Lisa Engles, Kristina Kincaid, William Gazecki have recently co-authored an article on Medium about elements of the Marc Gafni Smear Campaign called “Takedown Culture & Marc Gafni: Nancy Levine’s Egregious Con-Job, A Modern Day Gaston From Beauty and The Beast.”
Here is how it starts:
A take down culture has come to dominate the Internet — It’s a culture in which smear campaigns with the intent of social murder have become common place.
Often times, it’s difficult for the average person browsing the Internet to recognize these campaigns because they appear to represent valid and trustworthy information. Adding to that, we’ve recently seen a new variety of smear campaigns that are disguised as activism — in the form of victim advocacy for survivors of sexual abuse — which play into a shared societal confirmation bias around sexual abuse. This, making it even more difficult to distinguish between legitimate activism and a smear campaign.
It then gives an unexpected example of this dynamic taken from the movie “The Beauty and the Beast:”
A brilliant example of this is seen in the Disney classic, Beauty and The Beast. If you’ve ever seen Beauty and The Beast, you’ll remember the particular scene in which the character Gaston leads a crowd on their way to attack the Beast, chanting “Kill the Beast!”. He sees himself as a rescuer. He is going to rescue the village from the predator, the Beast.
The beast is a leader — an imperfect leader — but clearly good, and on his own evolutionary journey of growth and transformation. He not only poses no threat, he is a force for the good, who honors the feminine and is deeply in love with the heroine, Belle.
When Belle, the true feminine, tries to intervene and stop Gaston, he violently throws her aside, saying, “You are either with us or against us” — a tell-tale sign that something deceptive lies beneath the ‘cause’ of keeping the village safe.
Posturing threats to anyone who doesn’t abide to the subscribed plan of attack is commonly used by the ring-leaders — like Gaston — of smear campaigns. The motto is: “Smear or we’ll smear you too.” You’re either with us or against us, and if you’re against us then we’ll be against you. It turns out that Gaston is in fact the villain, a perpetrator of violence hiding behind the guise of the rescuer.
Another example is Arthur Miller’s famous play, The Crucible, which describes the same dynamic in the story of the Salem witch hunts, in which teen age girls give first person testimony claiming that their neighbors are witches– The “testimonies” go unchallenged and the result is the cruel and unnecessary death of many innocent people.
Modern-day witch hunts often incite the same kind of frenzy through viral Internet memes. Unchallenged, first person testimonies often hide the collusion and ulterior motives of the accusers. “Kill the Beast!” is still the cry of the mob, and the ‘crime’ for which the so-called Beast is to be punished is often a trumped up crime against the feminine.
Sexual harassment is a terrible and often insidious form of abuse. Women have been silent victims of it for centuries. It is past time for all of us to speak and act against all forms of sexual abuse. However, in the frenzy that sometimes occurs when society mobilizes to end a long-standing evil, it is easy to target people who have done nothing to deserve punishment.
When sexual stories are retold in the public space in a manner different than how they happened, and cause trauma and suffering to so many people involved, the sexual is violated again.
False and distorted complaints about sexual events are themselves a new form of sexual abuse that has recently emerged in public culture. A perfect example of someone who has continuously perpetrated this kind of frenzy is a blogger named Nancy Levine who describes herself on her LinkedIn profile to be an advocate for changing the culture of sexual violence. Levine spent most of 2016 posting articles that attack author and speaker Marc Gafni, and by association, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey. Her posts attempt to smear Mackey with ‘guilt by association’, demanding that he publicly denounce Gafni or else be denounced himself.
Nancy Levine is a modern day Gaston figure. Both Levine and Gaston seem righteous and incite the mob. Both also disguise their attempted character assassination under the veneer of rescuing society from the Beast. But careful examination shows that they are not rescuers but are actually perpetrators. In Beauty and The Beast, the mob is composed of well meaning townspeople. In the same way, Nancy Levine has gathered a mob of unsuspecting Internet activists offering well-meaning support for a seemingly good cause. In Beauty and The Beast, the goal is to physically murder the beast. For Levine and her associates, the goal is social murder as I (Lisa) have described in other articles. And finally, anyone who is not aligned with their righteous cause will suffer the same consequence as Belle, thrown aside and subject to violent [Internet] attack.