Susan Brownmiller and Why I am a Journalist

6 Mar

Susan Brownmiller and Why I am a Journalist

Ok, You want to know why I will never cease being a journalist?

 This whole kerfuffle today over a post on my blog, which had perhaps a 100+ followers this morning, about the state of journalism which has gone viral and attracted the attention and comments of hundreds of thousands of people by a few hours later, has drawn supportive comments from umpteen number of people. Plus a few nasty ones.

Among the gems was this comment from someone who asked to be a FB friend: “Nate, I’ve been reading about your Atlantic controversy all over the place– and I remember how generous you were to me in Phnom Penh in the 1990s, in a journalists’ bar, when you asked what I was doing in the city and I said “Doing a story on The Temples of Angkor” and you said–so spontaneously- “The guy you want to speak to is sitting over there…” You are such a great journalist, and the reason I subscribed to the Far Eastern Economic Review for so many years.”

Honestly, I don’t remember the encounter. But I do know, now, who this person is.

Susan Brownmiller is a US feminist, journalist, author, and activist best known for her 1975 book Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, in which she argued that rape was “nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.” That book sent the then equivalent of cyberspace atwitter, prompting a slew of reactions and criticism which forced the debate of women being treated like chattel up for public debate. Angela Davis said her book was tantamount to an “unthinking partnership which borders on racism” and that was friendly fire.

Later, the New York Public Library selected Against Our Will as one of 100 most important books of the Twentieth Century.

Brownmiller spent four years investigating rape, from ancient criminal and civil law to the way rape was  reported in contemporary media,  literature, film, and popular music.

Brownmiller changed the course of the human debate on the rightful role of women in society, and pissed off far from a few people in the process.


Today she asked to be my friend on face book. And she sent me supportive comments for standing up to big media companies trying to fleece journalists to increase their profit margin.

She wrote in a post today I was tagged in on face book: “He was so generous to me in Phnom Penh– he was the dean of the journalists’ community. I was sitting with Kevin’s drunk journalist friends, who were telling their war stories, aggrandizing themselves, when this guy, Nate Thayer, the expert on Pol Pot, came over to our table and with his insatiable curiosity asked me what I was doing in the city–which none of Kevin’s friends had bothered to ask. And then he neatly pointed me in the right direction…giving my Angkor story for Travel&Leisure a depth it wouldn’t have had. I’m so glad his kerfuffle with the dummies at The Atlantic has gone viral.”

Susan wrote some time ago “My parents were so intense about…newspapers and the radio that I became very intense about these things too. My dad worked as a sales clerk in Macy’s and my mom worked as a secretary in the Empire State Building. I was lucky to go to Cornell University for a couple of years on scholarships. When I left school, I was determined to be a Broadway actress. This was, in my case, a very mistaken ambition. So I found a little tenement apartment in Manhattan, got jobs as a file clerk, did some waitressing, got fired a lot, and studied acting. Quite accidentally I started backing into editorial-type jobs for some confession magazines, and learned” how to be a journalist.

Journalism has permitted me to be in the mix of people like Susan Brownmiller—whose unyielding, curmudgeonly refusal to accept what is unacceptable, has directly contributed to making this a better world for uncountable millions.

Thank you Susan.

You, and that, is why I will die being a journalist.

8 Responses to “Susan Brownmiller and Why I am a Journalist”

  1. broadsideblog March 6, 2013 at 9:45 am #

    Such generosity is rarely misguided. Good for you.


  2. Brick March 6, 2013 at 11:13 am #

    “[..] Rape was ‘nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.’ That book sent the then equivalent of cyberspace atwitter, prompting a slew of reactions and criticism which forced the debate of women being treated like chattel up for public debate.”

    So an outrigt evil lie which demonizes half of the human population is OK for a journalist, because it causes a reaction? Not just that, this lie has has “directly contributed to making this a better world for uncountable millions” and “is why [You] will die being a journalist.”

    Also You believe that criticisning this book by woman is “friendly fire”. Funny, in my book that’s called free speech. You have three (!) different free speech categories, so You should know that concept.

    I wrote more but it does really make no sense whatsoever to even try. Since, I was unaware that this lie is at the base of modern feminism, this article did, even though I strongly disagree with basically everything in it, help me form a opinion. Probably not the one You expected.

    To some I must seem like the following person:
    A murderous (I play videogames) Nazi (I listen to Sabaton[this is even dumber than the videogames part]) Rapist (I am male) Thank You so much for proving that Journalism has nothing whatsoever to do with trying to find the truth. It is just spewing nonesense to make sure the click stays up. This is even worse than the Leistungsschutzrecht disgrace in Germany. I despise all of you.


  3. DrFrood March 6, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    Fascinating blog, shame the industry is on its last legs (for the time being). I read somewhere that early newspaper forays onto the internet were typically paywalled, but this was abandoned in favour of free content with advertising revenue picking up the slack.

    I heard Murdoch was one of the early driving forces behind the free content/advertising model, but I’ve not seen anything to corroborate this. The Times has retreated behind a paywall, but as I recall they’ve demurred from publicising what impact this had on their site traffic.

    If you’ve any views on the future of paywall-protected content, I think people might be interested in reading about them.


  4. Exile From Hysteria March 6, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    So great. What an honor. Well deserved, my fellow journalist.


  5. John B. Pynchon March 6, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    Embarrassed to admit I never heard of Nate Thayer. Pleased to say I will not stop reading him. Thanks for the enlightenment, and entertainment.


  6. stonerwithaboner March 8, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

    “nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.”

    How exactly do all men keep all women in a state of fear????

    Sounds like misandry to me to call all of one group rapists or potential rapists….

    If you suggested all black people were criminals or potential criminals, that would be racism…


  7. In exile from Southeast Asia March 10, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    I agree with everything you say . . . except that at some point you develop other responsibilities and don’t want your face breaking out because you can’t pay your bills and you can’t sleep. At this point, you might want to consider other options. Make a lot of money in something like law, where your combative personality would be an asset. THEN, once you have your nest egg, go back to journalism.


  8. stonerwithaboner March 13, 2013 at 11:24 pm #



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