What I Did on My Summer Vacation: A Love Story
So I’ve been back home for the past week visiting my parents (It was not a social visit, mind you. See, a new family moved into my old neighborhood and, technically, I still have to introduce myself to them even though I no longer live in the area. Damn Megan’s Law is a mutha, y’all!) and I’ve learned a few important things:
1. My step-father’s insulin tastes nothing like Sprite (a friend owes me $50 for that one).
2. Cats make horrible babysitters.
3. When Mrs. Chote, my parents’ new neighbor, says that she can bedazzle anything, never ever ask her to prove it.
4. Taxidermists have fantastically filthy senses of humor.
5. The DC non-profit community may be more incestuous than European royal families and West Virginia combined. See, my vacation was interrupted when someone called to alert me to a recent post on Stop Genocide in which Michelle F. defends SDC. A very small amount of sleuthing (i.e. sleuthing that did not require me to be sober or to move from the backyard hammock) led me to some interesting findings. See below the email I sent to Change.org after sobering up:*
Dear Change.org (or Dr. Change.org Esq., whichever you prefer),
I’ve been very distressed by the content of Stop Genocide, one of the blogs on your site, as of late. Cereally, I’ve been crying myself to sleep for the past week. Every night, I curl up in a fetal position, hug my Tenderheart Care Bear and scream “Why don’t they love me?!” to the heavens above. I once did this so loudly that the neighbors called the police (again).
My distress began after I favorably mentioned Change.org in a blog post of mine a while back – Indeed, “Thanks, Change.org” was the title of the post! – and thanked bloggers Michelle F. and Martha Heinemann Bixby of Stop Genocide for their excellent work. In return, I got no mention on their blog. Not even a Daily Darfur Quickie! That really hurt, as I’m always up for a quickie.
I had such high hopes for how our relationship would unfold too. See, Michelle F. wrote a post about Al Wynn, a former congressman who intends to lobby for Wartsila, a company whose “business transactions…have helped the Sudanese government.” In her post, Michelle chastises Wynn, saying “I would say, ‘Shame on you, Mr. Wynn,’ but somehow I doubt he’s familiar with the concept.” Well, I found out that the lobbying firm Wynn works for is Dickstein Shapiro, which provides pro bono legal counsel for the Save Darfur Coalition, according to their website. I wrote about it, thanking Change.org for alerting me to this story. I thought that, since Michelle seems like a woman of such strong moral fiber, that she would flag my post and say something like “If this is true, then hopefully, if they aren’t already planning to do so, SDC will take steps to get new legal counsel. If not, perhaps they are the ones who are unfamiliar with the concept of shame.” See how that would have tied in with her previous post? God, such a missed opportunity!
So they ignored me. Fine. I can handle that. I’ll just do what I always do when my love goes unrequited: Cut myself and murder hookers. Perfectly normal, perfectly healthy. But then, presumably not having sufficiently ripped my heart out, Stop Genocide decided to take a more active approach. In an August 3rd post titled Give Me A Break: The True Story of the Save Darfur Thong, Michelle calls out “irresponsible” bloggers who chastised SDC for accepting money from the sale of thongs with the words “Stop Genocide” on them (or “Thonggate” as it’s now known around these parts). She doesn’t mention SDAP, but we’re obviously included in the group she’s critiquing because we wrote about the thongs back in April, before they became a “sensation in the blogosphere.” She explains how her “moles within Save Darfur” – moles suggests subterfuge, so maybe “handlers” would be a more appropriate word choice, but more on that in a minute – informed her that SDC tried to get these people to stop by issuing a cease and desist order and “as far as SDC knows, they have not received funds from the sale of the thong” and ends with asking that bloggers – like me, I suppose – “take [their] potshots elsewhere.” Why you gotta bust balls, babydoll?
Obviously, I was devastated. After wiping my tears though, I got to thinkin’ ‘bout this a little more. The obvious questions to me were “‘As far as they know?!’ Why would SDC have to guess that they didn’t receive money from these people unless their development recordkeeping is even more woeful than I previously imagined?” and “How could they have issued a cease and desist order ‘some years back’ when their logo just got copyrighted not long ago? You can’t send a C&D for a logo you don’t own!” It smacks of bad intelligence – or lack of intelligence – to me. More importantly, why didn’t SDC defend themselves personally? Why is Michelle doing it for them? Why would Stop Genocide gladly attack Wynn for the Wartsila thing, but give SDC a free pass? Why give SDC another pass by saying that the thongs are a “scam?” Why the selective reporting? Why does Stop Genocide consistently either defend SDC or at least under-report its crimes and misdemeanors?
And that’s where you come in, Change.org. See, while trying to find answers to the questions above, I came across some information that I’d like you to confirm or deny. It would give me closure and help the healing process begin, you see. Specifically, according to our “moles” (we actually call them “sources” because we aren’t trying to pretend like we’re CIA agents, but whatever) within SDC, contributors to the Stop Genocide blog are actually very much connected to and invested in SDC. Michelle, for example, apparently works at Wellspring Advisors, a major donor to SDC. If this is true, I’m sure she has already told you in the interest of full disclosure (again, due to her strong moral fiber…that’s what the “F.” in Michelle F. stands for). I’m sure she’s also told you that Mike Edington, a Senior Philanthropic Adviser at Wellspring, is the Treasurer of SDC’s board. Likewise, Martha Heinemann Bixby, who blogs less frequently on Stop Genocide, is currently a full time staff member at SDC. Finally, Mohamed Suleiman, who just started writing for Stop Genocide, works closely with SDC and was even one of SDC’s Darfur Heroes last October.
Should all this be true, it raises all kinds of questions, of course. Could these allegiances be the reason Michelle was unwilling to write something bad about SDC? Should Michelle’s posts that defend SDC be thought of as the voice of Michelle, Change.org or Wellspring Advisors? In that same vein, should Martha’s posts be viewed as those of an individual or simply an extension of SDC policy? There’s no way of knowing for certain, obviously, but I just want your help in shedding some light on the relationship between your bloggers and the organizations they write about. When I’m reading Stop Genocide, am I reading something that’s been authored by an impartial observer or do the authors of that blog have the same connections to the movement that the authors of SDAP do? If the latter is true, I think you understand what kind of closure that would give me. I would then understand perfectly well why Stop Genocide’s authors don’t love me and never will: If I funded, worked at or worked with SDC, I’d try to ignore my blog too.
The problem is that, on her Change.org profile, Michelle doesn’t list her current employer (even Martha’s profile lists SDC as a place she has worked, implying past tense). So I’m asking – no, begging! – you to clarify Stop Genocide’s relationship (or lack thereof) with SDC for me. Does Michelle really work for Wellspring? Martha still works at SDC, right? Note that, to keep others from suffering the same heartbreak I did, I’ll publish your response on my blog, the Save Darfur Accountability Project, upon receiving it. Thank you for helping me get through this. I look forward to your reply.
*Confession: I wasn’t really sober when I wrote that. Not even close.