Sometimes fate is so amused by episodes of man’s folly that it can not resist a replay. Most of you are passingly familiar with Soviet show trials. In them various Bolshevik apparatchiks who were suspected of either plotting against Stalin or having breakfast the day prior were indicted on charges related to the murder of Sergey Kirov, a former Stalin protégée who had matured into an inconvenient rival. Sensing an opportunity to directly pluck one thorn while shearing away the whole bush as punishment, Stalin hatched a plan to have Kirov step in front of a bullet and name Joe’s opposition as the assailants with final gallant breath.
Following that tragic event, various ex post facto enemy of the state statutes were enacted to provide additional leverage over quickly corralled defendants. These involved the latitude to charge children with the crimes of their parents while seeking equivalent punitive relief. As Justice Kennedy must regard with envy, Soviet-era capital offenses offered a wide range of prosecutorial penumbras.
And so when offered the option of a guilty plea with prison or execution of themselves and every friend, family member, and goldfish, the defendants chose the latter. Did they ever. The show trials coaxed forward a series of breathtakingly lurid confessions. Rather than blandly terse statements, each man spackled his testimony with lavish admissions of turpitude. Some of which exceeded the bounds of physical possibility. What crimes did you commit? Whatever ya got.
The men made confessions of their guilt. Lev Kamenev said: “I Kamenev, together with Zinoviev and Trotsky, organised and guided this conspiracy. My motives? I had become convinced that the party’s – Stalin’s policy – was successful and victorious. We, the opposition, had banked on a split in the party; but this hope proved groundless. We could no longer count on any serious domestic difficulties to allow us to overthrow Stalin’s leadership. We were actuated by boundless hatred and by lust of power.”
Gregory Zinoviev also confessed: “I would like to repeat that I am fully and utterly guilty. I am guilty of having been the organizer, second only to Trotsky, of that block whose chosen task was the killing of Stalin. I was the principal organizer of Kirov’s assassination. The party saw where we were going, and warned us; Stalin warned us scores of times; but we did not heed these warnings. We entered into an alliance with Trotsky.”
One observer made his own confession…of astonishment.
Despite the enormity of these offenses, all the defendants in the dock confessed to them with eagerness and at times went beyond the excoriations of the prosecutor in defaming themselves. This spectacular exercise in self-incrimination, unaccompanied by any expression of defiance or asseveration of basic principles, was unprecedented in the history of any previous Bolshevik political trial. Equally mystifying was the absence of any significant material evidence. Although there were references to several letters of Trotsky, allegedly giving specific instructions to the defendants to carry out their nefarious deeds, none was introduced into evidence. The most substantial piece of evidence was the Honduran passport of an individual who claimed to be an intermediary between Trotsky and the other defendants, which was presumably procured through the offices of the Gestapo, although it was common knowledge that such passports could be purchased by anyone from Honduran consuls in Europe for a modest sum.
Though as we know, these fusillades of fantastic criminal competence were mere self-serving expedients in the manner of a Bader Ginsburg court opinion. And they did succeed in securing Stalin’s promise to spare their lives. A promise he dutifully kept until the next morning when all of the guilty were liquidated. You can’t just let a bunch of confessed killers flounce about. At any rate, one has to imagine more than a couple tearful requests to amend their pleas were made to impassive executioners. Even the most stoic probably at least considered a more vigorous self-defense in hindsight. Unfortunately though a man only gets to plead guilty at a Soviet show trial once, and so the responsibility for absorbing the lesson fell to others. And fell a bit too far apparently.
Because all of that lengthy foreshadowing was to introduce comrades Jared Rutledge and Jacob Owens. These being young party members just recently advised of their role in the plot to assassinate feminist sensibilities. Specifically, the two own a successful coffee shop in Asheville, North Carolina. And as young men with life’s wind at their back are prone to do…they periodically had sex with women. It gets worse. They also operated an anonymous blog, podcast, and twitter account which featured bawdy ruminations on the pair’s ostensibly misogynistic exploits. It wasn’t Shakespeare. The few entries I’ve read were embarrassingly puerile in the way many PUAs are prone. I fucked a girl! isn’t an achievement I imagine Putin invests in long periods of self-congratulation. Though regardless this goofy braggadocio was only worth a few sotto voce snickers, and thus reliably became the literal rape of every woman! That was the rhetorical prosecution’s position once the boom-boom baristas’ identities were uncovered as a result of unsurprising carelessness.
And that’s when the confessions began.
The two defendants not only penned separate apologies, but a third in common. The culmination of which is so flamboyantly obsequious that the impression of sly facetiousness is difficult to shake. We’ll commence the trial with Mr. Rutledge’s mea culpa.
When I was in ninth grade, I looked at pornography on my Christian school lab computers. I got suspended for seven days, and walking into chapel the next Wednesday was hellaciously shaming. It felt white hot. To know that everyone in that gymnasium was disappointed and disgusted in me was almost unbearable. But I’d brought it on myself, and there was nothing for it. That’s the way I feel now.
I know I’ve said and posted a lot of things that are offensive. Most of my life I’ve struggled with insecurities around dating. I felt like, in the past couple years, that I’d finally gotten a handle on this and experienced more success. So I made a twitter, blog, and got Jacob to podcast with me. We didn’t always say nice things, and sometimes we were downright mean. Sometimes I just vented about frustrating experiences in an immature, hateful, and foolish way. It was in particular a breach of trust to post intimate details about lovers. I was naive enough to think it’d stay anonymous, and I was wrong.
So here we are. I grew up in West Asheville and have disappointed and brought shame to the community that raised me, and there’s not really anything I can do to make it right. There are no excuses to be made. The way I’ve phrased and framed my private conduct in a sad and tawdry public way is humiliating. There’s nothing to do but ask your forgiveness for any harm I’ve caused. I’m sorry folks.
Jacob and I are both open to sitting down and talking to anyone who might have concerns to address one-on-one.
That was barely sufficient to warrant a commissar’s lethal attention. Surely Mr. Owens can enliven the courtroom.
I would like to fully admit to what I have done. I would also like to receive the shame and necessary consequences for my actions. I am not hiding nor do I want to deflect. Most importantly, I would like to apologize and express my sorrow for how these actions have affected other people, and how their presence online will continue to do so. People that I care for and value, even though my actions, now out in the open, will not make them feel that way. I feel ill and disgusted with myself when I think of what I have done.
First to explain my part. Jared and I did an anonymous podcast on picking up women where I crassly discussed my intimate experiences with women. I would like to be very clear that I did not author any of the posts of the blog or twitter. But just as worse, I knew they existed. I did not keep up with them, or fully know what was on them. But by knowing that it was going on, and knowing that I was associated however, I am complicit. I fully accept that shame as well.
I would do the podcast with Jared while we were kicking back and drinking whiskey. I had a persona and an ego that would come out while I tried to tell other men who might be listening how to be “successful” with women. Giving others tips on approaching women with your best foot forward is not wrong, but recounting intimate details in a public forum, and speaking of women in a demeaning way is. I am ashamed and wish that I could take it all back. Under a disguise that I thought would be anonymous, without the accountability that good friends hold you too, this persona that I am fully responsible for developed into a chauvinist and a misogynist. I love women. I value them. In my experiences with them they have taught me of kindness, grace, and compassion. Many of my words in the podcast do not reflect that.
Of course I am sorry to be caught, not for my consequences, but that these women will now listen in horror and shame to me recounting intimate experiences we shared. That is my most profound regret and I should be shamed for it. I am so sorry that I needed such a dramatic outcry from my community to teach me this lesson. I have lived a life of duplicity, loving my role in the community as a business owner and friend, while also disrespecting many people in that community that I was intimate with. I have taken everyone that has been so good to me for granted. The coming months will be me attempting to fully process and evaluate my actions, as well as attempting reparation.
I have been calling women that I discussed on the podcast to express my full apology, knowing that it is not enough and that I have no power to fully make amends. Many have been gracious and supportive which makes me feel my shame even more. I do not deserve it. No one is entitled to a second chance, especially after acting shamefully repeatedly. I have also been calling family members. People that raised me in this town with love and integrity that I have proven myself unworthy of.
As owners of Waking Life Jared and I are discussing reparations for our actions, especially to our employees who no longer want to be associated, which is fully fair. I have let them down as their employer as well as their friend, forcing them to leave a job in which they were valued, skilled and passionate. We will release a company statement addressing this tomorrow. We are keeping the doors open and are here because to close and not be present seems like an attempt to hide, and like I said to start I have no desire to receive any less than I deserve.
With shame and regret,
That’s better. So properly abject I’m almost inclined toward a Siberian labor camp. Though we still haven’t witnessed transcendent groveling. Perhaps together, such a masterpiece can emerge.
To Our Asheville Community:
We know many of you are very angry right now. That anger is justified. There is nothing to balm the wound for now, and we recognize that. We validate and affirm your frustration and disappointment. We’ve issued separate individual apologies, and those stand more than ever.
We’ve said terrible and demeaning things – things that belie unhealthy thought patterns that do not contribute to a stable and equal society. Things our mothers and sisters had to hear. We cannot and will not excuse these things. We grieve for the systematic and ongoing actions we’ve taken. We apologize to the women in our lives and the greater community for the harm we’ve caused, and the potential danger we’ve put them in with our attitudes and beliefs.
We opened Sunday in order to have conversations with some of our regular customers, and to give an opportunity for folks to chat if they wished. A few did just that, and we’re grateful for your thoughts and feelings. We’re humbled by and undeserving of the grace displayed by so many in the face of our actions.
We’re going to close for the next couple days so we can have some room for introspection. We want to allow ourselves to be accountable to our friends, family, employees, clergy, and counselors for our actions, and give ourselves room to be silent and reflect. These attitudes were not grown in a day, and they will not be destroyed in a day. We want to humbly commit to that process. We’re not good people, but we want to be.
We’re going to donate all our business profits through the end of the year to Our Voice. Many of you in the community have great regard for this organization, and their work is of immense importance. We know this is but a step, but it’s something to which we can commit. Our employees who have lost their jobs due to our behavior will be given severance to help as they transition.
With deep regret,
Jared and Jacob
Reads like something Donald Trump might pen. Though if you’re wondering whether this “spectacular exercise in self-incrimination” was met by a judicial reprieve. Here is what “Our Voice” had to say on the day of sentencing:
We were disturbed and outraged by what was posted by Jared and Jacob regarding women. We will not be taking their money because it is not our place to forgive. Our VOICE is not in a position of absolving them for their misogyny as it perpetuates a culture of danger to all women and girls. Jared’s and Jacob’s actions not only objectified women but also perpetuated rape culture and violence against women.
I’ll take that as apology accepted. And about that commutation…we’ll see you boys in the morning.