If it seems like this repetition simply amounts to a chorus of "But he's a really good guy!", please understand that is not just bad writing. It's a strategy, one usually used by writers who have an obligation to be objective, when they want other people to say their opinions for them. Often it takes the form of quoting people from both sides of the story, but then letting the favored side get "the last word." But why do that when you can just ignore other opinions entirely?
Wait, you might say. There are also scientists in this story! Scientists like Dr. Fred Berlin, the director of the Sexual Behaviors Consultation Unit at Johns Hopkins University.
"Berlin said given what on the surface appears to be a very natural appetite for sex may have gone off the tracks if Holtzclaw exhibited abnormal sexual fantasies of being in control of or coercing women, which followed a pattern of behavior in most of the complaints against him," writes Arnold.
"If that was true, Berlin surmised, it may be possible that some type of disorder may have been in play during the six-month period when the crimes took place in 2013 and 2014 when, without the potential of an NFL career to suppress his behavior, Holtzclaw seemingly became a completely different person."
Without the potential of an NFL career to suppress his behavior.
WITHOUT THE POTENTIAL OF AN NFL CAREER TO SUPPRESS HIS BEHAVIOR?
Without the potential of a six-figure book deal to suppress her behavior, Silvers seemingly became a completely different person. Look for my totally explainable murder spree, forthcoming in 2017!
Okay, so it turns out I have neither the time nor the stomach to parse every batsh*t-bonkers sentence in this piece. Suffice it to say, yes, this was a massive failure, and the site's editor was right to call it that. The phrasing "a complete breakdown of a part of the editorial process" is interesting to me, though, because the less official way to say it is this piece slipped through the cracks. This happens. I've worked at publications where this has happened, to varying degrees. Here are the situations in which things slip through the cracks: When a publication is understaffed or rushed or both. (Most are both.) When a publication is hungry for edgy, shareable content at all costs. (Again: more than you might think.)
And also: When the tenor of a piece -- the bias, the tone-deafness, the bad reporting and worse word choices for which an editor will later have to apologize -- is not really that out of tune with the rest of the words we breathe in and out over the course of a day of being on the internet, watching TV, or bullsh*tting about current events with our coworkers. The approach of "How could this former football star, who by all accounts was a super normal dude, who worked his way into a position of authority as an officer of the law, have done these things?" feels pretty regular because we see it with regularity.
The suggestion of "maybe he didn't" is one of many things that took this piece an extra step over the line. But the way the question doesn't ring in our ears as off-key in the first place says something about our misunderstanding of rape; our underestimation of exactly how common violence, sexual assault, and attacks of all kinds on those in society with the least amount of power really are; and our misconceptions about the most common perpetrators. About our steadfast refusal to internalize that yes, you can behave a like a normal guy in your regular life and also be a violent rapist, and it probably has less to do with football than with living in a culture that encourages you to see women's bodies as things you deserve. It's an approach to entitlement, and to monstrosity, that expects people to wear easily identifiable monster suits if they're going to do bad things.
I know that SB Nation isn't exactly known for its compelling and nuanced discussion of gender politics, but it is a site widely read by young men, so this is more than dumb and embarrassing. The moment we learn to stop positioning "nice normal dudes" as the diametric opposite of "rapists," we can maybe start to have a real conversation. That begins with calling out this framing when we see it, with making it sound wrong (because it is), and, yes, with not letting it slip quite so easily through the cracks.
Bonus for journalism: Far fewer crow-eating apology notes to grade. It'd be a good thing all around.