Candace Owens’ Spiral Into [ableist slur]

Candace Owens, the face of Social Autopsy and now “Founder and CEO” of her blog Degree, is going through an incredible public meltdown as her quest to end online harassment burns out quickly.  Owens’ newest tactic in her repeated attempts at attention grabbing and virtue signaling is calling journalists who either won’t talk about her or say negative things about her and her projects names in posts at Degree 180.

The first shot fired was at Jesse Singal of New York Magazine, who didn’t exactly treat Ms. Owens or her Social Autopsy project too kindly.  Jesse still gave Candace Owens a voice, and crafted his story from available information and her comments.  Since the piece wasn’t 100% glowing and loving of Owens, she chose to label Singal as a “fraud” and accuse NY Magazine of “scamming” her into an interview.  It’s a bizarre set of allegations, but the crazy train doesn’t end with Owens’ hit job on Singal’s journalistic credentials or New York Magazine’s credibility.  The next stop is the Washington Post and Caitlin Dewey over a story that never ran.

It got really interesting on Owens’ Twitter feed when she began demanding her followers help her contact Dewey over some sort of issue.  I’ve been watching Owens attempt time and time again to get national news to cover her story.  It’s all one big attention grab, most likely for a book deal at some point in the future.  Owens has alluded she’s potentially building towards a film, stating she’s constantly recording everything that’s going on as she attempts to connect Randi Lee Harper and Zoe Quinn to GamerGate.  Then a post aired on Degree 180 accusing Dewey and the Washington Post of not running a story and attempting to smear Owens’ reputation.  By never talking about Candace Owens and Social Autopsy.

This refusal to talk about Owens at all led Candace to call Caitlin Dewey a “smug bitch,” “pompous,” “arrogant,” and saw Owens justify pleading with her Twitter followers to harass Caitlin Dewey as a means of enforcing her personal digital “insurance policy.”  She then goes on to smear the Washington Post, telling her readers they’ve “lost all credibility” at the hands of “a few bad reporters.”  I haven’t even gotten to the libel accusations yet.  That’s the next part of the unhinged rants and delusional fantasies Owens has to manufacture in order to stay relevant or get some kind of attention.  Let’s take a step back and discuss David Malitz, Dewey’s editor and attempted peacemaker.  After defending one of his writers, Owens had no choice but to attack him and say he’s a liar.

Malitz attempted, if Owens can still be believed (I’m having a hard time getting to that point), to contact her and discuss several exchanges between Caitlin Dewey and Candace Owens.  For his efforts Malitz got branded as a “liar,” a “corrupt journalist,” and branded the Post as “absolute shit.”  There’s honestly no level at this point to which Owens won’t sink, and the libel allegations are part of that.

The “open letter” to Caitlin Dewey is made on a site devoted to the “manosphere,” discusses people in glowing terms that Dewey apparently didn’t like, and accuses her of making up lies.  I’m not going to go into detail over the letter and the writer, as they’re not points of relevancy to this story.  What is relevant is Owens took this as a valid libel accusation and ran with it in her latest attempt to create a conspiracy theory out of nothing.  It was an opinion, but it confirmed Owens’ beliefs this entire debacle is a conspiracy theory, so she ran with it.  I wish this were the end of the screed but it’s not.  The next step is to involve Amazon and Jeff Bezos, since Bezos owns The Washington Post.

Owens begins by stating she’s not a conspiracy theorist.  Then she places a signature pattern interrupt by saying “but if I were.”  Remember this: when someone introduces “but” into a conversation it usually means the first part of the conversation isn’t true or a belief structure is invalid.

“But” in a conversation reverses the language structure.  

“But if I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d note (x) (y) and (z)” is the framing structure of Candace Owens’ attempt to link all her arguments together and justify her “expose'” of this massive scandal she calls “#JournalGate.”  She notes Bezos owns the post, and that Simon and Schuster is a company that plans on publishing Zoe Quinn’s upcoming book, and that the Post’s involvement means Amazon is involved with this massive conspiracy, and so many other incomprehensible lines continue in this realm it makes my head hurt.

I will keep an eye open if the saga of Candace Owens continues its lunacy into a new realm, but for now I can’t devote any extra eyes or energy to this matter.  Owens’ continued attempts at framing this narrative as “everyone who disagrees with me” turned into a nutty realm where “everyone who doesn’t talk about me now is a target,” and I don’t want to be a part of her attention grab any further.  As I bow out of this act for the time being, let’s take a look at the spiral and the ways Candace Owens decided to handle herself.

1. Someone launches a Kickstarter to stop online harassment and cyberbullying.

2. An alleged “victim” of cyberbullying reaches out to this person in an attempt to show her lists and name calling didn’t help.

3. The response is for this person to engage in a systematic campaign of cyberbullying and online harassment against her detractor.  When someone else jumps in to aid a friend, that person gets called names too.

4. After the Kickstarter fails, the only response is to declare a “conspiracy” between the individuals who said her project failed and their alleged “harassers.”

5. When people disagree with this person, or refuse to talk about her at all, she engages in more name calling and harassment.

I’ve written on incongruence in message and actions before.  It seems like people actually managed to spot Candace Owens’ incongruency up front and tell her the proposed “help” wasn’t good for anyone.  Her response was to engage further in the incongruency instead of fixing her message and “walk the talk.”  Now the entire venture has revealed Owens is just as much of a bully and harasser as those she decries.

It’s no wonder journalists or investors won’t take Candace Owens seriously when they spot her engaging in the same tactics she decries.

Postmortem: Social Autopsy


The following post contains references to people and subjects that when mentioned cause extreme emotional reactions in some people.  To make a point very clear: I take no stance on anything related to GamerGate.  I have no desire to discuss anything related to “ethics in gaming journalism” or “harassment” outside a clear examination of what’s made Candace Owens and “Social” tank within one week and how terrible responses to communication affected this entire debacle.  The entire situation is a dumpster fire, but one we can learn from.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”–Mike Tyson

I love this quote from Mike Tyson because it examines your response to true adversity.  On a baseline fight level, Tyson knew this maxim meant you could plan for a fight, but the moment you experienced true adversity most people would freeze up and revert to their own personal defense mechanisms.  The same holds true when you’re examining just about every aspect of your life, especially conflict.  If you’ve polished your “fight strategy” going in and know your counterpart’s moves, you’ll do well until you get “punched in the mouth.”  You’ll freeze up and revert back to your old ways of talking to people or dealing with conflict.

Those who experience true adversity, people who’ve been metaphorically “punched in the mouth,” have an easier time dealing with it when adversity comes knocking.  Conflict is painful, but when you’ve dealt with it repeatedly you don’t have an issue with the pain.   You know what your reaction will be to conflict, and you can control it.  The case study for a complete inability to deal with conflict is Candace Owens and “Social” One good solid round of adversity in attempting to launch her startup made her resort to the very behavior she wanted to change societally.

Initially, Owens’ project, an “online database” searchable for parties desirous to learn about another’s “bad behavior” seemed like a joke.  Attempting to stop “cyberbullying” by calling someone a “cyberbully” is counterintuitive.  Fortunately, people recognized a Really Bad Idea when they saw it, and several people reached out to Owens in an attempt to warn her of the potential consequences for this new index.  One of those people happened to be Zoe Quinn, the alleged “patient zero” of GamerGate.  During a phone conversation, the two discussed the Social Autopsy project.  The world will most likely never know what occurred during the original exchange between Quinn and Owens.  What we do know is Quinn came away from the conversation convinced Social Autopsy wasn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread, and Owens left thinking Quinn mentally unhinged and that “GamerGate” was the subject of Owens’ woes. In that moment of adversity, Owens reverted to her baseline tactic: call people names.

At best, the conversation I had with [Quinn] was weird. At worst, it was unstable.

Randi Lee Harper, another self-styled “anti harassment activist,” took issue with Owens discussing her telephone exchange with Quinn on Twitter.  She penned “An Open Letter To Social Autopsy,” where she described Owens as “a trainwreck,” “shady as hell,” and more.  Owens’ response, yet again, was to decry Randi Lee Harper as a co-conspirator with Quinn and GamerGate in shutting down her Kickstarter because of one line.

You blamed your Kickstarter getting shut down on trolls. You’re wrong. That was us.

That statement can be interpreted in any number of ways.  “Us” could be Zoe Quinn and Randi Lee Harper.  “Us” could be “anti-harassment activists.”  In a moment of complete and utter cluelessness, and relying on something as superficial as Wikipedia to get information, Owens somehow managed to connect Quinn, Harper, and GamerGate as a united front ready to put Owens through some sort of imagined cyber-bully hell.

I announced on Twitter that I would be releasing all of the e-mails; that I would be going on [a] webcast with my suspicions that Zoe Quinn was behind the cyber attacks. I ranted that I thought she was behind all of the e-mail attacks we had received and that this time, to quote her cohort, “the gloves were off”. I announced that I had e-mails and evidence and that I would be speaking out. I focused purposely on the fact that I had e-mails.

My plan worked: the emails magically stopped. They stopped cold turkey. As I sit wring this today, we have gone an entire weekend without receiving so much as one e-mailed threat.

Still think that’s a coincidence?  A total inundation and then a total sudden stop? No that is the work of Zoe Quinn.

No one, I’ll wager, has explained to Candace Owens correlation doesn’t always equal causation.  That said, no one really explained to Owens her fantastical delusion didn’t constitute “terrorism,” either.  That much is evident from her continued screed against Quinn, Harper, and GamerGate.

Randi Harper and Zoe Quinn had discussed my project with one another. Regarding that, there can be no question.

They thought they could get me to pull the project down by beefing up their respective resumes, and with one phone call from “patient zero” of Gamergate.

When that didn’t work, the two of them launched an effort of cyber-terrorism.

Once Owens ran with her gaffe on Degree 180, she started twitting it to every major news outlet she could imagine.  When she got a “hit” from a blog called “Heat Street,” she gave her side of the story and ran with it.  She was favorable to Jesse Singal of NYMag until Singal twitted a less than favorable response to the Social Autopsy project.  When that happened, Owens’ response was to question Singal’s objectivity as a reporter, intimate Singal lose his job, and stated in the same breath she didn’t care about what journalists said concerning her.

Never you mind that Candace Owens is already attempting to silence yet another journalist before an allegedly less than favorable article goes live on a national platform.  This is her new MO; you silence those who are against you and give a voice to those whose ideas you accept.

Cause of (eventual) Death: Hubris and an inability to understand target audience. 

Current Status: Project on life support due to victim status monetization. 


Lessons Learned From Roasting Social Autopsy

Fault Lines has been generous enough to let me take a story and lampoon it or come up with some comic laden angle every Friday.  On the 15th we ran with a story on Social Autopsy where I “roasted” them with insult after insult.  For further giggles, I anchored every paragraph with a hook developed by comedian Carlos Valencia: “It Gets Worse.” What ends up surprising me is over the weekend people started picking up the post and taking it seriously!

One person picked up the post and twitted it as analysis of Social Autopsy’s problems.  Then people started applauding it as a “refreshing take” on the site’s attempt to end cyber bullying by actually cyber bulling people.  Yet another person got in touch with me on Twitter and argued that in our current climate of butthurt it might turn into a viable business model, comparing it to Peeple, another failed attempt at trying to smear character in a thinly-veiled attempt to spread “positivity.”  There’s lessons to be learned from this exercise I think worth sharing.

  1. People don’t care for the online “naming and shaming” or “call out culture” anymore.

We used to take this approach and laud it as a means of “eradicating” certain wrongthink or shun peoples’ ideas we found offensive or hurtful to others.  Now it’s something recognized as a bad idea in a country that values free speech, and people who attempt to use the technique and turn it into a business model are going to see some inevitable blowback if they try to reinvent the “reputation” wheel.

2. There is a blowback against monetizing reputation or attempting to run people out of a job in the name of “inclusivity” and “diversity.”

Justine Sacco lost her job over a tweet.  Pax Dickinson can’t get a job in tech because of a proclivity to be “trolly.” People now don’t accept this as a proper way to handle conflict, and they’re calling out those who justify this sort of idea as a means to promote a narrative of “words hurt and harm.”  It’s the inevitable response to years of using these tactics to cost people their jobs, reputations, and more.

On a recent episode of The Rubin Report, Paul Joseph Watson of Prison Planet and Infowars called the rise of this cultural libertarianism inevitable because “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  I tend to agree with him.  The push against Social Autopsy, and Peeple before it, is now largely reflective of a contrarian approach to the victimhood mentality or the “call out culture” propagated by the regressive movement that tells us “You can’t say that.”

3. The moment towards making free speech cool again is gaining traction.

Companies and conferences that “no platform” speakers or executives are getting outed for their work.  Protesters that try to silence others are getting resistance.  Even the recent trends of “Chalking” areas with messages others find “offensive” or “unsafe” are beginning to see some blowback with people deliberately using “The Chalkening” to promote free speech instead of stifling it.  The reactionary, provocateur approach is slowly building up a wonderful trend of giving others a chance to speak, and real discussion to begin.

4.  Change in thought concerning speech can happen, even if it’s painful.

There are a few people who gave up on the approach that society would ever shift back in the direction of our old “Marketplace of Ideas” mentality towards free speech.  It’s understandable, and the numbing view is a cultural marker in communication.  When the shift to limit speech and shame people into groupthink began the first trend was deliberate self-censorship.  People just bought into the idea and refused to speak on topics of interest, or even just engage in a back and forth to have fun.  They knew this because of the “social consequences” model justifying this manner of behavior.  No one wants to lose a steady source of income over a few words.

As time passed the approach just became numbing to people.  We knew this cultural shift occurred, and became largely indifferent to it.  The naming and shaming life was the New Normal, and we simply analyzed it and called the practice what it was.  We didn’t really do anything about it, because the idea of shifting cultural practices didn’t seem possible.  The movement was just that powerful.

Now we’re seeing a movement begin that’s changing the way we view speech.  It’s the result of people getting sick and tired of being able to discuss real issues and real problems in our country without getting labeled “racist, sexist and homophobic.” Those terms still get thrown around, but they’ve been used so much the new movement of cultural libertarianism’s response is “you’ve used those terms so much to describe people those words lost their meaning. We’re going to continue the discussion.”

It’s a great time to be alive.  The lessons learned from the blowback over Social Autopsy prove that we’re headed in the right direction again.  Eventually we’re going to return to a cultural future where we value open, plain, honest discussion of issues instead of buying into group narratives where people stay silent at the risk of personal and professional loss.

That’s when the real discussions over issues of concern will begin.  That’s when we’ll make real progress.  That’s when we’ll see real racism, sexism, and societal concerns addressed through open and honest discussion.

Get a chance to embrace the “Wrongless Approach.” It’s a great way to live.

Want to learn persuasion and suggestion skills?  We can make that happen.