Media, Politics

The Problem with Candace Owens

Dissent in the ranks of so-called “marginalized groups,” often viewed as natural constituencies for the left, rarely fails to draw a backlash from progressives and sympathy from conservatives. Recently, such a controversy erupted when rap artist Kanye West voiced support on Twitter for Candace Owens, an African-American conservative YouTuber and Donald Trump supporter. West’s tweet—“I love the way Candace Owens thinks”—was met with much wailing and gnashing of teeth on the left and much celebration on the right (partly out of sheer gloating at the left’s dismay). There has also been more thoughtful commentary, including a Quillette essay by Columbia University philosophy student Coleman Hughes looking at the ways in which standard left-of-center politics in America fail to represent the diversity of opinion in the black community.

This is a healthy discussion. Unfortunately, in their understandable frustration with the social and racial orthodoxies that currently dominate liberal political culture, conservatives and libertarians risk embracing self-styled dissenters who are (to borrow a term from the social justice left) problematic allies.

This is true of West, whose “dissent” consists largely of impulsive provocations and who quickly confounded his new conservative fans by praising gun-control champion Emma Gonzalez. (It is also worth noting that three years ago, the rapper spoke glowingly of the Rev. Louis Farrakhan, the notoriously anti-Semitic militant black leader whose associations with African-American Democratic politicians and progressive activists have been a frequent target of conservatives and centrists.)

But it may be even more true of Owens (“RedPillBlack” on YouTube), a self-described convert to conservatism and a rising star on the right. Owens, who became outreach director for the college-oriented conservative organization Turning Point USA last year, has been hailed as a courageous freethinker by people like Dave Rubin, the center-right host of the YouTube show The Rubin Report. The Center for the American Experiment, a respected conservative think tank in Minneapolis, is hosting her luncheon talk about her “journey to conservatism” on May 8.

Obviously, no one but Owens knows how genuine her professed beliefs are. But a look at her history strongly suggests that her “conservatism” is a mix of opportunism, personal grievances, canned slogans and paranoid conspiracy theories.

The way Owens told it on The Rubin Report last September, her conservative awakening began in the spring of 2016 when she tried to launch a start-up to combat cyberbullying and ran into unexpected opposition from the left—specifically, from social justice activist Zoe Quinn, herself a crusader against online harassment. According to Owens, Quinn tried to persuade her to drop the project and was particularly upset that she wanted to out anonymous trolls and harassers; this led Owens to conclude that Quinn was afraid of being exposed as a fake victim or even an actual cyberbully. Then, Owens said, she herself was attacked by a horde of trolls almost certainly directed by Quinn—and smeared by mainstream liberal journalists who were also in cahoots with Quinn. The only publication that treated her fairly, she said, was the right-wing Breitbart News.

In Owens’s narrative, while her enemies succeeded in killing her project, this incident was her “redpill moment”—right-wing Internet jargon for becoming aware of the truth: Previously a liberal Democrat, she became sympathetic to Trump’s broadsides against “the lying media” and began to question other progressive orthodoxies as well.

It’s a dramatic story; it’s also one that bears very little resemblance to the truth. I know, because I was there. I was one of the first journalists to report on Owens’s anti-cyberbullying start-up. I also followed the ensuing drama—a convoluted saga that involved warring Internet factions—and inadvertently became a part of it.

The start-up, Social Autopsy, first drew major attention on April 13, 2016 when Owens began a crowdfunding project for it on the Kickstarter platform with a goal of raising $75,000. The project description promised a revolutionary solution to Internet bullying: since people who make “awful, nasty comments online” claim they are merely exercising their free speech rights, “let’s launch a database where we capture them exercising those rights and create digital records for them that anyone can access.” The accompanying video blamed the scourge of cyberbullying on the “free-for-all” fostered by widespread use of anonymous or pseudonymous handles and proposed to record the “digital footprints” of people who “lob hate speech over the Web.” The text and the video also asserted that the Social Autopsy “team” (of which Owens remained the only known member) had already compiled a database of 22,000 offenders, with plans to expand it to 150,000 and put it online.

While Owens portrays herself as a victim of leftist persecution, the fact is that the initial backlash against Social Autopsy came mostly from the “cultural libertarian” opposition to the authoritarian left. YouTube video bloggers Matt Jarbo (“Mundane Matt”) and Chris Maldonado (“Chris Ray Gun”), both strong critics of “social justice warriors,” were among the first to blast the project as a terrible idea. Another early negative report came from none other than Breitbart; it was written by Allum Bokhari, a frequent co-author of the not-yet-disgraced Milo Yiannopoulos and a leading foe of the “SJW” left in digital and tech culture.

To these critics, Owens’s start-up smacked of particularly noxious Internet speech-policing: a tool to blacklist people who say mean or politically incorrect things online, go after their jobs (the project’s promotional materials boasted about linking alleged cyberbullies to their places of employment), and expose or “dox” them if they were posting anonymously. Some thought Social Autopsy was meant to target GamerGate, the anti-“SJW” revolt in the videogame community that began in late 2014; however, leading anti-GamerGate figures including Quinn also took a hostile view of the venture.

On the first day of the controversy, I tweeted asking if Social Autopsy was a doxing service under the pretext of outing (alleged) harassers and bullies. A few hours later, I got a message from Owens, who said she was anxious to explain her project and address the concerns and criticisms. The next day, after a telephone conversation and a follow-up email exchange, as well as communications with other people who were looking into the project, I wrote two posts about Social Autopsy for AllThink, a blogging platform to which I was then a regular contributor.

My first impression was that Owens, a 26-year-old who had previously worked as an administrative assistant in finance and had endured a nasty episode of racial harassment in high school, was well-intentioned but somewhat clueless about the issue she was planning to tackle (she had never heard the term “dox” until that day) and didn’t quite know what she was doing.

For instance, Owens assured me that Social Autopsy was not going to “out” any anonymous posters but simply aggregate abusive social media posts people had made under their own names, to be easily found by anyone wanting to check the person’s “digital footprint.” Yet the venture’s marketing pitch stressed the toxic effect of anonymous handles and the resulting lack of accountability; if, as Owens told me, it did not have either the ability or the intent to de-anonymize anyone, that pitch amounted to false advertising. To complicate things further, Owens also said that Social Autopsy would not be exposing anonymous Internet users yet—but would “explore this possibility as we grow.”

There were other problems. While the Social Autopsy website had not yet officially launched, it had a number of pages online with names and photos of individuals listed alongside various offenses ranging from racism or homophobia to general harassment and personal threats. Owens assured me these pages were from a “dummy test site,” not the real Social Autopsy database which was not online yet. To the best of my recollection, she also said that none of those names and photos were of real individuals. (Owens later claimed I misunderstood her; unfortunately, I did not record the conversation.) However, Google searches quickly showed that virtually all were real people.

After my first post on April 14, more issues came up. At least one person listed in the “dummy” database appeared to be linked to a specific “offense”: a Facebook comment about transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner that, while crude and demeaning (“It’s [sic] has a penis, that’s a he!”), hardly amounted to harassment. This seemed to contradict Owens’s assurances to me that Social Autopsy would not label anyone a troll or abuser for mere “wrongthink.” For this and other reasons, I wrote a quick follow-up saying I might have been too charitable in describing Owens as well-intentioned.

Later that day, Kickstarter suspended Owens’s fundraiser for violating the platform’s rules, presumably because of its potential for doxing individuals (including minors). Randi Harper, a social justice activist who runs her own anti-harassment initiative, made a scathing post mocking Owens and her “shitty” project and taking credit for shutting down the fundraiser.

A furious Owens went on the warpath, accusing Quinn and Harper of seeking to destroy her start-up because they saw her as invading their turf and also, perhaps, because they were afraid that Social Autopsy would expose their own dark secrets (i.e., that they had faked their online abuse or had engaged in harassment themselves). She then expanded her attack to two journalists who covered the story: New York magazine science columnist Jesse Singal and Washington Post digital culture critic Caitlyn Dewey.

Owens claimed that they acted on Quinn’s behalf to undermine her and that Dewey even tried to pump her for information about her financial backers.

At this point, Owens found unexpected allies in some of her recent detractors, who now saw her as the enemy of their archenemies. Breitbart’s Bokhari, who had criticized her venture two weeks earlier, gave sympathetic coverage to her claims of abuse by “SJWs” and endorsed the argument that Quinn’s and Harper’s opposition to exposing anonymous trolls was somehow suspicious (with only a passing acknowledgment that Breitbart was also “skeptical” of such proposals). Owens also did a video interview with alt-right-leaning blogger and Yiannopoulos crony Ethan Ralph, who was upfront about the fact that he didn’t like the Social Autopsy project but disliked Quinn and Harper even more.

With the controversy swirling around Owens, I reluctantly decided to wade back into it. Unlike other journalists who wrote about the story, I was highly skeptical of Quinn’s and Harper’s “good guy” credentials; both had an extensive record of online bullying toward people they saw as offenders against progressive morality on race or gender. I also thought it was entirely plausible that the two women, members of a left-wing clique that largely “owned” initiatives against online harassment, saw Owens as an interloper. (This did not negate the fact that most of their concerns of Social Autopsy were justified and shared by others.)

However, I saw nothing to back up Owens’s charge that Quinn had sent racist trolls after her. Even if it was true that Owens started receiving racist messages after her email exchange with Quinn, this hardly proved a connection; at that point, Social Autopsy and its Kickstarter fundraiser were also the subject of a lot of talk on Twitter, Reddit, and some troll-heavy forums. As for Owens’s “incriminating” fact that both Quinn and the trolls had used the term “dox,” it’s too absurd to even discuss.

Nor did I think there was anything nefarious about Harper’s admission that she had helped kill the Social Autopsy fundraiser; virtually everyone, in a rare display of solidarity across political lines, was rooting for it to be shut down.

Owens’s claims of journalistic malfeasance, too, relied on little more than paranoid conjecture. I was quite willing to believe that Singal and Dewey were too uncritical of Quinn, a darling of the progressive media; but it was quite a leap from this to the explosive charge that two journalists for mainstream media outlets were literally conspiring with Quinn to help her sink a competitor. (For those interested, there is much more detail in my last two posts on this sorry affair.)

Nearly two weeks later, Owens posted a bizarre attack on me on her now-defunct blog; among other things, she claimed that my posts about her were motivated by wanting to “stay in the favor of the masses,” resurrected a discredited 16-year-old plagiarism allegation, and (quite revealingly) interpreted my lack of allegiance to any political tribe as chameleon-like lack of identity. She also triumphantly quoted several unflattering opinions of my person—including a comment by Twitter user “@Ricky_Vaughn99,” a notoriously racist and anti-Semitic alt-right figure known for such insights as “Colleges campuses are feral negro playgrounds.”

Sometime after that, Owens deleted her then-Twitter account and her blog, and I assumed she had vanished—until she resurfaced as “RedPillBlack,” capitalizing on her new connections on the right to reinvent herself as a conservative activist.

Is it possible that Owens has changed and grown up? I doubt it. She is still lying about the Social Autopsy fiasco, presenting her start-up as a noble venture that no right-minded person could have opposed in good faith and blaming its negative portrayal on “funded misinformation.” (An amusing detail: In her Dave Rubin interview in September 2017, Owens said that the many of the racist trolls allegedly sent after her by Quinn posed as Trump supporters, using such nicknames as “TrumpOrDie” or “Trump2020”; yet somehow, none of the hate mail of which she shared screenshots in her April 2016 blogpost about the harassment had handles mentioning Trump.)

In her current incarnation, Owens says some positive things—such as stressing the importance of personal responsibility—and she clearly has a flair for delivering her message. On the other hand, her glib dismissal of racism as a complaint of “whiny toddlers” is unlikely to win over anyone who doesn’t already agree. Worse, Owens peddles a conservative version of tribalism and victimhood (conservatives shouldn’t “become skeptics” when they hear negative things about “one of our own”) and far-fetched conspiracy theories (white nationalist Richard Spencer is a Democratic plant). The bizarre overtones of Trump personality cult, such a tweet asserting that Trump “isn’t just the leader of the free world, but the savior of it as well,” should also set off alarm bells.

Owens’s self-reinvention has certainly left quite a few people unconvinced. “Mundane Matt,” the libertarian video blogger who was among the first to denounce the Social Autopsy project, has slammed the new Owens as a cynical “performer” who doesn’t believe a word of what she says and who “plays victim” just as much as the leftists she decries. Software engineer Marlene Jaeckel, a self-described moderate conservative who recently went public about being ostracized by the “women in tech” community for challenging feminist narratives of victimhood, also had an extremely negative impression of Owens when she met her at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February: “She’s as fake as a three-dollar bill,” Jaeckel told me in a Twitter direct message, recalling that Owens seemed far more interested in “taking selfies with more famous speakers” than in discussion of issues.

Political orthodoxies notwithstanding, there are plenty of black men and women who have broken from the party line on race—from anti-identity politics liberal John McWhorter to Muslim reform champion Ayaan Hirsi Ali to Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley to libertarian podcaster Kmele Foster to retired political scientist and Trump supporter Carol Swain to talk show hosts Larry Elder and Amy Holmes to Brown University professor Glenn Loury to Heritage Foundation president Kay Cole James. One may certainly disagree with some or all of their ideas; but no one would suspect them of being opportunists with no substance. Whether Candace Owens has any ideas at all besides the advancement of Candace Owens is very much in question.

One would think that the self-immolation of Milo Yiannopoulos would have taught conservatives, and other critics of left-wing groupthink, a lesson about problematic allies. Yet they are now following Owens down the same path—perhaps not toward an equally dramatic fiasco, but certainly toward the further degradation of political discourse.

 

Cathy Young is a Russian-born American journalist and author. She is a columnist for Newsday and a contributing editor for Reason magazine. Her work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The Weekly Standard, Foreign Policy, and Slate. You can follow her on Twitter 

Filed under: Media, Politics

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Cathy Young is a Russian-born American journalist and author. She is a columnist for Newsday and a contributing editor for Reason magazine. Her work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The Weekly Standard, Foreign Policy, and Slate.

96 Comments

  1. Rave Dubin says

    Dave Rubin is not ‘center-right’.

    Dave Rubin self identifies is a classic liberal and was formerly a progressive (Dave Rubin only mentions his ‘classic Liberal’ status a few dozen times per video).

    While I want to take the rest of the article seriously (it certainly seems well written and researched) this error was a distressingly basic one to make and could have been avoided with minimal research (it’s on his Wikipedia page). This makes me question the factuality of the rest of the article.

    • Jay Salhi says

      While I agree with your assessment of Rubin’s ideology, he’s often falsely labelled as being “right wing”. With this is mind, I’m not as concerned as you are about this mistake.

    • It’s perfectly accurate to describe modern classical liberalism as a center-right ideology. You certainly wouldn’t place classical liberals anywhere on the left side of a political alignment chart.

      • Hillarump says

        “It’s perfectly accurate to describe modern classical liberalism as a center-right ideology”

        No, it’s not at all. Classical liberalism is a philosophical-political doctrine that can be positioned right to the center, because it’s compatible with both center-right and center-left positions. We can not say that it’s only center-right. Classical liberalism focuses on the individual, his rights, his duties, his liberties, his responsibilities. There is nothing definitively center-right in all this. Based on what you give more weight among all these focuses then you can be more or less moderately center-right or center-left.

        Indeed, given Rubin’s positions on issues such as abortion, gay marriage and soft drugs, I would tend, with knowledge of facts, to label his as almost center or center-left at least if you want to evaluate him in the political spectrum.

        • “Based on what you give more weight among all these focuses then you can be more or less moderately center-right or center-left.”

          And since Rubin gives more weight to criticizing the left, wouldn’t it be fair to perceive him as center-right? He’s not as outspoken about his left-leaning beliefs (abortion, gay marriage, etc.) as he is about his right-leaning beliefs. And, as far as I’m aware, his left-leaning beliefs are mostly about social issues. He’s not economically left in any sense, is he?

          In general, I think social conservatism is on its way out in the United States, so I question how much longer we’ll be able to use that as an indicator that someone is on the right. More and more self-described conservatives are becoming pro-L.G.B.T. and pro-marijuana legalization, and while I wouldn’t say that being pro-choice is on the rise, some prominent conservative pundits like Tomi Lahren have come out as pro-choice.

          • Daniel says

            Tomi Lahren is pro-Tomi Lahren. Her political inclinations may seem rightish, but they overlap absolutely perfectly with her desire to live a selfish, petulant lifestyle free of accountability for her selfish, petulant actions. Once one views her in that light, everything she does makes perfect sense.

      • Darren, Nottingham says

        “You certainly wouldn’t place classical liberals anywhere on the left side of a political alignment chart.”
        How about classical liberal economics’ critique of the “unearned increment”?
        Did you know that one of the chief inspirations behind the formation of the UK Labour Party was Henry George’s speaking tours in the 1880s?

      • Nicholas says

        @jay I daresay, the alliance of the libertarian left might have a bone to pick with you. http://praxeology.net/all-left.htm

        Speaking as a libertarian (small ‘L’), I used to describe myself as ‘fiscally conservative, socially liberal’; a foot planted firmly on each side of the fence. However, as conservatives fail repeatedly to evidence any fiscal discipline, I find very little in common with them anymore.

      • Deafening Tone says

        Oh thank God you were here to provide your bald assertions under the cover of fact-based arguments. I feel better because of it. smh

    • K says

      @ Rave Dublin I understand where you’re coming from, and I get the desire to get the facts right, but I can’t help but feel that most objections to the label “right”, or any of its cousins, has something to do with an implicit understanding of the term as a pejorative. This seems like another example of a double standard: to be “on the right” at all is like some sort of cultural disease you don’t want to admit having caught. Why is this applied unevenly, I wonder?

      • Deafening Tone says

        I don’t suspect it is applied unevenly, but cyclically. It was in the 1990’s that to be called a “liberal” was pejorative. It seems to be just part of cultural swings. As late as 2006, the last season of The West Wing, Jimmy Smits character, as president, was campaigning on reclaiming the word “liberal” from the bin of pejorative terms.

        • K says

          That is a very good example. “Liberal”, as a slur, generally called into question the intended target’s intelligence (or national loyalties). “Right wing”, at least in the ways I’m seeing it used now, seem to be synonymous with “white nationalist” or just “racist”.

          I think it is worth mentioning that in the West it is social suicide to be an actual racist but actual self-avowed socialists and communists risk nothing.

      • MysticAura says

        The current labelled left isn’t liberal at all (regardless of what they call themselves) They are anti-liberals. Their goals are the opposite of what a liberal stance would be. As for the stigma of being called ‘right’ I’ve seen it become seen as less of a bad thing. The faults of the extreme right is the same as the faults of the extreme left. Extremes end up with more commonalities in the way they work, than differences. Things are shifting. True liberals are called right and being displaced on the virtual scale. The new left is so far left that it’s thrown everything off.
        As for being called right being a sort of cultural disease. That is what the left would have people think, but fewer and fewer think that. To be perfectly honest, these days I’d much prefer to be called right (even though I’m center) than left. The noisy, pushy, intolerant, bigoted and fragile new left is insane, entitled, spoiled rotten and just plain evil (as a group). Advocating violence and pretty much anything they supposedly stand against. So yes, I’d much prefer being called right in todays climate. As for people being labelled as far right, that just makes me laugh because it’s such incredible bull. They’ve worn it out and now far-right is synonymous with ‘opposition of the social marxists’ (I refuse to grant marxism or socialism capitalization)

    • Nick says

      That’s exactly what I thought. It’s hard to take the “no spin zone” approach seriously when you start off categorizing Dave Rubin as “center right”. The guy says he’s a classic liberal like every other podcast he does. If your misidentifying him you’ve ether not done your homework (which is bad but forgivable) or you think that classical liberalism is the same as center right (which is not forgivable). This is also the word game that triggers alarm bells for me every time. When Bret Weinstein is called “center right” or Jordan Peterson or Sam Harris it immediately tells me who’s talking to me. It’s just one step from libertarian to center right then center right to alt right then on to white supremacist.

      • Dave’s own political alignment, according to his Twitter, is slightly right of center. That’s center-right. Center-right is, like, John Kasich. It’s a long way from center-right to alt-right. The fact that Cathy called Dave “center-right” doesn’t make any of her claims about Candace less factual.

        https://twitter.com/RubinReport/status/914962134781501440

        • Nick says

          It’s no longer a long way between center right and alt right. Pretending like this isn’t a tactic of those on the left who wish to discredit others on the left who decent against progressive orthodoxy is well documented. It’s also a symptom of the left moving so far left that every day democrats are now center right. Ether case isn’t a good sign for progressive ideology. I can see that is may have been a mistake, and not a tactic, but let’s not delude ourselves. There are obvious reasons why it would be convenient to describe Dave Rubin and other members of the “intellectual dark web” as being on the right. It excuses the left from having to examine their own positions. Also I’d like to point out a distinction Bret Weinstein made recently in his video “How the magic trick is done”. The important distinction is no longer between left and right or progressive/conservative, but between libertarian and authoritarian.

          • Cathy herself would probably consider herself center-right. I just have never, ever seen “center-right” as a pejorative, and it’s a label I’d use for myself, and my politics are probably fairly similar to Rubin’s. I disagree that the only important distinction is between libertarian/authoritarian, because issues like health care, taxes, and foreign policy don’t fit neatly on that spectrum (i.e., you could argue for higher taxes while also being a free-speech absolutist, etc.)

          • Jay Salhi says

            “It’s no longer a long way between center right and alt right.”

            Absolute nonsense.

    • Josh says

      Lmao, he argued for a flat tax like 2 weeks ago. In what universe is that not right wing?

    • Greg says

      The people who call themselves “classical liberals” are the online arguing equivalent to the countries that call themselves “democratic people’s republics.”

    • Ricardo Alvarez says

      Even though technically Rubin isn’t right wing, he clearly panders to them, rarely, if ever, challenge them, and does his best to damage whatever left wing people there are.

  2. Jay Salhi says

    1. I have enjoyed Cathy Young’s work over the years and trust her version of events.

    2. I enjoyed Owen’s take down of BLM at UCLA. We need more of this.

    3. “Whether Candace Owens has any ideas at all besides the advancement of Candace Owens is very much in question.”

    It remains to be seen whether Owens has good ideas. I’m not so concerned about self promotion because anyone who enters the social media punditry domain must self-promote to get anywhere.

    4. This article does not paint Owens conduct in a favorable light. How Owens responds will tell us something about her. Is she capable of doing a mea culpa and moving past it? Or will she lash out at the messenger?

    • On #4, after she started RedPillBlack and when Social Autopsy allegations were once again leveled against her, she lashed out at the messenger. I haven’t seen yet that she is capable of doing a mea culpa.

      • She has already explained herself in this issue when she was interviews by Rubin.

  3. Darren, Nottingham says

    All of this – Owen’s bio- matters far far less than the information she’s putting into the mainstream. She’s a very good writer – her one liners are excellent. Along with West she’s putting marginalised big guns like Thomas Sowell into the debate.

    • Thomas Sowell isn’t really marginalised, unless you’re referring to his race giving him marginalised status. Sowell was already a legend among the right, since before Candace Owens was born. He’s been ignored on the left for obvious reasons.

      • Deafening Tone says

        “unless you’re referring to his race giving him marginalised status.”

        That would be a ridiculous claim, since Thomas Sowell is absolutely revered as a great thinker and his position as an intellectual leader has been established since the 1980’s. To refer to his being “marginalised” because of his skin color reeks of conspiracy theory, which permeates the radical left as they force people into groups, regardless of the situational facts any given individual find themselves in.

        • Yes, I should have clarified that I would not agree with that characterization either. Sowell is in no way marginalized. He has been a thought leader and recognized as such for a very long time.

      • Deafening Tone says

        You said as much, rsanchez, but I’m not interested in granting the premise of the quoted line.

    • Darren, Nottingham – pithy and excellent point. Well said and exactly right.

  4. Hutch says

    This is a good piece.

    Owens is just a naïve attention driven 20 something who, in her own mind, conceived a genius idea like Social Autopsy only to see herself smeared by the perpetual victim crowd she thought she was a part of.

    Instead of succinctly pointing out the flaws of Social Autopsy and letting it die on its own, the perpetual victim crowd turned on Owens and media hit pieces went forth.

    Owens then decides that there is indeed a massive media bias / conspiracy against her vision and adopts a then contrarian stance on policy issues overnight.

    Her gender, race and previous political affiliation give her notoriety.

    Yokels like Kanye get enticed by her.

    The right experiences schadenfreude on an epic scale and seemingly adopts her into the fold.
    Ultimately the road to hell (or the right), for a young back left leaning American woman, is paved with good intentions.

    The question, for me at least, is not whether Owens has anything of substance to contribute, its whether or not she would have adopted her current stances if the lefts perpetual victim army could have just ignored her.

    Her stances appear more a retaliation against her previous peers combined with a need to stay relevant.

    • She saw an opportunity to cash in on GamerGate. But Social Autopsy would have been the worst form of doxxing and only fed the alt-right’s fire against social justice warriors. Once she knew that cash cow wasn’t going to happen, she ‘magically’ switched teams.

    • OleK says

      Good piece? The main focus is her Social Autopsy failed venture. Ancient history in context. BFD.

      I had never heard of her until someone shared her youtube video she did right after Charlottesville. Then I heard her first Dave Rubin interview. (Btw, the Blair White on Rubin was a disaster.)

      The “problem” with Candace is she’s new and young.

      I’d say the bigger “problem” is Cathy Young penning a whole article mainly focusing on an event Candace did before anyone ever heard of her besides Cathy.

      Candace is in her infancy, politically speaking – the jury is going to be out on her for a while. Comparing her to those that have been in the game for decades shows more the lack of perspective of Cathy Young and looks more like those silly sportscasters that compare college and rookie players to Lebron/Jordan/Durant/etc.

    • “Owens is just a naïve attention driven 20 something who, in her own mind, conceived a genius idea like Social Autopsy only to see herself smeared by the perpetual victim crowd she thought she was a part of.”
      Save for the fact that she caught flak from both sides. And rightfully so.

    • anonnn says

      It shows biases on your part that you’re mentioning the “lefts perpetual victim army” repeatedly, when it was mentioned multiple times in the article that both sides decried her concept (and with good reason).

      Those media “hit pieces” came from both sides, and personally I think that’s a good thing. An idea like hers goes against a lot of the values we as a country hold dear, and personally I found it to be a relief that both sides understood this, and vocally opposed it.

    • As to her having ideas. I see her not as a thinker, debater or strategist but rather a vessel/entertainer . She is the equivalent to a late night show host. Playing to the crowd, message a/b testing and relaying the basic messages that the thinkers formulate.

      For Instance Sowell is a great thinker. But he is not entertaining to watch. He doesn’t have the looks, confidence and one liners. Why would anyone with a 100 is listen to Sowell for an hour?

      She has ade a pact with the right. She is the vessel in exchange for celebrity and money. If she starts betraying the conservative message, she will be isolated and disowned and ejected.

  5. dog walker says

    Rave, your comment is over-the-top judgemental. It sounds like you’re referring to the historical context of classical liberalism. Historically, yes it was a center-left ideology. In this day and age, lots of self-described classical liberals are socially center-left and economically center-right. In listening to Dave Rubin’s podcasts, I’d say that’s an accurate portrayal of his political postions. Do you disagree? If so, leave another reply, but come on man…try to moderate that judgemental tone. Civil discourse is always the best way forward.

  6. My only real criticism of Candace is that she is still young and has a lot more growing to do.

    She has several good thoughts and ideas, but she needs to fully flesh out her own positions and beliefs. I think, because she is young, that she is too easily influenced by those she may look up to, unable to look at them in any critical way.

    I believe her initial mindset, regarding the cyberbullying project, was a good one, but there were many repercussions that she failed to consider. Hopefully she views that entire situation as a learning experience. Her hesitance to humbly accept responsibility for the issues her project produced is a bit concerning; however, again, I attribute this to her age and maturity.

    • Bill says

      I find it amusing the “she’s naive” and “she has some growing up to do” and “her ideas would have resulted in the worst doxing”…etc. Why amusing? Because, in essence, you are being condescending to a younger generation forced through 12+ years of educational indoctrination who is breaking out of that box of limited information and not having a full, coherent picture. Of course her ideas seem naive or incomplete. It’s not like the educational system actually teaches about the bad parts of socialism 😉

      Going to the author’s recollection of events and history: you have a young woman who was an administrative assistant who has this idea, an online database about cyber bullying which she sets up a kickstarter for. This is status quo for MANY young entrepreneurs. If they had a fully fleshed out and “blessed” idea they would get venture-cap funding and not kickstarter, high-risk funding. That the online database would be ripe for abuse? Of course that wasn’t thought about much like the “just make a big database of fire-arms owners” wasn’t thought to be ripe for abuse like in NY where they published a map with dots for each of them.

      The key take away is that the 2016 election and post-election periods are beginning to demonstrate an awakening. I’m not talking about being “woke” about things like SJW and such. I’m talking about how the voters have woken up to the fact that neither party was really representing their constituents any longer. They had “assured voting blocks” that they would provide lip service to but generally took for granted whether it’s true Christians in the case of Roy Moore in AL or Union Workers in the Rust Belt for HRC, or that DJT received more of the non-white vote than Romney did. The “locked in voting blocks” are breaking down and the result can be nothing but good. Politicians no longer have their 40% locked in so they fight over the independents in the middle who decide the election. That all voting blocks are “at risk” means that accountability is beginning to return to politics. The DNC can’t just assume they get all black americans and all union workers the same as the GOP cannot just assume that they’ll get all Evangelicals if they run a very sketchy candidate. DJT won because while he has some background that evangelicals won’t like and may not vote for, he picked up some of the block the DNC didn’t even bother to court anymore.

      • I did not care for the way the article painted Candace. My goal was to provide actual constructive criticism. I like what she stands for and think she will be a strong representative of conservatism once she has gotten a bit more experience under her belt. The comment was not meant to be condescending in any way. Candace and I are fairly close to he same age.

        • ThatWokeAuntie says

          What exactly is she standing for? Someone wrote an article that pissed her off she is threatening to sue for libel; which demonstrates her immaturity and her status of public figure that she ought to educate herself a bit before threatening things of which she is ignorant.

          • Her overall thoughts and ideas. I don’t care about the situation you’re referring to. She could have handled it better, and as a result has to deal with this sort of thing now. Hopefully she will learn from this experience.

  7. Lexy Nesbitt says

    Kanye and Candace could both go down in flames tomorrow. The genie’s already out of the bottle. Pretty amazing that this article and the comments miss that entirely. There’s a dialogue happening in the black community I’ve not seen in my lifetime.

    • Jack B. Nimble says

      Lexy-can you expand on this comment, or provide some links?

      Overall, this is a well-written article. I would only add that it is not unusual for Black conservatives to find themselves in holes of their own making, sometimes for making outrageous comments that other conservatives, Black and white, either ignore or make excuses for.

      Consider Dr. Ben Carson’s remarks on becoming secretary of HUD, where he tried without success to shoehorn the story of American slavery into the traditional narrative of hard-working immigrants seeking a better life for themselves and their posterity:

      ‘….That’s what America is about. A land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they, too, had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land….’
      Source: https://www.snopes.com/news/2017/03/06/ben-carson-slavery-immigration/

      I also point out that the group for which Owens is communications director, Turning Point USA, has its own issues with racial insensitivity, including the group’s former national field director, Crystal Clanton, who once texted a fellow Turning Point employee: “I HATE BLACK PEOPLE. Like f–k them all . . . I hate blacks. End of story.”

      Or Shialee Grooman, whose tweets in 2013 (before she joined Turning Point) included multiple references to ni–ers.

      Source: https://bit.ly/2HpPwbD

      Also Google ‘A Conservative Nonprofit That Seeks to Transform College Campuses Faces Allegations of Racial Bias and Illegal Campaign Activity by Jane Mayer’ for more details. I’ve hit my link limit.

      Why Owens or any Black conservative would join such a group is beyond my understanding.

      • Bill says

        Lexy’s point is simple. In the 2016 election, the Union voting bloc being guaranteed for the DNC was broken. Union members, as a result, have forced the DNC to listen and respond to their concerns and not simply label them as poor-white (deplorables). With Owens and West, this latest saga, the DNC has to realize that the black-American voting bloc is not a “lock” for them any longer either. DJT won a lot of voters from that block in 2016 but that made few headlines with the focus on the Rust Belt. Some big names coming out saying “hey, you know…why am I voting DNC when they’ve done nothing and take us for granted” is what is waking people up. It’s perfectly fine for that bloc to vote heavily DNC if the DNC is actually working for their benefit, but they’re realizing that they’re being ignored by both parties right now.

        • Lexy Nesbitt says

          Thanks. And I’ll even add that however much Candace Owens might be disingenuous doesn’t matter at this point. Like… at all. In the same way Trump is maligned, rightly or no, incessantly, and could in fact be impeached tomorrow… and it wouldn’t matter much. The tide has turned… political labels as we know them now are dissolving. Just look at people struggling to pigeonhole poor old Dave Rubin. This article has an enormous blind spot to the sea-change that’s happening politically and culturally.

      • Deafening Tone says

        Well, I could also question why any Black liberal would join the Democratic Party, since they had a former Exalted Cyclops of the KKK as a leading Senator (Robert Byrd). West Virginia had a chapter of the KKK solely based on the leadership of Byrd. So there’s that. As recently as 1997, Byrd said he would:

        encourage young people to become involved in politics but also warned, “Be sure you avoid the Ku Klux Klan. Don’t get that albatross around your neck. Once you’ve made that mistake, you inhibit your operations in the political arena.”

        Said with conviction.

      • kris says

        Believe it or not saying you hate black people is not racist. It is not saying they are inferior or superior in any way to other races which is the definition of racism. You don’t have to like anyone, there is no law against hating people. It is obviously not a desirable state of mind but it is not fundamentally racist.

  8. Ronald says

    I don’t have any real opinion about her. But she definitely need to “grow the hell up”. She seems still politically immature.

    P.S.
    Dave Rubin is definitely not center-right. At most he is center. This is a serious mistake.

  9. Caligula says

    And here is Ta-Nehisi Coates trashing Kenye West in The Atlantic:

    “I’m Not Black, I’m Kanye” is the title; the accusation: “Kanye West wants freedom — white freedom.” Which (according to Coates) is not his to claim.

    How dare he think for himself? How dare he assert that his work is his own, and only he is responsible for it? Read this and weep.

  10. I was a supporter of Candace when she came out as “RedPillBlack”. I even donated to her Patreon. I’ll admit, part of it was I found her attractive, but she was also saying a lot of interesting things and I wanted to hear more.

    Then, allegations about Social Autopsy resurfaced. The allegations, same ones posted in this article, had too much evidence backing them up. I cancelled Patreon support, unsubscribed from her YouTube channel, and largely forgot about her.

    Now, she randomly resurfaces thanks to Kanye West suddenly giving massive exposure to her. It’s really bizarre. Something is happening here. I’m still not sure if Owens is “for real”, but I’m also not sure if the rest of it is fake. At best, Owens is an ideological zealot as most recent converts to an ideology are. But, that still makes her an ideologue and, as Ronald said in an earlier comment, she has to “grow the hell up” if she’s serious about this and doesn’t want to become merely a black female Milo.

      • Matt says

        “Good to see some folks realizing that its so easy to follow in with someone when their narrative matches your own a little too perfectly.”

        Yes, this is the danger for all of us when trying to determine the credibility of someone, especially but not exclusively online.

  11. donald says

    Interesting piece. Her message about the black community waking up to how the Democratic Party has not served it is an echo of what other conservatives have been trying to communicate (e.g., Ben Shapiro or Dinesh D’Souza). Perhaps she can do a better job of reaching that community.

    With regard to her run-in with Zoe Quinn, I tend to be sympathetic to Candace. Quinn is infamous for sending her “flying monkeys” to attack people on social media. Generally Candace stands up to scrutiny far better than Quinn if you start suggesting “opportunism” and other bad motives.

  12. Clinton says

    “However, I saw nothing to back up Owens’s charge that Quinn had sent racist trolls after her. Even if it was true that Owens started receiving racist messages after her email exchange with Quinn, this hardly proved a connection; at that point, Social Autopsy and its Kickstarter fundraiser were also the subject of a lot of talk on Twitter, Reddit, and some troll-heavy forums.”

    In original blog post Candace suggests that the harassment came Quinn because no-one besides her would have known that address; let alone several people spamming it all at once for a short duration. Not quite a smoking gun but decent circumstantial evidence.

    “What stood out to me was the fact that this e-mail came in to my personal e-mail address. It was not directed to us via kickstarter (which is the most sensible way to contact us if you have real concerns), nor did it come in to us through many of the other highly publicized Degree180 and SocialAutopsy contact accounts. This came in through to my e-mail, the address of which I had only given to Zoe Quinn when she reached out to me via twitter.”

    http://web.archive.org/web/20160903012325/http://degree180.com/8686-2/

    At the time I found her account plausible. Otherwise, good article Cathy!

  13. Sydney says

    Ha! Oddly enough I had been wondering about Owens’ credibility.

    Some months ago I was following a pseudonymous, black, conservative woman on Twitter who had vehemently complained about Owens being fake, opportunistic, a ‘con artist’, and a liar. I’d never heard of Owens. The Twitter woman had tweeted the same story about Owens’ kickstarter, the doxxing…all of it. I eventually stopped following the Twitter woman, but when Owens was suddenly scooped out of relative obscurity into the conservative limelight I was curious if any of that other story had been true. Hmmm…so, where there’s smoke there’s fire. It took me a while to relocate Owens’ detractor on Twitter and she’s got a new account but is sticking with the same story.

    Glad ‘Quillette’ published this piece. It may seem gossipy on the face of it, but it ‘goes to character’, which is worthwhile.

    • ga gamba says

      Some months ago I was following a pseudonymous, black, conservative woman on Twitter who had vehemently complained about Owens being fake, opportunistic, a ‘con artist’, and a liar.

      Sounds like Tree of Logic.

  14. Quicomment says

    I am super disappointed to see a hit piece like this here of all places. The writing is starting to become clear on the wall. Candace and Kanye have both, collaborativly, shaken the foundation, at least momentarily, of black narrative, conversation and thought but the “intellectual renegades” are now taking sides. ok.

  15. Hutch says

    You can applaud her stances on “shaking the narrative” while simultaneously being suspicious of her motivations.

    She is very young and her massive swing in ideology is questionable given her history.

    Blindly getting behind anyone just because they espouse policy that aligns with your vested interests is never a good idea.

    This is far from a hit piece. It serves only to illustrate that she may be an opportunist born out of a controversy which saw her effectively change sides overnight.

    • Lexy says

      She is very young. Yup. Can we not try to write her off so very early in the game? Forest/trees.

  16. Unless I’m mistaken, the general thesis of this article is that Candace Owens previously did something a bit SJW-esque, and she hasn’t fully admitted it, so now we shouldn’t fully trust her? Sorry aunt Cathy, what the hell are you talking about?

    • Elaine says

      Agree. “Only the perfect need apply.”

    • Obaro, plus Candace HAS completely — not APOLOGIZED — but EXPLAINED & COMPLETELY REGRETTED IN PUBLIC which is much better than “apologizing.” “Yes, when we’re young we can do things wrong and regret it. And I regret it. The site does not exist.”

      This Cathy Young has always been possessed of a very ugly, bring-down spirit in her writings. Doesn’t see the big picture or the glory people who are CORRECT in their ideas and COURAGEOUS bring to our hearts.

      Always some “other motive” Cathy Young can sneer at. Notice she’s a journalist, not a do-er. No one in her own right. I am shocked Quillette of all places would host her opinions. They should let Candace have her say.

      Claire Lehmann, are you listening???

  17. James Rhodes says

    I’m fascinated by these folks who seem intent on bringing down Candace Owens because of the now quite tired Social Autopsy business.

    Candace Owens, regardless of her past, is right now one the most powerful weapons to break the slave mindset that is currently instilled in so many Black Americans.

    If she can get this job done I don’t give a purple f about her past mistakes or her “personal ambition”.

    Free-thinking Blacks is a good thing.

    The eradication of Victim-mentality is a good thing.

    Dealing a devastating blow the left’s socialist agenda is a good thing.

    If “Red Pill Black” can make this happen.
    Good.

    The only people I question are people like this Cathy….who make me wonder whether or not they agree with these goals.

    Maybe she doesn’t.
    Maybe she doesn’t agree with these goals at all.

  18. Brent Winn says

    “On the other hand, her glib dismissal of racism as a complaint of “whiny toddlers” is unlikely to win over anyone who doesn’t already agree.”

    This could be the subject of an entire separate article. Tactics used by the Right *and* Left that actually offend many persons that otherwise would have been sympathetic to your cause. Can only be attributed to failure to see the “big picture” or intended to stir up the inhabitants of their own echo chamber.

  19. Cathy Young, You have this gray-cement Soviet-era cast to your thinking and writing. You do these typical one-sided hit pieces. Your soul is made that way or something. No nuance, no highlighting, sticking with, or God forbid, showcasing the truth of what great and courageous people have accomplished and the light they shine into our souls.

    Your smears of Solzhenitsyn and his book regarding the Jewish Question (200 Years Together) where he calls ALL SIDES to an accounting and does it only as he can (Norman Podhoretz in Commentary exonerated him from anti-semitism).

    People, don’t listen to this woman. This whole piece is big downer. Candace Owens has said very recently (can find on YouTube) that she regrets the Social Autopsy thing as a young, untutored person going in a direction that was unthought-out and NOT good. Her telling fellow African-Americans to look AHEAD, not backwards is FANTASTIC.

    That you would use every word to bring her down, as you did to the great Solzhenitsyn (who did get creaky admittedly at the tail end of his very long life) tells more about you than it does about them.

    People: Seek out what Candace Owens is saying. I love her. I love her a lot.

  20. Cathy Young, columnist for the Boston Globe. Which tells you all you need to know.

  21. Emblem14 says

    Out of curiosity, I searched youtube for some of her recent appearances and found several clips of her in a guest spot on some Fox News opinion shows. We know those spots are doled out to whoever can advance a particular narrative being pushed by the segment. Peterson has done this, Weinstein has done it; it’s not a huge deal so long as the guest simply shares their authentic point of view and doesn’t pander to the audience. It wouldn’t be nice if the opportunity was taken to challenge some of that audience’s own biases, instead of just serving as a prop for a preconceived conclusion, but oh well.

    Owens was different – she was blatantly auditioning for brownie points by buttering up the host, spouting off MAGA talking points, praising Trump and basking in the flattery of 60 something white guys positioning her as “one of the good ones” while she pandered to the audience right back. It reeked of opportunism and self-aggrandizement. I can’t take anyone seriously who goes on Fox to kiss Trump’s ass and parrot MAGA platitudes. Those like myself who think Trumpism is just as toxic and stupid as anything happening on the left are going to immediately dismiss this person, for good reason.

    Based on those performances, she gave the impression of someone fixated on careerist ambitions in the right-wing punditocracy. The fact that she pugnaciously calls out identity politics from that vantage point doesn’t mean she necessarily represents anything more sophisticated than an aspiring black Ann Coulter.

    Rank partisan polemicists who suck up to an establishment are nothing new – but people like that are no allies of “free thought”, unless there’s a big paycheck in it for them.

    • I for one, appreciate how Jordan Peterson, when on Fox News, never takes their bait. He always makes the hosts squirm a little bit. He appears to be motivated solely by ideas, which is a breath of fresh air.

  22. Anj says

    Meh.
    He said, she said.
    She had different views or a ‘bad idea’ before?
    Big deal. Its called evolution & very ‘inconvenient’ for some.
    Can’t destroy the message so destroy the messenger?
    Play the ball not the man or go home.

  23. Emily Sands-Bonin says

    I think Cathy Young is right to warn readers of Owen’s talent for self promotion. On the other hand, it’s reductive to talk only about her (failed, bizarre) social media project, which constituted only about 20 minute of her Rubin interview. The other two hours of the interview were fascinating: Owen doesn’t believe in welfare, she raised interesting questions about capitalism and democracy, she holds a minority opinion. Her recent Kanye comments (« blacks slaves on the Democratic plantation ») are and her support for Trump are daring departures from liberal leftwing orthodoxy and powerful catalysts for reflection in a society where people are discouraged from thinking for themselves. Even Ms Young must admit, if Owen, telegenic, articulate and svelte (and a lesbian? Black lesbians being the holy grail of intersectionality), were to accept to promote the existing leftwing pieties, she would be opening the Democratic Party convention, campaigning for Planned Parenthood, rubbing elbows with Chuck Schumer and drinking mimosas with Chelsea Clinton. The fact that she has, for whatever reason, declined to follow the beaten path is better for all of us who want a heterodox political environment and a break from dominance of the totalitarian left.

  24. Sleddog says

    I’ll keep listening to Candice. She’s a work in progress, as we might all hope to be.

  25. James Previn says

    I’ve been watching Candace Owens on Youtube and in discussion with others for quite awhile. I think her comments about freedom of thought are well spoken. However, she does what most converts do, she has created a new boogeyman: the Democrat “plantation”. This reaction does not show freedom of thought, it’s a new selling point.

    Her characterization of the Left as indulging in victimphilia is not incorrect. Her anger about it, and her public hyperbole show that she hasn’t gotten off that train yet.

    • Anthony says

      @James Pervin, exactly. She just found a very clever way to spin truths for het own agenda, and people are happily riding along.

      On the broad-scale I think what Candace is doing is beneficial, in that it can awaken a more self-reliant spirit in American Blacks, but anything beyond that is highly suspect. She’s just a means to an end.

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  27. Alex says

    Has the author ever considered the consequences of government owned ‘social autopsy’? This is where we are going to. Simply because however has tried to walk her path was shot down by the establishment.

    You can say whatever you want about Owens, but:

    1/ she fights 3 battles. The ctrl-left, the alt-right, and the lukewarm consensus.
    2/ she has courage
    3/ there’s not an ounce of bitterness in her discourse.

    Twitter could have been transparent, and demonstrate where the incriminating posts came from during gamer gate. I bet you they all originated from 0.000001% of the supposed ‘deplorable misogynistic gamers’ group.

    I wished there were more like her. She makes mistakes, who doesn’t?

    She’s brave, articulate, and 95% of the time on point. That’s good enough for me.

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  30. Joe says

    Concern trolling at its finest. Here’s a one sentence rebuttal to an article which can be summed up as “Don’t be friends with her, she said a bad thing”:

    Having the wrong opinion about an idea does not disqualify a person for all eternity from having the right opinion about anything else.

  31. Tai says

    You wouldn’t guess from the headline that 3/4 of this article would be dedicated to her abandoned Social Autopsy project.

    Curious things to note:
    1. “It is also worth noting that three years ago, the rapper spoke glowingly of the Rev. Louis Farrakhan…”
    Yes. Kanye also said Bush hates black people over a decade ago. The irony is that the writer here is referencing what someone said 3 years ago…in an article whose subject she is aware switched ideologies 2 years ago.
    (As an aside, should we not be thankful that those who used to blindly regard Rev Farrakhan as a hero or were not fully informed of his past were able to change their opinion after the media+twitter coverage in the past year? What exactly is the proper cutoff time between “I’m still learning” and hypocrite?)

    2. You can see Candace Owens acknowledging her mistake (at 1:05) here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fM1ufCXVQjU
    (I’m not linking that Body Language video as a persuasion tactic, but rather have no interest in trafficking clicks to Alex Jones channel)

    3. “..her glib dismissal of racism as a complaint of ‘whiny toddlers’ is unlikely to win over anyone who doesn’t already agree.”
    To her credit, she’s articulate and incredibly effective at her aims. Black Americans’ support of Trump doubled after the Kanye tweet and seems to only be growing.

    This article jumps back and forth between CO possibly being problematic to CO certainly being problematic. I like Quillette articles and critiques, but I didn’t find this argument convincing. Regardless of someone’s past, I would have liked to see a more fleshed out position as to how she is *currently* problematic.

  32. Problematic allies? Choose ideas over people, parties and personalities. Having an individual identity means, without fail, that there will be ideas you agree with, and ideas you disagree with. Independent of the people or party espousing those ideas.

  33. Oxyartes. says

    Yeah she probably realized that it would be easier to get where she wanted by going right, instead of staying on the left, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t doing something that needs doing. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina said only reason he ran under GOP is he went to Dems and they told him to get to the back of the line but that doesn’t mean he can/should be dismissed.

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  41. Matthew W. I Dunn says

    Following Ms. Young’s link:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20010322043513/http:/bostonphoenix.com/archive/features/00/08/31/DON_T_QUOTE_ME.html

    one learns the following:

    She used information that was culled from an editorial in USA Today (viz., some statistical report from the American Bar Association cited in the editorial). She must have used it verbatim IN SOME WAY for someone to have noticed that it came from that specific editorial in USA Today. In fact, Dan Kennedy, the author of the article to which Young links — even though, he gives Young a pass — admits that she did do this. I offer my own comments in brackets, in capitals. (No, Allcaps is not screaming. This is screaming!):

    Dan Kennedy, “Flinging the ‘P’ Word”

    “In a second instance, Schlussel accused Young of lifting research about the alleged bullying tactics of the American Bar Association that had originally appeared in a USA Today editorial. But Young did not present that research as her own handiwork

    [THAT IS, OF COURSE, NOT THE POINT: YOUNG DID NOT JUST USE INFORMATION WITHOUT PROPER ATTRIBUTION; RATHER, SHE USED *PORTIONS* OF THE USA TODAY EDITORIAL WITHOUT ATTRIBUTION — *THAT* IS THE POINT]

    , and in any case used it to bolster a column about a completely different subject

    [JUST BECAUSE THE INFORMATION WAS ABOUT BULLYING . . . AND SHE WERE TO HAVE COPIED IT AND USED IT FOR AN ARTICLE ON — SAY — PIEMAKING . . . IMPLYING THAT IT WAS STILL HER OWN CREATION . . . HOW DOES THAT STILL JUSTIFY USING SOMEONE ELSE’S WORK WITHOUT ATTRIBUTION?].

    Should she have credited USA Today? Probably.

    [SO, WE ADMIT THAT SHE PLAGIARIZED — CASE CLOSED]

    But op-ed columnists make unattributed factual assertions all the time,

    [EVERYBODY DOES IT AT SOME TIME . . . SO, PLAGIARISM IS OKAY?]

    and the matter of when to attribute is unclear at best.

    [IN THIS CASE, THE MATTER IS HARDLY UNDER DEBATE: YOUNG HAS ADMITTED WHERE SHE GOT THE MATERIAL FROM. SHE ADMITS THAT SHE KNEW IT WAS NOT HER OWN WORK, THAT SHE HAD NOT EVEN WRITTEN SOME OF THE MATERIAL. YET, WHILE KNOWING HER SOURCE, SHE WENT WITH IT WITHOUT ATTRIBUTING THE SOURCE. SHE DIDN’T EVEN TRY TO PUT IT INTO HER OWN WORDS. THAT IS NOT EVEN “ACCIDENTAL PLAGIARISM”. ]

    Duane Freese, who wrote the USA Today editorial, points out that both his paper and the Detroit News are owned by Gannett, and that writers often make use of work within the chain without attribution.

    [SO — AGAIN — THE “EVERYBODY-DOES-IT-AT-SOME-TIME” ARGUMENT. THEREFORE, IT’S . . . OKAY? . . . .OR, ONLY OKAY WHEN YOU WANT TO ABSOLVE SOMEONE OF GUILT FOR IT?]

    “It gets a little fuzzy,” says Freese. “I don’t attribute everything. It’s impossible. You end up attributing every line.”

    [I AM SURE MR. FREESE IS NOT A DUMB MAN, BUT . . . : IS MR. FREESE REALLY TRYING TO SAY THAT HE’S “FUZZY” ABOUT WHETHER IT IS PLAGIARISM TO COPY ANOTHER PERSON’S WORK OR TAKE ANOTHER PERSON’S IDEA AND, THEN, PRESENT EITHER AS HIS OWN CREATION? AM I TO BELIEVE THIS? AM I TO BELIEVE THAT, IF I WERE TO PURLOIN PORTIONS OF AN ARTICLE BY MR. FREESE, PASS IT OFF AS MY OWN WORK, AND THEN SAY: “OH, . . . WAS I SUPPOSED TO ATTRIBUTE THAT TO YOU?”, THEN MR. FREESE’S REACTION WOULD BE: “WELL, THAT’S OKAY! IT’S ALL A GREY AREA, ANYWAYS”?

    MR. FREESE NEEDS TO GO TO A LOCAL COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY AND ASK ONE OF THE PROFESSORS — PEOPLE WHO DEAL WITH THIS KIND OF THING ALL THE TIME — TO SIT HIM DOWN AND EXPLAIN THINGS TO HIM.]

    But he adds, “It is fairly obvious she’s read the USA Today editorial and taken information from it. Some of the phrasing is similar. So it would have probably been better had she attributed it to USA Today.” [ I. E., MS. YOUNG DID PLAGIARIZE. AGAIN, CASE CLOSED.]

    End of quote . . .

    In my humble opinion, Ms. Young plagiarised. No — perhaps, not “grand-theft” plagiarism of the sort where she reproduced significant portions of text and got accolades from it.

    Rather, it was more like “petty-theft” plagiarism of the kind where she probably had just forgotten where she had gotten it from. Although she couldn’t remember the source, she just decided to go with it, anyways. (Of course, she could have always admitted that she had gotten the information from somewhere else, but couldn’t remember where.)

    Nevertheless, Young did use someone else’s work and, then, failed to credit it. In my humble opinion, it was more due to sloppiness than plagiarism.

    Still, Ms. Young cannot so easily claim that the accusation of plagiarism has been “discredited”. On the contrary, Mr. Kennedy’s article confirms for me that she did.

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