Thursday, May 08, 2014

Mike's Story Part 16: Honeypot(?)

By Jenna Orkin

   Meanwhile up north, FTW was wandering in the wilderness. Mike's account of the unraveling of the company may be found in By the Light of a Burning Bridge.  A key figure is an unnamed "female employee."  In the article, he presents a scenario in which he played along with her sexual provocations in order to make her "show her hand."  We won't stoop to any glib jokes about what else he might have wanted her to show.  He claimed to have been secretly taping her all the while.  Later, he would say that the tape was destroyed in the burglary.
    When he got to New York and talked about the case, he told me that there had, in fact, been no tape.  I don't know if he also revealed this to other people.  If the case was still on his mind, he might have, because he needed, as we all do, to be free, natural and honest with the people close to him.   
   The "missing tape" meme, he believed, would help him win the lawsuit for sexual harassment which the female employee brought against him.  Why this case meant so much is a matter for conjecture which is an otious waste of time.  For the case was marred from the get-go by her own "unclean hands" as legal lingo has it.  She was no pure, young thing who was traumatized by Mike's antics, however "inappropriate" for an office setting.  If this was not, technically, an example of entrapment - since Mike was so easily drawn in - it certainly was entrapment in some more ideal forum in a more just world.
   She did show him porn sites, as he was quick to tell me in his phone-call afterwards.  He responded with the enthusiasm of the protagonist in The Devil and Daniel Webster.  He did appear in the doorway of her office in his underwear.  When he showed me and his lawyer, Ray Kohlman, his stance - in profile - and added, "No erection," we decided it would be best to leave out that detail, if possible.   
   All this was more recklessness, to the point of self-destructiveness, on his part, given the context of a boss/employee relationship.  But the female employee, whether honeypot or not, gave him good reason to believe she wouldn't mind.

In my experience, Mike respected lack of interest on the part of a woman.  (Of course, I wasn't twenty-five.) Once or twice when I was at the computer and he was getting undressed for a shower, he appeared in the doorway naked, with his fists clenched at his sides like a wrestler striking a tough pose.  This was during a period when he was recovering from his depression.  Probably he'd been looking at himself in the mirror and thinking, "Not bad!"  His naked posturing wasn't an invitation; psychologically at least, it revealed nothing beyond the wish to be admired.
    I believe that after Mike got his inheritance from his father, approximately $200,000, and paid the FTW staff and everyone else whom he or FTW owed, (as well as sending $1000 to an activist in need, remarking, "It felt so good to do that,") he spent $35,000 fighting the sexual harassment lawsuit.  It was a matter of honor which is odd, because the sort of behavior he'd been accused of was the sort he continued to engage in without guilt, since it was not uncommon for men of his generation and upbringing. 
Though there's no question that he went too far in his response to the female employee's overtures, it's absurd to think his honor is affected by this case; it's a farce.
   This account will probably offend some people who are of the, "Don't speak ill of the dead, and particularly, of Mike," school of thought.  While it's true that historians bear a special burden because history is written by the winners, or at least, the survivors, in Mike's case, it's especially important to tell the whole truth, to the extent that one knows it.  First of all, if we don't do it, the enemy will.  To relay this story in context, as is the intent here, can serve as an inoculation against the sort of outlandish accusations which have been leveled against Mike in the past. This is a flesh and blood, warts-and-all portrait written in the belief that in the end, Mike and his transcendent  work and critically important ideas will prevail. He lost the lawsuit and everyone finally forgot about it.

1 comment:

Debbie Metke said...

I very much appreciate your day by day account, Jenna. I greatly admired MCR but hadn't known a lot of his most interesting life.