In a post on The Atlantic's website on Monday, National Journal contributing editor Stuart Taylor Jr. made a case for dropping criminal charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former International Monetary Fund director accused of trying to rape a maid in a Manhattan hotel on May 14. He argued not that Strauss-Kahn is likely innocent, but that the accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, has damaged her credibility enough by admitting to falsehoods in her original story that the prosecution will never prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Rather, Taylor contended, she should sue him in civil court where the standards of proof will be less stringent. Taylor, who co-authored a book about the Duke lacrosse rape case, has made campaigning against false rape charges and political correctness part of his brand. His book, per its subtitle, takes on the "Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustice of the Duke Lacrosse Case." Last month he wrote a story for The Atlantic about a naval midshipman falsely accused of rape that railed against the "politically correct presumption of guilt in many rape cases."
Given Taylor's track record on the issue and the nature of his arguments in Monday's post, it's a little surprising we haven't seen more outrage in traditionally feminist publications. From the start of the Strauss-Kahn case, the idea of a powerful man apparently buying his way out of justice for an attack on a powerless victim struck a chord. When Ben Stein wrote a piece for the American Spectator called "Presumed Innocent, Anyone?" Jezebel panned it as the "worst possible defense of Strauss Kahn." Similarly, Bitch (and many others) came down hard on Dilbert creator Scott Adams for seeming to argue that rape was a natural instinct. One blog, Feministing, did respond to Taylor's piece, calling it "racist, sexist, classist, and lazy." But outrage at the level that followed Stein's, Adams's, and Bernard Henri-Levy's early defenses of Strauss-Kahn was largely absent from the blogosphere on Monday. The same wasn't true on Twitter, where one woman pretty much singlehandedly orchestrated the backlash.
Kate Harding, the co-author of Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body, took to Twitter early on today to whip up indignation against Taylor's piece. "Be warned, I am about to tweet furiously about this, from @TheAtlantic, which is just fucking shameful," she tweeted Monday morning. What followed was a numerically indexed rebuttal to Taylor's points, interspersed with retweets of Harding's followers' own points. "Big of you to acknowledge that *full* consent sounds implausible, but do you really think partial consent is a thing? Not called rape?" read tweet no. 2 on Harding's list. At tweet no. 8, "Where is the article that says, 'DSK has ample reason to lie, his story makes no sense, and it's not the first time he's been accused?'" Eventually, people started linking back to Harding's feed as a rebuttal to Taylor's piece. NewsBeast's Chris Dickey, who interviewed Nafissatou Diallo, pointed to Harding's feed as the go-to for online outrage. Blogger Holloway McCandless tweeted, "For a great corrective to @TheAtlantic's smarmy post on #DSK case, do a Twitter search for @KateHarding." Harding's twitter feed continues to stand as the collaborative rebuttal of record.