I’ll feign surprise and call that an altercation

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, June 23, 2010 15:03 EDT
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While the subject matter of this article by Matthew Mosk and Brian Ross is some dark shit, I have to admit that I chortled through the entire thing. No, not at the story. But at the reporting, and the way that every asinine mainstream media trope about politics and violence against women made its way into the story. Instead of telling, let’s get right into the showing! (By the way, no one ever talks about how the copy/paste function is as critical to the explosion of blogging as blogging software itself.)

A longtime aide to Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, who has been assigned by the senator to oversee women’s issues, pleaded guilty in 2008 to charges stemming from a knife-wielding altercation with an ex-girlfriend.

The word “altercation”, especially paired with the phrase “knife-wielding” is the sort of thing that conjures up images of the aide Brent Furer fighting with his ex-girlfriend straight out of “West Side Story”.

Do not be fooled, people! In the mainstream media, “fights”, “conflicts”, or “altercations” between men and women they’ve had relationships with are rarely fights, conflicts, or altercations. If you read down, you find that this woman was no more engaged in an “altercation” than Wile E. Coyote is with the piano that squishes him.

A Vitter spokesman acknowledged the senator had concerns about the 2008 arrest, in which Furer was accused of holding his ex-girlfriend against her will for 90 minutes, threatening to kill her, placing his hand over her mouth, and cutting her in the hand and neck.

As a general rule, we don’t use the term “altercation”—which implies blame on both sides—when discussing kidnapping and assault. But I suppose that it’s allowable when it comes to domestic violence, because women are totally to blame for not hopping in time machines to travel to the future to discover that the perfectly nice-seeming man asking us out now will actually turn out to be a monster. Since women neglect to use the time machines we all have, then obviously, we share the blame when we’re kidnapped by former boyfriends.

Seriously, they’d call it an “altercation” if a man stabbed his ex-wife in her sleep.

If you’re still a human being crippled by common decency, you might be asking yourself this question: How is it that Furer is actually free to work for Senator Vitter, since this incident happened two years ago? Isn’t kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon a big time fucking crime? Then why is Furer’s guilty plea amounting to less than a guilty plea to selling some illegal drugs?

If you’re asking these questions, you’re getting very close to the answer that domestic abusers all over figured out long ago—if you like kidnapping, beating, and threatening to kill women, but you don’t like going to jail for it, then date your victim first. After that, what would have been considered an extremely serious crime against a fellow citizen is downgraded to the level of some minor property destruction. And if you think that perhaps I’m overstating it, and the situation wasn’t that bad, well…..*

The next portion of our program is taking amusement at the requisite feigned shock that a stalwart warrior for the patriarchy wouldn’t really worry that much if one of his employees knocked around his female property. This is less of a problem than the “altercation” language, because it’s just a rhetorical device used to really drive home how much this is Important News. Nonetheless, it’s funny.

Those who have had encounters with Furer say his presence on Vitter’s payroll raises serious questions about the senator’s judgment.

No joke. How could the family values-loving Senator keep a man on payroll after discovering evidence that he has had premarital sex? I mean, you can’t prove 100% that the kidnapping and assault incident means that Furer was having a premarital sexual relationship, but all signs are pointing in that direction. While we can all understand waving off a little violence to keep the bitches in line, certainly anyone with old-fashioned family values—and a history of doing prostitutes while wearing a diaper that needs to be buried—should understand that this unauthorized sexual intercourse shows a very serious lack of judgment.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said it concerns her that the senator has talked so forcefully as an advocate for women and an opponent of drunk driving, and yet would keep someone with Furer’s background on his staff.

Vitter’s reputation as an “advocate for women” is one of the funniest things about this article. What the fuck does that mean? Does he pay prostitutes promptly? Does he tip especially well, reflecting the particularly strong need for discretion? I looked around at Vitter’s website and found that he had a boilerplate page about domestic violence, which is better than a lot of politicians do, but since it’s coupled with a whole lot of hostile bullshit about reproductive rights, I’m skeptical. Doubly so because Vitter wants to ban life-saving abortion procedures, disinclining me to think he’s overly worried about women’s health and safety. I looked around the list of legislation he co-sponsored, and found that while Vitter is very concerned about denying women birth control and abortion access, he hasn’t introduced any legislation to reduce violence against women. But if you’re raped and get pregnant, he’ll happily force you to have the baby! Because he cares.

*Extensive quote from the article:

After drinking at a restaurant, the two returned to Furer’s Capitol Hill apartment, the report says. Furer “would not let her leave.” He “pulled on her coat, which caused it to rip,” then “pulled out a knife and stabbed [her] in the hand,” the police report says.

Charging documents allege that Furer became angry when he found phone numbers for other men in her blackberry. He smashed her phone when she tried to call 911, the records say, and he shoved her to the floor when she tried to leave, then held his hand over her mouth and threw her on a bed.

Demopoulos told police Furer “uttered the words to her, ‘Do you want to get serious.’” Then, the arrest warrant states, Furer “grabbed an unknown object and held it under her neck. The suspect asked the complainant, ‘Do you want to die?’ The complainant replies and she stated, ‘No, I don’t want to die.’”

After a 90 minute standoff, Furer made her promise not to call police, and then allowed her to leave. She fled to a friend’s house, and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. A slash on her chin took eight stitches to close, the police report says.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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