Controversial Cosby column: Christine Flowers' editor speaks
An editor asks: How I can live with myself giving a platform to someone who stands for everything I abhor?
My name is Sandra, and I am Christine Flowers' editor.
I am making a public confession after years of keeping this secret.
Well, not exactly a secret, but my relationship to Flowers — known in certain corners of the internet as a bigoted rape-apologist — is not something a left-leaning, second-wave feminist, pro-choice, gun-hating editor would exactly advertise, or even necessarily countenance. But Flowers' recent column on Bill Cosby and the resulting break-the-internet outrage has forced me to come forward.
Let me tell you how I've made peace with Christine Flowers.
Flowers began writing her column for the Daily News over 10 years ago, thanks to an editor who had a keen eye for conservative voices, and a talent for cultivating those voices. That editor is long gone, but she continues to file every Wednesday (sometimes twice) and on many of those Wednesdays as I read her column I would cringe. And then I would run her column. And then I would ask myself how I could live with myself giving a platform to someone who stands for everything I abhor.
The Daily News, where her column originated, calls itself the "people paper," and was an early believer in giving voice to those usually ignored, or marginalized. And people responded to Christine Flowers' columns. For a while, we measured that response through letters to the editor and paper sales. Now, of course, we measure digital audience, and hers remains consistently impressive. The ratio of the outraged to the grateful is usually even.
She clearly thinks a lot, about a lot of things. In fact, in our face-to-face meetings, I have found her to be a lovely, thoughtful person. So much so that there have been many times I thought she was faking – creating a persona designed simply to provoke.
I don't think she is faking. But given her background, as a Bryn Mawr graduate and a practicing immigration lawyer, clearly something went awry in her path to progressive feminism, the one trod by me and most of the women I know. And that's what I find intriguing, and interesting … and counter-intuitive. What shaped her view of the world, originating as it did in circumstances and background similar to many people I know? What is it that shapes the worldview of any of us? I find myself still pulled in by this mystery.
Flowers knows full well who her editor is, and, thanks to comments, how reviled her work often is. And yet, she persists. At the end of the day, maybe I just admire her guts.
After spending the last century cosseted in a liberal bubble, I found a way to navigate life in the 21st century when I stumbled upon a great expression: Don't believe everything you think. Flowers helps me remember that.
I know she has hordes of people who agree with what she says and is grateful she has a voice as public as hers is. There are still plenty of instances when I cringe when reading her work, and if I still had the luxury of living unchallenged in my peaceful and liberal alternative universe, I would have silenced her years ago. But I don't, and I know the universe is more complex. And besides, there's another luxury that I find harder to live without: outrage. She provides ample opportunity for that (okay, maybe we have enough of those opportunities now) as well as a reminder that many, many people disagree with me and my views. But if we truly believe in democracy, all voices should get an equal opportunity to be heard.
That's how I've made my peace with Christine Flowers.
Sandra Shea is Managing Editor for Opinion for Philadelphia Media Network.