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Sunday, May 18, 2003  

Empathy overload:
Eric Alterman defends John Fund

Atrios is peeved with Eric Alterman, who he usually deems praiseworthy. Alterman is being very kind to Right Wing writer John Fund. He has written a defense of the man. Yes. That John Fund, the editor of the Wall Street Journal's web zine, the Opinion Journal, who has gotten himself a scandalous reputation for sexually exploiting women. Atrios believes Alterman is at best, imprudent to side with Fund in the controversy. In addition, he doesn't believe Fund has been embarassed any moreso than other public figures who find themselves subjects of public scrutiny.

I'm not sure why Eric Alterman feels the need to defend the "gentlemanly" John Fund. The truth of the physical abuse charges should be known and publicized. And, if Fund is innocent of them - in a legal or real sense, then that should be understood. But, if I get arrested for domestic abuse my name gets in the paper. If I'm a public figure and I get arrested for domestic abuse, my name gets in the paper with a follow-up article or two. If I'm a public figure who tried to smear a political opponent with completely baseless charges of domestic abuse I can expect a little bit more than that - which Fund didn't even receive.

I second that opinion and have another reason for disagreeing with Alterman: He is giving extremely short shrift to the issue of domestic abuse.

Alterman recounts the allegations in his defense of Fund, who he considers a gentlemanly fellow.

Naturally, it was fun to imagine, after he got himself arrested last year, that Fund was really a monster who had walked out on a planned marriage with his girlfriend and then beat her up--the dastardly deeds of which he was publicly accused in 2001. Even better, to his ill-wishers, was the rumor that Fund had long ago had an affair with the woman's mother, and knocked up both of them.

Alterman says he is above such fun. (Actually, I don't find such allegations funny because I think about the victims, but to each his own comedy, I guess.) Alterman has received a copy of an affidavit in which the younger woman Fund is said to have abused withdraws her allegations. I don't doubt the item exists. In fact, it is said to be posted on the Internet. However, affidavits in which victimized people withdraw claims of having been harmed out of fear of being further abused are a dime a dozen. The woman has in fact gone on and sued Fund. However, based on the affidavit and Fund's 'gentlemanly' word, Alterman believes the victim lied.

It did not take a lot of investigation on my part to conclude that Pillsbury was not the kind of source one could legitimately use to hang a man in public. Why were so many so eager to use her that way? No principle was at stake. It was all about payback.

What investigation? A thorough investigation would involve much more than chatting with Fund, a former co-worker, and reading two pieces of mail allegedly written by the victim. A real investigation will doubtlessly be carried out in support of the victim's lawsuit. I will await the results from it and the resolution of the case to form opinions about Fund and the woman who has sued him. I believe Alterman should, too.

I was not yet a participant in the blogosphere when this scandal arose. I have no ax to grind. However, looking at the matter more or less objectively, I am not ready to refer to John Fund, or any man accused of domestic abuse, as 'gentlemanly.' Some of you may recall that I have been interested in the murder-suicide of a man who gave the appearance of being as middle-class, upstanding and mannerly as Alterman says Fund is. In fact, the man, who killed his wife and himself in view of their two young children, was the police chief of Tacoma, Washington. He had a long and secret history of abusing women. His co-workers had helped him cover up his pernicious ways for two decades. I hope people will exercise caution when accusations of domestic abuse are made. The fact the accused has created a good impression with you or me does not mean the allegations of domestic abuse are baseless. One of the people who needs to exercise such caution is Eric Alterman.

3:06 AM