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12 Feb, 2019 15:36

‘Dirty little guys’: French journalists suspended for harassing women online

‘Dirty little guys’: French journalists suspended for harassing women online

A host of prominent Parisian journalists have issued apologies, and several have been suspended after they were accused of forming a “boys club” to harass and mock female journalists online.

‘La Ligue du Lol’ began as a private Facebook group for a clique of about 30 journalists, editors and marketers in Paris to share jokes, giggle at memes, and blow off steam. Although the group’s members would usually share private messages with each other, the jokes soon took a darker turn, and the gang reportedly graduated to Twitter harassment campaigns against their female colleagues.

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A number of apparent victims broke their silence in recent days, detailing years of mocking and torment from League members. Many of the group’s members went on to work in liberal news outlets, triggering accusations of hypocrisy from the alleged victims.

“I have not forgotten,” wrote ‘fat-positive’ feminist blogger Daria Marx, who slammed the journalists for posing as “brave feminist knights in 2019.”

“Personally, I forget nothing,” added feminist writer Valérie Rey-Robert. “The dirty little guys. It was less than five years ago and they are now all seen by feminists as cool guys and feminists?”

The scandal has rocked French media. The country’s minister for digital affairs, Mounir Mahjoubi, called the journalists implicated in it “losers” and said he hopes “they are ashamed.” Several of the journalists involved have lost their jobs, temporarily at least.

Marx was the butt of the League’s jokes on several occasions. One member circulated a picture of an obese porn actress with Marx’ head photoshopped in, joking that he had “found her sextape.” Another posted a mock advert online with Marx’ name given as “Madame Fat.”

Videomaker Florence Porcel said she received a phone call from one of the group, posing as a recruiter with a job offer. David Doucet, editor of music magazine Les Inrockuptibles, mocked Porcel and shared a recording of the call with his fellow League members afterward. In addition, Porcel found herself photoshopped into a “very degrading pornographic photomontage,” a trick that she said was “their method.”

Journalist Mélanie Wanga claimed the group blasted her with racist abuse. “Imagine being a young, black, female journalist talking about blackface and apartheid and getting this stuff times 20 from your ‘colleagues,’” she wrote on Twitter, sharing some of the abusive messages directed at her.

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An investigation by French newspaper Libération revealed scores of alleged victims, but little evidence. If any of the group’s members tweeted under their real names, the messages have long since been deleted. “These people are very good at social networking, they have all cleaned their Twitter accounts since,” one journalist told the paper. “I was told that they were boasting, saying that no one would ever find anything on them."

Some of the group confessed. Doucet admitted to harassing Porcel but denied taking part in any other bullying campaigns. “I saw that certain people were regularly targeted but I never guessed the depth of the trauma suffered,” he wrote. “I am sorry.”

Libération’s own Vincent Glad was suspended after the paper’s investigation revealed he founded the group.

“The object of the group was not to harass women, just to amuse ourselves,” he wrote on Twitter. “But quickly, our way of amusing ourselves became very problematic and we didn’t realise this.”

Libération also suspended online editor Alexandre Hervaud, who said that hearing the victims’ statements had “literally twisted” his stomach. Food blogger Guilhem Malissen, PR consultant Renaud Loubert-Aledo, and journalist Guillaume Ledit were all suspended from their positions too, the Guardian reported.

Christophe Carron – a journalist with hyper-liberal news site Slate – admitted to being part of the group, but denied taking part in any of its more unsavory activities. Despite being one of the loudest voices for the #MeToo movement, Slate has not suspended Carron at time of writing.

More accounts of abuse have continued to surface in recent days, and not all from women. Blogger and author Matthias Jambon-Puillet (blogging under the pseudonym Benjamin LaReilly) claimed that after a fistfight with Loubert-Aledo in a Paris bar, the consultant tweeted crudely photoshopped gay porn to minors, from accounts posing as LaReilly.

As some of those responsible have issued apologies, some victims have expressed a desire to move on.

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“Thank you David, this is a good start. I’m going to be able to start forgiving you,” Porcel responded to Doucet’s public apology.

Others have been less conciliatory.

“I waited eight years for an apology that never came,” LaReilly wrote. “Strength is the only thing that fits into their frame of reference for understanding the world. And it is for this reason that it is necessary, by force, to punish them.”

“Their excuses are worthless.”

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