Apparently, It Doesn’t Get Better: On You And Me And Us And Dan And All The Bullies In Between

July 16, 2012


When I was nine years old, I saw Bigfoot.

That is, I thought I did. I think. I can’t fully recall exactly what I saw, but my nine year old self decided that it was the Sasquatch, and so that was the story that I told. I told it to my sister. I told it to my parents. I told it to my aunt and my uncle and my cousins. I told it to my entire fourth grade class. That latter audience was not a receptive one.

They were – my peers in the fourth grade at Davey Jones Elementary in Pitt Meadows, B.C. – predisposed to not believe my story. I had, after all, made the socially fatal error of turning up on the first day of school – my first at that school, in a neighborhood to which we had only just moved that summer – in green satin pants with a matching green jacket emblazoned with a glittering iron-on roller skate decal (it was the seventies. I liked roller skates. I make no apologies.) I didn’t have many friends. Any friends, really. They called me Green Pickle Martian. So when I stood up during Show And Tell and told my story about seeing, in the woods by Harrison Lake, a giant, upright, furry creature that was, I was certain – I was certain – Bigfoot, I should have known that I was not addressing a receptive audience. I should have known – I know this now – that they’d laugh at me, that they’d mock me, that they’d surround me in the schoolyard and shout LIAR LIAR PANTS ON FIRE HANGING ON A TELEPHONE WIRE (“You’re a liar, Martian. You’re a lying liar who LIES and you’re UGLY and you wear ugly clothes and you’re a GREEN PICKLE MARTIAN. WE DON’T LIKE YOU.”) I should have known that they’d not only not believe me, but that they’d use my story as a reason to cast me out further. I should have known, but I didn’t. I know now.

I know even better now, actually, because I see grown-ups – grown-ass adults who should know better – doing this – circling the outsiders, pointing out how they’re different, pointing out how terrible those differences are, pointing out how you can’t trust people who are a different, because, you know, they’re different, they’re not like us, you can’t trust them, they lie – doing this all the time. I see people doing it, even, who I think should know better. I see people doing it who, if their kids did it – circled some kid on the playground, because his clothes were too shiny or his voice too loud or his stories too fantastic, and needled that kid, poked that kid, told that kid that he was TOO THIS and TOO THAT and A LIAR – would (I hope?) pull their kids aside and say, in loud whispers, no. No. THAT IS NOT OKAY.

Because, no, it is not okay. But people do it. People that I count as my peers and friends do it. I fear that I have done it. I have certainly had it done to me. I am – I have been, for several weeks, months even – watching it be done to someone that I know. Someone that I like. I have been – behind the scenes, too quietly, more quietly than was right – grabbing arms and stomping my feet and insisting to those whose voices are loudest that, really, come on, guys, stop, STOP, let it go, let it GO, leave it ALONE, leave HIM alone. I have been waiting for someone other than me to step in and say something.

I have been waiting in vain.

You might not like the writing of Dan Pearce. You might not like how Dan Pearce promotes himself. You might think that Dan Pearce’s blog is the Internet equivalent of ill-fitting green satin pants and roller disco jackets, and that his stories are Sasquatch-level fabulisms that really just defy belief and that all that – ALL THAT – is just beyond the pale, because, seriously, you would never wear that and you would never say that and, god, did you know that he’s, like, probably lying in most of his posts, maybe? That’s what you’ve heard, anyway, that he’s a liar and that’s just not how your crowd rolls and, god, ewwww, what if anyone thought that you liked him? Or that you were like him? That would just not be cool. That would make everyone think that you were not cool.

You can’t have that, can you? So, you know what? You can just ignore him. That’s an option. You can just pretend that he’s not there. I mean, really. He’s not following you around. He’s over there, in his corner, doing his thing. And sure, fine, it’s not your thing, but who cares? He’s not hurting you. He’s just telling his stories. Maybe you think that they’re Sasquatch stories, and maybe you think that he’s telling them too loudly – oh, god, you can HEAR HIM, can’t you? – but WHATEVER. You know? WHAT. EVER. What was the Internet invented for, if not to give us all a place – a messy, loud, chaotic, anarchic place – in which we could all just do our own thing? Rock our own jam? Put on our green satin pants and our roller disco jackets and just go for it? TELL OUR STORIES. HOWEVER THE HELL WE WANT TO TELL THEM.

Seriously. Why can’t we just leave him alone? I don’t care if you don’t like how he does things. I don’t care if you don’t like his stories. I don’t like 50 Shades Of Freaking Grey. I’m not trying to expunge it from the world. It has as much right to its place in the cultural discourse as do my half-crazed ramblings about swaddling and depression and ravaged nipples and Frankenvulvae. The beauty of this space – the revolutionary nature of this space – is that it is democratic. That it takes all comers. Bring it your tired, your poor, your brash, your silly, your ridiculous, your writers of press releases, your fabulists, your huddled masses of storytellers yearning to be free. There is room for everybody here. I thought that we all understood that. And I thought that what made our community different from all the others was that we – that most of us, anyway – understood that, in addition to the glorious anarchy of everyone rocking their own jam in this space, there was value in civility. In following one – just one – important rule: don’t be mean. Call out a hater, call out a troll, defend your friends from bullies, defend everyone from bullies – but don’t be the bully yourself. Don’t be the hater. Don’t be the troll. Don’t be the asshole.

I’m seeing a lot of people be assholes.* It hurts my heart, it really does. Because all you all who are expending so much energy calling out this one guy, this one guy who has never done anything to you, this one guy who has done nothing worse than promote himself (in your eyes) too heavily, and tell stories that (you think) are too fabulous, this one guy who you have never met — I expect better of you. I don’t expect you to like everybody, or to welcome everyone into your/our community, but I expect you to not be mean. I expect you to follow, here, the same rules that you would expect your children to follow on the playground: treat other people as you would have them treat you. Play nice. Throw no sand. Do no harm. Even if the other kid seems too loud, too weird, too different – even if the other kids don’t like him – especially if the other kids don’t like him – do no harm.

Don’t be an asshole. I expect you to not be assholes. I expected you to not be assholes. I’ve been disappointed.

I’m not going to waste anyone’s time explaining that I’ve spent time with Dan – in real-live person, just in case anyone is still worried that he’s a fifty-year old divorcee from the Ukraine, having us all on – because what Dan is like (for the record, he’s lovely) is beside the point. I don’t expect you to refrain from haranguing him and investigating him and calling him a LIAR LIAR PANTS ON FIRE because he’s really actually super nice in real life and gosh-golly if you could only just meet him you’d like him, like, totally. No. I expect you to refrain from being assholes because it’s not cool to be assholes. Because it’s not cool to be mean to people, just because they’re not your kind. Because if your kid came home and told you that she spent her day laughing at and calling out that weird loud girl in the corner, the one who talks about having seen the Sasquatch, the one whose clothes are just weird and who totally tells lies – everybody knows it Mommy, really – and what would people think if that’s what they thought everyone in Miss MacNeil’s first grade class was like? You would grab her hand and look her in the eye and say, no. No. That’s not okay.

At least, I hope that you would.

I don’t know anymore.

*Because I think that this was unclear: I don’t think that everyone who has criticized Single Dad Laughing is a troll or a bully. There has been some careful, reflective and constructive criticism and commentary on the issues that his practices and success raise, and the implications for our community. John Cave Osborne, Katherine Stone (in comments; Dan credits her for prompting considerable self-reflection), Cecily Kellogg and Liz Gumbinner in particular have been gently and constructively critical, and I think that such criticism is not only valid, but necessary. The key here, though, is that they’ve addressed the issues, and not the man, and they’ve done so in a way that encourages reflective community dialogue, as opposed to LET’S GET THAT GUY. LET’S PROVE THAT HE’S EEEEVIL.

I’m sensitive to all of this, because I’ve been there. I’ve been accused of making up stories. I’ve been accused of exploiting my nephew and engaging in dodgy philanthropic practices. I’ve been accused of milking my dad’s death for pageviews. I’ve been accused of exaggerating and hyperbolizing and shameless self-promotion. And every single one of my accusers believed themselves to be on the side of justice. They believed – they stated, emphatically – that my bullshit needed to be called out. They argued, forcefully, that my contradictions and my ellipses and all the gaps in my truth were evidence of my toxic ambition, and that they needed to lay it all bare because what I was doing was undermining truth, beauty and the Internet way. And it hurt. It hurt hurt hurt hurt hurt.

And here’s the thing – I just don’t know what the real difference is between my critics and Dan’s. Everyone who I’ve heard defend his interrogation says the same thing that my critics have said: that his bullshit needs to be called out. Those with whom I’ve raised this comparison argue this: that I’m different, because I’m not false. I’m not what my critics say. But my critics would roll their eyes at this. They believe that there’s evidence to the contrary. They are passionate. They believe that they’re right. We always believe that we’re right.

I’m just asking that we take care, here. That we remember that there’s a real person, with a heart that is vulnerable to hurt, on the other side of our wall. That we ask ourselves, always, what we would say if the Dan in the picture was a friend of ours. If he was us.

/image from Savage Chickens at



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    Anne (@notasupermom) July 16, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Feeling bad, Catherine. I’m sorry.
    Thank you for writing this.

    Mom101 July 16, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    I’ve seen a lot of thoughtful, analytical, really intelligent posts and comments on this situation. Some asked questions, some were critical, some were downright Socratic. Some from people I respect tremendously, who don’t have mean bones in their body.

    And then, some people are mean.

    But is everyone who disagrees in blogland mean? Or an asshole? Or a troll? Because I don’t think so–but it seems that that’s what you’re saying. And isn’t that the age old question in this space: do we all have to agree about everything, otherwise say nothing?

    Also, I would have thought it was super cool if you had seen Sasquatch–because you really believed you saw him. You weren’t making it up for attention. We would have totally been friends.

    Her Bad Mother July 16, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    No, not every disagreement or criticism is trollage. If it is, then I’ve been guilty of a whole shitload of it. But the loudest parts of this haven’t involved civil disagreement. They’ve involved accusation and interrogation and name-calling. All things that have been to do me, and to other women that both you and I respect. This has not been about disagreeing with an opinion or a point of view or an argument – it’s been about disagreement with how one, isolated person is telling his stories. And I don’t see the point of anyone going after another person, just because they don’t like their style. Take issue with their opinions. Engage them in conversation. But mock them and decry them just because their mode of storytelling – which doesn’t hurt anyone – is not to your taste? No.

    There was reasoned discussion to be had about the writing of the press release, and it was had, in some quarters. Some writers that I know who were civilly critical took heat for not being hard enough on Dan. There’s been a mean-spiritedness here that goes beyond just ‘disagreeing.’

    And in any case, I strongly believe that when you see someone being circled – someone standing, solitary, alone in their own defense – and the crowd gaining strength from each other? You speak up. I don’t care what the nature of the disagreement.

    And? So what if I had been making up the story for attention? Would that have made me deserving of being taunted and excluded? Would you want your kids to do that? I don’t want mine too. And in any case, how is this community believing that Dan has made up stories for attention any different from my trolls (my grown-up Internet trolls as much as my fourth grade persecutors) believing that I did the same thing? Or from those who believe that Ree misrepresents herself? Or that Heather went to Bangladesh just for the attention?

    Anyway. For what it’s worth, Bigfoot was totally real, and if it had been a different time, I’d have totally issued a press release. RENOWNED ROLLER DISCO TWEEN QUEEN SIGHTS BIGFOOT. NEWS AT ELEVEN.

    Josette Plank July 17, 2012 at 12:48 am

    A while back, a whole lot of bloggers felt like they were being picked on and thrown out of “the in crowd” because they were blogging openly for money. Writing reviews. Using their own set of pieced-together sortof-ethics in promoting themselves through their writing. Making some cash. Blogging With Integrity – and a whole lot of backers – argued that truth in blogging is important. That we are journalists…of a sort. That we gain our worth and validity as a whole through our voices and writing, and that if we did not as a whole adhere to some standard of ethics, then the new voices we have found as parents would suffer as a whole.

    There are millions of writers out there and sure, they can write about whatever they want. When I read the Bloggess, I know I’m getting a humorous, exaggerated account of life and I know when Jenny is peeling back the curtain and writing from the heart without dead animal props. Etc. She gives those cues as a writer, and it’s a trust readers have opted into. If she – as others have done – started using that trust to sell furniture polish, people might get turned off. And pissed off. Because it’s one thing to crack a joke; it’s another to mess with someone’s emotions.

    I don’t know Dan. But without even knowing him, I get pretty clearly that he is part of a certain group of parent bloggers who take their genuine voices pretty seriously. Who get ads places on their blogs they make $$ based on the validity of their voices and stories. He was part of that community, and there are a whole lot of people who want in on that community. No matter how many times it’s said, “There are no cliques here”, well, that’s muchly said by groups of well-recognized (hello, Top 10, 50, 100 Top Mom Blogger Lists, etc.) and repeatedly repeated names. Call them A-list. Call them the Conference Crowd. Whatever. The one thing that Top Parent Blogger Brand has going is Heart On Its Sleeve sincerity, even going to lengths in past years to define the parameters and perimeter of Parent Blogging. A lot of people have been playing by these rules in order to make a little scratch of their own. A lot of people have been Telling The Truth and baring their souls for a pittance of recognition.

    So, meanness aside, when a grown adult Big Name Blogger on a Big Name Site part of the Parenting Blog Community is revealed to be – or widely thought to be – telling tall tales packaged as stories that grab your heart and with no wink in his writing, then that hurts everyone who is still trying to get in, to be heard, to be part of The Crowd that often circles its wagons and commits sins of benevolent omission so, so, so, so often. Exclusion bullying.

    So, you know, I don’t know if the Whole Wide Internet is after Dan. My guess is, as with most Web hyperbole, that if I walked into my neighborhood book club and said, “Hey, who here knows who Pioneer Woman is?” 17 out of 18 would shrug their shoulders. Same when I mention Dooce or Bloggess or Dan Pearce. We’re soaking in this stuff; the great majority of people I know still think that Facebook is for weird creeps, let alone the underground nutters they think bloggers to be. So in that way, it’s not a big, wide Internet when it comes to Dan. It’s a smallish, incestuous group of writers who feel duped and angry and – possibly – see Their Turn at the mic with the even smaller community of readers disappearing as people begin to shake their heads and agree that we’re all a bunch of self-indulgent, id-driven nutters after all.

    So yeah, people are angry. Maybe to unfair degrees and sure, there are always those who just like a pile on and get mean. But this isn’t just purely bullying. Not by a long shot. And sure, if I were a blogger who went for people by the heart and soul, I’d be even more upset at what’s happening to Dan, because it shows just how powerful words can be. People don’t like their emotions messed with. That’s a chicken shit reason why I don’t do that kind of blogging. I’m not an emotional surgeon in that way. I’m more of a general practitioner with a rubber chicken to get kids to smile while I’m giving them a shot. No one is going to thank me for saving their life. But no one is going to sue me $1,000,000 for malpractice when they bleed out after I forget a clamp in their abdomen, either.

    Marinka July 17, 2012 at 7:33 am

    love this.

    Her Bad Mother July 17, 2012 at 9:40 am

    For better or for worse, Josette, the independent blogging space and the ‘top’ bloggers therein are no longer distinguished by personal stories and memoir and ‘independence’. And they’re no longer truly independent – many of the bloggers have employees, writers that keep the volume of content up, agents, PR reps, etc. That’s worth discussing and interrogating – but we can’t pretend that it’s JUST Dan. There are tons of mom bloggers who do similar things. There are bloggers (real bullies) who do worse. Are we calling out everyone personally? There’s an animus directed to Dan *as a person* that bothers me, because I just thought that we were NICER than that. Let’s discuss the evolution (or decline) of our space, but let’s not blame individuals.

    Birdman July 17, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Great comment, and so true to my beliefs. Thanks.

    Procrastamom July 16, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    I don’t know much about what’s been going on with this blogger, but thank you for standing up to say “no more.” You’re right that we would never stand for this kind of behaviour from our own kids (okay, most of us wouldn’t).

    And this PoCo girl totally believes you about Bigfoot living at Harrison Lake…I know it’s true. His other name is Sasquatch and he has his own Inn and everything.

    Her Bad Mother July 16, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    I couldn’t spell Sasquatch when I was in fourth grade. Otherwise, there’d totally have been a press release.

    Laurie July 16, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    As a child I was painfully, harmfully, bullied. As an adult I put my opinions and ideas in the public sphere, knowing they are open to criticism, and you know what? I’m okay with that, or I wouldn’t do it.

    That said, I am so tired of seeing this word used to describe criticism of adults who can fight back, who have platforms and privilege, who are not criticized for their disabilities or weaknesses or identities, who are decidedly not children on playgrounds.

    Aside from my opinion of this person, which has solely been based on what I see online, I would ask you — who frequently extol the virtues of parents in every conceivable way — to be mindful of how you diminish the shame-based experience of children when you conflate it with the experience of a grown man of privilege and an obvious ability to defend himself.

    This made me really uncomfortable, uncomfortable and sad.

    Julie Marsh July 16, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    I love you, Catherine. I do. We have been friends for a long time, especially in blog years, and I think you are amazing. But I don’t agree with you here.

    I’m not going to state my side – others have done it quite well, particularly Liz. I respect that you’ve put thought into your position; I have too. Like you, I’ve done so in the context of being the misfit myself and being the mom of a misfit. In spite of our similarities, we’ve reached different conclusions. It happens, and it’s okay. At least I hope it is, especially where it comes to our friendship.

    Kathryn (@kat1124) July 16, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    I was just talking about this with my 7 year old son tonight as I was putting him to bed. He’s been dealing with our whole block of kids being assholes to him off and on, and it’s tearing me apart inside, I’m so angry. But I just keep telling him, my sweet boy who said tonight “I wanted to cry but I just pushed my tears way down, Mom” that being an asshole back is not the way to be. Thank God he has friends away from our block, but I’m so tired of the meanness of children right now, and the parents who don’t stop it when they hear it. You said it just right, Catherine…don’t be an asshole.

    Kristen July 16, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    I’m still confused at how calling someone out and legitimately bringing forth actual evidence that suggests “Hm… this doesn’t add up” somehow constitutes bullying and a witch hunt.

    I’ll just say this because no one is saying it:

    Could it be that you’ve been duped? And by hiring him to write at Babble where you work (full disclosure here because it needs to be said!) and him turning out to be a complete phony, doesn’t really bode well?

    Serial killers and sociopaths are nice. So are child molesters. They’re really nice people who also happen to do really bad things.

    To be clear: I’m NOT saying Dan is any of those things by any stretch but I’m not quite sure we can just say “But he’s really nice” and pat him on the back and let him go about his press releases and ridiculous posts and just LEAVE HIM ALONE when clearly what he is doing, which is being perpetuated and promoted ON BABBLE, is negatively affecting a community.

    I’ve watched throngs of smart, cool, amazing compassionate people, yes many of your dear friends that love you who are not bullies or mean girls or boys, saying “This doesn’t add up!” and they go on their merry ways and they don’t leave nasty comments on his blog or troll him or send him death threats they just say “Hmmmmm this doesn’t make sense and here’s why INSERT GOOGLE CACHE OF CRAZY BS DOCUMENTED IN SEVERAL POSTS AND COMMENT STREAMS.”

    So are we all just a bunch of bullies? Really? Is that what we are?

    Or could it possibly be that we’re onto something and the idea of that just really sucks. That a nice guy could actually not be a nice guy after all.

    Quite frankly, I will go on with my days not giving a shit about Dan Pearce and his writing. Not commenting on any of the posts or Facebook updates (save a couple of snarky lines that I couldn’t help myself from making).

    And he will go on, making money, getting page views for himself and for Babble and wherever else he goes.

    The antics have served him well, so why would he stop?

    But you defending him really kills me.

    Her Bad Mother July 16, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    How is his writing negatively affecting the community? Really? I think, as I said, that 50 Shades of Grey is a blight on all that is good and literary, but I wouldn’t exile its author from the Internet and the community of the word. A) why would I bother, and b) isn’t that straying a little close to discursive xenophobia? (I just made that up. I don’t know that it’s coherent. ANYWAY.)

    Look, I’ve been accused of making shit up. Quite a few times, actually. To those who don’t like me, I’m a fraud and an attention whore. There are whole blogs devoted to making the same accusations about Ree. What distinguishes those critics from us? They don’t get it, but we do? We have a keener, better sense of who tells true stories and who tells false ones?

    I’m really pretty sure that I haven’t been duped. I’ve spent time with Dan in person. I like him. He’s nice and he’s funny and he very clearly loves his kid. As it happens, he doesn’t bring a ton of traffic to Babble. He’s not there for traffic. None of the Babble Voices bloggers are there for traffic. Most of them suck for traffic, actually. Ask any of them; they’ll confirm. They’re there because we – because I – wanted a diversity of voices, a diversity of stories, a community of unlikely fellows. Old media and new media. Urban and heartland. Faithful and secular. Established bloggers and new bloggers. In any case, all traffic bounty (or lack thereof) aside, if I had any inclination that Dan was a sociopath, I might have thought twice about hiring him, just because, you know, sociopaths. I didn’t launch an investigation into his stories, to confirm facts and details, because I don’t do that with anyone. Because, actually, I don’t much care. Unless it’s the kind of fabrication that hurts someone, I don’t think that it’s worth the effort to get tits knotted up about.

    All of which is beside the point. Dan’s a human being, and he’s just doing his thing. There are countless mom blogs – blogs that just do their thing – that I privately think reflect badly on mom blogging, if we take mom blogging to be the elevation of personal discourse on parenting. But mom blogging is not just that. It’s many things, and there’s room for all of it. And so for that reason – and because I’m just generally averse to doing things that hurt other peoples’ feelings – it would never occur to me to try to ‘out’ other mom bloggers as unworthy members of the community. To out anyone as unworthy.

    If you really believe that he is that, and that exposing and exiling him is a worthy effort, worth the hurt if he’s not, in fact, a sociopath, then that’s a reasonable choice, I suppose. I just don’t happen to agree.

    Marinka July 17, 2012 at 10:07 am

    I hear you on the 50 Shades of Gray thing. But it just sucks, you know? It’s not plagiarized and it doesn’t hurt people (well, except people like me who now know that women refer to their vaginas as their “sex”.) So the author is a very bad writer but she’s not a liar.

    That’s the difference I see.

    Her Bad Mother July 17, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Is Dan’s blog plagiarized? Does it hurt people? If it did – like all the troll blogs out there that we DON’T go after – then perhaps I would change my tune (maybe. I’m averse to ganging up on anybody.) Does anyone KNOW that Dan’s a liar – or does everyone just believe that, because it just SEEMS that some of his stories MUST be made up? This is a big part of my discomfort – that some are so invested in going after him, to PROVE that he’s a liar, and everyone is supportive of this, because, hey, what if he IS a liar? He’s been convicted before being proven guilty. Which is problematic in itself, but I worry too about this dynamic emerging whereby we launch investigations against each other. This all started because Andy Hinds didn’t like Dan’s writing, and didn’t like that he was seeing some success from it, and decided that he should prove that such success must be illegitimate. Which is exactly how every troll who’s ever come after me has started. It’s UGLY.

    And the extra yuck? I like Andy Hinds, personally. My experience of him is that he’s a nice guy. So it baffles me that he (and others in the dad space who support him) has made it his mission to expose Dan as bad/false/fraudulent, without any concern for whether there’s a real guy there, who might be hurt by it. Don’t like Dan or his blog? Ignore him. IGNORE HIM. Just like I ignore 50 Shades of WTF.

    Beta Dad July 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Did you feel the same way when James Frey was exposed? Was his memoir hurting anyone? Just because people believed it and derived lessons about the human condition based on the premise that all that stuff actually happened? And once it was revealed to be mostly fiction, people realized it was just a mediocre novel? Should his critics have stepped back and thought, “Geez, this mega-popular, inspirational, yet extremely shady writer is a person too. Maybe I should just ignore him and let him do his thing.”?

    It’s not just that Dan’s stories are too pat or too on-the-nose. It’s the combination of that and his no-holds-barred salesmanship. Fake emails to other bloggers, staged photos, wild press releases. Why is there any reason to take his writing at face value?

    Any writer is upset when his work is criticized harshly. I would feel really bad if critics started tearing apart an unknown, struggling author. But when you blow up, and especially when you tout yourself relentlessly, you should have a thick skin. Dan is a salesman to the core. Just ask him. And I assume he’s done his Mormon mission. He knows what it’s like to have doors slammed in his face. I don’t think we need to treat him like the vulnerable man-child character who narrates his mega-popular, inspirational blog.

    Bon July 16, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    you’re right, Catherine – the Internet is a loud, messy, chaotic, anarchic place, and in the grand scheme of things, there is room for all of us and that’s good. and there is certainly room for Dan on the Internet, and in blogging…i wish him no ill. i long believed he was a cabal of Oprah writers, but i am willing to trust your good word.


    that’s not what’s being debated in all these kerfuffles. the question isn’t Dan’s right to exist, but to be included in this community. it is the community debating whether there is room for Dan – or more accurately, Dan’s practices – in this loosely-defined and constantly evolving and emerging community that happens to exist in this corner of the Internet.

    things are changing. blogging was once more or less all about community – and as such there were social norms that developed. now blogging is largely about business. which is fine. but most of us who have some investment in blogging as more than business manage our social media practices so they are partly social and partly business, at best. we recognize the social contract we enter into.

    Dan is playing a different game entirely: he represents the extreme end of this community’s intersection with business. his game is socially antithetical to the one the majority of this community choose to play, and moreso, it’s STRATEGICALLY antithetical: he was selling tshirts within his second month on the blog. this is not the happy-go-lucky story of happenstance he sells; this is him enacting a very calculated and take-no-prisoners business strategy to out-dad-blog the rest of the Internet and openly proselytize the doing so. this is not about a kid being left out of the sandbox.

    this seems to me to be more about a community trying to protect its most valued practices in the face of an overt challenge from a new guard: the pure business blogger. and business of a particularly non-social sort that doesn’t actually build community but only scale. that makes blogging feel like Amway sales.

    he may have been validated by Babble, but his practices aren’t that of the community. he is being treated like a corporate entity, basically, because he acts according to corporate logic and appears tone-deaf to the rest.

    when you’ve been called out by trolls, that was a few often-hidden voices in the wilderness. in this case, this is almost everybody who’s spent the past five or six or eight years building ties out here, saying “these practices are not our practices.” and it is, at the core, about practices, about the things we do to build our identities out here. that stuff matters, Catherine, and you know it. we have no way of defining ourselves without that kind of debate. now, because of the nature of social media, Dan’s practices are very tied up in Dan’s identity, as all of ours are, so i’m sure his feelings ARE hurt, and i don’t like to see someone hurt.

    but just as most of us turn away door-to-door proselytizers and schmoozy used car salesmen because we find their lines manipulative and cheap and inauthentic, we also have to have the right to debate and turn away Dan. i’d like to see us talk more about the behaviours than the dude himself, but his own practices make it hard for the rest of us to make the separation when he can’t.

    i think there’s plenty of room for money and community both, in blogging, but i honestly think if we don’t debate this openly and try to figure out where our lines in the sand are, then press releases and overtly corporate launches and strategic broadcast blogs will likely gradually become the norm, because that’s where the money is. and something that ALL of us here have valued and benefitted from will be lost.

    Her Bad Mother July 16, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    They’re already the norm. They are SO already the norm. BlogHer is a multimillion dollar business that relies fully on corporate alliances and strategic launches. So is CafeMom. So is Babble. So is very other online platform. On the independent web, so is almost everybody else who relies on an ad network and/or an agent and/or any other market-driven business model (Sway Group does the marketing for many of the bloggers in this community. So much more tidy and polite when someone else does the promotion for you!) Go to any ladyblogger conference and you’ll hear endless talk about building your personal brand! Monetizing your blog! Making a success out of social media! Dan’s just doing his thing more openly, more brazenly than most (not all. Most.) And yes, there’s plenty to discuss there, as you say – but it shouldn’t be focused on just one guy, and it shouldn’t skew ad hominem. Dan hasn’t been banging on our door for inclusion – he’s made overtures, but backed away when rebuffed – people have gone after him, to investigate him, to challenge his right to call himself a dad blogger. Which, since when is it our right to police those things? To decide who gets to call themselves dad blogger, or mom blogger? To decide who gets to tell their stories on our Internet?

    I think that it’s right and good to discuss and debate how we tell our stories. I think that it’s fine to be constructively critical about how we do things here. I just expect, again, that it be about the issues, not the people. That it not be with pitchforks. We – I – welcomed criticism of the press release story at Babble. I just asked that anyone covering it be civil, and to have it be about the issue, not Dan. Because although you’re right that our practices are tied up in our identities, there’s a slippery slope there: down which hill do we slide when we agree that it’s fine, good even, to deconstruct, critically, other’s identities?

    Bon July 17, 2012 at 12:31 am

    they’re the norm for corporate blogs and conglomerate blogs and the Huffington Post and other businesses that present multiple viewpoints and narratives.

    they are not yet the norm for personal blogs. even for Dooce or the Pioneer Woman. i’m not talking about monetization & sponsorship: i realize most people invested in the community of narrative & parenting blogs have LONG since sorted where the axis of community meets the axis of money & opportunity for them, and the range is pretty wide open.

    until you get to the point where you mistake yourself for a corporation, wholesale, and then you promote yourself in ways that do not observe – or openly reject – the social norms and practices that constitute the community axis.

    yep, corporations are the engine that run blogging, at this point. but it’s still node-to-node connections that build ties and communities.

    in a sense, as SDL, Dan goes further than most of the big blogs or conglomerates do – Babble is far more social and tuned into those social and community practices than SDL is. to succeed in social media, even corporations have to play the game of sociality.

    if you don’t, and you’re doing it with your own identity, you kinda cede the territory and get treated the way you treat yourself, like a corporation that acts like the money and eyeballs are everything.

    i’m curious if Dan himself makes the distinction between whether it’s him – the person – being critiqued or SDL. are you thinking he doesn’t understand the game he set himself up for? because he gives the impression of having a pretty strategic understanding of it. and at some point – like any form of celebrity – the person needs to be able to make distinctions between self & product in order to handle it. especially if you set up your product to tell your own stories.

    Beta Dad July 17, 2012 at 2:30 am

    Thanks for writing this, Bon. I’ve been trying to articulate why I only feel slightly worse about bashing on SDL than I would for bashing on Wal Mart. I don’t know Dan, but I don’t have any reason to believe he’s anything less than a lovely person and a great Dad. I hope, for his sake, that he does make a distinction between himself and SDL.

    Bon July 17, 2012 at 7:12 am

    i hope so too.

    the model i woke up thinking about…because this stuff does fascinate me…isn’t so much Walmart as an old-fashioned travelling salesman. there were all manner of peddlers back in the day, and it was a strange combo of theatre and business and personality, much like blogging. and most sold stuff people needed along with some possibly suspect tonics, but some were outright charlatans. and sometimes their audiences rose up and rode ‘em outta town on the rails. some of those, i’m sure, were very nice people when they were at home. but when you quack like a snake oil salesman, to me you run the risk of this very kind of treatment.

    Christine July 17, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    I remember back when putting ads on blogs started to become more commonplace and there was much consternation as to what it’d do to “the community’s” image. Same for pay-per-post stuff, convention sponsorships, affiliate marketing, reviews/giveaways, etc.

    Eventually the dust kind of settled, and there came to be a generally agreed-upon “accepted practices.” Flashy ads under banners? Okay. Tacky promo’ing of sponsors at conferences? Not okay.

    Those who aren’t monetizing their sites? That’s okay, too…but as far as I can tell, they aren’t members of the dominant coalition that is so upset with how Dan has chosen to market his site. So Dan has crossed that line in the marketing sand that the Big Bloggers drew, and they aren’t happy about it.

    Which is really funny, because I remember some of the same names defending their decision to start hosting ads (back in the mid-to-late naughts) against criticism that sounds VERY much like what I’m hearing being lobbed at Dan today.

    Birdman July 16, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    Well, I think that this was very well written, and extremely moving, but quite far off base. Are you saying that people should be able to market stories as truth, and all the world is to just let it be true? Is this not what “watchdogs” are for? I for one don’t think that people should be selling their half truths as whole without someone pointing out that something might be wrong.

    I guess that we should all take the bible for law then, or maybe even Dr. Suess. I don’t know, but when some people (not just one), calls a person out as someone who maybe isn’t completely honest, you label us all as bullies. That isn’t fair.

    I totally understand sticking up for your friend, as I’m quite vocal about this type of thing myself, but lashing out at everyone who speaks out against something they don’t believe is right is basically saying that what they have to say isn’t worth saying, but your friend’s point of view is. Kind of goes against the whole freedom of speech thing we have going on in this country, doesn’t it?

    Now that I’ve exercised my right to be heard, I will say that I thought I saw Sasquatch near Harrison Hot Springs once, but it was just a big hairy guy walking his dog. That was only ten years ago though, so probably not the same thing you saw. :)

    Her Bad Mother July 17, 2012 at 12:04 am

    But, see, isn’t most creative non-fiction a mash of truth and half-truth and semi-truth and tropes? Are any of us really putting forward the full, unvarnished truth in our stories? As I said in a comment below, David Sedaris has been unspoken about the ‘truthiness’ of his stories. They’re not totally true. They’re mostly sort of somewhat true, and filtered through a gifted writer’s lens.

    I didn’t label everyone as bullies. I think that some have been explicitly bully-ish, yes. I think that others have been uncritical of some of that behavior. I think that the reflective criticism – and there has been some – that has emerged here has been lost in the witch hunt. It seems, now, just all about GETTING DAN. PROVING HIM FALSE.

    People keep pointing out inconsistencies in his stories, actively searching for evidence that his stories are all lies. I’ve seen inconsistencies, but then again, I see inconsistencies in my own stories. I haven’t seen anyone definitively prove Dan false. But honestly, again, I don’t see why it matters. Maybe if every single thing were made up. Maybe. But I know that not to be true. So is it just that some stories may be exaggerated? Indict David Sedaris too, then. Indict me.

    End of the day, I don’t see how hounding one guy with allegations of being a fraud is helping our community. I don’t see how a crowd hounding anybody helps anything. Let’s be constructively critical, sure. But lets let it be about the issues, not the person.

    Birdman July 17, 2012 at 1:45 am

    I guess I’m just different. If I’m telling an old story that I may or may not remember correctly, I write that in at the start. A lot of those stories were years ago, and we all know that things change over time. I was a bit of a bully when I was young. I didn’t mean to be cruel, it was more like trying to be (what I thought was) cool, or funny. I don’t remember specifics, but I can remember feeling bad about interactions with certain people. If I tell a story about it, I say that I don’t remember being mean, but I probably was hurtful to some people. I don’t say that I was the only person sticking up for the victims. That would be lying.

    The fact is that I don’t like Dan’s writing or the way he conducts himself on the internet, but that doesn’t matter. I’m sure that there are more people that don’t like mine. Is he a liar? I don’t know. I think he’s sneaky and shady, and I have a pretty good spidey sense when it comes to that type of thing. The fact is that people have to be accountable for their actions, and if he is in fact being dishonest, then he needs to man up and accept his licks. Don’t his readers deserve to know that Santa and the Easter Bunny aren’t real?

    I keep coming back to Man vs. Wild, and I’m sorry, but it just fits.

    Bear Grylls made a show about how he was surviving in the wildernesses of the world, and playing it off as if he was really doing all of this fantastic stuff, miles from civilization. Well, he wasn’t. Sometimes he was staying in a 5 star resort, while pretending that he was sleeping in a homemade shelter, or catching a trout with his bare hands, when in fact a crew member had caught the fish, and was dangling it in the water on a line to make it look like Bear was catching it himself.

    There were many, many other instances, but my question is this. Should he not have to tell people that he was not really doing all of the things that he said he was? The people apparently thought that he should, because when it blew up, they had to put a disclaimer on the show, stating that this was a how-to guide, and not a documentary. They also have to explain the different levels of help that he receives from the crew. That seems fair to me, and I think that they should have done that all along.

    Now, as I don’t read Dan’s blog, I also don’t watch Man vs Wild anymore. Why? Because in my mind he’s a fraud. I loved that show, and thought that all of it was real, and I wouldn’t have cared that he was getting help. What I cared about was that he lied to me, and broke a trust. Maybe Dan didn’t lie, but I think he did, and that makes me not trust him. I think he’s a spin doctor and manipulative, and I don’t care to partake in his brand of mindfuckery. I don’t care if you do. I really don’t. Just like I don’t care if you believe in God or the Tooth Fairy, but just don’t try to tell me they are real.

    Anyhow, here’s a virtual high five for sticking to your guns, and standing up for what YOU think is right. You have my respect for that.

    Deb Rox July 17, 2012 at 12:35 am

    I don’t think he’s being bullied, not at all. And while bloggers have the right to bend their own narratives, Dan’s fabrication of stories like the gay-essay-kid-coming-out-mom-acceptance story is, well, unacceptable. He’s not bending his own story there, he is coopting, distorting and making a mockery of the life-changing truth of the stories of countless others in a particularly loathesome, self-aggrandizing way. Not okay, and not defensible. That BS has to be called out for so It Gets Better for real victims of bullying and oppression.

    Her Bad Mother July 17, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Deb, with all due respect – do you know that story to be untrue? Or do you, like others, just believe that it must be, because it seems so fabulous? And do you know what his motivations are, or are you making assumptions? I’ve been accused of making up stories, too, and of hurting the adoption community and the baby-loss community with those fabricated stories, solely for raising my own profile. So I’m sensitive to that kind of accusation. I don’t think it should be made lightly.

    And here’s a suggestion – his post about that story reached a bajillion conservative families (his readers). It moved his readers – who believe him – and made them think. He may have moved the needle a little on views of homosexuality in certain communities. He certainly started a positive discussion about it in his community of readers. A GOOD discussion. This is entirely a bad thing, because we THINK that that story MIGHT be exaggerated or fabricated?

    Reader July 18, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    I know nothing about the blogger in question, but it sounds to me like you’re defending “noble lies” here. Put it this way: whatever good you think the story did, wouldn’t it’s potential falsehood backfire in precisely the communities that you’re hoping to effect? Isn’t the integrity of the story and the storyteller important to the effect the story has on exactly the people who need to be convinced by it? So, if you supported the blogger’s aims but knew the story to be false or misleading, would it be your duty to conceal those facts because of the good which the story might do among the benighted classes? Again, I know nothing about the specific person involved (at least, I didn’t until I read this post). But I was interested in the issues which your comment raised, and can see why people would protest your suggestion.

    Her Bad Mother July 18, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    I’m not defending ‘noble lies’ here – although there is a very strong defense to be made, and a fellow named Socrates once made them – just throwing it out there.

    I’ve more than once posted posted letters from readers on my blog. I once had a whole separate site for reader submissions. I never verified anything. When people challenged the truth of any of those, I shrugged my shoulders and said that the truth of the submissions was incidental to what I felt to be the larger project of conversation.

    Reader July 18, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    But it seems to me that in terms that you defended the story in the comment above, it’s not incidental. I can definitely see that in some situations a story might just be useful as conversation-starter, and the original facts would be incidental. But in some situations – like the kind of situation that you’re describing above – I would have to repeat my question: “Isn’t the integrity of the story and the storyteller important to the effect the story has on exactly the people who need to be convinced by it?” (I think that in one of the comments below someone suggests that, based on their own experience, in the case at hand this was a relevant concern. And it stands to reason that in some cases it would be relevant. For instance, liberals often point out that a noticeably high number of anti-gay politicians or preachers or what have you often turn out to be gay. So this is obviously an issue where the integrity of the story and the storyteller is going to be taken into account on both sides, I think.)

    Again, this isn’t actually a comment on the integrity of the specific blogger being discussed, since I know nothing about him (although I actually vaguely recall hearing about this specific post of his on another website, but never knew there was any controversy surrounding it).

    Birdman July 17, 2012 at 1:47 am

    Oh, BTW. Who is David Sedaris? I guess I should look him up.

    Anne (@notasupermom) July 29, 2012 at 1:28 am

    Start with “Holidays on Ice”.

    Also, “Me Talk Pretty One Day” and “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim” are good.

    What I like best are listening to him read his own work. He has a dry tone and a NC accent.

    Beta Dad July 17, 2012 at 2:16 am

    Is it bullying when thousands of book critics, writers, and discerning readers to say that Fifty Shades of Grey is a piece of garbage?

    zchamu July 17, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Are exposes bullying? Jon Krakauer and the three cups of tea thing come to mind. Obviously a much different scale, but there are parallels.

    Her Bad Mother July 17, 2012 at 8:27 am

    First of all, saying a book is a piece of garbage isn’t actually criticism, unless that statement comes with a little more thought and assessment. Secondly, criticizing the work doesn’t – shouldn’t – involve attacking the person. And criticism rarely if ever comes with calls to burn the book! Get it off the shelves! WE DON’T WANT IT HERE.

    Beta Dad July 17, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Ok. You don’t need to tell me what legitimate literary criticism is, professor.

    I can’t speak for others, and I probably can’t vouch for my own snarky comments on facebook and elsewhere; but both of my anti-SDL posts were very much based on the work, not the guy, insofar as that’s possible when the work is memoir. (Sure, they were harsh and sarcastic; but they weren’t meant to adhere to academic or journalistic standards.) I have never ever come remotely close to saying “get it off the shelves!” Dan can write and publish whatever the hell he wants, just as the 50 Shades author can. I just want to distance myself from what he does, and I want to register my disappointment when SDL is embraced as legitimate parent blogging. That sounds super-snobby, I know. But would you (especially if you were a serious novelist) just shrug if 50 Shades of Grey were in serious contention for the PEN/Faulkner award?

    Her Bad Mother July 17, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Again though, Andy, what touches the nerve for me is that critics who have gone after me say exactly the same things about calling out bullshit and registering their disdain for my work and making it public that I was not to be trusted. Because my presence in the space somehow harms them.

    You have a privileged position, Andy. You are well-liked. You have good friends in this space. You’re the popular kid in the truest sense, because you’ve got your boys. And you guys have the luxury of being, in the context of our micro-community, THE dad bloggers. You guys are it. You’re holding the conferences. You’re speaking at SXSW. Many of you are writing at Babble. Your work is respected. Dan does not hurt what you are. Just as that 50 Shades lady doesn’t hurt who I am; just as none of the review bloggers hurt what the mom space is, end of the day. It’s bigger than that. We’re bigger than that. Own what you do well, and what your community does well, and be excellent in that. That’s all you need to do. Be excellent.

    I guess that the disappointment for me is that I know you guys to be good men. Guys who I would not have expected to surround an outsider and try to take him down. At the least, I’d have expected you to leave him be. Because he’s not hurting you. He’s not hurting this space, notwithstanding all the hand-wringing over whether or not he’s sincere. There are plenty of bloggers here about whom we could wring our hands. But we don’t. And I don’t think we should in any but the most obvious cases of people hurting others. This space is big enough for everybody.

    I wouldn’t be so testy, Andy, if I didn’t like you. If this were just some cabal of trolls rallying against someone (as they do all the time), I’d be less agitated. But it seriously just feels UGH that people I like are hurting someone else that I like, and I just don’t see WHY.

    Beta Dad July 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    If you were a struggling novelist, the 50 Shades of Grey lady would hurt you, though.

    One reason we’re not seeing eye-to-eye on this is that we’re framing it differently. You see a gang of guys with the privilege of friendship and mutual respect going after a lonely outsider. I see it as a (relatively) tiny group nipping at the heels of a juggernaut with the privilege of hundreds of thousands of devotees.

    Her Bad Mother July 17, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Ha! But I am a struggling novelist. I’m still not hurt by her. I see what I do as different. There’s a market for her, just as I hope there’ll be a market for me. The Internet – the world of words more broadly – is not a zero-sum game. There’s plenty for everyone. He reaches a different audience than you do, and it’s an audience that you’re probably not interested in, anyway.

    You’re right that I’m seeing the power differentials differently than you are. I see so much power in your community, because you’re the thought leaders. Don’t tell me you don’t know that you are that. You’re the dad bloggers that new dad bloggers look to. That’s why Dan tried – so very badly, so very inelegantly – to win you over. He wanted some of what you have. He has everything to gain by gaining entree to your community; you have nothing to gain by bringing him down. Seriously.

    Look, I guess that I hold you guys in higher esteem than you do yourselves. Which is also a shame. I wish that you appreciated what you have. To whose who don’t have it, it looks pretty awesome.

    Zchamu July 17, 2012 at 3:04 am

    Calling bullshit is not bullying.

    When someone owns a blog and sends people emails under false names, pretending to be a random person who just loves this SDL blog, have you heard of it, you should really promote it? That’s bullshit.

    When someone says they only started a blog in 2010, aw shucks, I don’t know anything about this blogging business, I have no idea why all my posts are SEO optimized and I’ve ticked off every single “conquer the Internet” box on the list, and oh by the way I had a blog from 2007, that’s bullshit.

    When someone declares a community doesn’t exist, when he has attempted – badly – to get many members of said community to write for him for free, yet hasn’t actually participated in the community at all, that’s bullshit.

    I don’t care about his writing or his press releases (although damn, that did make me laugh.) I care when people are honest and upfront, and when they are not.

    Her Bad Mother July 17, 2012 at 8:23 am

    Dan has done some things ham-handedly. (He didn’t try to get people to write for him for free. He tried to reach out and connect with people and he asked about reciprocal guest-posting because that’s what he thought people in the community did. He was TRYING to participate in the community. It was inelegant, but it was sincere – I know, because I was one of the only people to respond to that email. That’s how I first got to know him.)

    There are quite a few bona fide trolls in this community. Bloggers who hurt people with harassment and rumor spreading. To my knowledge, nobody has launched an investigation into any of them, or called for their expulsion from the community. So why Dan, who hasn’t hurt anybody? Why has everyone decided that THIS guy is the one that we call bullshit on? This is a pile-on, and I don’t like it. I thought we were better than that.

    zchamu July 17, 2012 at 8:52 am

    A lot of people you know and trust are all saying “something smells”. I know you side with the underdog. I do too. But the very fact that people in our community who “don’t do this”, are doing this? Says a lot.

    Has anybody in this thread actually met Dan aside from you? This isn’t a veiled question leading to something else; I’m genuinely curious. Seems to me that if this guy IS legit, the best thing for him to do would be to head to BlogHer and actually start some conversations with people.

    Her Bad Mother July 17, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Dan came to EVO, on my encouragement, and had lunch with me and Doug French and Ana Flores and Jennifer James and Jeannine Harvey and Andrea and Dara from my Babble team. It was brave of him; he was nervous (would I have walked into a den of my critics, knowing only one ally in the crowd? Probably not.) But we had a great lunch. Doug invited him to Dad 2.0 and he accepted. He’s TRYING. But he keeps getting kicked around (even you characterized his outreach to the community as a scam to get free content. Did you receive that email? Or was that secondhand?) I couldn’t have faced such a hostile crowd, one demanding that I answer for myself. That he’s trying, I think, speaks volumes.

    Melanie @MelanieMedia July 18, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    Just chiming in to answer your question. Yes, I’ve met Dan, too.

    Her Bad Mother July 18, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    And you didn’t see devil horns on him either, did you, Mel? You’d have told me if you did, right?

    Suzy July 17, 2012 at 7:50 am

    I don’t follow the parenting blogs (not a parent) and only recently heard of Dan. I didn’t think there was anything wrong or outrageous about his “self promotion” or whatever everyone is all up in balls about. I’m going to say I was a teeny bit jealous that I didn’t have anything that fabulous to promote! I’m pretty shameless about self-promotion on Twitter. I’m in show business and it comes with the territory. See: Charlie Sheen. I’m sure lots of people think I’m an asshole. Oh well.

    Rock on Dan Pearce!

    Alex@LateEnough July 17, 2012 at 8:13 am

    I understand where you are going with this blog piece and I don’t agree with circling the wagons against anyone just for their promotion choices.
    However, Dan writing about a teenager coming out to his conservative mom and then saying it could’ve been made up IS bad for the community.
    I had a family contact me a few months after Dan’s post. They are real people who went to a real church. The daughter came out to her conservative Christian parents and the parents eventually left their church and wrote this beautiful letter to their pastor as to why.
    When I first read the story and verified the church etc, I still hesitated to publish the piece because I thought the blog community would think it was made-up. That’s not good for our blogging community.
    I decided this family, who desperately wanted to get their story out, was more important than talk behind my back. (I decided to not link back to the church or use the family’s names so I wouldn’t out the young teenager.) I published the piece and asked for help getting the word out.
    While the post did get shared, I couldn’t help but wonder if it would’ve been better received had Dan either 1) not lied about his story or 2) verified his story before publishing.
    A real family was affected by his decision.
    I don’t care about tall-tales around someone’s own life but when others get dragged into it, it is a problem for all of us.

    Her Bad Mother July 17, 2012 at 9:49 am

    It’s a tricky territory, figuring out how to write about things that come to you second-hand. I wrote about a reader who reached out to me about deciding not to give up her baby for adoption, because I’d written about my own lost brother. I took shit from the community (and the adoption community in particular), who argued that the reader might have been making the story up. I argued that the story was worthy of telling whether or not I could confirm it to be true. Then the same reader contacted me me some months later to say that her baby had died. I wrote about that, and took shit again. I was clear – as Dan was – that this was a story someone had sent me. I had not investigated it. I wouldn’t even know how, and in any case, didn’t care to. I was moved by it, and I felt it better to err on the side of sympathetic gullibility than be a cold-hearted skeptic. But I was hurt by the criticism. I still cringe when I think about it.

    Suzy Q July 17, 2012 at 9:21 am

    You went to Davey Jones Elementary? I am going to choose to believe it was named after the Monkee and not the mariner!

    MLB July 17, 2012 at 10:16 am

    I understand this is your personal blog, but what is Babble’s role in all this? My primary issue has to do with the reprinting of SDL’s press release that has not been corroborated. Was there a rescue? And what responsibility does Babble have to confirm events before publication? This is not an issue of someone telling a personal story in the same way that a blog post is, given the fact that Babble has at least a semi-journalistic role on the web. Why is questioning this press release bullying?

    Her Bad Mother July 17, 2012 at 10:56 am

    A number of Babble writers wrote critical posts about the press release. Babble isn’t a newspaper – it’s a network of bloggers. We don’t vet or investigate what they write, because they’re all writing, in essence, personal posts – they’re not reporting the news. And questioning the press release isn’t bullying – again, a number of Babble bloggers did exactly that, with my encouragement. The relentless pursuit and investigation of Dan, the refusal to accept his explanations and his white flags, the collective insistence that he’s a blight on the parenting space, that he, personally, is responsible for its decline – that, I think, is pretty close to bullying.

    MLB July 17, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    But that’s just it. When you repost a press release, you are reporting news. Cecily wasn’t writing about her experiences. She was repackaging something at least purported to be factual. Given that Babble has articles written by physicians – i.e. the potty training article written by the doctor who wrote “it’s no accident”, it really is not a collection of personal posts. Babble has a responsibility here that a personal blog does not and I think that needs to be more fully acknowledged.

    Her Bad Mother July 17, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    And I asked Cecily to write a follow-up post that dug into the press release. Which she did, as did John Cave Osborne. When we post feature articles by experts, our edit team runs through those. Blog posts, we don’t, but we do ask the bloggers to consider all angles.

    Cecily July 19, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    MLB, I didn’t include this in my story, but I did, in fact, verify his story. He WAS, indeed, lifeflighted to a hospital. I couldn’t verify anything else, but I did verify that.

    Danielle @writingmomoirs July 17, 2012 at 11:27 am

    I do not know the hate that the dad has recieved. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and voice. The blog world is not a Stepford Society. We are not the same. We need to celebrate that.
    He is lucky to have friends like you to speak up.
    a BC native :)

    Amanda July 17, 2012 at 11:31 am

    There are two things that I have seen happen pretty consistently with blogging kerfuffles and scandals: a mob mentality and an over-analysis of a specific thing. I think when we go too laser sharp on an event rather than the underlying issues, we can, with very good intentions, lose sight of the bigger picture. Liz did a beautiful job when she addressed it from 30,000 feet.

    I’ll draw a non-blogging parallel. The Penn State story, so many people are obsessing about the specifics of that case, when truthfully their time would be better served to be more vigilant of other things happening now or that may occur in the future. If something upsets you, horrifies you or enrages you, go after a way of stopping it elsewhere, not by decimating that one thing. You want to save a kid? Stop calling for Paterno’s posthumous dethroning and seek out a way to protect kids.

    Loathe bad writing and self-aggrandizing? Write better, shine a stronger light on people whose writing you love.

    Ganging up on people, even if they are somehow wrong doers, is still just ganging up.

    Her Bad Mother July 17, 2012 at 1:58 pm


    Thank you.

    MommaDJane July 17, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Love this comment.

    Marinka July 18, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    I don’t agree with this at all. And sorry, I know this takes the discussion away from SDL. But we absolutely need to dismantle the machinery that allowed Paterno to look the other way and to say that football is more important. History, mistakes, repetition and all that.

    Her Bad Mother July 19, 2012 at 11:44 am

    I don’t that the two positions are necessarily at odds. Dismantling the machinery is a HUGE part of dealing with the bigger problem – prioritizing ANYTHING (least of all freaking football) over protecting children.

    Marinka July 19, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Then it’s my fault for not being clearer.

    When Amanda wrote: ” If something upsets you, horrifies you or enrages you, go after a way of stopping it elsewhere, not by decimating that one thing. You want to save a kid? Stop calling for Paterno’s posthumous dethroning and seek out a way to protect kids.” I understood it to mean, in essence, work on protecting the children, not on dethroning Paterno.

    But I think dethroning Paterno, the dismantling the football machine that allowed the abuse to continue is an important step in making sure it doesn’t happen again.

    Her Bad Mother July 19, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    True. I think that if all anyone talks about is Paterno’s dethroning, then that becomes problematic (that is, if the focus is just on HIM, and not the institutional structures that encouraged/allowed him to handle things the way that he did.) You’re right that it’s part of the problem.

    Amy@Binkytowne July 17, 2012 at 11:41 am

    I don’t even know who he is and I’m not an asshole and I really don’t need to read your blog to be told not to be one but here’s me looking away and forgetting all about the fact that you did.

    Jason July 17, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Lost in all of this is yet another question: is Dan a public figure, a celebrity, or isn’t he? He certainly makes every attempt to paint himself as one, and has gone to great lengths on his on blog and elsewhere to brand himself as so much more than a dadblogger. Hundreds of thousands of followers! Millions of pageviews! And yet when he’s subject to the same kind of scrutiny that we might apply to, say, Dr. Phil, all of a sudden he’s just some guy with a blog, and his critics are “bullies”. (I agree with Laurie’s comment; we need to find a better word here.) Catherine, you and I both have posted our share of snark on MamaPop, poking fun at and sometimes savaging the rich and famous, to the delight of our readers. What does that make us?

    I’d said this before, and I’ll repeat (copy/paste): I don’t recall anyone accusing Dan of being Eeeeeeeevil and a Horrible Parent; what I see are a group of writers questioning the guy’s authenticity and practices, and where you see this as a form of mob vigilantism, I see this as a community acting to preserve some sort of ethical standard in a time when bloggers are still seen by “legitimate” media and print writers as amateurish, as respectable as James Frey or the so-called yellow journalists of the early 20th century. When you say “Dan’s not hurting anyone”, my argument would be that if he’s viewed as a representative and leader of the dadblogging community, then in a sense he’s hurting my site as well as others who don’t engage in the type of marketing and “truthiness” that Dan has.

    There isn’t an easy answer to this. What is “justice”? Hell if I know. I’m uneasy with busting out the torches and the pitchforks, but I also look to similar recent examples in the momblogging world (the whole Our Ordinary Life plagiarism thing) as an example of when a community does need to raise its voice to uphold some standards. Because who else is going to do that, if not that community’s members?

    Her Bad Mother July 17, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    I don’t know, Jason – is he a celebrity, any more than I am? Does it matter? Shouldn’t we treat our own – those who we know are just schlubs like us, trying to make a success of this, however we define that – with a bit more civility than we might reserve for the Kardashians? (Which, for the record – I pulled back on celebrity snark a long time ago, after someone pointed out exactly what I’m pointing out here: mean is mean.)

    In any case, Our Ordinary Life is a little different, in that it WAS plagiarism, it didn’t need to be investigate, it was obvious and it hurt another member of our community. I totally agree in calling out harm. I still don’t see how this is it, or how it’s much different from anything I’ve been accused of (which, again, is a point of sensitivity for me. I have been there. I know how much it sucks.) And to your point about Dan being perceived as a leader in this space: no. You’re the leader. You are, and your friends are. You are who everyone looks to. It’s precisely because you are leaders that you have the power to rally people as you have, and to drive opinion. As I said to Andy – you guys are the guys on top here. It’s not about traffic. It’s about reputation and relationships, and you guys have it. I don’t get why you’re threatened. You have no reason to be. You already have the most important spoils. You just need to push forward with your excellence.

    And maybe be gracious to the other guy, unless he does something that actually really hurts you? I don’t know. I’d just have hoped for that.

    This is all out of respect, Jason. I wouldn’t be upset otherwise.

    Anna July 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Live and let live people. The rest of you are all assholes.

    Doug July 17, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    The great thing about this post, and its comments, is how civil all the discourse (and disagreement) is. It reminds me that blogs can still conjure interesting, insightful, passionate dialogue that doesn’t devolve into people flinging shit at each other.

    There is one easy way for Dan to help ameliorate all this mishegas: acknowledge and join the dad-blogging community full-bore. Stay abreast of what other dads are writing, and support it with links and comments. Come to Dad 2.0 and share the knowledge of the space that he clearly possesses. True community breeds transparency, which I believe would do much to allay people’s suspicions of him.

    I don’t agree that Dan is being bullied, and I do think his work merits further scrutiny. But I also feel that, to the extent of people’s misgivings about his work and intentions, the point has been emphatically made. If we are to attempt genuinely to move on from here, Dan needs to be willing to join us, and we need to be willing to accept him. The sad part is, that possibility becomes more remote with each subsequent person that jumps on the dogpile.

    Her Bad Mother July 17, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    Exactly, Doug. The bigger dogpile the less likely the possibility of movement. I don’t see how Dan can join the dad-blogging community when it’s being pretty emphatic about not wanting to be associated with him. Demanding that he must face this hostile community if he’s to ameliorate this… it’s like expecting the kid who’s being yelled at and pelted by the crowd to move closer to the crowd. The crowd – the community – needs to make its own moves. I’m not hearing that it’s willing to do that.

    Dan made a brave move by coming to meet you and other bloggers at EVO. That wasn’t an easy thing to do. I don’t know that I would have done it, in his shoes. I’m actually pretty sure that I wouldn’t have. But it was possible – it was good – because you were gracious and open, Doug, and you sat down with him as a peer. That was classy of a level of classy that I fully expect from you. Once upon a time I would have expected the same from the other men in this community. Not I’m not so sure that they can do the same. It certainly seems that they don’t even want to.

    Which is why it feels like bullying. Nobody, other than you (and John, of course, and some moms who I am not counting here), seems willing to even give him the chance that he wants.

    Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting July 17, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree with everything Doug said here, and said something quite similar in Dan’s Babble post myself. His Twitter and Facebook pages are chock-full of his updates and his alone, but if he truly wants to be a part of the parenting blogger community, he needs to start reading other blogs and becoming involved with other bloggers, by commenting and sharing content, too. Nice guy or no, he can’t keep crying foul when he doesn’t even try to get to know anyone.

    Her Bad Mother July 17, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    The norms of reciprocity in this community are learned – and hard to pick up on if you’re not in and of the community. Dan’s early efforts to get attention from this community and to make connections here were flawed, totally. But he’s been making better efforts through Babble. Thing is, it’s a bit hard for him to get involved with other bloggers when so many are so hostile toward him. Who’s extending the olive branch on the community side?

    MommaDJane July 17, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    Amen. I whole-heartedly agree with this post. I’ve been seeing it and saying it as well. I also recently wrote a blog post about bullying as adults. It’s sad.

    Backpacking Dad July 17, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    This won’t be about a dad blogger, because I’m just sociopathic enough to not actually care about people. And this won’t be about you, because I’m just human enough to actually consider you a friend, and I consider many other people on the thread friends, and insofar as a sociopath like myself is capable of friendship, I don’t want to burn anyone’s house down. But it will be about arguments, because I’m just philosopher enough to care most about the arguments people make. I feel like I need this preface, because I had a recent experience where I said something very sparse, targeted, and minor, and into it was read something thick, broad, and major, and I don’t want a repeat of the few days I had of saying things like “Well, that’s not in there anywhere….”

    So, clear? No. Probably not yet. Okay, here: What follows contains no normative content apart from the very limited claim that the arguments don’t get where they need to go. It is not about taking sides. It is not about friendships. It is not about piling on. It is not about blogging. It is not about anything except what it looks to be about.

    1. You have expressed a worry about the reaction to Dan based on its similarities to a reaction to you. This is something like equivocation. There is probably a fancy term for it that a real philosopher would know. In any event, it is the confusion of two superficially like sets of facts/premises/terms and deriving an identical conclusion about one based on facts about the other. It COULD be the case that Dan’s critics are unfairly, falsely criticizing him. That it was true in your case does not make their behaviour EVIDENCE of it being true in his case. The underdetermination problem here doesn’t mean we ought to conclude one way rather than the other about the facts of the matter.

    2. A straw man: You deflate claims made about Dan’s writing as being DAMNED LIES to claims about them being mere LIES (as being exaggerations, or half-stories, or creative non-fiction), and then argue that we don’t have a consistent problem with these kinds of storytelling moves in, i.e. Sedaris. Andy, I believe, clarifies that the position of the critic is that the stories are DAMNED LIES, in the vein of James Frey (that is, with fraudulent intent or purpose), and not mere LIES. Arguments salvaging the LIAR do not also salvage the DAMNED LIAR. Other arguments are required.

    3. Another argument is attempted, that might salvage even a DAMNED LIAR: Do we condemn a lie that does good? If Dan’s story about the gay kid and his mom is indeed a DAMNED LIE, but has a positive effect in some way, you conclude, perhaps cautiously, perhaps with reservations, that the DAMNED LIE is permissible. This could be uncharitably characterized as Machiavellian, but I don’t think you mean it to be. Rather, I think you meant it as somehow utilitarian. But if so, it is just not an uncontroversial position to have that we can either tell how much good the DAMNED LIE does, and so figure out how its good stacks up against its evil, or that we can say that if a lie does any good at all, it is permissible. You get either a math problem or a devaluation of honesty below levels many people would accept. And that’s if the rest of us are on board as utilitarians in the first place. I don’t know how intuitive it is to say “He told a lie? Well, I hope it did some good.” A large number of people think that lying, all on its own, is not okay. A large number probably think that the good has to be pretty significant to outweigh the evil of the lie. This isn’t so much a claim about you being WRONG that the good might outweigh the bad as it is a claim that it’s not uncontroversial, so it’s not good to use it as an assumption.

    I will repeat: What has gone before has nothing to do with the people, events, stories, claims, dramas, sides, friendships. This was about arguments, not truth, not right or wrong.

    If I were to take a side, though, it would be this: None of the rankings, success, exposure, or anything really matter. There is only one criteria by which to judge a dad blogger, and that is sexiness. And I think we already put that issue to bed (and then did stuff to it).

    Although if there is another Top 25 Sexiest Dad Bloggers list in the future, Dan might crack it. Look at that smile!

    CH July 17, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    You can’t expect people to not be assholes. People are assholes and it’s never going to stop. People are even bigger assholes when it’s not face to face. My how brave they get behind the screen.

    Dan Pearce July 18, 2012 at 5:30 am

    After reading this post and its comments, I guess I’ll share a few thoughts.

    First and foremost, Catherine, thank you for standing up for me. The moment I saw that you’d written something, my stomach clenched as I knew you’d be getting a big brunt of the flack that people are feeling toward me.

    Second, in response to all those debating me, and my practices, and my intentions, and my proper next steps… I can’t really say much at all. It’s very strange to visit a webpage and see so many people telling everyone else exactly what my intentions have been, exactly how honest I am, and exactly everything that they know I’ve done wrong (more so on other pages, not this one).

    After a weekend with friends, fun with my son, and some good ol’ fashion fiction writing, I was able to clear my head of the hailstorm of last week enough to realize a couple things.

    First, nobody knows me but me. Nobody knows my intentions but me. Nobody knows if I’m honest but me. And I’m no longer going to try to prove any of it because it simply can never be proved.

    Second, I’ve had to think a lot, especially since meeting Doug, about whether or not I wanted to be in “the community” at all. We all do just fine on our own, so what reason would I have to want in? There are a lot of reasons I want to be a part of it, and none of them are because I need what you can give me, or because you need anything I can give you, but because I believe in what we as a community can offer other dads (and moms). Forget the blog, or any success, or any monetizing, or any anything else… dad bloggers have a chance to really bring a feeling of normalcy, perspective, and strength to other parents. Ripping each other apart (and I’ve done my share) doesn’t help anybody anywhere. It reaches and leaks into everything we do. How can we be a solid voice if we have such unstable waterworks humming in the background?

    So the question begs… how to become part of the community? How to be a strength to the community? How to be accepted in the community?

    I don’t know. I’ve tried to reach out since day one and so far just about everything has backfired on me. I blame myself. Uneducated. Unaware of much of any way that blogging relationships work. Sucked into a blogging limelight before I could learn the major dos and don’ts. Rash decisions to quit my job and pursue it as a career which then forced me to run it as a business more than a blog. It all spiraled in weird, unprecedented ways pretty quickly.

    So, now that the community demands that I be a part of it yet insists that there is no place for me, what do I do? The thought of going to a big conference scares the shit out of me. So many people that can’t stand me. So many people that love my guts. I don’t feel like I’d have any place to just melt into the community, barely noticed like I’d prefer.

    I’ve felt the digital icy stares when I enter online rooms of discussion and tried. I’ve heard the crickets chirp when I have fun, joke around, and try to be part of the conversation. I’ve seen people be attacked for saying they like me or something I do (more times than I can count). Being a blogger and being friends with me (as Catherine pointed out) just brings people trouble. And so it just gets worse.

    The only answer, I think, is to do what I’ve gotta do to meet more of you in person.

    I know I said there’s not much of a community. I’m wrong. We all are the community. I’m in the community. The day I started my blog, I built my house in that community. And just like in any community, we have people from every walk of life, every political spectrum, every belief system, and every level of douchetasticness.

    I take full responsibility for everything that’s been handed me, and while I openly admit that I should have done a lot of things differently within the community from the beginning, and while I see that I am adding my graffiti to previously built and beautiful structures in the community, I realize that I still am part of the community, and everything I do reflects on the community and so does what others do in regards to me.

    I’d like to be a good and giving part of the community. But I honestly believe it can’t start to happen unless three things happen first. Tell me if you agree, cause I’m definitely open to other things.

    1) I have to own my part in it and apologize without excuses. I did that on my BV blog.

    2) I have to cinch up my belt and go meet you all in coming conferences. I’ll probably start with Dad 2.0 which Doug has so graciously invited me to.

    3) You have to be willing to let go of the past and give me a clean slate. Has anybody here ever jumped into something before they understood what they were getting into, done it the wrong way, and had to make big corrections? It’s impossible to move forward when willingness is chained down by the past.

    I’m willing to do my parts.

    My blog is not a bad blog. I really do have good intentions with everything I do on it. I’m honest. And sincere. And kind. And opinionated. And just trying to both entertain and work out my shit, which is what I thought blogging was all about.

    Where I’ve really messed up is with the community. I’ve become the pretty crack whore on this side of blogging. And all I’m asking is… if I go to blogger rehab and “get clean,” is there a place for me here? I’m asking sincerely.


    PS. I have no idea if Jesse Singal is going to publish his article about dad blogging in the Times. If he does, I hope we don’t have to start this discussion from scratch being that I gave the interview in the heat of the controversy (quite some time ago), not in the winding aftermath of more rational discussion and certainly not before really taking a look at my part in it all.

    In other words, I did share many of my frustrations with him. And I know he interviewed many of you who shared your frustrations of me. And even though it’ll be published sometime in the future, it won’t be reflective of any of this most recent debate/conversation, which saddens me because as much as it really sucks to be the debated screwball in it all, I think it’s very beneficial and helpful toward moving toward a bigger, better dad blogging community.

    Mom101 July 18, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Dan! You’re leaving a comment – on someone else’s blog!

    Welcome to the community.

    Bon July 18, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    slow clap, Liz. :)

    Dan. the community is built on one-to-one networked relationships. commenting, conferences, Twitter. connections. otherwise you’re just in the same media space, not the community. as ppl get big, the one-to-one tends to slide & be replaced by broadcasting, but the connections remain so long as they’re occasionally fostered.

    re #3…i’ve never seen a clean slate happen in social media, per se: people can’t just wipe their brains of all associations they have around an identity. but judgement is cumulative so today always matters, and eventually yesterday fades, when it’s owned.

    wish you well.

    Kristen Howerton July 19, 2012 at 6:38 pm


    Avitable July 18, 2012 at 9:44 am

    You don’t need to be invited to go to a conference. You can do what every normal person does and just buy a ticket, too.

    Her Bad Mother July 18, 2012 at 10:52 am

    I sure as hell wouldn’t walk into a conference where everyone hated me unless someone, anyone, stretched out their hand. Even then. Dan already did it – he came to EVO. That took balls.

    Is that seriously so obscure to everybody? We hand-hold everybody who goes to BlogHer because we all know how scary/weird/intimidating it is, but Dan’s expected – EXPECTED – to walk himself in to a den of lions just to prove himself to us, and we roll our eyes at him for not having done it already?

    /edited to remove profanity.

    Avitable July 18, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    I think it’s that idea that everyone hates him that is the big issue here. People may be annoyed with him, and people may be frustrated, but hate is a strong word. And to be honest – most people don’t give a shit about him in any way nor do they have any idea who he is. So, no, you don’t need an invitation.

    Her Bad Mother July 18, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    I’ve seen him called some strong names. Douche. Sociopath. Fraud.

    But even if it were just ‘irritation’ – walking into an environment where the people who will be paying you most attention are those who think that your writing is all lies? I wouldn’t do it, I don’t think.

    zchamu July 18, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Hi Dan,

    My advice is just to go out there and participate. The blogosphere has had lots of controversy over the years, lots of good guys and bad guys. Inevitably, everybody moves on. If you’ve gotten advice from Catherine and Doug, then I’m certain you got really, really good advice. Good luck, and I hope you find what you’re looking for.

    Anne (@notasupermom) July 29, 2012 at 1:43 am

    It’s a people business, Dan. And you can’t help but like most people you meet in person.

    Next year, buy a ticket to EVO, come stay at the Canyons, hang out at the social events and make friends.

    You’ve got an image problem with your peers. The best way to fix that is to let them get to know you.

    David Wescott July 18, 2012 at 7:47 am


    Her Bad Mother July 18, 2012 at 8:58 am

    Sure did.

    Avitable July 18, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Catherine, I know I’m one of those that you consider an asshole, and I’m okay with that.

    I can’t stand lying and half-truths when it takes away a voice from someone with real experiences. If Dan’s post was real, we would have the names and contact information of these amazing people who changed their entire world-view based on his terribly-written, treacly post.

    I posted this on Karen’s blog and I’ll say it here:

    If someone wrote a fake story about the strength they gained from overcoming an experience where they got raped, and that story got press and accolades from the sheep of the world while other, lesser-known voices were struggling to get heard – voices with genuine experiences – would that be okay?

    If Dan wants to repackage his blog as a series of parables, of stories, of lessons that are gleaned from his evening viewing of the news and infometrics from his stats, that’s what he should do. But when he tells stories as true, honest tales that happened to him, and they’re quite obviously bullshit (and every story that could be validated has been shown to have huge gaping holes in it), I don’t think it’s bullying at all to call him on his shit.

    Everyone has critics, and just because yours accused you of the same thing that people accuse Dan, and even though you know that you are being honest, this doesn’t mean that Dan is the same. You are not Dan – people who have an issue with Dan are not thinking the same about you.

    And yes, I’m an asshole. I call people on their shit, I hold people to their word, and when I’m someone’s friend, I defend them unflaggingly. So I understand why you wrote this post, but I fear that (just like your defense of Kristin Ruiz) you will be proven wrong.

    Her Bad Mother July 18, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Adam – I didn’t defend Kristin Ruiz. I fired Kristin Ruiz and stripped her content from Babble. I just didn’t think that public stoning was civil. Calling out real transgressions like plagiarism is necessary, but name-calling and angry jeers are medieval.

    That said: Dan Pearce is not Kristin Ruiz. He has not plagiarized anyone. He has not been proven to have made anything up. People just suspect that he has. Just as people have suspected that I have, on stories that I either couldn’t prove were true or wasn’t interested in proving were true. I’ve posted letters from readers that I haven’t verified. I decided to believe them, and posted them as-is. Holding the opinion that his stories are bullshit is not the same as knowing that his stories are bullshit. The difference between knowledge and opinion is huge and significant. So is the difference between accusation and guilt. You know that.

    What bothers me here, among other things, is the witch-hunt element. Based on nothing more than suspicion and dislike, people have taken it upon themselves to ‘investigate’ Dan (just as Anna ABD did with me with Tanner, and with my job at Babble, and with my departure from MamaPop, and who knows what else) and I find that – and certainly its aggressiveness – mean-spirited. Are we really now promoting policing each other? Are we going to investigate every story that we don’t quite buy? Are we going to prove that every blogger do as the crowd asks and provide proof of anything that they say? Compel those whose stories we doubt to provide witnesses and documents? As Karen said – is it really so much more important to be right than to be kind? AT WHAT COST? I don’t want to live on that Internet, Adam. Seriously.

    Avitable July 18, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Here’s the thing, Catherine. You stood up to the investigating because you didn’t have anything to hide. Even minor investigation into Dan’s background has shown that he is lying. That warrants further scrutiny.

    It’s important to be kind. But it’s also important to promote people who are genuine and alert others to people who aren’t. Is it mean to investigate Nigerian scammers and alert everyone about people who scam others for profit? No. It’s the right thing to do.

    Investigating alone isn’t mean-spirited, but the tone with which the information is provided can be, that’s true. And an even tone would be nice with any post about Dan – it can be even and critical. Of course, I know I can be mean-spirited, too, and that’s just a fact that my bluntness can come across as being mean.

    I bear no ill will towards Dan, and if I met him, I’d shake his hand and tell him the same concerns and issues I have to his face that I’ve written online. I’d hold him accountable and still hope that he and his family do well, but maybe without profiting off of the gullibility and emotions of an idiot readership.

    Her Bad Mother July 18, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    The extent to which I stood up to anything very much depended on how important I felt it was to defend myself against the given charges. Allegations related to Tanner? Of course I stood up. Allegations related to my narrative around why I was commuting to New York most of last year, and/or why I was hired by Babble? Nobody’s business, so I ignored it. Allegations that I was posting false letters? Fuck that; I don’t do investigations into whoever sends me email.

    Nothing has shown that Dan is lying. People have found, after hunting, holes in stories and inconsistencies and questions, but the fact that there aren’t answers or that he hasn’t answered doesn’t mean that there’s this massive cesspool of lies there. If you held my blog up against my real life and searched for inconsistencies, I’ll bet you’d find tons. I’m not Dan; I know that. But to some extent it’s a matter of degrees. He’s not pretending to be a lesbian in Syria, or that he has cancer and could you please send him money? He hasn’t made up sick babies or placed himself at the middle of government conspiracies. He’s accused of exaggerating events, of playing fast and loose with his own history, of posting letters from readers who may or may not be real. Maybe, if all of those accusations are true – they haven’t been proven to be – he should get some side-eye from the community. But I think that the vitriol with Dan goes too far. I think that it’s fine for folks to be constructively critical (I named some of such folks above), but the judgements on character and the name-calling? No.

    Also, jeez, Adam: do you know how many times I’ve been accused of “profiting off of the gullibility and emotions of an idiot readership”? In my first year of blogging someone set up an entire site to decry me for doing exactly that, and to fight all of my manipulative and insincere tactics. And all that aside – give people some credit, for starters, and for god’s sake let them decide what they want to read for themselves. You’re not the Internet police. They don’t need your protection.

    Jim Griffioen July 18, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    This has become so deeply embarrassing.

    I wish, Catherine, that I had once seen you defend the integrity of this medium we helped build—clawing and scratching like a cornered beast—as you have defended this harmless charlatan. It is your behavior (not Mr. Pearce’s) that has troubled me most. For all his faults, Mr. Pearce has always been very transparent about what he is, and anyone silly enough to take him seriously has played right into his hands. You, on the other hand, were a writer I once respected. Sure you sometimes acted like the only one on earth who’d ever read Aristotle, but it was a pleasure to share your experiences at the dawn of your motherhood as you thrived in this new medium that gave you the space to share them. I considered you a friend.

    Now I don’t even know what to say.

    It occurs to me that you have to defend Mr. Pearce. Not because you hired him and remain his boss, but because somehow you have become so much like him that you correctly perceive attacks on him as an attack on your brand. Mr. Pearce’s behavior has surprised some of us, but really it’s not that surprising at all. It’s a natural extension of what we’ve allowed blogging to become. It’s little wonder that few bloggers are ever taken seriously as writers or artists, when so many of us are so eager to exchange our creative integrity for a few shekels to promote swiffer wet jets, shitty tequila, and smurf DVDs. Mr. Pearce is a liar, but so are we all when we pretend to care about products for five-figure pay-offs. At least Mr. Pearce never had any creative integrity to begin with.

    Is it time yet to call me a bully or a troll? Remember Catherine, when calling others “bullies” that you are the one who has real power here. And I’m not just talking about your job holding the purse strings for a dozen truly talented writers and a whole bunch of lousy ones. I’m talking about the power you’ve wielded as an “influential mommy blogger.” All of the women (and men) who’ve wanted to be you have looked to you (and other pioneers) for what’s acceptable and unacceptable in this community and this medium. When you defend Mr. Pearce, you aren’t just defending an employee: you are defending (and worse: validating) the most extreme kind of ugliness that we have allowed into this medium.

    The internet is a wild, chaotic place, but what has always made blogging a unique part of the internet is the sense of community fostered by writers working in the medium. And that community generally polices itself to varying degrees of success. Mr. Pearce is welcome in this community, but I don’t think what has been happening is bullying. It’s been an effort to communicate to him that some of us here still value authenticity.

    Her Bad Mother July 18, 2012 at 2:11 pm


    I’m standing up for Dan because he’s a human being, and because he’s been hurt by all of this, and because I don’t like seeing people get hurt. I don’t like it because I’ve been hurt in similar ways, and because, you know: HURT. Hurt is bad. That’s it, at its core. It has nothing to do with money or branding or who I work for or who works for me. It’s about watching someone get hurt.

    I was very clear, above, that I think that it’s fine and even necessary for there to be robust, critical discourse about what we do in this vast, strange place that is the Internet, and in our little communities therein. I encouraged those interested in doing so at Babble – on the Dan topic – to do exactly that. John Cave Osborne – one of the most gifted writers in the dad space, and a true gentleman – will tell you that I fully supported him in writing his deeply felt and fully critical post on Dan’s mountain adventure. And he will tell you – as will others at Babble who have written critically about Dan – that my only dictate was, don’t be mean. We can be critical without being mean. I actually think – no, I know – that criticism is better, richer, for rooting itself in civility, and aiming to be constructive. We gain nothing from tearing others down. I issued apologies yesterday on Facebook and on Twitter and in the postscript above, because I had used strokes that were too broad; I had not intended to indict everyone who has ever criticized Dan. I was upset with those who are making a meal of it, and a sour one at that.

    I’ve not defended Dan’s way of doing business. I’ve not defended his promotional tactics. I’ve not defended his writing, the quality or sincerity thereof. You will find no words, above or in these comments or anywhere, that say: Dan’s way is the right way. Dan himself, in a post at Babble and again in the comments below, has said that he’s gone about things the wrong way, and he recognizes how it frustrated the community. He’s being self-reflective, or trying to be. But people are still being dicks to him. Because at the root of things, for most of those who have been most relentless in their criticism of him, is not the issue of how runs his business or whether his stories are true – it’s that they just don’t like him. They think his writing sucks. They hate that his shitty writing has an audience. So he can’t do anything, really, to appease those critics, other than go away. I’m made very, very uncomfortable by that whole dynamic. It has nothing to do with approving of or defending how he does things – I really, really wish that he’d not made such a bad start of it. I really wish that he’d made better choices. I really wish a lot of things. But regardless of whether I approve of his work at SDL or not, I still think that he should be treated civilly. That’s the only thing that I’ve argued for. Because I thought that that’s what we did in this community: held ourselves to higher standards of civility than the rest of the anarchic webs.

    I’ve wrung my hands about the commercialization of the mom space for some years now. We’ve navigated some tricky territory, as a body, since 2006, when we were debating whether or not it was okay to even put ads in our sidebars. You took shit for hosting McDonalds ads, if I recall. Most of us were called out at some point for compromising our integrity and authenticity in the name of the almighty dollar. Few of us were called sociopaths or douchebags, though. At least not by each other. I wouldn’t dream of posting screeds against the blogs that I don’t like, that I think might compromise the awesome of this space, because, why? They’re not hurting me. They have every right to be here. As Lisa Belkin said to me in an email yesterday: ‘they’re JUST BLOGS. There’s room for all of them.’ I might cast a critical eye upon the phenomenon of the review blogger, or sigh dramatically when someone associates mom blogging with diaper diaries, or wish to the gods that there weren’t so many Twitter parties or SpongeBob giveaways, but really: the best that I can do too elevate the discourse on parenting is to, you know, contribute to its elevation. The existence of US Weekly doesn’t undermine The New Yorker; there’s room for both (less, perhaps, than on the Internet, but still.)

    We started Babble Voices for exactly that reason; to create a platform for the elevation of the discourse of parenting, and to bring a rich variety of voices onto it. It’s not for money or traffic. It’s there so that there’ll be a space where interesting voices can come together, so that we can mix Joel Stein and Alice Bradley and Sam Bee and Doug French and Ellen Seidman and a bunch of other people you may never have heard of, so that we can be awesome and interesting together. Yes, Dan’s there. I invited him, because I’d met him some months before BV was launched and he was interesting and funny and waaaay outside of the echo-chamber of our community. I didn’t realize at the time that some people wouldn’t like that, but you know what? I wouldn’t have wanted that to guide my decision anyway.

    In defending Dan, again, I’m not defending his practices or his style. I’m defending him in the way that I would expect my kids to defend another kid who was being taunted by a group. I wouldn’t tell them to verify, first, whether or not the first kid deserved it. My position is, if you see someone being hurt, you step in and ask that everyone stop it. If everyone were discussing this civilly and constructively and not making it about how toxic he is, then there’d be nothing to step in on. This, to me, IS a defense of what our space is. THIS is what makes us different. We treat each other better than other communities do. We put being kind before being right. We let everyone in. We let everyone tell their story and run their business the way that they want to and if not all of it is to our tastes, so what? It’s not our job to decide who deserves and doesn’t deserve to be here. If it’s not hurting you, let it go. If we want to call out the troll blogs and the people that launch investigations into Heather’s divorce or Ree’s land holdings or Katie Granju’s story about her son’s death – really, anyone that causes harm – sure. Maybe. But policing the community for bad writing and hyperbole and sloppy social media tactics and overly aggressive marketing? That’s getting uncomfortably subjective for me. Judging it is fine; critiquing it is fine. Policing it, on the basis of our own subjective standards of what deserves to be here? No. I might not like it, but there’s a lot I don’t like in this space. Most of it I just let go by, because, why waste my energy? And also because, this is what’s revolutionary about this space. Anyone can be here. It’s messiness and sloppiness and freaky mix of good and bad and high and low is the thing that we’ve never seen before. It’s the thing that makes this truly special.

    I didn’t call you a bully. I made it clear that I don’t regard thoughtful criticism as bullying. I supported some of that thoughtful criticism; I encouraged its publication on the platform that I oversee. Anyway. I’m disappointed that you would reframe your entire opinion of me because I stood up for one guy and asked the community to remember that he’s human. Feel free to change your opinion if I start sending my own press releases and writing insane posts, but because I’ve asked for civility and kindness, even against someone nobody likes (especially someone nobody likes)? I wouldn’t have expected it.

    And, I may not be the only parent blogger who has read Aristotle, but I’m probably one of the very few who has read him in Greek.

    Beta Dad July 18, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    I’m not sure why you keep infantilizing Dan. He’s not a child, he’s a grown-ass man. And he’s not a bumbling newbie–he figured out the blogging biz in like two seconds.

    If I were under this kind of scrutiny, I wouldn’t want someone saying I was a hurt child. I would want someone vouching for my integrity.

    Her Bad Mother July 18, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    How am I infantilizing him? By standing up and saying that I thought some people had gotten a little uncivil in their pursuit of proving him a fraud? I’m glad for the times that people stood up for me and asked the angry crowd to stand down. I’m paying that forward to him. I thought that’s what we did here.

    In any case, I’m now in the position of having to defend myself for standing up for someone, which I find extraordinary. So I have to keep explaining again and again why I did it. Because it is, apparently, not cool to stand up for people. I did not defend his practices or his style or his business model – I simply asked why we couldn’t just back off a little or play nicer. And the responses are largely: BUT HE DESERVES IT. WE NEED TO STAY ON HIM. WHY ARE YOU DEFENDING HIM? So I keep having to explain: I’m defending him because no-one else is, because I hate to see people hurt, because I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes, because if I were in his shoes – even I were in his shoes, deserving it fully, whatever that means – I’d want someone saying ‘hey, guys. Don’t be so harsh. Don’t call her a douchebag. Don’t keep saying that she makes you want to vomit. Don’t keep blaming all the Internet’s ills on her. BE NICER.’ HUMAN BEINGS HAVE FEELINGS. Am I seriously the only person here who thinks that that should be a consideration in any and all interactions that we have with each other?

    If that infantilizes him, so be it. But that reflects super badly on this community if that’s how we view standing up for people.

    Jim Griffioen July 18, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Child in the crowd: See the emperor, he wears no clothes!
    Catherine Connors: Shhhh, we don’t want to hurt his feelings!

    * * * * *

    Empress Catherine II: My, these Crimean villages sure look a lot like empty facades.
    Catherine Connors: Shhhh, General Potemkin is a real person, you guys!

    * * * * *

    Catherine Connors: No, really, Dorothy, pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. We need to be civil!

    Beta Dad July 18, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    I’m just pointing out a tic in your rhetoric here. You use the “bullied child” analogy over and over. There’s a difference between a guileless child and a business-savvy grown up. Defend him against meanies, but don’t change the context to the schoolyard. If you need an analogy, why not try a different frame: the marketplace, for example, since Dan is a salesman first and foremost.

    Lydia Moore July 20, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    This is the point. Also, please review the above comment about the “straw man”.
    In addition, I just want to say that I came to your blog, as I am wont to do every now and then, and find this bizarre post that says (in spirit) “don’t be a bully, asshole!” Um, thanks?
    Then I read this ludicrous and completely disjointed attempt at defending a grown man, whose stories are full of holes you coul drive a truck through; and you’re so We held my birthday party here, it wasn’t cheap but the food and drinks were excellent and the bowling was top notch. We will be back!full of passion that you would think someone tried to tar and feather your own child.
    There is no bullying here. It’s called calling someone out on their story.
    Then Dan drops in! And offers nothing to back up his stories, claims and decisions.
    Dan has mediocre writing skills. He trolls his own threads, sends out weird emails. He is not a good blogger; he’s like McDonalds and the rest of this (your circle) seem more like a five star establishment. He’s riding on coattails, and when he falls off, he does something desperate. IMO, you will have a different perspective on this whole thing in about six months; and I also predict Dan will no longer be associated with you.
    He’s a textbook narcissist. You may disagree with me, but you will have to cut him loose…for you’re his extension. And when narcissists feel their extension feel all wobbly, they freak out, sever their extension and forge another. Until that one catches on, so on and so on.
    Nothing against you personally, and I think you’re a good writer, but I think your friends here have really valid points and that perhaps if you step back and think about this is a logical way, perhaps you’ll agree on some of it

    Her Bad Mother July 25, 2012 at 8:28 am

    The point is that what anything thinks of Dan’s writing is beside the point. I made it very clear that I am not making a defense of Dan’s style or social media practices. I made it very clear that I supported criticism of Dan. What I am doing is insisting, I think rightly, that when we take it upon ourselves to be critical of others, that we do so kindly, and constructively, and with the benefit of doubt. I am also suggesting that we are generally better served by ignoring those we don’t like than by devoting ourselves to the work of proving to the world that they are deserving of our dislike.

    It may be that someday, someone is going unmask Dan as a full-bore fabricator of stories. That hasn’t happened, despite the exhaustive investigative work of some bloggers, and of at least one New York Times reporter. But maybe it will, and I will say, if that happens, ‘that is a shame; I had hoped otherwise.’ But I will not regret having stood up for the principle of being kind over being right. I will not regret having asked my community to be reflective in its investigations and persecutions, and to try to err on the side of kindness. I will not regret having asked that we be temperate and constructive, and that we remember, always, that behind the screen, we’re all human. That regardless of whether what we produce in this space is 5 star or budget, Balthazar or McDonalds, we all have a right to be here, and that we should think carefully before we make claims that some do not have or do not deserve that right.

    Karen Sugarpants July 18, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    It has taken me this long to work my way up to commenting on what is happening, beyond my thoughts on my own blog.

    I don’t like the way this has gone. It makes me really uncomfortable to see my friends speak to each other this way. I don’t expect to hold hands and sing Kumbaya or anything, I mean, I’m fairly Polyanna, but I’m not that Pollyanna. I just don’t understand this. Maybe I’ve been too removed from this community for the last 2 years, but if this is where we’re at, I would like to maintain a bit of naivety and ignore the words getting thrown about.

    This whole thing seems so trivial to me, and I hate to think of the people involved feeling less than wonderful about themselves when they close their computers and go to bed at night. Most of us who blog have passions we want to share with the world, but sharing passion comes at a cost at times. I don’t know Dan, I am not familiar with his blog other than skimming it, but if he’s happy writing stories that people enjoy, I’m totally cool with that. If parts of his stories are embellished, in order to gain traffic or popularity, that’s something he has to be comfortable with. From where I stand, his stories, whatever percentage may or may not be fabricated, are not hurting anyone. Live and let live. He doesn’t represent parent blogging/our community/you/me, no more than Tom Cruise represents acting/Scientology/mental health. So why the uproar? Is that the issue here?

    If one still feels worked up about this after the days (weeks) this has gone on, perhaps one needs to take some time away from the computer. At the end of the day, no one should feel less than wonderful about pursuing their passion.

    Beta Dad July 18, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    It’s a problem of professional psychosis. (Am I the only parent blogger who has read Kenneth Burke? In Greek? [not] Sheesh!) Parent bloggers tend to default to seeing everything through the lens of child-rearing. Well, I think it’s a pretty good bet Dan’s default lens is the marketplace (which is also social and peer-relationship driven, as far as I know). That’s why, although I’m sure he’s feeling pretty beleaguered right about now, I’ll bet he can shrug off a lot of the criticism as the cost of doing business.

    I admire your sticking up for the underdog. Just pointing out another way of thinking about it.

    Also, I was called “faggot” daily and punched in the face monthly because I was a tiny, obnoxious punk rocker in a school full of rednecks and jocks (Virginia, early 80s) who had the full support of the authorities. I know about the complexities of schoolyard bullying. But it’s not the only way to look at a conflict.

    Her Bad Mother July 18, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    Fair point about professional psychosis. And fair point about looking at conflict in other ways. I could totally have dug into war tropes, perhaps gone in a Thucydidean direction and styled myself a Pericles delivering a funeral oration on the force and weakness of our Athenian Internet. Maybe I should have. But I really wanted to tell my Bigfoot story to a crowd that wouldn’t lynch me. Jury’s still out on whether that was the right call.

    Beta Dad July 18, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    Hey–I saw big hairy monster too. Except it was in Germany and it was after all the kids at the Army base had seen “The Legend of Bogy Creek.” I’m almost ashamed that I don’t have a good bully story about what happened when I freaked the fuck out over it. Somebody’s dad put together a “hunting expedition” and a whole pack of us marched through the woods to flush out the monster. We never saw the thing, but I think it got the message.

    Jason July 18, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Hi, checking in after (looks at watch) what, two weeks of talking about Dan? The dog I had in this fight has actually been licking himself and humping the sofa cushions for the past day or two.

    I’m going to risk being called a softie and say this: this whole thing has gone off of the rails, and it’s probably time we moved on. Dan, ball’s in your court, dude. Shame on me, not for criticizing you – I’ve had stones thrown at me for about 5 years, and it’s a mostly shitty but occasionally eye-opening part of the deal – but for letting what you do affect what I do. Props to you for at least entering into the fray here; as you say, only you know if any of this is real or important. You go to Dad 2.0, and I’ll shake your hand, and sit down and talk to you about whatever it is you want to talk about. Unless it’s Smurf DVD’s. (I still have some standards.)

    Her Bad Mother July 19, 2012 at 8:22 am

    Thank you for this, Jason. Really.

    And, power to the softies. Machiavelli got it all wrong.

    Kristin July 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    This was a very insightful post. You have a lot of great feedback and I’ve enjoyed reading about it. Thank you for posting about this topic!

    MommyPage July 31, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    Very interesting article. I’m glad that you posted this- it was quite insightful.

    Her Bad Mother July 17, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    Ha! But I am a struggling novelist. I’m still not hurt by her. I see what I do as different. There’s a market for her, just as I hope there’ll be a market for me. The Internet – the world of words more broadly – is not a zero-sum game. There’s plenty for everyone. He reaches a different audience than you do, and it’s an audience that you’re probably not interested in, anyway.

    You’re right that I’m seeing the power differentials differently than you are. I see so much power in your community, because you’re the thought leaders. Don’t tell me you don’t know that you are that. You’re the dad bloggers that new dad bloggers look to. That’s why Dan tried – so very badly, so very inelegantly – to win you over. He wanted some of what you have. He has everything to gain by gaining entree to your community; you have nothing to gain by bringing him down. Seriously.

    Look, I guess that I hold you guys in higher esteem than you do yourselves. Which is also a shame. I wish that you appreciated what you have. To whose who don’t have it, it looks pretty awesome.

    Her Bad Mother July 17, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Gah, whoops! This was meant as a response to Andy.

    Do you have a link to your post, MommaDJane?

    Beta Dad July 17, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    Haha…no, you’re right. It’s great to be a thought leader (*vomits in mouth from taste of self-aggrandizment*). Mostly, it’s cool to have a bunch of really talented, funny, thoughtful friends.

    But. To your point about Dan reaching out to the “community.” When did this happen? ‘Cause just last week he was still saying there was no community. Someone please correct me; but of the however-many phony emails with guest-post-invites-to-follow, Jim from Sweet Juniper is the only dad that I know who received one. (Probably because, up until last year, I think Jim was the only dude on a “Top Blogger” list on Babble.)

    I don’t know what on earth Dan would have to gain from being part of the dad blogging community. I’m sure he did that math long ago too. Now mom bloggers– they know how to make money. That’s why (again, correct me if I’m wrong) he reached out to a bunch of moms with powerful platforms, and one token dad. (He might not have even known “Sweet Juniper” was written by a guy.) We have nothing to help further his business agenda except for maybe a handful of potential disciples with a couple hundred blog followers.

    Anyway, it’s not like I’m a gatekeeper. If Dan wants to be a part of the community, maybe he should try reading a dad blog and leaving a comment or something.

    Beta Dad July 17, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Oops. Didn’t see Doug’s comment up there. Word up, Doug. Only, I wouldn’t necessarily call for a moratorium on further scrutiny.

    Doug July 17, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    I never called for that. Screw-ups and scrutiny go hand-in-hand. I’m only saying that, after having finally met him, I can tell you that he’s gotten the message.

    Her Bad Mother July 17, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Scrutinizing screw-ups, I have no problem with. You can scrutinize mine, too. So long as it goes hand-in-hand with civility and a willingness to forgive and a recognition that, more often than not, there are few among us who are sufficiently without sin to be able to clear-heartedly throw the first stone.

    As I said below, Doug: you’re a good guy.

    Beta Dad July 17, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    I’ve been reading so many comments today that I can’t focus. I don’t know where I got that thing about scrutiny. Weird.

    Her Bad Mother July 18, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Maybe. Part of the issue with the story in question is that the blogger – Dan – said publicly that he didn’t know for sure whether or not the story (from this unverified letter) was true. He didn’t verify it. If we were talking about a first-person story, presented as first-person truth, I would fully agree. This is trickier, because it’s a secondhand story, and was presented as secondhand story, and secondhand stories, we all know, are always at a remove from fact. If Dan made up receiving the letter at all, that’s one thing. If a reader made it up and sent it to him, isn’t that another, in terms of how we receive this?

    My mind is not fully made up on this. I just think that it’s worth interrogating.

    Her Bad Mother July 18, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Did you miss the part where I said that I fully supported civil and constructive criticism? Are we checking all thinking and listening at the door now, because, screw thinking and listening? Or am I completely off my rocker in saying that there’s a very great difference between saying out loud that the Emperor has no clothes, and throwing rocks at him? I’m starting to feel a little crazy, like, I’m speaking in an entirely different language. Or did you just not read my response to you? AM NOT TELLING ANYONE TO NOT CRITIQUE THE EMPEROR’S WARDROBE. AM ASKING THAT THEY DON’T HURL STICKS.

    Or maybe you’re right. Screw consideration, screw civil discourse. Some people just suck so much that we should just check all consideration at the door. Some people shouldn’t have anyone stand up for them, ever. In which case, SORRY WORLD. I should never have asked anyone to not be mean to Dan.

    Her Bad Mother July 18, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    Of course there’s a difference between a child and a grown-up. But that doesn’t mean that the analogy doesn’t work. We use the trope of the schoolyard to contextualize all sorts of things in this space. And we generally agree that adults can bully and be bullied, and we tend to use language that evokes the schoolyard in those discussions. We’re not saying that bullied adults are childlike when we do that. We’re speaking figuratively.

    But the schoolyard analogy works here for other reasons. This is a social, peer-relationship driven space. The issues driving the disputes here are social ones. You’re not calling out Dan’s business model on its market merits; you’re calling out his practices for how they reflect upon the community. You don’t want liars here – there’s an argument for shunning liars in communities. The marketplace is amoral, and doesn’t take a position on authenticity and integrity. Dan’s proven his success in the marketplace; where he’s failed is in the community. (And I agree with everyone that he has failed; what I disagree with is how that failure is being addressed.) So the marketplace doesn’t work. The schoolyard does.

    Also: one the well=acknowledged issues in dealing with bullying is the problem of addressing and acknowledging agency. Some kids do things to ‘provoke’ bullying, intentionally or otherwise. This was core to the problem of dealing with my nephew’s bullying: he has behavioral issues. He was setting kids off. They did not like him, for entirely reasonable reasons. But that did not make it okay for them to pile on him. Hell no. ‘Innocence’ is fraught with complications here: Tanner, in the strict sense, provoked his bullies. But that didn’t make his treatment of him right or good. THAT’S why I stick to this analogy. That’s why I used the example of my own experience as a child, my own lies. Not because it’s simple. Because it’s complicated.

    Jim Griffioen July 18, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    I just can’t get past how disingenuous it is to use your bully pulpit (in the Roosevelt-ian sense) to tell people that they shouldn’t police the internet while wielding a shrill police whistle and shouting, “Bully! Troll!” “Assholes!” Plus saying “don’t be mean! be civil!” while calling people assholes.

    Truthfully, I have never really been all that bothered by Mr. Pearce. The only thing I’ve ever felt for him is pity. But I challenged you here because I really haven’t seen anyone throwing rocks (or sticks) at Mr. Pearce. The whole discourse has been remarkably civil (particularly for the wild and chaotic internet you cherish). Whatever scars you still have from similar accusations seem to have left you incapable of seeing how civil this has actually been. And that maybe the two situations are different. With this post you have hurled nasty epithets at people who have been civilly pointing the emperor’s lack of clothing. You are telling us not to pay attention to the man behind the curtain because simple the act of paying attention to the man and not the projection is somehow “mean.” That is unforgivable logic, Catherine. I am not here just to be mean and cause you to curse at me, but I am here because you are wrong about this and you don’t seem to be able to see it.

    Her Bad Mother July 18, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    Fair enough – you’re right that there’s a contradiction there. I am policing for civility.

    But look, this is what’s frustrating for me: I have not been hurling nasty epithets at people who are being civil (to the extent that anyone thought that I was, I apologized – multiple times – and corrected to make sure that I was clear that I wasn’t). I have not insisted that people not be critical. I have, in fact, supported some in their criticism. Again, I thought that I made that clear. I have not suggested not paying attention to the man – indeed, I’ve been suggesting that people do consider that there is, in fact, a man behind the projection. I HAVE suggested that if you don’t like what you see there, you walk away, but that’s not quite the same thing. I don’t think. I’m open to having my contradictions pointed out.

    That you haven’t seen anyone throwing sticks isn’t evidence that sticks haven’t been thrown. The relentlessness of the campaign to expose Dan Pearce has spawned a nasty discourse, in comments and on Facebook groups and on Twitter, where people mock him and call him names. When he posted his own explanations, when he posted an apology to the community for his role in this, people still snickered and mocked him. He surrendered, and people kept coming at him. Keep coming at him. I’ve seen unpleasantness that I wouldn’t want my children involved in, if this were playground politics. So, no, I’m not calling out the civil critics. I don’t know how I can make that more clear. I’m calling out the bad behavior. If you (the generic you) are mocking someone publicly – especially someone who has said sorry to you for whatever it is you’re mocking them for – yes, I think that’s bad behavior. I think that you’re being an asshole.

    And, with Karen, and Lisa, and some others, I just don’t see what the point is in the endless collective campaign to investigate and expose him. A campaign that is going on past the point that he has thrown up the white flag and said sorry for getting it all wrong and asked what he can do to set his boat to right. That’s really bothering me. There’s so much animus here that it’s not enough that he surrender. He’s on the ground, okay? Can we stop interrogating him now? I’m cringing and complaining because I don’t like what I’ve seen. Again – again, again – not the criticism. I am FOR criticism, when it’s thoughtful and civil. I will continue to support John Osborne in writing however many posts about this that he likes. Ditto Doug French. Ditto Cecily Kellogg. Ditto some others. I will sign the paychecks – more paychecks – for writing those posts. I welcome the civil discourse. There is much that can be discussed and debated and dug into here. My agitation is not about that. It’s about the mean. If, from where you stand, it seems that there’s been none of that, then I get your position. But the view from where I stand has shown something different.

    If I am wrong, I really want to get why. If you can accept that this is not, for me, about the civil critics, and if you can believe me when I say that I’ve seen behavior that has made my heart hurt – what am I getting wrong? Where has my logic collapsed?

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