Forbes.com Fires Essig for Blog Post

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Associate Professor Laurie Essig's blog on Forbes.com. (Campus/Jessica Munyon)

Laurie Essig, associate professor of sociology and women’s and gender studies, was recently informed by Forbes.com that her blog position would be “sunsetted” as a result of a post she wrote regarding the Newtown, Conn. shootings on Dec. 17.

In her last post, Essig confronted issues of masculinity and violence in the context of mass shootings. Shortly after being published, the post was removed from Forbes.com and Essig’s position as a blogger — one that she had held since Sept. 2012 — was annulled.

Following its removal from the Forbes.com site, Essig’s post, entitled “Speaking the Unspeakable in Newtown,” was reposted online by Seven Days.

“There have been 19 mass shootings in the past five years and every single one of these mass shootings has been committed by a man,” she stated. “Far more women (and Blacks, Democrats and residents of the Northeast) support gun control than men,” continued Essig.

In her post Essig also suggests that President Barack Obama implied that parents and were more able than those without children to comprehend the tragedy, referring to his remarks following the shooting. She describes cringing, listening to Obama’s remarks in which he stated: “I react not as a president, but as anybody else would as a parent. And that was especially true today. I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.”

In Essig’s critique of this narrative, she suggests that the President Obama followed the line of other ideological claims that imply that, “people who are parents and who are married are somehow better than and more deserving of rights than those who are not.”

“But surely people who are not parents are just as grief stricken by the massacre at the Sandy Hook school,” she argued.

Forbes.com did not reply to a request for a comment by the Campus in response to Essig’s dismissal.

“In her classes, Professor Essig encourages us to question who benefits when certain opinions are silenced,” said Cailey Cron ’13.5, a student in Essig’s Sociology of Gender course this fall.

In email comments, Essig described a race-based double-standard she has identified in media coverage of mass shootings. “When a white man commits an act of terrorism such as the one in Newtown, it is generally described in the mainstream media as a psychological, and therefore individual, issue,” she said.

“It is never linked to ‘culture’ or ‘religion’ or potential social pathologies the way it is with non-white shooters.”

According to Essig, the media omits “potentially pathological parts of dominant American culture” as “part of a larger social refusal to make privilege and power visible.”

Cron echoed the comments of her professor with respect to the constraints facing writers.

“I think that it’s challenging for writers who work in the mainstream media. Those at the top know precisely what they want to hear, and I that’s something different from what Professor Essig had to say.”

Reflecting on her own career as a blogger at True/Slant, Psychology Today, The Chronicle of Higher Education and Forbes.com, Essig said that the recent decision by Forbes, is “hardly unusual,” explaining that such a business is “always full of changes.”

Essig called her position at Forbes.com “an interesting experiment,” and speculated that both Forbes.com and she knew “we were going to have a very short run.” Reflecting on her role as an academic cultural critic, Essig noted her difficulty in writing the sort of stories she wanted and getting paid for them.

Essig said she hopes the next blog will be a more “obvious fit.”