poemless. a slap in the face of public taste.

October 2, 2009

Anne Applebaum. [updated]

Filed under: Journalistic Hacktasrophes — poemless @ 5:09 PM
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Journalist. Historian. Champion of human rights. But one with curiously little regard for professional ethics, facts or morals. Clearly the responsibility with which she has been charged is too much to ask of her. The humane thing would be to relieve her of this burden.

I did not exactly need another reason to dislike the journalistic hacktastrophe that is Ms. Applebaum’s Washington Post column. Oh, no. No, what I need – and I am being serious here – is for Anne to write something really insightful, responsible, constructive, for her to put me in my place, so that I could humbly bow to her wisdom and walk away. Inspired. Filled with grace and knowledge. Because appreciating people is much more rewarding than resenting them. And I sooo did not want to be the 10 millionth person to write about Roman Polanski. Or the millionth person to write about Ms. Applebaum’s latest stunt. Stunts. It was just one when I started this. Christ. Anyway, I am calling on the consumers of American media to institute an informal “3 strikes and you’re out” rule regarding the conduct of members of our Fourth Estate. Let’s start with Anne.

Strike 1.

From “The Outrageous Arrest of Roman Polanski.” By Anne Applebaum, September 27, 2009:

“Of all nations, why was it Switzerland — the country that traditionally guarded the secret bank accounts of international criminals and corrupt dictators — that finally decided to arrest Roman Polanski? There must be some deeper story here, because by any reckoning the decision was bizarre — though not nearly as bizarre as the fact that a U.S. judge wants to keep pursuing this case after so many decades.”

While I like to engage in gratuitous Swiss-bashing myself, it is a joy not to be underestimated, I must question how arresting a man who plead guilty to raping a young girl qualifies as “bizarre” while drugging and sodomizing a young girl and then spending decades on the lam does not.

“Here are some of the facts: Polanski’s crime — statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl — was committed in 1977. The girl, now 45, has said more than once that she forgives him, that she can live with the memory, that she does not want him to be put back in court or in jail, and that a new trial will hurt her husband and children.”

Most rape victims don’t even want to report the crime, let alone go through the trauma and stress of a trial.

Huh. I can’t imagine why…

“He did commit a crime, but he has paid for the crime in many, many ways: In notoriety, in lawyers’ fees, in professional stigma. He could not return to Los Angeles to receive his recent Oscar. He cannot visit Hollywood to direct or cast a film.”

Having to avoid the Oscars because you are on the run from the law for raping a 13 yr old is not an appropriate sentence! And criminals don’t get to choose their sentences.

“He can be blamed, it is true, for his original, panicky decision to flee.”

But not for the rape? Ooooookay.

“Polanski’s mother died in Auschwitz. His father survived Mauthausen. He himself survived the Krakow ghetto, and later emigrated from communist Poland. His pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered in 1969 by the followers of Charles Manson, though for a time Polanski himself was a suspect.”

I see why we should try to understand the motivation for his actions. I bet those people who did those terrible things to him and his family had fucked up childhoods and trauma in their lives too. That’s why people refer to the “cycle of violence.” But trauma never excuses harming a 3rd party. I have a heart. Perhaps a case for leniency can be made. But not a case for being above the law.

“To put him on trial or keep him in jail does not serve society in general or his victim in particular. Nor does it prove the doggedness and earnestness of the American legal system. If he weren’t famous, I bet no one would bother with him at all.”

Oh, Anne! Sit down and listen to what you are saying. He is a rapist by his own admission. Rape is a crime. He may be many other things, all of them admirable, but these are the facts. And allowing rapists to literally choose to opt out of the legal system does not serve society in general or his victim in particular. Nor does it prove the doggedness and earnestness of the American legal system. Moreover, it undermines the rule of law which, however faulty, is in place to protect the rights of citizens to not be raped and to ensure that those who do rape will understand that this is behavior unacceptable in any society which claims to recognize the inalienable rights of its citizens. What happened to Anne Applebaum the human rights defender? Is drugging and fucking a 13 year old and then skipping town a human right now?

Is the freedom from rape NOT a human right?

Many people have asked, in response the celebrity defense of Mr. Polanski, would they be defending him if he were a Catholic priest or Republican Senator? Since we’re talking about Anne, I wonder, would she think an arrest were “outrageous” if it were, oh, say, Vladimir Putin who had raped and drugged a 13 year old? I can already hear her response, “Well he probably has! He’s already stolen my wallet!” No, my question is, would you defend him? Right. That’s what I thought.

I wish this were all there were to the episode. Anne being crazy. Heck. On it’s own, it may even signal an evolution. She’s gone from pretending to care about innocent victims to just coming clean and admitting that, no, actually that’s bs, she doesn’t really care. Score one for authenticity. Plus, if you couldn’t use the newspapers to advocate for the subversion of the rule of law, hey, it wouldn’t be America. But don’t think I am blogging about it every time this woman gets something wrong. I have a life ya know.

It’s one thing to advocate for a rapist. Another to violate your professional ethics.

Strike 2.

Anne Applebaum is married to Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski who is lobbying for the charges against Polanski to be dropped.

Now, there is nothing unacceptable about this fact. It is understandable that she might share the same opinion as her spouse. What is unacceptable is her omission of his role in the story. It’s called full disclosure. And that someone of the professional stature Ms. Applebaum has acquired would forget to mention such an obvious potential conflict of interest is incredible.

When readers had the audacity to point out this oversight, she responded:

“For the record, I will note that I mentioned my husband’s job in a column as recently as last week, and that when he first entered the Polish government three years ago I wrote a column about that too. I have to assume that the bloggers who have leapt upon this as some kind of secret revelation are simply unfamiliar with my writing. However, I will also note that at the time I wrote the blog item, I had no idea that the Polish government would or could lobby for Polanski’s release, as I am in Budapest and my husband is in Africa.”

Having mentioned your marriage in previous columns is no substitute for disclosure. Blaming readers who are unfamiliar with your marriage is no substitute for disclosure. And frankly this is beside the point, which is not that Anne is married to Sikorski, but that her spouse is using his position as Foreign Minister to exonerate the someone whose legal case she is using her platform in the Washington Post to discredit. In her defense, she claims that she was not aware of this at the time.

The time stamp on the column in question is September 27, 2009; 3:13 PM ET.

The following is from a round up of Polanski news which appeared on Monsters and Critics at Sep 27, 2009, 16:55 GMT:

“In Polanski’s native Poland, President Lech Kaczynski and Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said they would appeal to US authorities to drop proceedings against Polanski.

The PAP news agency said Sikorski was considering a direct appeal to US President Barack Obama to end ‘once and for all’ the proceedings against the filmmaker.

Poland’s film directors’ institute had earlier issued an appeal to Kaczynski and Sikorski to intercede with Swiss authorities.

‘This is a scandalous situation and incomprehensible over- zealousness,’ institute head Jacek Bromski was quoted as saying by Poland’s PAP news agency.”

This doesn’t prove that she was in fact aware of the conflict of interest. It does prove that she should have been.

[Update]: This is what I get for trying to think the best of people… Obviously she knew about her husband’s involvement.

Strike 3.

Ok, so she might have just come forward and said, “You know what, you’re right. I misjudged x,y & z and submit the following corrections…” Had she done so, the first Google hit for Anne Applebaum today might not have been, Anne Applebaum, Child Rape Apologist?‎, which can’t be fun for her friends and family. Make mistakes, admit them, move on. Unless you are Anne Applebaum, in which case you just. keep. digging.

From “Reaction to Roman Polanski.” By Anne Applebaum, September 29, 2009:

(Actually I think these readers were reacting to her, not Polanski, but whatever…)

In response to someone who writes, “Ann Applebaum do you have a young daughter? How about I rape her???”

“He seems to believe that if you look for any nuances at all in this extremely weird, thirty-plus-year legal saga (and in my four paragraphs there was only space to mention a few of them) you are not only defending rape, you deserve to be raped. Or your daughter does.”

Anne wrote a column defending a rapist. Not because there is a shadow of a doubt that he is guilty. But because … well, she didn’t really make that part clear. It is hardly a leap to believe that a claiming the arrest of a rapist is outrageous amounts to a defense of rape. Of course, no one deserves to be raped. The commenter was rude and disgusting. But Anne decides what she writes about. She may have taken this opportunity to address the obvious question of whether she would call the arrest “outrageous” if the victim were her own daughter, or to reflect upon why she has inspired such anger. But, she didn’t. She used it to paint her detractors as the ones advocating for rape. It should be lost on no one that Applebaum finds a comment suggesting rape of her daughter outrageous (and it is) but not the arrest of the man who actually did rape someone’s daughter!

In response to someone who writes, “Applebaum’s husband is a Polish politician who is currently actively lobbying for Polanski’s freedom. Seems that Applebaum did not mention that.”

“The implication, in any case, that I am a spokesman for my husband — while not quite as offensive as the implication that my daughter should be raped — is offensive nevertheless.”

Ignoring the strawman about her daughter, how it is offensive to suggest that the her unwillingness to disclose a potential conflict of interest casts suspicion on her motives? It would be lovely to assume that all journalists are independent, but in the current media structure, we know this is untrue. When we do discover a conflict of interest, it is our responsibility to address it, to hold those with the privilege of influence accountable. And frankly, with her track record, on what grounds are we obligated to accept her assertion that she is not a spokesperson for her husband? Why should Anne Applebaum’s word carry more weight than any evidence against it?

In response to those who disagree with her:

“to all who imagine that the original incident at the heart of this story was a straightforward and simple criminal case, I recommend reading the transcript of the victim’s testimony (here in two parts) — including her descriptions of the telephone conversation she had with her mother from Polanski’s house, asking permission to be photographed in Jack Nicholson’s jacuzzi — and not just the salacious bits.”

First, this claim is not a fact, but some kind of historical interpretation produced by Anne’s imagination. The transcript does not say that. But let’s be generous. Let’s assume that instead of deliberate deception, Ms. Applebaum is just a crummy journalist and didn’t read the transcript carefully. Even if the girl had asked her mother’s permission, 44 year olds are still not allowed to drug and fuck 13 years olds. Under ANY circumstance. I don’t care if her mother was there in the room watching. By Anne’s logic, sex traffickers would not be criminals so long as they got a written note from parents. By my logic, the scenario Anne has invented absolves Polanski of nothing.

Oh fuck – There is MORE.

Ok, I have a life & can’t put it on hold to live-blog the meltdown of a WaPo columnist. I’ll stop here.


A 13 year old girl was raped, and the only one innocent, according to Anne, is the perpetrator. Anne has blamed the Swiss authorities for arresting a rapist. Anne has blamed her readers for questioning her defense of a rapist. Anne has blamed the mother for allowing the the rape to happen even though there is no transcript evidence to support the claim. And of course, Anne has blamed the girl for literally asking for it. What fucking century is this?

I like film as much as the next person and have a fancy degree to prove it. Rosemary’s Baby was a source of childhood joy for me, since my mother’s name was Rosemary and I have extraordinary eyes. When she was mad at me, I would say, “What do you expect? I’m Rosemary’s Baby. Look at my eyes. They’re… not… normal…” Good times, good times… But I don’t see what the hell it has to do with anything. And frankly it is not Polanski I am concerned about. It seems he will finally have to face the music. It’s Anne.

As a citizen of this sometimes great nation, I believe we deserve better. I’m sick of journalists who underestimate our intelligence, who defend rape or any kind of violence against other human beings, who are entrusted with the power set the public agenda but who eschew any accountability said public may ask of them, who are quick to invoke the freedom of the press and just ask quick to hide from the responsibility that freedom comes with.

If you are too, Anne Applebaum’s editor is Fred Hiatt and his e-mail is hiattf@washpost.com.

Stories about Putin stealing her wallet and Russian girls being ugly before capitalism were delusional, sure, but provided some harmless entertainment. It’s not harmless anymore. No one is entertained. This has nothing to do with freedom of the press or freedom of speech. She has the right to say whatever she likes. As do we. So I am exercising my right to say that I think her column is dangerously irresponsible.

Not to mention, terribly written.


Sublime Oblivion left a link to this eXile article in the comments. It is THE article I send to everyone who e-mails me Anne Applebaum columns asking for my take on whatever nonsense she’s up to that week. So I thought, well, this is as good as any time to post it here, since god willing I’ll never have to write another post about Anne again…

From “Where Is America’s Politkovskaya?” By Mark Ames:

Anne Applebaum, one of the Post’s resident neocons, went the extra sleazy mile when she got ahold of Politkovskaya’s corpse. In her October 9th column, “A Moscow Murder Story,” Applebaum simply lied about the circumstances of her murder, and quite consciously so, when she essentially blamed Klebnikov’s inconvenient death, as well as other provincial journalists killed for investigating local corruption, on Putin. Interestingly, in her article she openly narrows her focus on “journalists killed after 2000” — gee, how convenient. Because that means she wouldn’t have to mention all the journalists killed during Yeltsin’s term, since that would muddy up the good/evil picture that her entire thesis rests on.

Applebaum is a special case, one of those moral crusaders, the American Anna Politkovskaya, who has made a living courageously exposing state crimes committed by…get this…not her own country, oh heck no! Because her own country only does good! Nope, Anne Applebaum makes her living by sitting in the safety of Washington DC, and exposing crimes committed by a country on the other side of the globe! That country being Russia of course. Hey, give that woman a Pulitzer, will ya?! Hence her book Gulag, packed with all the affected moral outrage that you’d expect. Indeed, one thing that has always filled Applebaum with rage is wondering why Russians don’t take her seriously (a question she poses as more abstract — ie, why don’t Russians care about the Gulags as much as Anne does?). Here’s why: Can you imagine how much moral authority a right-wing Russian journalist’s book about the American genocide of Indians would have in America? Answer: about as much as Anne’s book has in Russia. None.

Yes, it’s dangerous work to dedicate your life to exposing the horrors committed by a country that your husband hates. Applebaum’s husband is Poland’s right-wing Defense Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, who also serves in the neocon American Enterprise Institute, the same institute that essentially invented the current Iraq war. The current government that Sikorski serves in, by the way, includes the extreme right-wing party The League of Polish Families, leading to protests from Israel because of the party’s open anti-Semitism and xenophobia, and its notorious skinhead youth group. But that’s okay by Anne, because Poland likes America and is a member of the Coalition of the Willing. Meaning no hissy articles from Anne Applebaum about her husband’s pals or Poland’s repulsive history of Jewish slaughter. Nor will you read too many articles by Applebaum about her own country’s atrocious crimes committed in Iraq, and the hundreds of thousands her government has killed.

No person could be as far from Politkovskaya as Anne Applebaum. Given all of Applebaum’s influence and access, she only uses that power to demonize Russia and whitewash America’s fascism. Politkovskaya, on the other hand, speaking from extreme weakness and danger, used what little influence she had to risk all for the victims of her own goverment’s cruelty, fighting from within.


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