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Moving Targets: A new blog from Mary Anne Franks discusses revenge porn, feminist theory, and social media

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8 Responses

  1. Admin note: Professor Franks has become a bit of a lightning rod of late for some bizarre, stalker-ish online attacks — sort of the blogosphere equivalent of McInnis’s frustratedly yelling “you’re a fucking idiot.”

    Any responses here that fall into that category will be hastily deposited in the appropriate location.

    Cheers!

  2. Mr. Wenger, as a Miami lawyer and blogger very familiar with UM, I find it odd that Professor Franks and others are not receptive to comments from some of the most respected criminal law bloggers in the country that disagree with her position. I hope her students don’t take from this that debate in the law is a bad thing. That would concern me, and I think the administration of UM.

  3. Kaimi says:

    What a curious comment, Mr. Tannebaum. I can’t speak for Mary Anne, but let’s start with a few off-the-cuff possibilities.

    First, you seem to think it is self-evident that Professor Franks should change her views. As support for this, you cite to “some of the most respected criminal law bloggers in the country that disagree with her position.” This might be more convincing if critics were arguing that Professor Franks had gotten her Brady analysis wrong or her Apprendi analysis wrong.

    But they aren’t. These fine folks are lecturing her on the First Amendment. And it’s an area where — well, as you yourself describe, her self-appointed interlocutors are crim-law practitioners. They _aren’t_ First Amendment experts; they may not have discussed First Amendment law since they were law students. In contrast, Professor Franks is a published scholar on First Amendment issues and arguably a legal authority on the topic.

    I’m happy that your practitioner friends have opinions, but I’m not convinced that a scholar who publishes First-Amendment scholarship ought to bow to the wisdom of crim-law practitioners in an area that is _within her expertise_ and _outside of theirs_, if she reasonably believes that they’re wrong on their First Amendment analysis.

    Substantive disagreements happen. This isn’t a bad thing. What you’ve characterized as a negative act of Professor Franks “not [being] receptive to comments” is actually an instance in which she is aware of and has considered these objections, and she does not find them convincing. And why is anybody unreceptive to unconvincing objections? Because they’re unconvincing.

    Second, Professor Franks has, in fact, engaged in some extended back-and-forth with a number of interlocutors about revenge porn and other issues. She has used Concurring Opinions and other venues to refine her proposals and discuss concerns. She has been highly receptive to comments that have come from many different directions.

    But let’s face it, some of her interlocutors seem to pride themselves in being assholes. They deliberately distort her statements and want to engage only in over-the-top polemics. And while I’m not her, I don’t think it’s any surprise that Professor Franks — like most of the rest of us — has very little interest in conversing with assholes.

  4. Thanks for that Kaimi: such things needed saying.

    Re: “conversing with assholes”

    One might learn from experience that some folks with particular (hence ascertainable) ideological views, narrow self-interests, and irrational beliefs are simply not amenable to rational argument, in other words, they cannot “hear” or refuse to listen in an open-minded way to what others are saying. In such cases, discussion in the form of rational argument is, alas, fruitless. This certainly raises the intriguing question as to precisely what, if anything, can open their minds. I suspect that there need be, in many such cases, something like a “change of heart” to occur before they can become receptive to rational discussion. As to what might prompt such a change of heart….

    This came to mind as a result of Paul Krugman’s review in the NYRB of a book by his intellectual and academic mentor, William D. Nordhaus, on the science and economics of dramatic climate change, i.e., global warming. Krugman says the work in effect is addressed to those reasonable individuals who probably are not in need of further persuasion with regard to the sorts of arguments Nordhaus is making. He points out, in other words, that the work is, “after all, a calm, reasoned tract, marshaling the best available scientific and economic evidence on behalf of a pragmatic policy approach. And here’s the thing: just about everyone responsive to that kind of argument already favors strong climate action. It’s the other guys who constitute the problem.”

    It’s these “other guys” I would identify as a class close to the sort you describe as “assholes” above, at least insofar as they are not receptive to rational debate, in this case at least, because they represent a “power” adamantly opposed to “any kind of climate actions.” Krugman explains their constitutional resistance to rational argument as motivated by a mind-numbing triune cocktail of “naked self-interest,” “free-market” (Ayn Rand- or libertarian-like) ideology, and a rejection of scientific method generally (‘Polling suggests, for example, that a large majority of Republicans reject the theory of evolution. For people with this mind-set, laying out the extent of scientific consensus on an issue isn’t persuasive—if anything, it just gets their backs up, and feeds fantasies about vast egghead conspiracies.’).

    In short, it might prove interesting to attempt to identify precisely what could be causing the “assholes” irrationally perturbed by Professor Franks’ ideas to “deliberately distort her statements” and “engage only in over-the-top polemics.” I suspect such an attempt would take us into the realm of post-Freudian psychology. I noticed Mary Anne provocatively initiates the contours of such an attempt at her blog in the discussion of why Gavin McInnes descended into a “bout of hysterics” (e.g., her mention of the ‘naked fear and vulnerability in his voice and on his face,’ and the fact that ‘McInnes didn’t just provide a textbook example of the emotional weakness that so often underlies masculine swagger; he also provided an illustration of what it looks like to focus on the wrong target…, [he] sounded genuinely miserable and trapped….’).

  5. jon stanley says:

    I thought Mr. Tannebaum appropriate. Now, as to whether he has his facts right, that is another matter. I don’t know enough about it to offer strong opinions one way or another. But I applaud him for raising the issue.

  6. Horspool says:

    “Fantastic” is, indeed, le mot juste.

  7. Curmudgeonly Ex-Clerk says:

    Kaimi:

    While I don’t disagree that some of Frank’s critics are assholes, that pejorative is not much of an argument, and the remainder of your comment seems to be a fairly empty appeal to authority.

    Some of the criminal law bloggers critical of Frank’s proposal have bona fide First Amendment chops. Mark Bennett (who blogs at Defending People) comes to mind. If you stroll over to his site, you’ll notice a couple of October 30 posts there regarding a First Amendment-related victory he just achieved before Texas’s highest criminal court. Though I don’t personally know any of these criminal law bloggers (I practice in a different area of the law), I have found some of them, like Bennett, to be quite thoughtful on the intersection of the First Amendment and criminal law, and Frank’s revenge-porn statute sits right in the middle of this intersection.

    Franks may well be an authority on the First Amendment. I am not familiar enough with her resume to know. But it seems like an especially weak argument to cite publication of a conventional law review article as establishing that fact. I really do not mean to disparage law professors here, but c’mon, there are a multitude of law journals; generally they are student edited and do not involve any peer review prior to publication. Practically any lawyer could get an article published under this system if they just have the resolve to write one.

  8. Mary Anne Franks says:

    Thanks very much, Kaimi, for the welcome.

    I am a little surprised that a post about my new blog became a commentary about my legislative proposals (which is after all only a very small part of the work I do), especially given that there are several other posts on this site where one can raise issues about this directly, but so be it.

    The claims that I do not engage with critics are easily disproved by the evidence on this very site. All one needs to do is look at any of my multiple guest posts and my interview on the subject of revenge porn legislation. I have always allowed comments on my guest posts and I make considerable effort to respond to them – even, sometimes, when they are disrespectful and misinformed. Of course I do not respond to every comment, and I certainly don’t go trawling random blogs to see if someone disagrees with me. What I hope my students take from that, Mr. Tannebaum (if indeed my blogging activities are of any interest to them at all) is that informed, professional debate is a very good thing. They probably wouldn’t need to learn from me the fact that debate does not necessarily mean concession. They probably already know that on the Internet, just as in class, not all arguments are created equal, assertions and attacks are not the same as arguments, and that scholarly time and energy is a finite resource.

    Curmudgeonly Ex-Clerk, I responded directly to Mark Bennett when he did me the honor of commenting on my interview (http://www.concurringopinions.com/archives/2013/10/legal-developments-in-revenge-porn-an-interview-with-mary-anne-franks.html). It speaks well of Mr. Bennett that he brought his criticism to my attention here instead of merely shouting into an echo chamber made up of like-minded blogs. Though I didn’t find his arguments convincing, and I found his way of presenting them arrogant and condescending, I did respond to them – probably not to his satisfaction or to the satisfaction of those who agree with him, but that is surely not the standard for evaluation.

    And as I made clear in my response to Mr. Bennett and others, I do not weigh people’s arguments according to their CVs. Anyone is welcome to bring their criticism of my ideas to my attention, and I will evaluate that criticism on the basis of its merit (rather than resorting to haughty proclamations such as “you seem to lack an understanding of First-Amendment law” a la Mr. Bennett). In addition to the work I have presented for comment and feedback on this blog, I have actively sought out the opinions of First Amendment scholars, practitioners, the ACLU, and the EFF on the subject of revenge porn legislation. While reasonable people can certainly disagree with my ideas, it is unreasonable to claim that I do not engage with criticism.

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