This Is What An Entitled Mean Girl Looks Like And It Isn’t Pretty [UPDATED With Dissent By Patterico] [Further Post Update]
UPDATE BY PATTERICO: I’m going to exercise my prerogative as blog owner to insert an update at the head of this post. It’s actually a concurrence and a dissent, not just a dissent.
I am uncomfortable, and indeed angry, about what this business did, because they edited out the comments by the employee. Dana notes that at the end of the post, but I personally think it is far more significant than most apparently do, and I want to take a moment to explain why.
If these people are going to put out a video with only one side of the conversation, and edit out the comments of the employee, then I believe I am entitled to assume the absolute worst about what the employee said. So, until I hear different, I am going to assume that the employee hurled insults and profanities at the ESPN reporter. Am I wrong, towing company? Prove it. Until you do, I assume what I assume.
And given my assumption, the comments made by McHenry . . . still were not wise. But might be far more understandable than they seem in a video where all the context has been deliberately ripped out.
I’m just not comfortable joining in the online lynch mob based on an edited video like this. That said, I am happy to have a guest poster disagree, and I am happy to have all viewpoints aired. I just wanted to register my discomfort with the pile-on in a prominent way.
Again: if the towing company wants even the slightest bit of sympathy from me, they can present the entire video, or they can go to hell.
SECOND UPDATE BY PATTERICO: To be clear, I’m not accusing Dana of participating in an “online lynch mob” with this post. See the update by me below — the really long (and interesting!) one. — PATTERICO
[guest post by Dana]
Young, blonde and beautiful? You’ve got it made in our society – for a while, anyway. Power, confidence, and lots of attention. Who wouldn’t want that? Well, if young, blonde and beautiful is also demonstrably a mean-girl – arrogant, cruel and ill-mannered like ESPN reporter Britt McHenry, not me.
Having been warned that she was on camera and that a *video of her could be released, McHenry nonetheless chose to unleash a personal and caustic attack on a tow-truck company employee at Advanced Towing where McHenry was paying to have her towed car released:
Some of her comments to the woman working the counter:
The parking attendant can be heard in the video warning McHenry she is being filmed and threatens to ‘play your video’.
‘That’s why I have a degree and you don’t – I wouldn’t work in a scumbag place like this,’ McHenry responds.
‘Makes my skin crawl even being here.’
The parking attendant patiently replies: ‘Well lets get you out of here quickly.’
McHenry then fires back: ‘Yep, that’s all you care about – taking people’s money…with no education, no skill set. Just wanted to clarify that.’
“I’m in the news sweetheart, I will f—ing sue this place.”
“Do you feel good about your job? So I could be a college dropout and do the same thing?”
“I’m on television and you’re in a f—ing trailer, honey.”
“Maybe if I was missing some teeth, they would hire me, huh?”
“Lose some weight, baby girl.”
As someone who has had to pay to have a stolen car released from impound, I can understand McHenry’s frustration with the system. The painful fact of the matter is, if you want your impounded auto back, you have to pay. That being said, McHenry’s car was towed because of where she was parked, not because it was stolen. And while I may have resented having to pay for my car’s release, I certainly didn’t make it personal and blame the person behind the counter.
While the tow-truck company, along with the employee herself, have less-than-stellar reputations, it’s noteworthy that McHenry chose to go mean-girl in her attack when she went for the female jugular: physical looks. It may be the most powerful weapon in a beautiful woman’s arsenal. Young, blonde and beautiful, humiliated at finding herself having to pay for something I’m sure she felt was unfair, but adding insult to injury, also having to submit to someone so clearly beneath her. Unacceptable!
And it is this that makes McHenry not just an angry customer, but a seriously unattractive angry customer. If she was that frustrated and provoked by the experience of having to go to a seedy joint and pay for something she felt unfair, why not rant about the unethical behavior of the company and their bad business practices? Why make it personal and attack another woman’s looks? I think it’s because she is simply a mean girl. This is who she is. This personal attack did not happen in a vacuum, did not come out of nowhere. She knew exactly how to remind the employee – an employee who momentarily held power over young, blonde and beautiful – who had the real and lasting power. And who did not. She knew her cruelty would hit the mark and hurt the employee. And in that moment, she wanted to hurt the employee, not the business.
Not surprisingly, McHenry herself appears to already have a reputation for being a rude snob.
McHenry later apologized but not directly to the recipient of her mean-spirited rant:
In an intense and stressful moment, I allowed my emotions to get the best of me and said some insulting and regrettable things. As frustrated as I was, I should always choose to be respectful and take the high road. I am so sorry for my actions and will learn from this mistake.
ESPN has suspended McHenry for one week.
(*The video, of course, does not reflect the entire conversation. We do not know what the employee may have said to further provoke McHenry, however, that does not change the personal attacks McHenry made.)
UPDATE: According to this report, the towing company sat on the video for 10 days, plenty of time to edit it, which is the claim being made. Note: the source is unnamed and the report comes from US Weekly:
The damning security camera footage, which surfaced on April 16, shows McHenry verbally attacking a female attendant while trying to retrieve her car in Arlington, Va. During the heated berating, McHenry says “I’m in the news, sweetheart” and “I will f-king sue this place.” The source, however, says that some of her words were taken out of context.
For one, the D.C. sports reporter really said “I’m in the news, I know that there are lawsuits against you.” (The Advanced Towing Company LLC received an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau.) She did not, according to the source, say it to brag about her job.
UPDATE BY PATTERICO: Let me clarify a few things. First, I do not mean to accuse Dana of participating in an “online lynch mob.” I have re-read her post and, while I would not have written it the same way myself, one cannot accurately call this post “lynch mob” activity. To the extent that my update at the top might seem to suggest that, let me make it clear I did not intend that. However, I do think there are lynch-mobby aspects to the general reaction on the Internet to all of this, and I do think that it’s important to call for a little perspective on all of this.
First, let’s take a step back and look at what is going on. This morning I was listening to a fascinating podcast that Ace did with John Sexton on the concept of “Altruistic Punishment.” As Ace explained, they have done studies with young children where a young girl witnessed a monkey puppet stealing cookies from an elephant puppet. The girl shunned and otherwise punished the monkey puppet for stealing the cookie even though it wasn’t hers. Chimpanzees don’t react this way; they couldn’t care less whether the monkey puppet steals the elephant puppet’s cookie. That’s the elephant puppet’s problem.
So this sense that we need to band together and enforce social rules, even when we ourselves are not the target of the wrongdoing, is actually very important to human society. It has been shown that this is fundamental to human cooperation. You won’t follow the rules unless you know that everyone is subject to the rules. And so you enforce rules even when you aren’t being harmed.
But, as Ace points out, this can go overboard. Because it feels good to punish wrongdoers. We all know this. When we are righteously busting someone for dishonesty or crass behavior, we get a little frisson of self-righteousness that feels fantastic. This doesn’t make one a bad person. Every human feels this. On the podcast, Ace admits he feels it. “It’s like hunting a buffalo,” he says. When I was putting together posts detailing the sock-puppetry of supercilious people like Michael Hiltzik or Glenn Greenwald, I felt it. It’s natural.
And it can go overboard, leading to mob action. There was that Justene Sacco incident, which Ace discussed, in which Sacco wrote “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m White!” An online lynch mob formed, literally while she was on the plane, and people got whipped into a frenzy over her purported racisms. There was a specially created hashtag: #HasJustineLandedYet. She was actually met at the airport by an intrepid online shamer with a cellphone. She was fired. As it turned out, Sam Biddle, one of the leaders of the lynch mob, later interviewed her and learned that the tweet had been misintepreted. Context — the other side of the story; her side of the story — wasn’t necessary for the lynch mob to make its judgment. She was convicted before she landed. The fact that her tweet “was supposed to mimic—and mock—what an actual racist, ignorant person would say” was unknown and the possibility did not matter to people. Biddle’s later-expressed regret for his participation didn’t get Justene Sacco back her job.
Events like this have made me very reluctant to join in online mobs that form over alleged outrages — especially when I sense that there may be another side to the story. And I do think that such a mob has formed around this Britt McHenry story. Just look at Facebook or Twitter and you’ll find large groups of people saying a suspension is not enough; she needs to be fired; she’s a terrible person; etc. etc. etc.
Dana’s post is not like that. Dana’s post largely concentrates on the way women can sometimes act like “mean girls” in attacking others’ looks and other superficial things. These are all valid observations, and I think it’s clear that this is happening in the video. My update above is not meant to “defend” or “justify” or “excuse” the bratty behavior of a pretty TV girl attacking someone on superficial grounds.
That being said, my by-now innate reluctance to join online mobs leads me to be very circumspect about forming conclusions based on one side of the story. Again: this company deliberately edited out most of the commentary from the employee. This is not because the employee did not consent to having her voice on the video; it does appear at least twice, where she threatens to show the video, and where she says, in effect, let’s get you out of here quickly. The other comments she made — the ones which were edited out — were undoubtedly nasty and embarrassing to the employee. McHenry says the employee was being abusive, and based on the video being edited, I completely believe her. And that makes me angry.
And this is where I take issue with Dana in the post, because she characterizes McHenry’s comments as “cruel” and seems to accept the narrative being offered by the company. Dana says: “And while I may have resented having to pay for my car’s release, I certainly didn’t make it personal and blame the person behind the counter.” I could be misreading this, but I read this as implying that McHenry is simply upset about the situation and is taking it out on an innocent person behind the counter. Now, it’s possible that’s what happened. But I doubt it. Because if that’s all it was, they would have shown the whole video, unedited. And they didn’t.
Now, Dana does indeed acknowledge that the video has been edited, saying: “The video, of course, does not reflect the entire conversation. We do not know what the employee may have said to further provoke McHenry, however, that does not change the personal attacks McHenry made.” I’m glad Dana said that, and it shows that Dana is aware of the possibility that McHenry was provoked. I just think I assign more importance to that distinct possibility than is assigned by Dana, or frankly, by most people I see discussing this online. To me, it’s impossible to know how bad McHenry’s reaction is without the full context. Since the company has deliberately chosen to edit out the full context, I believe it is reasonable for me to conclude that their employee acted badly, and that the unedited video would be very embarrassing for them and would make McHenry’s remarks look (perhaps only slightly) less unreasonable.
TL;DR. I know. Mainly, I wanted to make clear that I do not accuse Dana of being involved in an online lynch mob. I know her too well to think that about her. But to the extent that one has formed outside this blog, I want to make it crystal clear that I am not joining in. Hence the update above.