Friday, August 15, 2008

Struggling with the meaning of the Hinsey affair

I am struggling so much with the meaning of this whole Hinsey affair.

When I look at those 1800+ posts, it feels like an initial group of angry people (perhaps appropriately) began bashing her. But, if you analogize it to something in real life, initially a few people began beating on (retaliating on) the bully. Soon, though, a circle of onlookers formed, and then they started getting their kicks in too. And soon, you have mass attack that may very well have ruined Hinsey's career.

Mass attack. Don't call me melodramatic when I say that phrases like "wilding", "gang rape" and "group think" come to mind.

I AM NOT DEFENDING HINSEY for her alleged crimes. I am also not saying there was not truth in that thread. Even Marlena Delacroix, in her blog today, clearly states she was harmed by Hinsey...or at least (more on this later) by the corporation for which she worked.

Let me also say I know NOTHING about any facts here. I am not an insider...just a I am not disputing facts.

I simply believe that there has been a "piling on", in which I was complicit by visiting and revisiting (and revisiting) that Jossip thread. The gleeful Schadenfreude. I feel vaguely (maybe I am melodramatic) like Dachau neighbor in Nazi Germany. By merely countenancing it, I was a part of something wrong.

So, let me list a couple of the fleeting streams of consciousness that are troubling me.

1. There are stories that Carolyn battled publicists and rival publications for exclusive access and scoops. Does this make her unusual or different? I somehow STRONGLY believe that this level of journalistic bullying for exclusivity is part of the game...whether it be Dianne Sawyer battling Katie Couric for the latest "get", or People outbidding The Star for pictures of Brangelina's baby. This is what our media is.

So, when publicists and writers from other shows and even people from the shows now profess disdain for her aggressive tactics, is this unusual? Is she the only player of that game?

2. There are stories about payola. I cannot comment on these, or how she linked Blondie's to coverage promises. I guess this is an area where I wish there could be TRUE investigative journalism.

3. There are stories about abuse of employees. Now, here, again, I view this as allegation until there is evidence. I'm SURE it was true. Totally. But as we all know, things get mixed up.

- She is a brassy New Yorker. The stereotype of such a person is "loud", "in your face", etc. We love brassy New Yorkers in many contexts. How much of her 'abusive' nature was really attributable to this?
- She is alleged to be a heavy drinker. If this is true, how much of her behavior was due to an untreated disease? What allowances, if any, should we make for this? Did her behavior get worse as her disease progressed?
- She is alleged to have been abusive to employees, asing "peons" to do things below their station. Now, I have been a peon...and I have had people who report to me. And you know some level we ALL hate our boss. No matter how much we love our boss...when it comes to performance evaluations or following instructions...all of us at some time have some flash of resentment at a boss. So, how much is the outrage at Hinsey usual and normal. Bonnie Fuller keeps getting mentioned. But even a less extreme editor...would they evoke these kinds of feelings?

4. There is Snark's important statement that she was a hypocrite. To wit, she complained that Soapnet was promoting non-soaps and dropping classic soaps...all the while her magazines were doing the same. Good point. I see several possibilities:

- She shows an appalling lack of self-awareness, and so the alleged mistreatment of employees (basically, failing to consider their humanity) may reflect that same lack of awareness as her contradictory messages in column-vs-cover/content
- She was sending a message about how she REALLY feels. Maybe what she wrote in her column was her true feeling, and the non-soap cover/content were concessions to bosses (Primedia or Source Interlink) or real market factors that she would ignore at her peril. Let's be clear...even now, SOD runs different covers for subscribers versus newstand, because covers determine sales. As much as we had those sensationalistic covers, they wouldn't be there if they didn't sell magazines.

We might wish it to be different, but I don't think we want these magazines to run at a loss.

Years ago, when Ms. Magazine was losing its identity due to advertisers, they decided to go into a completely self-supporting model (no ads). I haven't followed the fortunes of that publication, but I imagine it is as hard a go for Ms. as it is for PBS. Still, people WILL support Ms./PBS/NPR. But will they freely pay $10/issue for SOW/SOD to avoid advertiser-dictated content? I think not...

5. There really IS a category of leader like this...horrid to work for...inspires great things. Leona Helmsley, Donald Trump. I'll bet their employees hated/hate them just as much. But I worry that sometimes extreme greatness sometimes coexists with extreme horridness. Do we want to forego greatness because it comes with a lot of sh*t?

I don't know....I AM AWARE that there is a different path. You don't have to be Bobby Knight. You CAN be Billy Donovan. The truth, however, is that there are a lot of Bobbys out there.

6. I wish I had my last copy of "It's Only My Opinion" here. I read it and re-read it this week. It's really quite good. She writes with a distinctive loud voice...that in your face thing...but it is SO refreshing in a soap press THAT STILL HASN'T TOLD US ABOUT THE RISE AND FALL OF LYNN LATHAM WITH HONESTY (as one example). To hear a voice decrying GH's violence or the backburnering of veterans or the over-use of newbies or... is REFRESHING. If she DID cut exclusive deals with shows and had favorites...I still maintain she was also the most consistently critical (with love) voice.

I cannot excuse her telling the soap writers not to strike. I cannot excuse her for saying Jax was not raped on GH. But just because she wrote awful, wrong things....must we negate that she was ALSO sometimes a force for good?

Why is it so impossible for many of us to believe that the two could co-exist?

7. The deeper recipient of my disdain is, and will be, SOD/SOW and their corporate owner. I believe it is THEIR malfeasance that lost us Mimi Torchin and Marlena Delacroix. I believe it is THEIR market research that got us American Idol on the SOW cover. I believe it is THEIR pandering to the lowest common denominator that explains why we have virtually no SERIOUS or DEEP interviews with writers/producers/directors. I believe that the culture of "publicity agreements" between shows and magazines has led to neutered, pandering content...rather than critical analysis.

Let's put this another way, and then I'll stop my rant. If this implosion happened at the New York Times, NYT would (sooner or later) run a self-reflective accounting of what happened, and an analysis of it. Our respect for NYT would grow because of the transparency.

I HAVE NO CONFIDENCE that SOD/SOW will _ever_ address this change. We are not supposed to notice. In so doing...SOD/SOW underestimates its audience...underestimates that Carolyn had fans and detractors ALL OF WHOM want to hear the story.

In truth, the ultimate casualty of this whole affair for me has been the fragile respect I still had for these magazines. I no longer trust that they will ever tell me the REAL truth about something unless advertisers and/or the shows want me to know that. With that...I think I'm done.

I think I have to cancel my subscriptions (with sadness, because as goofy as it sounds, SOD was a lifeline for me--first to my grandmother, and then to my 'home' when I lived overseas--for almost 30 years). Unless there is stem-to-stern change in management and editorial policies, nothing will have been gained.

We're left with the 1800+ spectacle of a woman -- bully or not, nasty or not, evil or not -- having been beaten to a pulp by a thronging mass of group think, out for virtual blood...delighting in taking down the mighty. I'm so proud of myself for having participated in that.

1 comment:

fanofsoaps said...

Nice to meet you! I'm a big fan of soaps and really liked reading your take on some of Daytime's biggest players!