If you checked in on Twitter any time during the past week, you probably saw multiple references to the Grantland story. Grantland, an online magazine associated with ESPN, ran an article about “Dr. V,” the mysterious woman behind Yar Golf.
The journalist, Caleb Hannan, set out to write about a radical new putter taking the golfing world by storm. He contacted Dr. V to set up an interview. This was her response:
“I have no issues as long as the following protocols are followed because of my association with classified documents … Allow me to elucidate; I have the benefits under the freedom of information act the same privileges as federal judges, my anonymity is my security as well as my livelihood, since I do numerous active projects … If the aforementioned is agreeable to you, please respond to this communique at your convenience so we can schedule our lively nuncupative off the record collogue.”
The email reads like something a high schooler trying to pose as a PhD might write. It was Hannan’s tipoff that Dr. V was not the designer of stealth bombers she presented herself to be. His focus shifted from the magical putter to Dr. V herself, even though she had insisted from the beginning that her cooperation was contingent upon his story being about the putter, not about her.
Hannan soon learned Dr. V was a phony. She hadn’t studied at any of the colleges or universities listed on her CV. She never worked in the defense industry. She was, in fact, an auto mechanic. She had a history of filing lawsuits. She was abrasive and her family hated her. She may have defrauded an investor in Yar Golf.
But here’s the biggie: Caleb Hannan was “thrilled” to learn Dr. V was transgender. Born a man. Married twice, father of two children. And now living as a woman.
He confronted her with his evidence. She begged him to stop. She committed suicide. He published his story, calling it a “eulogy.”
It’s a fascinating story. It’s also unseemly and malicious. Was it important to expose Dr. V? What purpose does the story serve? Most of the negative reaction on Twitter, if I can sum it up, was along these lines: Dr. V’s story was her own and Hannan should have let it drop when she asked him to. Here’s a short exchange I had with one of Caleb Hannan’s critics (keep in mind Twitter posts are listed chronologically with the newest on top; my post at the bottom was the start of this short thread):
Stories exposing fakes and phonies are always fun to read, and they usually serve a purpose. Charlatans pose as doctors. Famous authors and journalists plagiarize lesser known writers. Congressmen who claim Harvard degrees turn out to be high school dropouts. Do we not need to know these things?
Some phonies need to be exposed. Their stories aren’t strictly their own: like fake doctors, their stories result in harm to others. But what about the phony Navy SEALs I mentioned in my Twitter post? Who are they hurting? No one, but most of us consider “stealing valor” a heinous crime and we love to see these guys outed.
I think what I was getting at in my Twitter post was this: if Dr. V had merely faked her academic and professional history, would anyone have thought Hannan’s story unseemly or exploitative? I think not. Exposing her as trans is what turned this story sour. I mostly agree with my friend on Twitter. It was wrong to make such a big deal out of Dr. V’s transgender status. I’m not entirely sure why, though … does being trans make one a special snowflake? Should stories about a trans person’s prior life be off-limits?
Dr. V’s suicide is particularly troubling. Hannan doesn’t connect her final act to their confrontation over his investigation and story, but that’s how a lot of readers take it: his threat to out her amounted to bullying and she may have killed herself because of it. Maybe. Maybe not. She had, after all, previously attempted suicide in 2008, long before Hannan entered her life (another exposed fact that had nothing to do with the Oracle GX1 putter).
In general, I agree with Hannan’s critics. Dr. V’s sexual identity had nothing to do with her invention, and Hannan shouldn’t have pushed the issue so hard. I felt dirty after reading Hannan’s story. I suspect Hannan feels a little dirty himself. But the story is as legitimate and interesting as any story about fake Navy SEALs or phony doctors, and I’m not sure any journalist would have backed off from such a juicy discovery.
As I told my Twitter correspondent in a later post, if a phony is harming others, I’m fine with outing. If not, let them spin their own stories. I don’t need to be judging people. I have other, more important, things to worry about.
Here’s a Facebook post I put up last night:
And here’s some of the reaction to it:
It’s the last one that intrigues me. I don’t think I was being cynical, and I don’t think that’s what the person making the comment really meant. I think what she really meant was that I’m posting too much stuff on Facebook and she’d just as soon I shut the fuck up for a while.
And that’s a legitimate point.
Three selfies from Sunday’s motorcycle ride. Click to see ’em larger on Flickr:
Back to Facebook for a moment. Sorry, I just can’t help it. But talk about cynical:
This was posted by a friend I know to be an educated, intelligent man. So why is he advancing such a cretinous argument?
It’s because he … and other educated, intelligent people on the right … wants to exploit the stupidity of the masses in order to further the interests of the wealthy. And that’s cynical.
© 2014, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.