Friday, September 26, 2014

FEAR AND LOATHING IN ATLANTIC CITY

As chickens came home to roost on the NFL shield, the world of “pageantry” imploded . Though the ratings for the storied Miss America pageant dropped 15% on September 14th, Miss America’s handlers were thrilled that their Twitter traffic was up considerably. The initial “buzz” seemed to indicate the traffic was somewhat driven by outraged incredulity in the “sash states” of “red state America” that a third consecutive crown could go to a Miss New York.  Again. 

Sadly for Kira Kazantsev recent events show that being victimized by the “politics of personal destruction and vast “right wing conspiracies” might not be the exclusive territory of fellow Empire State Residents, Bill and Hillary Clinton. 

First, there was the matter of that red Solo Cup. 


In the rockiest post election honeymoon since Barack Obama’s, Miss America 2015, has had to address questions about her three month internship at Planned Parenthood and being kicked out of her Hofstra University sorority for abusive hazing. This led to Ms. Kazantsev’s painful appearance on Good Morning America the next day, to do the same bad celebrity “perp walk “ , that served Paula Deen, Jerry Sanduskyand Martha Stewart so very poorly in scandals past. 




“Under the broad definition of hazing, yes, I was involved,” Kazantsev told "Good Morning America" earlier this week. “At the time, unfortunately, that was just the culture of the university, and I was hazed, and I was kind of brought up through the organization thinking that is appropriate behavior.”

As the story made headlines, the Miss America Organization noted that the pageant knew about Kazantsev’s issues with her sorority before the firestorm. "Kira has been fully transparent with the Miss America Organization about her termination from the Alpha Phi sorority," a Miss America Organization spokesperson told Faux News. "It's unfortunate that this incident has been exploited to create a storyline that distracts from what we should be focusing on: Kira's impressive academic achievements at Hofstra University.” 

Sadly for the MAO, HBO comedian John Oliver has made certain that the storyline will be focussed elsewhere, as he has raised questions about the longtime claim that Miss America is the nation’s number one provider of scholarships for women. Oliver’s recent segment revealed that the MAO pays out only a fraction of the $45 million in scholarships to contestants through its local, state and national pageants. The staff of Oliver's news satire show, were hard pressed to demonstrate the pageant had distributed even $4 million in scholarships. In one of the most artful reinterpretations of math, this side of Capitol Hill, the MAO offers only a fraction of the money it claims to, the funds go only to one contestant , (who might not even use it), and counted as potential recipients, is the entire contestant pool. Even though ithe prize is often is “winner take all.” 

This bought MAO the following editorial from the home state Newark Current Argus, which begins: “Take a look at her now: Miss America, lying through her teeth about scholarships.”  Reporter Amy Kuperinsky summed it up, in an associated story.... “It’s safe to say this wasn’t the best week for Miss America — the pageant or the person.” On the bright side for a contest begging for social media attention, Miss America’s itevails are getting a lot of Twitter attention. But then again, so does ISIS. 

“I must’ve aged 10 years over the past 24 hours,” writes Ms. Kazantsev in her blog - written hours after the site Jezebel went with this post (citing an sole unnamed source), accusing her of promoting hazing at Hofstra University’s Alpha Phi sorority. “Over the past 24 hours, I have experienced cyber-bullying, hatred, and judgment unlike ever before,” Kazantsev writes “People write you off at a moment’s notice, simply rejoicing in the fact that you might’ve done something wrong.” A venture into Miss America's online communities, indicates that the new title holder is an expert in understatement. 

STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND

As heated as the invective surrounding the Nixonian behaviors of Roger Goodell has been, it’s nothing compared to the message boards feeding the pageant subculture. And though there would seem to be a gulf of difference between the journey into the darkest recesses of the human spirit Ray Rice has taken us on and the allegations against “our new Miss America” for sorority “hazing”, there are those who see no proportional difference in scale . The suddenly cleaned up “Pageant Guru” message board still contains these trending , burning topics. 
  • Kira's platform is Domestic Violence. It was Kira herself who said she was abused by a former boyfriend. When asked on Good Morning America and another major talk show to give a few details about it, she said it wasn't about her and avoided the issue. THIS IS HER PLATFORM! What better opportunity for her to give young women a few details on what they should look for. NOTHING! TMZ can't even locate a former boyfriend. Nobody at Hofstra University can even recall that she had one! Am I the only person doubting this story?
  • Here are the latest "extreme hazing" details from Jezebel, although they cannot attribute this to Kira
  • What Miss America has aged well and not so well?
  • This controversy with our new Miss America is actually a good thing. It unfortunately brings out what we believe to be the truth about MAO and what they stand for. It has been known for many years now, by many insiders who are no longer part of the program, that MAO hears of issues that are quite important and even horrifying, yet choose to turn a cheek, and sweep it under the rug. We live in a state where many young women, volunteers and board members have served under an abusive leader, and though so many have contacted MAO with their complaints, nothing is done! We are tired of trying to police an organization that reputes to being one that supports and upholds young women, and yet allows their own insiders to dole out abuse that is just not acceptable! Perhaps Miss America's relevance has finally come to an end, and young women can find a healthier way to locate scholarships for themselves. Signed: Been A. Victim
  • Bullying has been the basis of Sam's (MAO Chairman-Sam Haskell) leadership since he created his little cult. His flaming, bible quoting tirade at the ED meeting is only the most recent example. If you dare expect to be treated like an adult, your service valued, don't ask a question or expect accountability for Sam and his board minions will attack you, call you a hater, ban you, write letters that tell the country to shun you. MAO has seen the enemy and it is THEM. Kira is the perfect spokesperson for the culture of bullying, fear and intimidation Sam and his incompetent board have foisted upon the volunteers. don't you recognize it yet? stop being a victim. Demand change.
  • What most of you involved in MAO the local directors, state directors, board members and thousands of volunteers nationwide don't seem to understand is that you are all the soldiers in this organization. Without you they couldn't survive let alone produce every local and state pageant nationwide. All of you work so hard to raise money for CMN, purchase season tickets at Miss America, sell those $2000 ad pages for the national book and $40 badges don't realize is that yes you are "volunteers" but your CEO Sam Haskell makes $500,000 a year, that's half a million dollars! He sits in that air conditioned office in Atlantic City at the prettiest hotel in the city (while the rest of the hotels shut down) to tell all of you that "You can't make any money as a "volunteer" while he collects his hefty paycheck!
  • Are they nuts on the PG board? Is its owner so consumed by this year's drama, they are reduced to "phishing" for scoop from alleged Hofstra students? One must wonder what they are drinking in Falwell-land or wherever, to think it is going to succeed. If I were KK's lawyer, I'd be going after the board owner to get IP addresses soon. It may be hard to sue as a public figure, but methinks they have crossed the threshold. Why won't they just stop? She is not going to go.
Lest we forget, last week’s hot diversion was calling the 23 year old titleholder a “baby killer” for her 90 day internship at “Planned Parenthood.” That was interspersed by attacks on her Russian immigrant background. It seems that it would be difficult for any young woman to navigate the treacherous waters of pageant-land. The politics of personal destruction are not a recent development in the world of Miss America either. Long before the loathsome Bob Guccione printed the pictures that caused Vanessa Williams to be dethroned in 1984, there was an element that threatened the then 20 year old with personal harm. 

Back in the days after World War II, Miss America 1945, Bess Myerson,  was largely boycotted by sponsors for being Jewish. In her great recent memoir, Miss America 1998, Kate Shindle writes of the challenges she faced (before social media was invented online). being badgered on her appearance, and for daring to speak of AIDS in an era where Miss America actually was encouraged to have something of significance to say. And last year, we had the horrible racist reaction to an Indian-American winner of the pageant. Being attacked has been part of the price of the sash since 1921. But this year's story,  raises questions more difficult to answer than alleged hazing or poor sports whining via the Internet. The associated scholarship story, raises the same questions the world has asked about the NFL, in terms of transparency and accountability. 

MISS AMERICA MEETS LULU MASTODON

In the Internet age, we are all potential publishers. That has brought us great benefits in terms of “You Tube” footage, or bloggers filling in where more traditional news sources have fallen short. In cases such as the Hofstra sorority story, a weakly sourced story can be amplified across the planet on message boards before anyone can discern its credibility. Understanding that Miss Kazantsev was bounced from Alpha Phi, is not the same as understanding why the action occurred. The “Jezebel” story was correct in stating there was a fire in its subject’s background, but certainly deficient in areas that provide much context in terms of her actions. The same concerns exist in the “Planned Parenthood” stories of a week before. In the broadest context, interning at a group infers some support for an operation. It logically follows that whatever her duties entailed, a 90 day stint does not merit the title of “babykiller” posted on pageant bulletin boards, or this hatcherjob on prolifenews.com, that seems to accuse her of medical malpractice. 

So the woman representing the nation as the new Miss America interned for the very organization that has killed millions of Americans in abortions. Kazantsev worked for the abortion giant just outside New York City proper for three months, from February 2013-April 2013. One month later, one of the Planned Parenthood abortion clinics in New York City botched an abortion. “

Below is a humorous example of the dangers of confusing one blogger’s opinion with a news operation. It’s attached to illustrate the difference between responsible journalism practices, and blogger LuLu Mastodon’s work product in the fictional community of Prescott Place. It illustrates that just because a story exists online does not mean it’s well sourced or true. And though a lie about a public figure may be posted anonymously, it could still end up meeting an actionable definition of libel. Incorporated in that definition, are many of the things posted about Ms. Kazantsev, these past two weeks. 



FINAL THOUGHTS

Is it troubling to hear of pledge hazing by any party? Absolutely. Do two wrongs equal a right or a free pass? No they do not. Is it possible Kazantsev is a “mean girl”? In the context of the current "evidence", one cannot say for certain. Absent TMZ video of a pledge being KO'd in an elevator, we can only speculate. 

In that context, one would think being forced to appear on national TV and answer for something thoughtless and immature done in college is a steep price for anyone’s daughter to pay. Even Miss America. In the context of life experience, most would shudder to have our youthful transgressions in the public domain. The fact that the last person qualified to toss stones has been MIA for nearly two millennia, usually serves as a check and balance. 

Sadly, the trolls of pageant cyberspace have burned thousands of hours , seeking "crown change" of late, As of writing there seems to be no satisfaction of their blood lust on the horizon. On last report, their "online petition" to remove Ms. Kazantsev from her throne has fifteen signatures. When asked why the response was so anemic, one reply was revealing. "I could never be caught dead, with my name on such a thing." 

One final irony.  The trailing videos from "Pageant Planet" were actually banned from the leading MA system message board. It was deemed offensive. It features several title holders offering their sadly experienced take on online bullying. No wonder they were deleted. 







MANY BLESSINGS- NOEL



FORMER WINNERS IN 2011



WINNERS FROM 1921-2013