Shitty Media Man Would Like One Million Dollars, Please.
Stephen Elliott, former editor of The Rumpus, has filed a lawsuit against Moira Donegan, creator of the Shitty Media Men list, for libel and emotional distress due to his being placed on the list by several women who were not Moira Donegan. He is seeking $1.5 million in damages. Elliott had been one of the names marked in red to denote multiple accusations against him -- with his entry reading "Rape accusations, sexual harassment, coercion, unsolicited invitations to his apartment, a dude who snuck into Binders???"
Elliott is also planning to sue the women who contributed anonymously to the the list, by subpoenaing Google metadata:
Plaintiff will know, through initial discovery, the names, email addresses, pseudonyms and/or "Internet handles" used by Jane Doe Defendants to create the List, enter information into the List, circulate the List, and otherwise publish information in the List or publicize the List. Through discovery, Plaintiff can obtain the email address information, Google account, Internet Protocol ("IP") address assigned to the accounts used by the Jane Doe Defendants by the account holders' Internet Service Provider ("ISP"), email accounts and/or Google accounts, on the date and time at which the Posts were published and/or information was entered into the List. Plaintiff intends to subpoena the shared Google spreadsheet metadata for the List, email accounts, Google accounts and ISPs in order to learn the identity of the account holders for the email addresses and IP addresses.
This is, of course, an incredibly fucked up thing to do. The list was meant to be anonymous, it was never meant to be published and there was a disclaimer on it saying to take all accusations with a grain of salt. The only difference between the Shitty Media Men list and traditional whisper networks of women saying "Hey, avoid this dude, he is a creep!" is that it was shared among a larger network and on a spreadsheet.
Last month, Elliott wrote an essay for Quillette titled "How An Anonymous Accusation Ruined My Life," in which he explained both the effect that being included on the list had on his life -- he was unable to get published, his friends began avoiding him, he had to tell his sister that he didn't rape anyone -- and why he felt he was falsely accused. For one, he said, he didn't have penetrative sex and was only into BDSM, in which he took on a submissive role. For another, which seemed fair enough, he pointed out that all invitations to one's apartment are unsolicited. Which is true, they are. People do not generally invite themselves to someone else's apartment.
It would have all been very compelling and sad had Elliott not already had a reputation -- and if several women didn't immediately come forward after that essay was published to describe how Elliott had been a creep to them.
It's quite a thread, and goes on from there! One of Elliott's arguments has been that due to the anonymous nature of the list, he was not able to confront his accusers -- which would make loads of sense were this a court of law and not a spreadsheet on the internet.
But Stephen Elliott is well-aware of a number of women who have come forward to accuse him of being a giant creep, and not only in the context of this particular list. In 2015, writer Claire Vaye Watkins published a pretty famous essay about how once, when she volunteered to allow Elliott to stay at her apartment when he was giving a reading at her university, he bugged her to stay in her bed and wouldn't give up on it until she told him she had a boyfriend, and then included this tidbit in a newsletter he sent out the next day. There is no shortage of receipts here! In fact, one might include Elliott's semi-autobiographical movie, The Adderall Diaries, as a receipt in and of itself.
Thus, it seems clear that Elliott's motive is revenge and exposing the women who contributed to the list to harassment, which is kind of a shitty thing to do. In fact, it's so shitty that other men who were listed on the Shitty Media Men list sent letters to The Cut saying that they, too, think this is a pretty shitty thing for him to be doing.
The vast, vast majority of men included on the list have faced no consequences whatsoever. The few who have are those whose accusations were serious and well-founded -- and also those who, like Elliott, already had a well-established reputation for shittiness.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse