This week saw yet another(!) Fox employee accused of harassment. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve started to wonder if job interviews at Fox include dick pics and a discussion of their favorite groping techniques. Meanwhile, there have been a series of high-profile firings and resignations involving harassment and hostile environments in the tech industry.
Which brings me to Al Capone.
But first, a word from our sponsor!
Here at Top Comments we welcome longtime as well as brand new Daily Kos readers to join us at 10pm Eastern. We strive to nourish community by rounding up some of the site's best, funniest, most mojo'd & most informative commentary, and we depend on your help!! If you see a comment by another Kossack that deserves wider recognition, please send it either to topcomments at gmail or to the Top Comments group mailbox by 9:30pm Eastern. Please please please include a few words about why you sent it in as well as your user name (even if you think we know it already :-)), so we can credit you with the find!
Al Capone, of course, was a notorious 1920’s gangster whose crimes ranged from bootlegging to murder. But when he finally went to prison in 1931, it was for income tax evasion.
Valerie Aurora and Leigh Honeywell noticed this parallel:
The U.S. government recognized a pattern in the Al Capone case: smuggling goods was a crime often paired with failing to pay taxes on the proceeds of the smuggling. We noticed a similar pattern in reports of sexual harassment and assault: often people who engage in sexually predatory behavior also faked expense reports, plagiarized writing, or stole credit for other people’s work. Just three examples: Mark Hurd, the former CEO of HP, was accused of sexual harassment by a contractor, but resigned for falsifying expense reports to cover up the contractor’s unnecessary presence on his business trips. Jacob Appelbaum, the former Tor evangelist, left the Tor Foundation after he was accused of both sexual misconduct and plagiarism. And Randy Komisar, a general partner at venture capital firm KPCB, gave a book of erotic poetry to another partner at the firm, and accepted a board seat (and the credit for a successful IPO) at RPX that would ordinarily have gone to her.
This rang a bell with me. I’ve diaried before about my evil ex-boss. With him, the harassment wasn’t sexual as such, but the verbal and emotional abuse was nonstop. He was fired, not for that, but for being caught embezzling. (From a homeless shelter! Sheesh.)
Then we realized what the connection was: all of these behaviors are the actions of someone who feels entitled to other people’s property – regardless of whether it’s someone else’s ideas, work, money, or body. Another common factor was the desire to dominate and control other people. In venture capital, you see the same people accused of sexual harassment and assault also doing things like blacklisting founders for objecting to abuse and calling people nasty epithets on stage at conferences. This connection between dominance and sexual harassment also shows up as overt, personal racism (that’s one reason why we track both racism and sexism in venture capital).
Which explains the convergence at Fox “News.” That overdeveloped sense of entitlement that sneers at impoverished people and feels threatened by successful people of color? It goes hand-in-hand with the idea that men are entitled to women’s bodies along with our general submission. (Note also that several of the recent harassment cases have involved women of color.)
If organizations won’t address harassment for the sake of doing the right thing, maybe they’ll do so because it makes good business sense in other ways. When someone’s reported as a harasser, it’s worthwhile for businesses to look at other issues that they should be checking on anyway, but which often slip through.
Some questions you might ask: Can you verify their previous employment and degrees listed on their résumé? Do their expense reports fall within normal guidelines and include original receipts? Does their previous employer refuse to comment on why they left? When they give references, are there odd patterns of omission? For example, a manager who doesn’t give a single reference from a person who reported to them can be a hint that they have mistreated people they had power over.
In any discussion of harassment, it seems like we spend a disproportionate amount of time worrying about the person who has an innocent remark misinterpreted, or who makes one mistake and regrets it. In my experience, the mistakes run overwhelmingly in the other direction: really egregious behavior gets ignored or excused away as “just a joke.” Following the Al Capone theory, an investigation of an innocent misunderstanding or a one-time offender is unlikely to uncover a pattern of fudged expense reports or plagiarism.
Updated to add: I’d finished a draft of this diary when it came out that James Damore, author of the misogynist Google “Manifestbro,” lied about having a “Ph.D. from Harvard.”
On to Top Comments!
From Belinda Ridgewood:
NorthSouth posted a funny diary this morning about being wrongly (maybe!) declared dead by the IRS. NMDad added a classic comment.
Top Mojo, courtesy of mik:
Picture quilt, courtesy of jotter: