Update, January 20: Kane’s response is here. She acknowledges that she said some racist stuff while she was dating Weev, but dismisses her behavior on the basis that it was “irony” or “satire.” She also takes me to task for having the temerity to have an opinion about it, asserting that I’m jealous of her career, washed up, and obsessed with her, “relentlessly picking on her”. By which I suppose she means I last wrote about her for Matter six months ago and hadn’t given her another thought until a bunch of people emailed me the Breitbart piece two days ago, which is the actual reality of the situation. People who are gods in their own minds don’t always realize that they don’t figure nearly so prominently in the minds of others.
That said, I don’t think that suggesting that she has some ‘splainin to do re: racist behavior implies Team Weev or that it’s okay to harass her–though having an opinion about her in public is not harassment no matter how many times she calls it that. For some perspective, it’s worth reading what the co-founder of Model View Culture has to say: Amelia Greenhall left MVC after four months of working with Kane and here she explains why. I contacted Greenhall when I was working on the Matter piece and she didn’t respond. When I asked Kane why Greenhall left, she said “I think we just had a little bit different vision of the company and the time commitment that it would be around it,” implying I suppose that Greenhall wasn’t willing commit and Kane was. Greenhall now says that’s not true, and rightly points out that you can believe that MVC is aiming to do and generally does do good work (which I believe is true) and still have qualms with Kane and it is not some sort of de facto endorsement of Weev. There is third option.
I’m getting a bunch of emails about this piece by Weev on Breitbart–largely because I did a profile of Shanley Kane for Matter several months ago that ended up being less a profile than a sit-down and some analysis thanks to some controversy manufactured by the subject prior to publication. I emailed earlier to a couple of acquaintances:
FWIW, I trust Weev less than Shanley by an order of magnitude, but as I learned from unfortunate experience, she apparently considers lying a legitimate means to her various ends.
My hunch is that the truth is somewhere in between–not as bad as Weev portrays (and Weev is, let’s not forget, a self-proclaimed liar) but I’m sure she has some skeletons she’d rather not see dragged out of the closet. But if I were in her shoes, I’d address anything he’s saying that’s true and verifiable, or it’s going to undermine the good things she’s trying to do.
And everyone loves a creepy right-winger who repents and turns into a good liberal. Look at Arianna Huffington.
And I say that as someone who likes Arianna.
To contextualize the comment about lying: During the course of reporting that story, Kane claimed on Twitter that I had been harassing her family and friends, when I hadn’t contacted any of them–and in fact, at that point in the reporting process, didn’t know who they were. Then she claimed that I was harassing her, Tweeting “LEAVE ME ALONE” over and over again, apparently to convince followers that I was contacting her at that very moment, and had been, repeatedly and relentlessly.
All subjects are unreliable narrators, but there’s a difference between the unreliability inherent in anyone’s self-perception and unreliability introduced by intent to deceive. That said, in the annals of bad subject behavior, it’s not the worst I’ve experienced. But after that I had to assume it wasn’t the first time she’d made something up whole cloth in order to get what she wanted, and I think it probably lowers her moral high ground on other issues.
I should mention here that there’s a strain of militant activism that says lying is a legitimate tactic, ethically speaking, but I don’t subscribe to that. I work in an industry where making things up whole cloth gets you kicked out of the industry, probably for life. And my tolerance for being lied to myself is very low. I’d always rather know the truth, even if it’s ugly and uncomfortable.
But I don’t think that’s so much what’s at issue here. It’s more about whether it matters if she was a racist asshole two years ago, given what she’s trying to do now.
I’m inclined to think that it doesn’t as long as she continues in her current vein, working on behalf of women and minorities in tech–though it might make people of color understandably more hesitant to work with her, especially if she doesn’t offer a satisfactory explanation for it.
But I do think people are capable of changing their political stripes and overcoming their own bigotries. It happens more rarely than we’d all like, but it does happen.
So if some of what Weev is saying is true, I’d be interested in hearing from the subject–honestly–about what happened, how she came to the views she has now and what made her change her thinking. Not because some sort of mea culpa will make it all better, but if someone more reliable and reputable than Weev corroborates the details in the Breitbart story, I think she owes her supporters an explanation.