Fuck Buzzfeed: In Defense of Mitchell Sunderland

The PC police went into overdrive 2 days ago when Buzzfeed leaked emails between reporters and right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. Everyone seemed most outraged by a brief exchange between Mitchell Sunderland, a writer/editor for Broadly (Vice‘s women’s site) and Yiannopoulos,  in which Mitchell says, “please mock this fat feminist,” referring to Lindy West.
In one tweet, a woman said that because Mitchell “called on” Milo to target New York Times columnist Lindy West, it forced her off Twitter. Lindy is known for writing a book called Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman. I’m sorry, but are you a “loud woman” or are you a coddled little baby who can’t take any criticism or trolling?
If you’re a public figure and you can’t handle being trolled a little, you shouldn’t be a public figure because you’re obviously too weak-minded to handle what comes with it. I’ve received death threats, rape threats, and I’ve been called every vile name in the book, to the point where I’d almost take being called a fat feminist as a compliment! I’m quite sure I’ll be told I’m a shitty feminist for not defending Lindy, but I’m not in the business of giving someone a pat on the back just because they’re a woman. That’s not my brand of feminism. And I don’t think feminism has to be about agreeing with or supporting every woman in every situation.
Full disclosure: I’ve been close friends with Mitchell for several years. He’s written about me a few times and we once wrote a piece together for Broadly. Since I know him personally I’m able to speak to his character.
I was completely shocked that people were making such a huge deal out of this one comment. Many, many journalists were basking in the glow of his sudden downfall, insisting he should lose his job, gloating and shit-talking all over Twitter. The hypocrisy of this is astounding to me because I am quite sure ALL of us would be fucked if our private emails were leaked.
[Editor’s note: ALL of us. For god’s sake, this is so obvious but shameless shitheads like BuzzFeed Buttboy Ben could give a rat’s ass. FYI, I’d love to see his personal emails, if anyone has them, though I doubt he has gotten it up in this millennium and I expect his private emails would be boring as fuck.]
Who hasn’t made a distasteful joke or comment in a private email? I genuinely hope every single journalist who acted high and mighty on Twitter gets their private emails leaked so they can experience this same backlash. Maybe it would help them understand the absurdity of it all. Are we really so obsessed with being politically correct that we’re willing to excommunicate anyone who makes an off-color remark? I think that’s a ridiculous standard to set. Mitchell is a great friend and a wonderful person. One dumb comment doesn’t change that.
 I’m disappointed that Vice caved to pressure and fired Mitchell. Vice‘s whole brand is supposed to be kind of outrageous and edgy; its not your standard, boring news site. I was saddened that it threw a long-time employee under the bus for such a minor infraction.
I understand the backlash, but it was blown entirely out of proportion. Are we going to hold all journalists to this same standard: no one is “allowed” to talk to anyone from the alt right? Since when did being a journalist mean you could only talk to people who have the exact same viewpoints as you?
I agree with almost nothing Yiannopoulos says or does, but I don’t think someone should be fired from a job simply for speaking to him or joking around with him. Pretty much the only thing I’ve ever liked that Milo has said was this, about Mitchell’s situation: “You can bully people into being politically correct in public but you can’t change how they think in private and they will only grow to hate you if you try.”
I find it interesting that Buzzfeed of all sites is the one that released these emails because Buzzfeed is also the site that outed me for sexting in 2013. What happened to the cute animal listicles? When did Buzzfeed become all about ruining people’s lives and preventing them from working?
As far as Vice is concerned, a few years ago when I had a labiaplasty someone from Vice approached me about having a professional chef COOK THE REMAINS SO HE COULD EAT IT. Apparently cannibalism is cool with Vice but a joke about a “fat feminist” is just too far. (I decided not to let them cook or eat the remains of my ladybits because although I am a very fucked up individual, that was too much even for me!)
Are we really going to act like this bland, boring PC culture should extend to all forms of journalism? Should a journalist never speak to anyone with more “extreme” viewpoints? Print journalism is pretty much dead and I can see online journalism dying too — other than Washington Babylon, where I am the “esteemed senior contributing writer,” to quote my editor — if everyone keeps going this dull, whitewashed route. Who wants to read PC bullshit that doesn’t challenge you or cause you to think or (gasp) even to laugh?!
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Ken Silverstein is the CEO, editor-in-chief, lead writer and primary sleaze purveyor for Washington Babylon. He's written for dozens of publications, from VICE to Wallpaper*. He's also a big fan of Sydney Leathers, a political scandal expert, porn performer, cat-mom of two from the Midwest and Washington Babylon's Senior Contributing Writer.