The Cocky World of Sophia June

When she was a little girl, her daddy probably called her “princess.” Or at least he treated her like one.

She went off to her first day of kindergarten in clean clothes and a smile of anticipation, captured in a photo by a mother who loved her very much. Her father ran a construction company and provided well for her.

Sophia June grew up in a comfortable, white household in the white state of Oregon. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism and gleefully returned to her hometown of Portland – home to the very best in microbrews, cannabis, food carts, strip clubs and progressive politics. The good life.

She had done a bit of travel, enough to let her probably think she had seen some of the world, enough to give her a steady rotation of Facebook photos that would elicit envy from her friends.

And she could show off what passes for a safe political statement in Oregon:

For an “America party,” she went dressed as money in a low-cut dress with a dollar sign on the front and a photo of Barack Obama pinned to her cleavage.

“Obama should be on a bill,” she declared.

“i like your tits in that top,” replied a friend. (The friend is an assistant editor at Penguin Random and not in Donald Trump’s league so no harm done.)

Sophia June decorated her Facebook page with the correct white-privilege accessories, like a poster of black rapper Notorious B.I.G. smoking a blunt. For all her privilege, she could still get down.

She had a steady support group of college-educated, white professionals to lean on and a job as Web Editor at the alternative weekly, Willamette Week. Everything was going as planned in Sophia June’s world.

Until Donald Trump got elected president. What the fuck? (The f-word is popular at alternative newspapers. It separates them from the mainstream media.)

Sophia June was hit hard. How hard? In an election story at Willamette Week, “The Nightmare Comes True,” which sought to blame Trump’s victory on “economic resentment and the rise of white nationalism,” she disagreed with a comment I posted under my name. She made this comment disappear:

“The media cannot say with certainty why the vote went the way it did. Virtually all of the media’s predictions were wrong.

“White nationalism? Explain how a black Republican U.S. senator was elected last night from South Carolina. First black senator since Reconstruction.

“You might want to take a look at the media’s performance, and see how it contributed to Trump’s victory.”

I included this link: http://www.heldtoanswer.com/2016/11/media-trumped-tribalism/

My comment was up long enough to draw another commenter’s affirmation: “Well put.”

But a few hours later, when I checked to see how the conversation was going, my comment was gone and so was the affirmation. There was not even the usual notice “This comment has been deleted” when something has been removed for violating policy.

At first I dismissed it as a technical problem. As the day wore on, I became suspicious and e-mailed Willamette Week’s News Editor Aaron Mesh. Had my comment violated a policy? He didn’t know and said he would forward my email to the moderator who handles comments.

Editors have better things to do, so the next day I simply reposted my comment and added this: “Note to moderator: You deleted this comment yesterday. Don’t do that again. If it offended someone, tough.”

Part of me wanted it to be a technical problem, because I love journalism and want to hold a high opinion of journalists.

But after I reposted my comment, the moderator – Sophia June – weighed in with a response that gave herself away: “Saying that white nationalism doesn’t exist is extremely offensive and racist and makes people feel unsafe, Pamela. Sorry to break it to ya.”

Her title is Web Editor at an alternative weekly, and she can’t tolerate a dissenting opinion? I replied:

“And sorry to break it to you, Sophia, but the world is an unsafe place and always has been. Try to learn from Hillary Clinton’s example. She didn’t get where she is by trembling and whimpering.

“You, dear ‘journalist,’ are the reason why the media totally blew it in this presidential race. You should have been asking questions with an open mind. Instead, the media pack practiced ‘fill-in-the-blanks’ journalism that supported their own biases.

“Life is full of surprises, Sophia. You better start getting used to them.”

I could almost hear the tears in her voice when she replied: “This surprise just really hurts.”

Good.

Maybe a slap in the face (rhetorically speaking, of course!) will force her to examine how smug and self-absorbed her life has become. Journalists are supposed to listen, observe, ask questions – not assume they know what’s best for the rest of us.

Willamette Week’s news editor apologized for the censorship, but I have to wonder how many other comments Sophia June wiped off the website on that first day after Trump’s election.

By the second day, she was forced to leave comments up that she clearly disliked. She responded with her own replies, which is fine. She has a right to her opinions, and many commenters enjoy jousting. But Sophia June’s replies revealed a shallow, self-righteousness that would be barely tolerable in a high school journalist.

A commenter under the name “Matt” posted a long, thoughtful explanation of why someone would prefer to vote for Trump (even if they didn’t like him) and concluded: “Other than that, it is disappointing to read articles like this and read the comments. It reinforced my belief that we (Americans) are narrow minded and lack a world view. Try putting yourselves in the shoes of people in third world countries and civil wars where your life is in danger every day and getting basic needs met is a daily concern. Our Trump problems are minimal in comparison.”

That brought this stunningly ignorant comeback from Sophia June: “If you voted for Trump, you’re racist and sexist and there’s not really much more to it than that, Matt.”

Former Rolling Stone reporter, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, was just as cocksure when she wrote her 9,000-word story “A Rape on Campus” two years ago detailing the graphic gang rape of a University of Virginia freshman named “Jackie,” who was allegedly assaulted by members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.

The story prompted protests of University of Virginia administrator Nicole Eramo (who had been portrayed as showing cruel indifference towards “Jackie”), vandalism of a campus fraternity and outrage among rape activists. The story also quickly unraveled, and Rolling Stone was forced to retract it and apologize.

Earlier this month, a jury found Rolling Stone and Erdely guilty of defamation. Jurors believed that Rolling Stone and its writer had acted with actual malice, a tough legal standard to prove. It means the defendants either knew that the information published was false, or they acted with reckless disregard for whether it was true or not.

In other words, they didn’t care if the story was true. It fit their agenda.

According to the Washington Post, attorney Tom Clare presented evidence that Erdely “had a predetermined notion of what her story would be, discussing the concept of the story that became ‘A Rape on Campus’ well ahead of her reporting, including a note describing how college administrations can be ‘indifferent’ to rape survivors.”

Erdely and Rolling Stone’s  “preconceived story line” needed a villain, and university administrator Eramo was cast in that role.

“Once they decided what the story was going to be about, it didn’t matter what the facts were,” Clare said.

This is fill-in-the-blanks journalism. There are no surprises in fill-in-the-blanks journalism, nor is there much truth.

I wish Sophia June a long life filled with many surprises.

– Pamela Fitzsimmons

Related:

Media Trumped by Tribalism

Downsizing High Tech’s Future

26 Comments

  • Oh how I loved this post and the prior one too. Oh my, rational thinking in 2016 and in Portland for that matter. Pamela – there is no way I or anyone could have said it better.

    Excellent work.

  • Thank you Larry. I know you’re a retired attorney. It would be nice if President-elect Trump could break the hold that Harvard and Yale have on the U.S. Supreme Court. We have many other fine law schools in this country. Let’s hope for a little diversity next time an appointment is made to the highest court.

  • Anonymous JD wrote:

    Can Ms. June walk and chew gum at the same time? She has no ability to look at any side of an issue except the one she agrees with. My wife and daughter voted for Clinton. I voted for Trump. War did not break out. I understand why they voted for Clinton though they didn’t trust her. They understood why I voted for a man I detest.

    Both of the major parties need a big surprise. Ms. June needs a new job.

  • Anonymous JD wrote:

    Also enjoyed the reference to Ms. Sabrina Rubin Erdely and Ms. June being cocksure. Feminism has a side as ugly as misogyny.

  • I had a similar experience on the O live with a post to one of their own editorials within the past 24 hours. Just disappeared because I suggested that their own words were responsible for much of the vile rhetoric and actions that we now see playing out in downtown Portland. So sick of the direction our once vaunted fourth estate seems to be taking us.

  • This is the biggest ad hominem I’ve seen in a while. I get that you’re mad about the left, I get that you are upset. But you’re supporting ideologies that are liberal by simply shaming a girl for who she is instead of the quality and the basis of her beliefs. Do you have the intellect to piece together your aggression for what it really is and just understand that you have an issue with left politics? This was a failure as a political piece due to the ad hominem fallacy and the overall air of self indulgent poo-pooing of a political stance that has a surprising amount of educated, influential people backing it. I get that you’re mad but you’ve failed to prove a valid point to some of us. Sophia June represents a majority of Portland youth, yes with our ‘crazy’ educations and ‘odd’ beliefs for acknowledging racism/sexism/etc. But what would you know? You still are basing your beliefs off of a photo (that you just fell upon?) on facebook & assuming that you “get it”. But you’re not sexist, right?

  • If this is the biggest ad hominem you’ve seen in a while, you need to read more.

    If I’m mad about the left, please explain how it is that I voted for Obama twice, never voted for Bush/Cheney and voted for the other Clinton twice.

    As a career journalist who spent more than 25 years reporting and editing for newspapers, I decided Sophia June needed a refresher course in basic journalism. I gave her one.

    As Matt correctly points out, I let your comment stand as you wrote it. My feelings are irrelevant.

  • If your post hurts Pamela’s feelings should she remove it? Limiting civil but challenging viewpoints is never something an educated person (really anyone period) should consider reasonable, especially when said persons job is to moderate discussion.

  • If Sophia June represents journalism today, we are doomed. Since when does an editor inject their personal opinion into editing or respond personally to comments?

    The only ad hominem is against the writer of this piece, who has made it clear she voted what most Potlanders would consider is appropriately “progressive” in the past.

    And if “C.M.” thinks she/she/ze gets a pass because she utters the magical words “acknowleding racism/sexism etc.” then she really is a victim of magical thinking. She forgot ageism, speciesism, white privilege, and several other things that make Portland an appropriate subject for national parody.

  • Pamela,

    It was incredibly selfless of you to take it upon yourself to spend so much time looking through the Facebook photos of Ms. June. It clearly took the methodical muckraking of a career journalist such as yourself to compose this lopsided attempt at character assassination. I laughed out loud at your tongue-in-cheek that this was supposed to be to her benefit. It was interesting that you chose to replicate the very “fill-in-the-blanks” journalism you accuse Ms. June of conducting. Is that how you planned to help her? By drawing conclusions from a few photos that fit your biased narrative and using that skewed perspective to paint the rest of her character?

    Please don’t kid yourself by pretending that you wrote this to help her. Clearly it was an opportunity to vent at the media en masse–which is entirely your right–just as the Willamette Week has every right to moderate and remove comments posted on their own website. Of course, creating such opinion echo chambers is divisive, shuts down intelligent dialogue, and prevents a broader understanding of one another as complex human beings. This simplistic piece of writing–while claiming to educate Ms. June against it–similarly reduces her to a crude caricature of your shallow judgment.

    Twenty-five years is a long time to be in journalism, and I wish you a long life of learning how to better do it.

  • “Is that how you planned to help her?”

    Exactly. Let’s see how she likes it. Go back and read her comment to Matt: Anybody who voted for Trump is a sexist and a racist, and that’s that.

    While you’re at it, go back and read Rolling Stone’s rape story.

    Yes, I had a good career for 25 years until the Internet wiped out newspapers’ advertising base. I learned a lot about people, which was useful when I later worked on a crisis hotline. I knew how to listen with an open mind. I wouldn’t want to practice newspaper journalism today. None of my previous editors would have signed off on a story like Rolling Stone’s.

    Today? The standards just aren’t there. It’s no wonder people believe fake news.

  • Retd. teacher wrote:

    I wasn’t going to comment because I feel sorry for girls like Sophia. They are “C” students who can charm their way into an “A.” They don’t know what they haven’t learned.

    After looking at Larry’s link, “Don’t call them hysterical,” I have to say it isn’t only journalism that’s in trouble. If Sophia is the future of feminism, women are in trouble.

  • Department of Why even Try and Work with Them:

    University of California, Los Angeles students were treated to a dinner dialogue this month on the topic of “white feminism” and its relation to white supremacy.

    The “White Feminism” dinner dialogue was hosted by the campus Intergroup Relations Program, an administrative center that seeks to educate the UCLA community on issues of “social identity, interpersonal, and intergroup relations/conflict, prejudice reduction, and social justice.”

    Celia Cody-Carrese, an Intergroup Relations Center intern who helped put on the event, told The Daily Bruin that organizers chose white feminism as their topic because they think feminism has traditional ties with white supremacy, noting that the term “feminism” is most frequently applied to white women, while the concerns of black women are generally treated as a separate, racial issue.

    Mitali Gupta, a UCLA Senior who attended the event, told Campus Reform that feminism’s link to white supremacy was indeed discussed during the meeting, adding that she agrees that such a connection exists.

  • A couple of decades ago when I was working in Southern California, I attended a few Kwanzaa celebrations. At one of them, a black man who was a mid-level manager from a local utility company, complained to me that Affirmative Action didn’t benefit blacks.

    “It benefits people like you,” he said. In other words, white women. There was real resentment in his voice.

    Sounds like the secret is now out in the open. White women are white supremacists — without the hoods.

  • Perhaps,if you walk back the cat far enough, you’ll come to she who rode. A coded childhood inculcation embedding the She-klan.

  • Canada’s Human Rights Tribunal is attempting and likely will succeed in making it a hate crime to violate a new rule Bill C-16 that looks likely to become law. A dissident professor is standing against this ratification of compelled speech.

    http://www.c2cjournal.ca/2016/12/were-teaching-university-students-lies-an-interview-with-dr-jordan-peterson/

    In short it is a Hate Crime to decline to refer to someone by the pronoun of his or her (zer/zher and etc.) choosing. It is, as this article points out very ugly social constructionism.

    Also, I guess I was a little labored in my joke about the Klan having its genesis in Little Red Riding Hood.

  • Thanks for the link. That professor has some Harvard cred so he can’t be written off as a right-wing crank:

    “This is very compelled speech. The Supreme Court in the United States has held that compelled speech is unacceptable for two reasons. One is to protect the rights of the speaker, the other is to protect the rights of the listener. The listener has the right to be informed and instructed without being unduly influenced by hidden sources. If your speech is compelled, it isn’t YOU who is talking, it’s some other entity that’s compelling your speech.”

    He lives in Canada under a different Supreme Court, but our own Supreme Court has become politicized. Look how Supreme Court appointments have become an issue in presidential races. I can easily imagine an American politician (particularly in Oregon) trying to introduce a similar hate crime.

    In the Sept. 28th Portland Mercury, there was a cover feature, “His Word Against Mine” about sexual assault in the music community. The story quotes one victim called “Sam,” and here’s out it starts out: “One night last October, ‘Sam’ (who uses they/them pronouns) went with a woman they were involved with at the time to see one of their favorite bands… . At one point, Sam left the basement show to use the restroom upstairs. They were pulled into a bedroom and sexually assaulted by the frontman of the band… .”

    If the frontman is ever prosecuted, he (she? they?) should simply declare that he’s (she’s? they’re?) female. Throughout the story Sam identified her, excuse me, their attacker with the male pronoun.

    Like the University of Toronto professor points out, “We’re in a time of chaos and anything can happen in a time of chaos.”

  • first of all, your blog aesthetic is BORING & putrid.
    GLAD THAT’S OUT OF THE WAY!
    secondly, I think it will do your soul (or lack there of) some good, if you stopped stalking people’s lives and maybe.. I don’t know… get your own!
    & lastly, pick on someone your own size… like a maggot for example…
    Unlike yourself, Sophia has friends to stand by her side.
    Your “blog” .. or whatever losers like you call it… BLOWS.

    Have a blessed day, you piece of shit of a human.

  • If you’re representative of Sophia’s friends, I hope she’s got a dog.

  • Mary Prior wrote:

    Pamela, I found this article very disturbing, not because you spoke your mind about your personal stance but because you personally attacked the person who wrote about her personal stance. You attacked the person mostly and just a tiny bit her beliefs. It doesn’t surprise me at all that Sophia’s friends are upset. How would you have responded had you not seen photos of her or imagined that her Dad called her “Princess” etc. And are you 100% sure she was treated like one? You haven’t walked one tiny step in her shoes. Would you have just responded to her article in a professional way? Hmm, wondering! That would have been a-OK with me and I believe Sophia would have been fine with that as well. However, you hit below the belt…somewhat of a “Trumpish” move. Just spouting off boring stereotypes. This fiasco led me to see what you had to say and how you reacted in your other articles. My conclusion is that you and Larry should just be pen pals. He seems to be one of your few and far between fans. I for one will never read your drivel again. You spend quite a lot of time bragging about how long you were a journalist and where you worked and what you did, blah, blah, blah….zzzzzzzzzzzz

  • Sophia June works for “Willamette Week,” a news website that invites public comments. I posted a comment that was not libelous, not in poor taste, not name-calling, not obscene. Yet it was deleted. As I explained in my essay, it turned out that she deleted my comment simply because she didn’t agree with it.

    The most important thing a journalist does is ask questions. Ms. June acted as if she had all the answers. She responded like a fascist — and, yes, fascists live on the left as well as the right.

    I responded appropriately. Whether or not Sophia is “fine with it” is irrelevant. When she deleted comments she didn’t agree with (mine wasn’t the only one), she didn’t care whether the commenters were fine with it. Like too many people in America, she is married to her politics. It’s a problem on both the left and right, Republicans and Democrats.

    I’ve been busy with work the last couple of days and didn’t read your comment until Tuesday, shortly before I heard President Obama’s Chicago speech. Too much of the speech was preaching to the converted, which keeps the Sophia Junes comfortable. But Obama had a few memorable lines in there: “If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking to one of them in real life.”

    Nice line, but the Sophia Junes and her friends don’t want to talk to people they don’t agree with. They want to hit the delete key.

    I have no intention of shutting down my website and becoming “penpals” with a select few of my commenters. (By the way, Larry took exception to something I wrote a couple of years ago, a reference I made to “when Adam raped Eve.” His mind is broader than yours, though.)

    My bio box is not filled with the kind of brags that you find on Facebook. It lets readers know what my background is, and what experience I bring to my writing (or drivel, in your words).

    Sorry, no vacation photos or tit shots.

  • Sophia June wrote:

    Okay, Pamela, let’s talk in real life. You can reach me at sjune@wweek.com to choose a time and place.

  • My bio box gives my email address, which is fitzsimmons.pamela@gmail.com. You are free to contact me there if you want to communicate with me privately.

    Sorry, but someone who is as easily threatened as you are (you accused me in Willamette Week of having a “hate blog”) is not someone I care to meet with.

  • 1. Pamela chooses to spend her time Facebook stalking a young journalist in order to gather “evidence” for a hit piece…in reaction to a comment Sophia deleted.

    2. When required to defend her mean-spirited personal attack, Patricia–ever eager to play the injured intellectual–quotes President Obama in a clumsy attempt at higher ground: “If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking to one of them in real life.” Patricia then mocks Sophia, saying that “[she] and her friends don’t want to talk to people they don’t agree with. They want to hit the delete key.”

    3. Sophia asks to meet, even giving Patricia her choice of location.

    4. Patricia refuses to meet, claiming Sophia is “easily threatened.” This, from the author of a smear piece on a twenty-four year old stemming from a deleted comment.

    Sophia extends an olive branch; you retreat to your safe space to play keyboard warrior. Unwilling to find common ground. Too scared to talk to the woman you demeaned. You’re pathetic. A true journalist–a title you claim with nauseating frequency–would chase down the story. You have lost all traces of credibility. Sad!

  • Are you personal friends with Sophia? I didn’t consider her wanting to meet me an olive branch. I don’t trust her. She flat out deleted comments (mine was not the only one) that she didn’t agree with. If she’s that sensitive, anything I might say to her in person could further offend her. She considers my website a “hate blog.”

    We did exchange private emails. I’m sure she and I will cross paths one of these days in a more natural encounter as opposed to a command performance.

    “A true journalist–a title you claim with nauseating frequency–would chase down the story.”

    The story was: Who was deleting perfectly legitimate comments on a news website that supposedly invites comments? I chased down the answer, and I’m glad I did.

    You are free to consider me pathetic, Erik. I don’t care. I suspect “Patricia” doesn’t care either.

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