An alleged gang rape in Steubenville, Ohio took place in August, but it is only gaining national attention now – and it's safe to say the story is exploding. The New York Times wrote about it on Dec. 17, focusing on the divided, sports-obsessed town, as well as the social media aspects of the case – a crime blogger named Alexandria Goddard has catalogued the deleted tweets, photos, and videos of the high-schoolers involved in the alleged rape, and continued to investigate what happened to the teenaged Jane Doe. (For a good primer on the alleged Steubenville "rape crew," The Atlantic Wire has put together the basic facts here.)
In an unlikely alliance, KnightSec, a subgroup of Anonymous, and Roseanne Barr, the prolific tweeter, feminist, and actor/writer, have united to draw more attention to what happened in Steubenville. Barr has even changed her Twitter avatar to be a Guy Fawkes mask version of her face in solidarity with Anonymous.
I emailed with Barr about her involvement. In our emails, she wrote that learning some details about the alleged rape, in particular that the boys allegedly defecated on the girl, "was more than I could stand," which spurred her to action. She favors an FBI investigation, and loves this Anonymous crew because "they impressed me because they are so fiercely UNSEXIST." Here is our exchange.
KA: When did you first hear about the Steubenville case?
RB: I first heard about it from people on Twitter. They sent me a lot of links to read. When I read the facts of the case, I got horrified at the usual things that horrify me – rape culture in all its gluttony, complicity of adults to protect athletes, and to help to destroy their victims/prey by painting them as immoral, rather than those who harm them. Victim blaming/woman bashing is America's downfall, in Steubenville and in Washington, D.C.
KA: Who were the people telling you about it?
RB: Some were in Anonymous and KnightSec, they gave me the site Prinniefied.com – she was the journo who broke the story.
KA: I saw KYAnonymous's Twitter feed because of you. Why do you think Anonymous people have taken an interest in a rape case? The hacking community isn't generally known for its feminist work.
RB: I think that some of them are part of KnightSec and want to come to the aid of women for the sake of proving that there is chivalry and redemption for men. They also see the way the entire system is set up to protect corrupt people – they are against that.
KA: They began talking to you about it after the woman who had been raped in India died from suicide and you tweeted that you'd lost faith in men. Once they got your attention, how did you get so involved?
RB: JustBatCat said I would like something they were working on – then I saw their DOX on the accused, telling them to apologize or their vital info would be exposed. I then received an onslaught of links/info which I read, and re-tweeted including Prinniefied.com – the journalist who broke the story about how severely compromised the athletic program is in that particular school – and how the rape/drugging was being covered up, and the victim blamed. When I saw the picture of the young girl being carried around by two guys, I got more pissed off and involved. When I found out that they had pissed and shit on her face after they took her in the trunk of their car to two other parties to be raped there, I got more involved. I praised Anonymous KnightSec and JustBatCat, who had to move the images to Malaysian servers, since they were being censored in Ohio, and everywhere else. I called the news station 9, and emailed the governor and did a lot of stuff like that – I love that these kids told me that they watched my show and felt inspired to do something moral and just. I'm like a kvelling Jewish grandma with all of these kids now!
By the way – the woman in India died of losing her intestines after being raped on a bus. She did not kill herself, that was another girl there. Anonymous is cool because it has lots of women in it who are hacking the shit out of patriarchy – and so are the men in it – it seems to be non-gender binary in most cases, which I also like.
KA: Both Indian rape cases were horrendous – thanks for clarifying. The case seems to be getting more attention now because of what KnightSec and you and others are doing. How did it come about that KY was on your radio show?
RB: We struck up a tweeter alliance – they impressed me because they are so fiercely UNSEXIST. I love them now. I see them as my Cyber sons.
Also, I felt I could be helpful to get some media attention for this poor girl and her family – I am somewhat good at that, occasionally, thanks to you!
KA: You seem awfully good at it without help. What's the best case scenario here? And do you think the best case scenario, whatever that is, is possible? If everything that allegedly happened did really happen, then there is a cultural problem in that town that seems insurmountable to me.
RB: They shit on her face. That was more than I could stand. I realized that tipping point had been reached. These Anonymous people realized that the web is a weapon, the fiercest sword ever created. For the first time in history, no church or state can keep the fact/data/truth from the people. This is the true renaissance now. It's biblical to me. Positively revolting! (Mary Daly's words)
Most of all, it is so good – that men come to the defense of women, as they really want to do, but fear to do because of their fear of being humiliated and called weak for doing so by bullying men. But, anonymously, they can protect themselves and do the good work of naming and exposing rapists and pedophiles, rather than excusing and protecting them, as rape culture does.
KA: In some rare, but very public, instances, gang rape has a sad side history of false arrests (the Central Park rape) and false accusation (the Duke lacrosse mess, which even Michael Nodianos in the video released Wednesday seems to misremember). Do you worry about the way information has spread in this situation?
RB: Somewhat worried – I've advised that caution is used anywhere there is an intersection of class race and gender – that's usually the way the "game" is played, the blame gets put on the non-white working class female and male. One of the accused IS African American in this case, too – it's got race/class stuff all over it, as if gang rape is the "great equalizer" between divergent males (it's like that in prison, too – the victim doesn't always have to be female) but, if the law or the school had done what they were supposed to do-investigate this case fairly, none of this would be happening.
Lots of people would like to see the FBI enter the investigation – obviously the wheels of justice grind slow in Steubenville – authorities seem lax, owned, and afraid to do anything – seems like Penn State, circling the wagons around the wrong people.
All the time they are "processing the facts" – the victim is shredded as a "whore" who "asked for it." We are seeing through all the trappings this time.
Anonymous asked only for a public apology by the guilty, but I'm one of the people asking for the FBI to enter. Certainly, as I always say, I only want to see the guilty punished legally for their crimes – the guilty who raped, and those who aided in the rape or the cover-up. Something good will come of this, though. I think anytime concerned citizens get involved, good things do happen. It's when the people do nothing that bad things occur. I hope that I encourage people to be brave and get involved in all public transaction.
KA: Law enforcement is one route; I also see that KY has tweeted that they're setting up a fund for the Jane Doe victim. I imagine you would support that (but tell me if I'm wrong!). What are other concrete steps here?
RB: I do support that – the concrete steps seem to be those which wake people up, support the victim and demand a fair trial – on the public's behalf. However, they are also to create community and trust between ordinary citizens, with lots of BATMANS overseeing things and refining new methods of protest/action/dissent. Power to the People!