Lauren Duca Isn’t Very Nice

A weird takedown from within the #Resistance.

Jezebel‘s Anna Merlan thinks “We Should Probably Talk About Lauren Duca.”

After some throat-clearing, we get the setup:

Among the stars of the Resistancephere is a woman named Lauren Duca, whose prominence rose virtually overnight in December 2016 after writing a fiery essay for Teen Vogue titled “Donald Trump is Gaslighting America.” Duca was, in fact, one of the very first people to go viral on Twitter after the election, and she exemplifies the way the social platform can elevate nominally involved people to pundit status, virtually overnight.

For someone who was just 25 years old at the time, it was a fast and impressive ascent, and Duca’s star has continued to burn brightly. She’s no longer at Teen Vogue, but has contributed to the New Yorker and the New York Times, as well as Out and The Nation. She’s been feted as a politics expert at places like the University of Delaware, and will be a visiting scholar at New York University this summer, teaching a course titled “The Feminist Journalist.” She was reportedly drafted as an editorial contributor at MTV in December, though she hasn’t written for them since that announcement, and it’s unclear if she’s still in that role. (MTV did not respond to a request for comment.) She participated this summer in a 10-city tour of prominent pro-choice feminists, Rise Up for Roe, which protested the appointment of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and was co-organized by Demand Justice, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Planned Parenthood.

Duca’s real power, though, is on Twitter, where she has, at present, more than 435,000 followers who come for her mix of feminism, centrist political analysis, and sassy clapbacks at her haters. She seems to have particularly ardent fans among young women, and it’s that audience that she frequently encourages to become more empowered, more politically engaged, and more outspoken.

It’s an admirable mission. But her growing platform has also created consternation among her former colleagues at Huffington Post, a workplace Duca left in 2015 after being accused of sending cruel and harassing anonymous emails to coworkers.

This is followed by several hundred words detailing Duca’s being a passive-aggressive jerk and, well, kind of weird. Oh, and she sent some really horrible tweets before she became famous. The subtext of it is that, for someone whose fame is partly owing to clapping back at people for hateful treatment of women, she’s sometimes guilty of doing the same thing.

But, really, the complaint comes down to this:

At 28, Duca is fairly young, and like many young people, still figuring it all out. But due to a viral essay and the ability it gave her to project a certain moral authority, she’s been able to position herself as wiser, more ethically coherent, and more professionally skilled than she is.

Well, yes.

It’s frankly weird to have a 28-year-old with very little professional experience designated a “visiting scholar” at a prestigious university, for example. On the other hand, she’s clearly talented and a rising star. And, while it’s certainly somewhat hypocritical to moralize about the harassment women in public life have to deal with while privately engaging in some of the same sort of conduct, it’s really not that surprising that someone suddenly thrust to national stardom at 26 felt she was too good for the Huffington Post. Or that she was a Mean Girl on Twitter while an undergraduate.

FILED UNDER: Media
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Hal_10000 says:

    I’m sorry, this seems like one of those trivial media spats that no one outside of Twitter cares about. I skimmed through the essay yesterday when it got into my feed and it seemed massively inflated with its own importance. Duca has become Twitter famous. She’s also a bit of a young twerp. And?

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  2. James Pearce says:

    From the link:

    However, I know she opened them because for professional emails, I use a tracking service, which shows how often they were opened

    That’s not creepy…

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  3. James Joyner says:

    @Hal_10000: Yeah, I’m with you. It reads to me like Duca has inspired quite a bit of jealousy and generating a backlash from within her own circles. But this report is now being seized on by right-wing sites as evidence that Democrats . . . somethingoranother.

  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Famous…and yet, in spite of my twitter addiction, I’ve never heard of her until now.

  5. Tyrell says:

    “visiting scholar”: Talk about lowering the bar! If that’s the case I should be a Nobel prize winner, or at least an honorarium professor at some ivy league school.
    So basically this is where you wind up after insulting, inflaming, screeching, and acting out on social media. Someday someone like that might wind up being president! Whatever happened to intelligent discussions? Well, the news media saw the high ratings that Jerry Springer was getting. That is what happened. “There is no news anymore” Larry King
    “The single most exciting thing you encounter in government is competence, because it’s so rare.” Daniel Patrick Moynihan 

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  6. James Joyner says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: She got quite a bit of play after the gaslighting article and a tiff with Tucker Carlson which I wrote about a couple years back.

  7. mattbernius says:

    It’s frankly weird to have a 28-year-old with very little professional experience designated a “visiting scholar” at a prestigious university, for example.

    To put it in context, it’s a six week summer course at a Journalism School. Honestly she’s arguably as qualified (if not more) for this position as most young adjuncts are (especially those who are teaching while they are working on their degree). She’s also someone who is actively working in a part of the business that is of interest to students, and is in a good position to offer some “breaking” into the business advice.

    I took a look at her syllabus and thought it was pretty good: https://journalism.nyu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Duca-Syllabus-February.pdf

    BTW, this is more than a twitter thang — yesterday (or was it Wednesday) she got two primetime Fox segments dedicated to her…

  8. MarkedMan says:

    James, I’m not on Twitter and I assume that’s how you noticed it, but the originating source, Jezebel, is a nasty and sarcastic gossip rag that consists entirely of snarky opinionators (snarkinators?) They are one of the droppings left behind in the death of Gawker.

    [Edit] And I just saw another comment from Matt Bernius about how this is becoming the Fox liberal bash of the day. From Jezebel to Fox. I rest my case.

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  9. MarkedMan says:

    And way off topic but I couldn’t help notice (via TPM) that Politico has a report out about a Trump official who not only was using personal email about Nuclear technology transfer policy, but that it was an AOL account. Is this worth a post or does it fall under the Colin Powell exemption?

    Cummings also told Cipollone that the committee obtained a document showing that McFarland was using an AOL.com account to conduct official White House business. Cummings said the document shows that McFarland was in communication with Tom Barrack, a longtime Trump confidant and the chairman of the president’s Inaugural Committee, about transferring “sensitive U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.”

  10. James Joyner says:

    @mattbernius: Fair enough. Although “visiting scholar” has more of a prestigious feel than a garden variety adjunct. But it may just be a naming convention at NYU and other prestige northeastern schools I’m not used to.

    @MarkedMan: Yeah, although it’s taken fairly seriously as commentary.

    @MarkedMan: I’ll likely get around to it but, frankly, a large part of the reason for my long dry period blogging was because it was hard to get interested in SSDD stories out of the administration. The development didn’t shock me in the least. Doug was covering those stories for us pretty reliably, so I didn’t need to.

  11. Guarneri says:

    Umm. Who??

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  12. Tony W says:

    @Guarneri:

    Umm. Who??

    Don’t worry, I feel the same way. Which is probably the first time I have agreed with you on this forum.

  13. Dave Schuler says:

    There’s no such thing as bad publicity.

  14. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    a large part of the reason for my long dry period blogging was because it was hard to get interested in SSDD stories out of the administration

    You are probably right to do so, and I admit this is one of my own hobby horses. Pushing that aside though, I think there is a legitimate discussion to be had about the role changing technology has on keeping government communications. For a couple of centuries it was just accepted that senior government officials decided which of the letters they received and sent were government business and which were personal. What are our expectations today?

    On second thought, it’s probably a fruitless avenue for reasoned debate. I could promise to be good, and you would avoid the recent past out of preference, but this is the internet and it would inevitably spiral into stinkin’ morass.

  15. MarkedMan says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    There’s no such thing as bad publicity.

    … said Monica Lewinsky, never.

  16. Jay L Gischer says:

    And, while it’s certainly somewhat hypocritical to moralize about the harassment women in public life have to deal with while privately engaging in some of the same sort of conduct

    For me, this is a good example of how bias and attitudes can get internalized in someone who has every intention of disliking them. I think the term for this is “intra-psychic conflict”. A lot of these attitudes and behaviors have been around for a long time, and it can be hard to root them out.

    That said, I’ve never heard of this person before today. I think I might have heard of the essay, which I know some people liked.

  17. mattbernius says:

    @James Joyner:

    lthough “visiting scholar” has more of a prestigious feel than a garden variety adjunct. But it may just be a naming convention at NYU and other prestige northeastern schools I’m not used to.

    In my experience, the definition of a visiting scholar really changes from school to school. In some cases its reserved for people in residence. In other cases, it’s used interchangeably with “affiliated scholar.”

    I suspect that NYU tends to use it as a way to lend some additional credibility to adjuncts. But I’ll check with my friends who adjunct there to confirm that’s the case.

  18. Jay L Gischer says:

    I just saw this on TPM. It seems relevant – particularly the point about another adjunct at NYU. Let’s find nobodies that we can pump up as threats and hype the crap out of as a threat to “our way of life”.

  19. Just nutha... says:

    @James Joyner: When straws are all there are, you clutch at straws. What else is new.

  20. Just nutha... says:

    @mattbernius: While I was in Korea, I worked for a while at a 2-year school called Yeungjin College (which if I recall correctly was loosely affiliated with Gyeung-Buk National University). I taught mostly EFL classes for children and adults with occasional special classes for the college students and some business English courses.

    My job title was “Visiting Scholar,” too. Even funnier was that I would ask the taxi driver to take me (in Korean) “Yeungjin Jung Moon Dae” (Yeungjin Specialty College) and he would reply (in English) “Yes, Yeungjin University. Got it.”

  21. Just nutha... says:

    @Just nutha…: Good link, but I object to one thing he said.
    To wit:

    The most important conservative television news source in America is currently pandering to an extremist president. It’s distorting the Republican Party. It’s damaging the Republican Party. It’s changing conservatism. Fox is making the news, not covering it. It’s remaking the Republican Party, not informing its audience.

    Fox is NOT remaking the GOP, any more than the racist asshats in the Florida legislature are. Fox is simply showing what the GOP has become. If there were no Fox News or Rush Limbaugh, the GOP (and I would say conservatism writ large) would have to invent them.

  22. DrDaveT says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Famous…and yet, in spite of my twitter addiction, I’ve never heard of her until now.

    Andy Warhol got it slightly wrong. In the future, it’s not that everyone will be famous for 15 minutes — it’s that ‘fame’ will be defined by being really important to 15 people.

  23. R. Dave says:

    @Hal_10000: I’m sorry, this seems like one of those trivial media spats that no one outside of Twitter cares about….Duca has become Twitter famous. She’s also a bit of a young twerp. And?

    The problem is that Twitter-famous young twerps are being catered to by the great and glorious on the Left like they’re now the base of the Democratic Party and the voice of moral authority for the progressive coalition. And they’re mostly just assholes with a platform that far exceeds their wisdom and worth. This is just an exemplar of that sadly widespread phenomenon.

    **insert .gif of Grandpa Simpson yelling at a cloud**

  24. DrDaveT says:

    @R. Dave:

    The problem is that Twitter-famous young twerps are being catered to by the great and glorious on the Left

    Which particular “great and glorious” did you have in mind here?

  25. R.Dave says:

    @DrDaveT: Dem Party and media elites. This National Review post from David French (taken with a grain of salt) rings very true to me:

    Could the Twitter Primary Cost the Democrats the Oval Office?

    Twitter, which has developed into a hysterical platform prone to mobbing and shaming, amplifies and intensifies pre-existing primary pressures.

    …[I]f a Democratic candidate breaks in even small ways from the emerging online orthodoxy, watch them trend on Twitter. Watch them get viciously dragged in real time in front of every single leading progressive politician, activist, and journalist in the United States. It takes a brave person to withstand the attack, especially when there is precious little short-term advantage in confronting the online Left.

    This immediate, public, toxic, and often vicious or scornful feedback amplifies existing primary-season pressures to move leftward — just as the same kind of immediate toxic reaction can cow conservatives who oppose Trump. These attacks aren’t just read by campaign staffers. They also provide fodder for journalists, and they can quickly create narratives that dog candidates for days or weeks.

    A significant amount of political coverage in the traditional media these days consists of checking to see what’s trending on Twitter and then writing a few hundred word article about it and/or gathering a bunch of talking heads to discuss on TV for hours on end. And as a result, the politicians themselves just cater to the applicable partisan subset of the Twitter mob, meaning the nastiest, loudest, and most arrogant, uninformed, unrealistic, and uncompromising jerks on the platform end up getting elevated to positions of influence they never would have reached in the past. This Duca seems to be a case in point.

  26. The abyss that is the soul of cracker says:

    …[I]f a Democratic candidate breaks in even small ways from the emerging online orthodoxy, watch them trend on Twitter. Watch them get viciously dragged in real time in front of every single leading progressive politician, activist, and journalist in the United States. It takes a brave person to withstand the attack, especially when there is precious little short-term advantage in confronting the online Left.

    This immediate, public, toxic, and often vicious or scornful feedback amplifies existing primary-season pressures to move leftward — just as the same kind of immediate toxic reaction can cow conservatives who oppose Trump. These attacks aren’t just read by campaign staffers. They also provide fodder for journalists, and they can quickly create narratives that dog candidates for days or weeks.

    Sounds like the GOP primary season from 2015=16 (and the one starting again soon if Trump attracts a challenger). Maybe he knows what he’s talking about… or maybe he’s just projecting, who can tell?