From the Department of Non-Apologies

Close, but no cigar.

In his apology obtained by The Herald, Petroski writes:
“Listen, I wrote the article. I (messed) up. It was a stupid thing to do and a stupid topic to even tread on, and I apologize to everyone I’ve hurt. I wasn’t writing this to try and hurt people though. I was trying to point out that people don’t give a damn about anything in a paper besides something they can rally around. It looks like I succeeded, especially with our front page. That doesn’t excuse what I did. I should have used a much less touchy pseudo-subject to do this with. Like animal rights** or something like that …”

Points for acknowledging you fucked up and not using the “I apologize IF I hurt anyone” formulation, but learn to shut the fuck up once you’ve issued the apology. Because you’ve now just dug yourself deeper into the hole.

Rape is a “pseudo-subject”? For real?

Look, Petroski. I know rape isn’t something you think much about except as a subject of mockery because it’s something you yourself don’t really have to worry about, but it’s in no way a “pseudo-subject.” It’s very real, and very harmful. And it’s a huge problem on college campuses, including yours. It’s something women live with every single day. It’s something many women are re-living because of you and your frat-boy sense of “humor.”

Just because your ass is chapped over the fact that people reacted more strongly to your misogynist hit piece than to an article YOU think is more important (like dollar coins) doesn’t mean that rape is a trivial subject. Just because YOU have made it clear that you think that women are not real people does not mean that their concerns are trivial.

But, again, Petroski at least managed a good apology before fumbling it. Our friend Mark Rowan and his unfortunate facial hair have not quite absorbed the lesson in all this:

The Progressive Student Alliance (PSA), a CCSU student group, held a rally Thursday in outrage to the publication of the article.

Offended students have also protested Petroski’s controversial satire by vandalizing the area outside of the newspaper’s office and stealing property.

“Their rally was laughable,” Rowan said. “They’re uneducated about freedom of speech and unorganized – they’re not channeling their anger in an appropriate manner. We’ve had to call the police several times today.”

Right, because you’re the expert on freedom of speech. So expert you don’t realize that you’re not the only one with freedom of speech, or that the exercise of free speech does not shield you from the consequences of airing your half-baked opinions. Even when those consequences include people telling you what a dumbass you are, demanding your resignation and asking that their student fees not be used to support your half-baked opinions. (The vandalism, not so much.)

And, please. Who are you to sniff about the proper way to channel anger? You still don’t get why people are angry in the first place.

Now, here’s a little surprise: the writer of the piece in the New Britain Herald quoted Chicklet’s comment here:

Internet bloggers let loose their own torrent of abuse Friday at Petroski, Rowan and The Recorder.
One blogger, “a proud CCSU graduate and former Recorder reporter,” wrote: “I am appalled and embarrassed for my alma mater. The school and the newspaper are much better than this, and I hope the editors are lambasted as much as the writer.
“Satire is a challenging genre to write and Petroski fell far short of the mark. To attempt satire on a horrific act and sensitive subject such as rape was incredibly arrogant. Unfortunately, he didn’t confine his attempt to an English paper that any professor would have rightly red-inked into oblivion.”

As I wrote to the reporter and the editor, it’s nice to see that people are reading Feministe, but responsible journalism requires that a) the distinction between commenters and bloggers be respected, and b) that quotes from blogs be attributed.


** Naive little bugger, isn’t he?

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40 comments for “From the Department of Non-Apologies

  1. Mnemosyne
    February 10, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    “Internet bloggers let loose their own torrent of abuse Friday at Petroski, Rowan and The Recorder.”

    If it’s “abuse” to point out that Petroski is a terrible writer who can’t string a coherent sentence together, then I’m proud to be an abuser.

  2. February 10, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    In my experience, effective writers learn to abandon the pseudo-noun construction early in their careers.

  3. February 10, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    Well said, zuzu.

  4. Annie G
    February 10, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    Pseudo-issue? Words fail me. Maybe that was just more gifted satire.
    What a fucking creep.

  5. February 10, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    Petrovski is a pseudo-intellectual, a pseudo-writer, and a pseudo-sorry excuse for a man.

  6. spit
    February 10, 2007 at 6:18 pm


    “Their rally was laughable,” Rowan said. “They’re uneducated about freedom of speech”…

    Pot, meet kettle.

    Except that they aren’t editors of campus newspapers, Mr. Rowan.

  7. February 10, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    Frankly, I dislike the editor more than the writer himself at this point. Bad journalists are the hardest ones to pull apologies out of, and this one at least gave it a shot. But the editor’s freaking ridiculous. He doesn’t understand the concept of ‘free speech’ in the slightest, and he should be removed from the paper right away.

  8. February 10, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    I’d just like the editor to explain how a rally saying “This is wrong, they shouldn’t have done it” violates his freedom of speech. I’d like him to explain it in a way that doesn’t violate *mine*.

  9. Melissa
    February 10, 2007 at 8:04 pm

    “It looks like I succeeded”? What a clown.

    Anna (and Zuzu et al.), I think it’s pretty clear the editor was calling the rally laughable because of the vandalism and theft, not challenging anyone’s right to protest. Hence the bits about “channeling anger in an appropriate way” and calling the police. (Not that he isn’t clearly an idiot for letting the so-called satire appear in his paper in the first place.)

  10. February 10, 2007 at 8:51 pm

    And more gems from John

    Way to follow up a “rape is funny” story with a story about how he can figure out the road to true equality.

    If you have the capability, look up the article in facebook. The forums on this article are very interesting. Be prepared to get angry,

    I really hope the writer and Mark Rowan resign but I don’t know how likely this is given their un-apologetic attitude and ego…

  11. rlh
    February 10, 2007 at 11:51 pm

    Well, hmmm. If you don’t like being raped, then don’t get raped!

    There, problem solved.

  12. Sammy
    February 11, 2007 at 1:27 am

    I would like to point out that gender quotas may be the only rerason that pompous assinine moron is at his school. After all, males are actually becoming scarcer on college campuses.

  13. tara
    February 11, 2007 at 1:31 am

    “responsible journalism requires that a) the distinction between commenters and bloggers be respected, and b) that quotes from blogs be attributed.”

    Thanks, zuzu, for calling the newspaper on this. Proper attribution (i.e., telling the reader exactly what the source is of the information you used [if it’s not something you directly observed, or isn’t undisputed historical record]) is taught in introductory journalism courses, even the ones Rowan and Petroski supposedly took (before being licensed to inflict ill will on their unfortunate readers). Proper attribution is supposed to so important, the journalism elders say, not just to c.y.a. and prevent libel suits but also do ‘good’ journalism. Improper attribution, which we’re seeing more and more of, thanks to tabloid culture and Fox News, can really be a tool for making biased news.

  14. February 11, 2007 at 7:58 am

    rlh says:Well, hmmm. If you don’t like being raped, then don’t get raped!

    There, problem solved.

    So how’s arseholery working out for you? Making any friends?

  15. evil fizz
    February 11, 2007 at 8:07 am

    Re: Petroski’s idiotic article on race and equality: points for unthinking parroting of talking points without the benefit of decent sentence structure. Seriously, if you’re going to make the “affirmative action is the real racism” argument, try not to suffocate on your own white privilege while doing it.

  16. GreyLadyBast
    February 11, 2007 at 8:58 am

    rlh says:Well, hmmm. If you don’t like being raped, then don’t get raped!

    There, problem solved.

    Y’know, I’d really like to believe this is satire. It’s sad that there are so many people in the world who hold that opinion for real, that I honestly can’t tell.

  17. February 11, 2007 at 9:38 am

    Rape isn’t a pseudo-subject if the victim is male, I’m sure. If, god forbid, Petroski was raped, I don’t imagine he’d characterize his suffering as pseudo-suffering.

  18. February 11, 2007 at 9:41 am

    Rlh isn’t satire. He got banned at Pandagon for spouting hateful things about rape victims.

  19. Joy
    February 11, 2007 at 10:07 am

    Animal rights less touchy? A less personal issue, maybe, but if Petroski had treated the issue with the same disregard and hateful rhetoric he still would have found himself in the situation he’s in now.

  20. kate
    February 11, 2007 at 10:18 am

    Unfortunately, people like rlh have such a diminished mentality that their understanding only comes from direct, tangible experience of their own. Thus they project their own experience on others, have absolutely no ability to engage empathic constructs that go outside of their own experience/identity.

    Thus, people like rlh will only have a narrow understanding of rape only if they are raped themselves and even then, only within the confines of their own experience. This kind of mental constriction is common among those who enjoy the benefits of being born within the paradigms that grant special status or preferred treatment within their social hierarchy.

    Only when those in the not so favored position of the social hierarchy work to deconstruct the system, will such thinking as rlh’s hopefully dry up and go away.

  21. February 11, 2007 at 10:54 am

    How does Rowan know that the vandals were the same people who attended the rally? Did part of the rally involve exhorting people to trash the newspaper office?

  22. zuzu
    February 11, 2007 at 11:07 am

    Buh-bye, rlh.

  23. Zan
    February 11, 2007 at 11:38 am

    Frankly, I’d love to see how these guys deal with real world journalism. As a former journalist (you know, the kind that gets paid and has to follow rules and stuff), I know for a fact that little ‘satire’ would have never, ever gotten into print. There’s no way a decent or, hell a merely killing time surfing porn at his work computer, editor would have let that thing through. And if it did, somehow, manage to get in, the company lawyers would insist the writer be fired so the paper could avoid liability and/or bad publicity.

    Real journalist have rules to follow. First one being, eh know how to write. Second one, don’t write anything that’s going to get the paper in trouble and cause people to cancel subscriptions.

    Besides, if he were really trying to prove how people only care about articles they can rally around and not ‘important’ news, he’d have written his damned satire about something unimportant. Like the price of mixed nuts at Walmart or something. Or, if he’d been really smart, that front page article he was talking about? He’d have done a riff on it in his column. Which would have gotten people to read both damned articles. But, anyway. These guys better never try to use this experience as a plus on their resumes.

  24. February 11, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    I was glad to see someone from The Onion quoted in that most recent article Chicklet linked to. That paper is the first thing that sprang to mind when Petroski claimed his article was satirical. They know from satirical.

  25. pissedofffeminist
    February 11, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    More than calling for the heads of the author and editor, I think we should demand a response from their advisors. After all, these guys don’t operate in a vacuum. They have advisors and teachers — it is a university, ya know — and those advisors should come forward and speak. I think their names are Sue Sweeney and Vivian Martin — that’s what is reporting. Where are they in all of this? Did these guys ever get training in journalistic ethics and responsible writing? Not that they should be let off the hook by any means, but I suspect the problems are much larger than these yahoos.

  26. Mnemosyne
    February 11, 2007 at 10:05 pm

    Oh, and I love that the problem with this whole brouhaha has FINALLY dawned on Rowan:

    When I spoke to Mark Rowan, the editor of The Recorder, he was apologetic, contrite, and nervous about his future in journalism. “I have a resume sitting on someone’s desk right now.”

    Yep. And no matter how you try to spin it in your interviews, Mark, the interviewers will be wondering about your lack of judgement as Editor in Chief in shepherding that essay through. Especially if they actually read it.

  27. February 12, 2007 at 5:24 am

    Seriously, if you’re going to make the “affirmative action is the real racism” argument, try not to suffocate on your own white privilege while doing it.

    So right, Evil Fizz. That article read like he thought he was the first person ever to make those points and was oh so clever for doing so – although I did enjoy the idea that a privileged white student can tell everyone when Martin Luther King will be turning in his grave because he’s been misinterpreted.

    As for the piece about rape, it was stupidly offensive. I think just about anything can be the subject of satire (but you have to be able to write well and have a real point to make – satire exists to undermine the dominant culture), but this was not satire. It was a badly-written, sensation-seeking, reactionary opinion piece written by a journalist-wannabe looking to create a mini-controversy. Well, that blew up in his face, didn’t it?

    When I spoke to Mark Rowan, the editor of The Recorder, he was apologetic, contrite, and nervous about his future in journalism.

    As indeed he should be. Hopefully we won’t see either of these men hired by some media outlet because they’re “controversial” – there’s far too much of that around these days.

  28. Chicklet
    February 12, 2007 at 11:53 am

    Petroski’s supposed to be at some “Town Hall” meeting today:

  29. Chicklet
    February 12, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    I heard from someone who went to the “Town Hall.” The report:

    Petroski issued a pretty straightforward apology – as in “I realize what I wrote was wrong, and how I wrote it was wrong, and I won’t do it again.” He added that he would march in an anti-violence against woman march. The audience heard him out politely. Sadly, no offer of resignation. I don’t know if Rowan was there.

    He and Rowan have to resign. Their credibility is shot, and their continuing to stay at The Recorder will hurt the paper. They made the mess, they have to make a start at cleaning it up.

  30. blondie
    February 12, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    Part of the problem is that satire is supposed to be funny and recognizable by most of the audience as satire.

    Unfortunately for this fellow, John, most people don’t get a big laugh from kicking the wounded. E.g., John’s brand of satire would likely be equally ill-received if his mockery of choice was wounded soldiers returning from Iraq, those killed in Iraq, the casualties of 9/11, the two boys kidnapped and molested in Kansas (Missouri?), etc. Do you think he “gets” that, or is he really just the sort of person who likes to stomp on the injured?

  31. Rose
    February 12, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    Oh how I hate to defend this asshat, but I suspect that the term “pseudo-subject” meant “I should have picked a less sensitve subject to do my pseudo-editorial on” instead of meaning “Rape is a pseudo subject” But, hell, I don’t really know…

  32. Laser Potato
    February 12, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    I stick by my original theory that he sincerely means what he writes, then backpedals and calls it “satire”. That wouldn’t be the first time such a thing has happened, that’s for sure.

  33. @ CCSU
    February 12, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    The problem rests with these morons, that’s true. And they should be hung out to dry for this garbage. I heard on campus (I’m at CCSU) that Petroski was resigned — i.e., voted off the editorial board, although he, like any other student, can write for the paper. Rowan refuses to resign — he “sees the light”. Great.

    Here’s the thing — why aren’t others stepping up to the plate here? Did this happen in a vacuum? Hardly! Yet his advisors — neither of whom have met this Petroski kid until TODAY — won’t acknowledge that they failed to advise and teach him or anyone else at the paper. But what else is a student paper but a place to learn about journalism — its freedoms and its limitations? Some serious pressure needs to go to these people — Their names are Sue Sweeney, who is the director of Student Activities and Leadership Development — her email is Vivian Martin is the faculty advisor to the paper — her email is

    These students f&*(ed up, and they deserve to be punished in the paper. But they did not do this alone and without tacit support from their advisors; worse still, their advisors failed to advise — check out the earlier post re: the article — this isn’t Petroski’s and Rowan’s first offense. They’ve been failed — they’ve not gotten the education they and others are paying for. They didn’t do this alone. Help us — email Sweeney and Martin and demand their apologies and responsibility too.

  34. February 13, 2007 at 7:34 am

    Somebody actually compared Petroski’s ‘satire’ to a Benjamin Franklin piece on farting. LIke, you know, they’re equivalent. Petroski speaks for more people than I like to acknowledge.

  35. Chicklet
    February 13, 2007 at 8:02 am

    Petroski apologizes; Rowan remains a smug, arrogant, self-important shithead:

    Advisors speak out (the photo of Rowan accompanying it is priceless):

  36. February 13, 2007 at 10:18 am

    Thanks, Joy, for mentioning the animal rights bit. I mean, does he think PETA and other animal rights groups are likely to be any less furious over a similar article written about puppy mills or animal testing? That just goes to show how his apology is meaningless because he doesn’t understand why people are upset.

    The idiots are everywhere. We must be vigilant.

    Just to be clear, I’m not saying puppy mills are a horror equal to rape.

  37. February 13, 2007 at 10:59 pm

    The advisers are full of it. To say that if they were asked to resigned, they’d have “one less headache”? Then resign, and quit your bitching! An adviser ALWAYS has the power to fire an EiC. It’s extremely rare, but in a case like this, it’s more than justified.

  38. February 15, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    Just FYI. I’m in the facebook group “Petition against “Rape only hurts if you fight it” and John Petroski made the following comment about his decision to march in “walk a mile in her shoes”:

    “For the record, I’m actually participating in the march because it’s a chance to get in some high heels. I’m sexy like that.”

    Is there a really good comeback I could zing him with perhaps? This little boy just doesn’t learn.

  39. Chicklet
    February 15, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    Rowan, especially, hasn’t learned a thing. He’s being attacked from all sides – local/state/national media, students, alumni – and he’s fighting like a rabid chihuahua to hold onto his fiefdom and his delusions of grandeur.

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