to showcase his unique directorial strengths and this was the work he wanted to bring to the Taper. Quite exciting.
Being as the play was so fresh, I suggested spending time together putting on, as it were, the finishing coat. It was agreed we’d give a week or two of intensive effort to accomplish this. So I flew up, and for the first time wouldn’t be staying in a hotel, but with him and his wife in their home.
It was literally, literally, within the first hour I began to suspect something was hidden behind the curtain of the best director I’d ever worked with.
In truth, the signs had always been there. I just didn’t allow myself to suspect the worst of someone. It’s difficult for most of us to do so.
Within just two days, I had ascertained how the bent little toad habitually brutalized his actors and dominated his company with behavior that, by comparison, would have made Cox look like a shoo-in for the Jean Harris Humanitarian Award.
The “toad’s” actions opened him up to criminal charges, but none of the company members who had suffered at his hands were willing to follow that path for worry of their careers.
For me there was no choice. Cutting short my stay I informed the “toad” he would never direct another one of my works again. Tellingly, he confidently assumed I meant after the collaboration bound for the Taper and was sincerely fluxed, and genuinely confounded, when I informed him I meant the Taper project too.
Well the “toad” did direct a play at the Taper which was a success… just not mine.
Now did my decision to not let him do my play hurt my “career?” Probably.
Do I care? No.
Did the “toad” see to it that there was ”professional repercussions” for me? He did.
And even though I still have a play in the bottom drawer of my file that I haven’t taken out in over twenty years would I do it again?
In a heartbeat.
(I’ve no wish to go into the full tale of the “toad” and I, but let me say Karma is a real banshee. And what a beauty she is too.)
In her comments, Ms. Courtney’s fury is boundless, she even accuses Colin of being no better than the artistic director in Chicago who actually did the harm. For her a few hundred words, however inappropriate they were or weren’t, are the equal of 20 years of abuse.
This is all perplexing until one reads her own confession:
“The man who I stood up against almost 20 years ago is still teaching. There are many, well-documented cases against him (you don’t get removed as the President of a College on surmises) and he’s still there.”
I do not know Ms. Courtney, but from Leah’s words you could suspect she does:
“They’re quick to place blame or fault on others. Often bitter, resentful, lost, and angry.”
Ms. Courtney’s rage is at least understandable, and her comments showed greater merit than the bulk of the writers who just engaged in puerile name calling. She stood up and was hurt for doing so. I share her sense of injustice. She did what was right, but, I’m sorry, in defending the silence of others she is wrong.
“It is a sin to step on a man’s face. But it is also a sin to let a man step on yours.”
One reason I took so long in putting these thoughts forth is due to a conversation with an actor friend who supported the actresses’ silence to me by arguing “Their priority is to do whatever it takes to survive.”
I thought about that long and hard, and my actor friend is wrong too.
Yes, souls are suffering but the facts are harsher.
Every rape victim who doesn’t report the crime is allowing another woman to be in danger of rape.
Every victim of abuse who doesn’t denounce her abuser because they are doing “whatever it takes to survive” is also placing another person in danger of abuse.
And this, in her anger and pain is what Ms. Courtney has set out to defend.
Many of the commentators took it upon themselves to speak for the survivor community as a whole without offering their credentials to do so.
Now I don’t presume to speak for the survivor community on mass, I only speak for one. Myself.
And to the likes of “Old Guy” and “Kevin L.” let me say two words:
I do not respect your indignation, nor do I appreciate your assumption that I am in need of you circling the wagons about me. I don’t need anyone’s sympathy or protection, I have faced monsters most could not imagine, and just by writing these words give proof that I have won.
Ms. Courtney writes:
“Anyone who has been abused recognized [sic] the tone of Colin’s article, and shuddered with disbelief at lines like, “I’m sorry, but if you allow crap like this to happen, then YOU are to blame.”
Sorry, Ms. Courtney, but I do not shudder. Though I would have preferred “then YOU share responsibility.”
But I know that Colin was writing in the heat of the moment too.
Again, speaking here only for myself and not the community of survivors, let me go on record as saying, having read Colin’s article I found nothing that offended me, nothing that I found objectionable.
I cannot say the same of the reactions it provoked.
I understand why so many of the most hateful and mean spirited comments came from the residents of the Chicago community who berated Colin and extended their ire to Los Angeles at large, one even threatening to warn his students off L.A.
But while I understand the need for “transference” their hypocrisy was still staggering:
“We have different standards here, and we actually care about people past their bankability or ability to be a pet or trophy wife or whatever version of sycophant.”
“You need to think about this and immediately issue a retraction and apology to every victim of abuse and to the Chicago Theatre community. This article is an embarrassment.”
“Maybe in L.A. you are so used to this kind of sick behavior [sic] you cannot see how damaging it is.”
Excuse me, but it was only one article Colin wrote, while the theatre community of Chicago facilitated Cox’s behavior for two decades.
And please, no strutting indignation at that statement. Everyone in the community knew or had heard rumors of the abuse. This I have from a dozen plus former residents of the Windy City that I’ve spoken to. “An open suppurating secret,” I was told by one.
Now in reading Colin’s article, I know some of you were sincere in your outpouring, but you were in the minority.
What served as the spring well for so much of the vitriolic I can only guess at; some, like Ms Courtney, had their own history of abuse fueling it, probably some were fueled by their fierce identification with victimization, but others sought a sense of self aggrandizement in acting as the “heroic defender of the weak”, and some I’m sure were exploiting the situation to grapple their pound of flesh from Colin for past wrongs or past reviews.
And on a purely personal level, I need to address the large number of commentators who chose to write under nom de plumes: “Anon Mouse,” “Fuck Misogyny,” “Old Guy,” “Go Fuck Yourself, Colin Mitchell,” “City Girl” and others.
Forgive me for being old school, but when I take someone to task, they know who I am.
What I found most reprehensible were the vast number of comments which displayed a rabid, self-serving viciousness, more on the order of burning crosses on front lawns or painting “juden” on store front windows, than an attempt at a serious dialogue on a vital subject.
Colin did the unthinkable. He assigned a share of the responsibility to those individuals in Chicago for what befell them, and in so doing held up to his readers what we most feared; not the terror of having no control over our lives but the knowledge of how much control we have.
Some felt the sting of that fear so sharply that they turned it back on Colin with all the hatred they could muster, condemning him guiltier than the actual perpetrator of the abuse.
In a perfect world, and if we were perfect creatures, Colin’s article would have lead to more compassion for those who suffered, and, perhaps, attempts to understand and forgive the one who caused the suffering.
But it is, alas, not a perfect world, and we are far from being perfect ourselves so the reaction was an up swell of unsupportable, self-serving hatred in a rather tawdry display of “blaming the victim’s” kissing cousin “killing the messenger.”
I was heartened by some of the commentary that pleaded reason and compassion, Erza, Madelyn, Jason and a few others. But they were voices in the wilderness.
For my money, Jason put it the most eloquently:
“In a larger conversation, now denied us at Bitter Lemons, we could have expanded on the specific points we raised and had a dialogue about going forward. Our dissenting opinions, which might have sparked dialogue, are now evidence against us in a mob court whose only goal is vengeance.”
Regrettably there was no dialogue, no understanding of the events, no compassion for the abused, no forgiveness for the abuser.
Because the path that lead to becoming an abuser begins with a victim.
So, what was achieved? A number of people, for whatever reason, let loose a torrent of hateful and ungenerous words, a corrosive myth was perpetuated, compassion was not extended to either the victims or the victim/victimizer, and, as far as I see, not one man, woman or child was made safer for any of it.
But we did see how cross burnings clean up very well and fit right in with the best vegan Heal the Bay Sunday morning Yoga crowd, and a voice was silenced, ensuring that diversity doesn’t raise its ugly head around here anytime soon.
So one last time, Congratulations.
And here’s a final quote for you, from another editor –
“No lover of truth, therefore, is obliged by his love of truth to abandon our paper, merely because the opinion of its editor are not in complete harmony with his own. A contrary doctrine would reduce the freedom of the press to a mere name, and make the very term liberty of opinion, a detestable mockery.” Frederick Douglass
To all the malicious spew, to all the baseless accusations, to that intense haste to punish without reflection, to all the betrayal – I say shame.
A reminder, the majority of ideas and observations expressed herein did not originate with me, so perhaps any comments you’re inclined to express should be directed to those listed below.
- Bancroft, L. (2002) Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men.
- Beasley, R & Stoltenberg, C.D. (1992). Personality characteristics of male spouse abusers. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 23(4), 310-317.
- Caplan, L. P. & Hall-McCorquodale, I., (1985). Mother Blaming in major clinical journals. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 55 (3), 345-353.
- Cook, D. & Frantz-Cook, A. (1984). A systematic treatment approach to wife battering. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 10, 83-93.
- Etzioni, A. (1987). A responsive society. San Francisco: Jossey Bass Inc.
- Gelles, R. J. & Straus, M.A. (1988). Intimate violence. New York: Simon & Schuster.
- Herman, J. L. (1992). Trauma and recovery. New York: Basic Books
- Hollis, J. (2007). Why Good People do Bad Things. Gotham Books
- Jain, R. S. (1990). The victim-offender relationship family violence. In Viano, E. (Ed.), The victimology handbook, (pp. 107-111), New York: Garland Pub., Inc.
- Mendelson, B. (1974). The origin of the doctrine of victimology. In Drapkin, L. and Viano, E. (Eds.), Victimology. Lexington: Lexington Books.
- Navarro, J. (2014) Dangerous Personalities
- Ochberg, F. M. & Willis, D. J. (Eds.) (1991). Psychotherapy with victims. Psychotherapy (special issue)
Ryan, W. (1971). Blaming the victim. New York: Vintage Books.
- Shalit, E. (1997). The Hero and His Shadow.
- Sundberg, S. L., Barbaree, H. E., & Marshall, (1991). Victim blame and the disinhibition of sexual arousal to rape vignettes. Violence and victims, 16, 103-120.
- Sykes, C. J. (1992). A nation of victims: The decay of the American character. New York: St. Martin’s press.
- Tavris, C. (1993, January). Beware the incest survivor machine. New York Times, Book Review,.
- Viano, E. (Ed.). (1990). The victimology handbook. New York: Garland Pub. Inc.
- Yollo, K. & Bogard, M. (Eds.). (1988). Feminist Perspectives in wife abuse. Beverly Hills, Ca: Sage Publications, Inc.
- Zur, O. Rethinking ‘Don’t Blame the Victim’: The Psychology of Victimhood
If you’re going to pull out your torches, let me know and I’ll bring the marshmallows.
(** Colin Mitchell on stage – Image Courtesy of LA Weekly **)