The Scarlet Letter Reports Announcement

VICE AND FACEBOOK ANNOUNCE THREE NEW ORIGINAL SERIES ON FACEBOOK WATCH 

New original programming, featuring Amanda Knox and more, to premiere on Facebook Watch

Three new weekly series to premiere in the coming months on Facebook

December 13, 2017 (Brooklyn, NY) – VICE Media, the world’s leading global youth media brand, and Facebook today announced three original multiscreen series that will premiere on Facebook Watch, the new platform for shows on Facebook.  The new series, The Scarlet Letter Reports, Breaking & Entertaining and The Hangover Show, are scheduled to premiere on Facebook in the coming months, and will air weekly.

The Scarlet Letter Reports, hosted by Amanda Knox, is a five episode unscripted series exploring the gendered nature of public shaming. Knox will sit down with Amber Rose, Daisy Coleman and more to discuss the deeply personal journey of being sexualized, scrutinized, and demonized by the media –– and how they’ve rebuilt their lives after their most personal details have been made public.

“While on trial for a murder I didn’t commit, my prosecutor painted me as a sex-crazed femme fatale with magical powers to control men,” said Amanda Knox, host of The Scarlet Letter Reports. “The tabloids loved that story. So did the public. So did the jury. I lost years of my life to prison because of two-dimensional and misogynist stereotypes. In The Scarlet Letter Reports, I’m hoping to re-humanize others who have been similarly shamed and vilified, and elevate the standard for how we think and talk about public women.”

Breaking & Entertaining is a five episode unscripted series in which a person nominates his or her household, unbeknownst to his or her roommate, to throw a VICE-furnished party that trashes the home.  The next morning, a cleanup crew arrives, kicks out the roommate to get to work, and surprises the roommate upon return with a completely renovated, refurnished home.  A combination roommate intervention, party chronicle and home renovation, Breaking & Entertaining will shock the participants and viewers.

The Hangover Show is a five episode unscripted series in which butcher and cook Cara Nicoletti invites her chef and comedian friends over after a big night out, then makes them her favorite hangover foods while also offering viewers tips on how to combat hangovers.

This mobile, digital and OTT partnership with Facebook is the latest in VICE’s ongoing effort to provide premium original content on whatever screen young people are watching.  VICE’s effort to maximize viewership has resulted in recent partnerships that will bring its award-winning, multiplatform programming across lifestyle, culture, news, sports, food and more, to over 80 territories by Q1 2018.

Facebook Watch is a new platform on Facebook that is available on mobile, desktop, laptop and on television apps.
 

ABOUT VICE MEDIA

VICE is the world’s leading youth media brand. Launched in 1994, VICE is on pace to bring its award-winning programming to over 80 territories worldwide by Q1 2018 across mobile, digital, and linear platforms. VICE operates an expanding international network of digital channels; a television and feature film production studio; an Emmy-nominated international television network, VICELAND; an Emmy-nominated weekly newsmagazine show on HBO; a nightly news series on HBO; an in-house creative services agencies and branded studio; a magazine; and a record label.

VICE’s award-winning programming has been recognized by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Peabody Awards, Sundance Film Festival, PEN Center, Cannes Lions, Frontline Club, Knight Foundation, American Society of Magazine Editors, LA Press Club, James Beard awards, and Webby Awards, among others.

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Mourning Meredith

Ten years ago tonight, my friend was raped and murdered by a burglar when she was home alone in the apartment we shared while studying abroad in Perugia, Italy.

When I look back on my memories of Meredith, what I find are beautiful, banal moments we shared in the weeks we lived side-by-side. I remember when we trudged home from the grocery store together, taking turns lugging those heavy four-packs of two-liter water bottles uphill, dodging cars speeding around the tight street corners. I remember sunbathing on the terrace, her reading a mystery novel while I practiced “Hey Ya” on the guitar. I remember sipping espresso together after class while Laura and Filomena, our Italian roommates, watched soap operas. Meredith complimented me for showing restraint, eating no more than two cookies with my coffee. She said she wouldn’t be able to stop herself from eating the whole bag. Once, while out on a walk, I discovered a hole-in-the-wall vintage store, and ran home to tell Meredith about it. We went back together and she bought a sparkly silver dress from the 60s and said she wanted to wear it for New Years back home. I remember when she handed me her camera and asked me to take a picture of her by her bedroom window because she wanted to show her family the incredible view of the valley below. I remember that I loved her accent. I remember the time I wanted to get dressed up and she happily loaned me a pair of her tights, like a big sister. And I remember the last time I saw her, ten years ago today, slinging her purse over her shoulder and waving goodbye to me on her way out to meet up with her British friends.

All these memories feel both very close and very distant. Distant, because I have to dig through a decade of suffering just to reach them. My memories of Meredith are buried beneath the horrific autopsy photos and crime scene footage I saw, the slurs I was called, the death threats I received (and still receive), the false accusations I fought, the years of wrongful imprisonment I endured, the multiple trials and slanderous headlines that juxtaposed our names and faces, unfairly interlocking her death with my identity.

But despite all this, these memories still feel very close, in part because Meredith was my closest friend in a new and exciting time in our lives. But I think it’s also because I’ve never been allowed to mourn her.

There are some people who believe I have no right to mourn Meredith. They believe that I had something to do with her murder—I didn’t—or that Meredith has been forgotten in the wake of my own struggle for justice—she hasn’t. Either way, they feel that Meredith and I are inextricably linked, so it’s simply not fair that I haven’t lost everything, as she has. They are wrong.

This day of mourning belongs to everyone whose lives Meredith touched. And certainly, there are many people who loved and knew Meredith far better than I did. But something Meredith’s friends, family, supporters, and I all have in common is that Meredith’s death changed our lives. It opened our eyes to the terrible fact that, sometimes, innocent people suffer, that their lives can be taken away from them in an instant. We are all driven to do something about it—to speak out against unrepentant killers or incompetent and cruel prosecutors—even though no one can ever give Meredith back her life, or me the years of life I lost to wrongful imprisonment.

I hate it that my memories of her are buried beneath the years of suffering Raffaele and I endured in the wake of her murder. And it’s depressing to know that mourning her comes at the price of being criticized for anything I say or don’t say today. But most depressing of all is that Meredith isn’t here, when she deserves to be. She is painfully missed by everyone who loved her. I miss her, and I’m grateful for the memories of our time together.

Published by the West Seattle Herald 11/01/2017.

Posted in Uncategorized | 118 Comments

Why We Love to Hate ‘Trainwreck’ Women

Many thanks to Sirin Kale and BROADLY for publishing my conversation with Sady Doyle about society’s punitive impulse, morality dramas, and impossible standards of femininity.

Why We Love to Hate ‘Trainwreck’ Women: In honor of the reissue of Sady Doyle’s “Trainwreck,” Knox talks with Doyle about why we “wreck people because they are women.”

The same habit of mind that seeks to punish derailed celebrities and project evil onto political opponents and public figures also leads to wrongful convictions like mine. It encourages judgment by projection and popularity, and it obstructs our ability to evaluate context and objective evidence.

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More on Michelle Carter

Many media outlets have reached out to me for further comment on Michelle Carter’s verdict and sentencing in response to my op-ed published in the L.A. Times . I have declined these invitations, because I do not want to make this about me, but I do think it is worthwhile to respond to some of the critical commentary I’ve received, particularly on Twitter. This commentary can be roughly divided into six types:

1. Michelle Carter doesn’t deserve our sympathy. If she had been black, she would have received a harsher sentence.

It’s true that black people very often receive harsher sentences than white people for the same crimes. This incredible injustice is also reflected in wrongful convictions. The majority of wrongfully convicted people in this country are black men.

But you don’t solve injustice by replicating it. The proper response is to bring the downtrodden up, not to push the privileged down. Advocating a harsh sentence for Michelle Carter does nothing to alleviate the harsh sentences handed down to black people.

2. Michelle Carter doesn’t deserve our sympathy. Conrad Roy III would be alive today were it not for her. Her words killed him. She is a criminal and deserved to receive a harsher sentence.

I agree that what Carter did was wrong. I do not dismiss or condone her actions. However, I do caution against conflating wrongdoing with criminal wrongdoing. One is a moral concern, the other is a legal concern. The ACLU argues that finding Carter guilty of manslaughter sets a dangerous legal precedent threatening our freedom of speech. Carter’s influence may have aggravated Roy’s mental illness, but her words did not literally kill him. The only thing that literally killed Roy were his own actions. He was sick, he was vulnerable, but he was never without agency.

3. Michelle Carter is evil. Fuck her and her eyebrows.

What first caught my attention about Carter’s case was the fact that the prosecution, media, and public were portraying her as a selfish, attention-seeking femme fatale who used her Circe-like powers to force her male companion to commit a terrible act he otherwise wouldn’t have committed. Having been wrongly accused of the very same thing, alarm bells went off.

Evil is the easiest scapegoat. It’s also not real. If we hope to understand Carter (and Roy’s) motivations, we need to refrain from boxing them into unreal, subhuman stereotypes (mind controller and mental slave). And even if Carter were as two-dimensionally “evil” as they say, we, as decent, civilized people, should check ourselves when we find that we are mobbing and crying out for blood. It’s in this spirit that wrongful convictions are born.

And one more thing: the many throw-away, tongue-in-cheeks remarks trolling Carter for aspects of her appearance (“She deserves another two years just for her eyebrows!”) do nothing but perpetuate the idea that a woman’s worth is in what she looks like. Wanting to punish Carter doesn’t give you permission to be a misogynist.

4. What Michelle Carter did was wrong. Even if she shouldn’t have been found legally culpable, she deserves punishment.

I’m going to go out on a limb now, but…maybe nobody deserves punishment. Not even the worst criminals. Everyone in society deserves to be safe from wrongdoing. Victims deserve to have their wounds cared for and acknowledged.

What do criminals deserve? As broken members of society, maybe they deserve our help. As the criminal justice and anti-death penalty advocate Bryan Stevenson says, “Each one of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” Help may require custody, supervision, or even incarceration—all things that impinge upon a person’s individual freedom—but punishment beyond these measures may not be necessary.

Punishing a criminal doesn’t undo the crime. And if the standard forms of punishment in the U.S. do a poor job of rehabilitation (and there’s good reason to think that’s true), and if the severity of a punishment does little to deter crime , then the only reason to punish is vengeance. And vengeance makes us barbaric. I bet most of the people crying out, “Lock her up!” have never actually been to prison and have no idea what it does to you.

In an ideal society, we wouldn’t use punishment to alleviate our outrage and pain. These are legitimate feelings, and addressing them is a legitimate social task, but there are healthier ways to deal with pain than inflicting pain on others.

5. I thought you were innocent, but now I believe you are guilty.

Thinking that my moral and legal position on Michelle Carter’s case has any bearing whatsoever on the objective evidence which determined my exoneration is exactly the kind of thinking that leads to wrongful convictions. Your gut reactions to another person have no bearing on the factual evidence that determines that person’s guilt or innocence. Gut reactions do provide useful information, but only about yourself.

6. This whole story is sad and confusing. We have to draw a line somewhere, but where? I feel bad for everyone involved and don’t know what to think. Can I feel sympathy for Carter and Roy (and Roy’s family) at the same time?

Believe it or not, yes.

From my own experience, I find that people often succumb to the single-victim fallacy—the idea that, in tragic situations like these, there are good guys and bad guys on opposite sides, and no crossover, nothing in between. People convinced by this fallacy argue that any acknowledgement of my victimization necessarily diminishes the acknowledgement of Meredith Kercher’s. And people convinced by this fallacy argue that any compassion for Carter’s flawed humanity necessarily diminishes the gravity of her actions and the tragedy of Roy’s death.

But they are wrong.

My goal in writing the op-ed was to point out that there is another valid response to tragedy: compassion. I’ve had to work hard through my own outrage over the injustice I suffered in order to empathize with my prosecutor, the Perugian police, and all those who spew hatred at me daily. I worked hard because I didn’t just want to feel righteous anger, I wanted to understand. And I’ve discovered that the key to my understanding is compassion. Compassion is practical—it makes us more effective, clear-eyed truth-seekers. Compassion is empowering—it opens the doors to reconciliation. And compassion is just—we only compound injustice when the worst of someone else brings out the worst in us.

Published by the Westside Seattle 08/05/17.

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California farewell

(It’s worth noting that Chris and I had just spent two nights in a hot pink Bavarian hotel. The first night we slept in a turquoise room under the placid gaze of a swarm of golden cherubs and their electric candelabra. The second night we slept in a cave, complete with waterfalls and stained glass windows depicting a cartoonish blond woman from the 50s transported to the caveman era. It was magically, shamelessly gaudy. Oma would love it here! I thought. Alas, the hotel doesn’t allow pets, and Oma won’t be parted from Andy—her fat, old, co-dependent dachshund.)

I could barely keep my eyes open the entire four-hour drive back from San Luis Obispo to the San Francisco airport. My face felt swollen, like I had just wept for hours or was having an allergic reaction. I’m usually good for a car trip, especially if there’s an audiobook on, but now I was zombie-like, nauseated and cranky. Chris patiently blasted freezing air into my face and, when that wasn’t enough, pulled off the highway to let me take deep breaths in an abandoned parking lot.

I felt myself pulling back together as we rolled into the Payless Rental Car parking lot. This was a relief, because I had been dreading imminent plane sickness, the only thing worse than car sickness. I smiled extra-earnestly and kissed Chris on the cheek as we stood waiting for the shuttle to arrive and take us the final ten minutes to the airport. I wanted to make it up to him for carrying our combined existential weight for much of the day. He grinned back indulgently.

“I’m sorry I haven’t been my best self,” I murmured.

“That’s OK. Sometimes you aren’t your best self. I love you anyway,” Chris said, magnificently.

I nuzzled my forehead gratefully into his deltoid, and at the same time, I was stricken by a thought: I hope I’m my best self often enough. There’s an acceptable ratio of best-self : not-best-self, and I don’t know what that ratio is, but everything depends upon it.

At first, I mistook the shuttle driver for another passenger. He wore a black and navy-blue suit, a matching fedora, and large, faux-diamond studs in his ears. His nails were clean and filed. He did not resemble the driver who, days before, had driven us the opposite way between the airport and car lot wearing a polo shirt with the Payless Rental Car logo.

“Hurry up! Hurry up! There’s only one of me!” he shouted as he waved Chris and I and a small group of stragglers into the shuttle van. As soon he started the engine, the radio blasted the commentary of a basketball game. He pressed the gas pedal, wriggled joyfully in his chair, and turned the volume up another notch.

Someone scored. The driver laughed. We stopped at a red light and he clapped his hands over his head. “Kill him! Kill him! Kill him! He’s not the king today!” I think he was talking about Lebron James?

The light changed and the driver hit the gas again. We swerved left through an intersection, and I heard a suitcase tumble in the back. Someone scored. The driver laughed again and pumped his fists in the air as we caught another red light.

A white convertible pulled up next to us. Without a moment’s hesitation, our driver rolled down his window and shouted, “Hey, playboy! Looking good, baby!” Green light. Gas.

Chris and I caught each other’s eyes. Chris was grinning, and his wide eyes and raised eyebrows seemed to say, “Why not? Weeee!”

I thought that was how I felt, too, until I caught a glimpse of myself in the side mirror. My expression was really a weird, manic grimace of incredulity and glee, like a little kid on the teacup ride who is caught between having the time of their life and throwing up.

We arrived. The driver flung himself out of the van and opened up the back doors. He swung our luggage out onto the curb in a heap. Suitcases toppled over. Some passengers frantically snatched up their luggage and scurried away.

“Man! Nobody tips anymore! Nobody tips anymore!” he huffed. Chris handed him some loose ones—not for the new dent in my luggage casing, but for the unexpected, whirlwind California farewell.

Published by the West Seattle Herald 06/12/2017.

Posted in Uncategorized | 29 Comments

Colosseum and memoriam

Approaching Century Link Field in a throng of green-and-blue people, flanked by an ecstatic marching band, I couldn’t help but think about the Roman Colosseum, and how sporting events have been experienced by humans in the exact same way for as long as civilization has existed. The same spirit of adrenaline-spiked tribalism that motivates Seattlites to show up in droves to watch grown men skillfully kick a ball around motivated the Romans to show up in droves to observe the clashing of gladiator against gladiator, Christian slave against starved lion.

We are the same. As Tim Urban wrote recently on Wait But Why, if you were to swap a newborn from a Medieval farming village with a newborn New Yorker today, no one would know the difference. That’s because the modern human brain hasn’t evolved in over 10,000 years. Some evolutionary psychologists think our brains are the same as those belonging to humans from as far back as 50,000 years. For context, that’s the stone age, around about the time humans invented the needle.

It’s not often that I’m reminded of this fact. At the game, what triggered me were the rules and the rituals, the pomp and performance. Not being a regular sports viewer, I felt like a foreigner. The real Sounders fans knew how and when to hold up their scarves as banners, to call out the players’ last names during announcements, to call back during the marching band’s chants. I gawked at the parade of flag bearers followed by the parade of uniformed children escorting the players onto the field, at the fireworks which punctuated the beginning and end of each half, and at the Mad-Max-style flame-throwers blasting out of the tops of the goal posts. I thought: the only difference between us and the Mesoamericans from 2000 B.C. is that we don’t decapitate the losing team at the end of the ballgame. But we are totally those people. We live for the show.

This week, Chris and I had to say goodbye to our pet rats, Ruthie and Yoyo. They were both over two years old and had developed tumors, as rats do. Ruthie in particular was acting sluggish and her fur was standing on end—from pain, we guessed. On our way out to Kent (to one of the few remaining veterinary hospitals which accept non-cat-or-dog patients), we mentally prepared ourselves to accept that Ruthie and Yoyo’s time had come.

It didn’t come as a surprise, then, when the vet recommended euthanasia. What did come as a surprise was how casual and routine the whole visit was. How, when the vet picked up our babies’ cage to take them away, it didn’t feel like we weren’t going to get them back. When the vet asked if she could keep Ruthie and Yoyo’s cage for a litter of newborn weasels, Chris and I didn’t expect to feel so…empty.

We speculated about this on the way home. Was it because Ruthie and Yoyo were just rats, which, like fish, don’t ping our attachment instincts as much as cats and dogs do? But that didn’t sound right to me. I thought of how, back in the early 2000s, people used to cry out, “Wilson!” making fun of that scene from Cast Away. Except, I’d bet many of those same people, viewing that scene within the context of the film, would have bawled their eyes out, just like I did. Humans are attachment machines, whether or not the object of our attachment is sentient or cute or even alive. Chris and I loved our rats.

Only when thinking back to the Sounders Colosseum did it occur to me what was missing when we had to tell Ruthie and Yoyo goodbye: The process was unceremonious. Without even the smallest gesture of ceremony, it didn’t feel like saying goodbye.

It didn’t feel like saying goodbye until Chris tweeted their epitaph. He wrote: “2 years ago, I bought some rats for my book launch party. I made them a house out of copies of my book, ripped up pages as the bedding. When the paperback came out, Ruthie (full name: Notorious RBG) helped me navigate the maze of anxiety to find the Coors Light of peace. Yoyo (full name: Yolandi Vi$$er) chewed through my stereo cables, my cell phone charger, and my heart strings. Never thought I’d own rats. A lark became an unexpected joy. Today, I said goodbye. They’re still close to my heart. RIP Ruthie & Yoyo.”

And it was a relief to feel tears in my eyes.

Published by the West Seattle Herald 05/03/2017.

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Sibling rivalry

In my pre-teens, I chose to ignore the sour tang that had crept into my relationship with my little sister Deanna. I dismissed her suddenly miserable, disdainful attitude towards me like it was nothing more than one of her frequent bouts of carsickness. She’d get over it.

It’s not like I had done something. In fact, from the way she seemed to be angry with me about everything, I deduced that her frustration wasn’t really directed at what I did, but at me. Me personally. And it was baffling. What happened to the kid who crawled into my bed whenever she had a nightmare? The little girl who counted on me to look after her on the playground, and be her voice when she was too shy to speak? Why didn’t she like me anymore?

The answer was obvious to everyone else. “It’s just sibling rivalry,” the adults said. “Don’t take it personally.” But it felt personal, and I was at turns skeptical and angry. I wasn’t competing with my sister, so why should she compete with me?

Now, nearly two decades later and in the thick of Deanna’s wedding planning, we texted the following exchange:

Deanna: Get pregnant! Tell Chris I want to be an aunt! It’s 7 months till my wedding so you will be a cute pregnant belly

Me: We don’t have the means yet. Why do you want me to get prego?

Deanna: So there can be a baby and I can be an auntie! Total selfish reasons!

Me: OK, well, I get that. Totally not prego yet, though.

Deanna: Damn!

It was a light-hearted exchange, but still, my sibling senses tingled. Though Deanna’s and my relationship has smoothed out since our adolescence, I’m still sensitive to signs of that dreaded, unconquerable obstacle—sibling rivalry. Was this a sign? Did Deanna feel weird about getting married before me, and was she trying to compensate for that by encouraging me to have children before her? Was this in unspoken reference to her anger towards me from so long ago?

I decided to give her a call to finally get to the bottom of it. This is what she told me:

“I remember a very distinct moment when it all started. You had just graduated from eighth grade and had received that special award for being an exceptional person. And because you were the first student to ever receive that award, it seemed like it was specially made for you. I was in sixth grade at the time, at the same school, and I remember thinking, ‘My sister is such a bad ass.’ But then, when school started back up in September and I went into 7th grade, I was called into the office. At first I thought I was in trouble, but then the teachers said, ‘We want to make sure that you don’t feel like you have to live up to your sister.’ I know they were trying to be supportive, but what they said had the opposite effect on me. It was at that moment that I realized that other people were comparing me to you.

“After that, I constantly compared myself to you. You got better grades in school than me. You were better at soccer. And it made me angry. I felt like, because you were better than me at these kinds of things, people loved you more.

“I felt that way all the way through high school. I felt it right up to when you were imprisoned. On top of everything, you became famous, and I thought, ‘I’m going to be defined as your little sister forever.’ Meanwhile, my whole support system fell apart. Mom and Dad were freaked out and focused on saving you.

“There was too much going on. I had an identity crisis. Deep down, I knew that my insecurities were coming from within me. I had to figure myself out, or else fall into a bad place. I had to make a decision.

“So I did. I thought, ‘No. I’m not just Amanda Knox’s little sister. I’m Deanna Knox.’ And it was such a relief, not to compare myself anymore.”

So why all the baby talk? I asked.

“Well, I realized that a lot of the attention you’ve received hasn’t been good. I want you to have big, positive moments in your life too. And besides that, you and Chris are great together and I can’t wait to be an auntie.”

Thank you, Deanna. I love you too.

Published by the West Seattle Herald 04/10/2017.

Posted in Journalism, Personal | Tagged | 11 Comments