If I were the type of person Daniel Lombroso makes me out to be in his Atlantic article, I would have one thing to say to him: Thank you. Thank you for platforming me. In fact, if I were the type of person Daniel Lombroso pretends I am in his article, I think there would be very real questions about the ethics of giving more exposure to me, even when that exposure takes the form of a tacky Gossip column-level bit of slime, which has the audacity to masquerade as political profundity.
What’s more, if I were the type of person Daniel Lombroso pretends I am, I would be almost perversely encouraged by his article. What Daniel shows us is that no matter how horrible he thinks you are, you can get right back on the air the instant a desperate left-wing journalist like him needs clicks. The ethics and consistency of his own politics be damned.
Fortunately for Daniel, and unfortunately for his readers I am not that kind of person. Fortunately for Daniel, I was and am too kind, too naive and too trusting. Unfortunately for Daniel’s readers, and for his publisher, the fact of my being too kind, too naive and too trusting enabled Daniel to behave in ways toward his source that no journalist would ever permit. Because, as you will soon see, platforming me is the least of Daniel’s worries when it comes to ethics.
Let me count the number of things Daniel did that he asked me “not to tell The Atlantic.”
Daniel would hate for anyone to know this, but we were good friends. Of course he got nervous about it sometimes, and when I would mention it over drinks and say “Daniel despite your job you know we’re great friends” he would slyly remark “oh Lauren you know I can’t say that, I’m still a journalist!” I’ll give him that, he did always include the cheeky remark after we just spent a night out discussing absolutely nothing to do with his stories, or politics.
Oh yes, the nights out, every time I paid for Daniel’s drink, made him breakfasts or dinners I’d hear that constant line “just make sure not to tell The Atlantic Lauren.”
When he came over for dinner with my mum and dad and said they were some of the nicest people he had ever met I got that line again “just don’t tell the Atlantic.” I got texts from him asking me to say hello to them and send his well wishes.
When I spoke to Daniel and consoled him through his breakup, I got that same line “I’m not supposed to tell you this, but I really appreciate you talking me through this and your kindness Lauren”
Oh, and it didn’t only go one way. Daniel was one of the kindest men I knew.
In fact, he held me as I sobbed into his arms after one particularly difficult week, and consoled me, telling me it was going to be okay. What I saw then as genuine kindness, I now see as something far more distasteful: an older man preying on the vulnerability of an emotionally shattered 22-year-old. In other words, it was the sort of power differential that the feminists of #MeToo have trained most everyone to view with suspicion.
Which is ironic, because rather than using his position of power to try to get me to sleep with him, Daniel instead used it to try to get me to lie about other people trying to sleep with me. Specifically, he was trying to get me to talk about an incident that I otherwise would have kept private involving the right-wing pundit Gavin Mcinnes. To make a long story short, Gavin got flirty and a little forward with me on multiple occasions. I wasn’t interested, or particularly impressed. Gavin took “no” for an answer. End of story.
But not for Daniel. He kept obsessively trying to get me to give him more details about what Gavin had said and done. He would stroke my arm and pretend to be concerned for my welfare, all while subtly pumping me for information on what, as I would come to learn, he regarded as a juicy potential #MeToo scoop.
I thought I knew the difference between feminism and voyeurism. Apparently I was wrong. Daniel spent the next two years trying to get me to tell this story on record. Even though Gavin’s behavior toward me was certainly not my worst experience, and I didn’t feel assaulted, or like a #MeToo-style victim.
It became fairly obvious Daniel didn’t actually care about my feelings. So despite my repeated protestations that I did not want to attack Gavin, he would sneak a question in to try to make me talk about him during every interview we did. He even had one of the women at The Atlantic call me with him to try to convince me to do a #Metoo story with The Atlantic against McInnes. This went on for two years, and for two years, I refused.
Daniels’ pushes continued to escalate, he told me he had secretly recorded a private conversation I had had in the car with Gavin. Now, please understand, I would never knowingly have a conversation like that in front of anyone. I don’t regard it as good form to expose people’s personal failures or struggles. That’s for them and their family to sort out, not for the colosseum of media. Gavin’s behavior to me, however disrespectful it was to his wife and his kids, was not the business of the vultures that make up the court of public opinion. It was between him, his wife, his God, and himself. However, despite Gavin knowing I was in the car with Lombroso, he ignored the fact that a journalist was within earshot and barrelled on. I tried to end the call diplomatically, and to keep it as vague as possible, but clearly, Daniel was able to record enough to make the nature of the conversation crystal clear. Still, despite his having violated my privacy with a secret recording — exactly what he’d sworn he would never do when we first met — I ignored it and continued trusting him. I am sure I am not the only woman to let this kind of minor gaslighting slide.
This all came to a head when Daniel decided to move from covert surveillance to outright threats. This June, Daniel tried to call me one last time, asking again for me to give him a quote saying Gavin McInnes assaulted me. I said no. I didn’t feel assaulted. Gavin had respected my boundaries. Why would I need to give a quote.
And, like all good abusers, that was when Daniel’s seamless imitation of a “nice guy” (TM) vanished in a puff of sleaze. “Lauren, if you don’t give me a quote, then it will appear to the public like you just slept with Gavin that night,” he told me with audible frustration. He knew damn well that I had never done this, but the implication was clear: Give me a quote or I’ll make you look like a slut. It was blackmail. The carrot had failed, and Daniel had grabbed the stick.
It is wrong to coerce sex from women for pleasure. It is just as wrong to coerce women to manufacture sexual trauma for clicks. And this is exactly the sort of media nonsense that makes people question genuine victims when they speak out about their trauma.
I had crazy people in my “nutjob” email folder who were angry because I wouldn’t put out for them physically. Daniel was angry I wouldn’t put out for him emotionally. Apparently that’s the only line between a feminist and an incel: whether they claim to own the contents of your ovaries, or the contents of your heart. Daniel does not own either. He does not own me. No means no Daniel. Not that you ever listened to that.
I am telling you all this, not just because it hurt me, but because you deserve to know in this whole sordid exercise he didn’t just betray me, he betrayed himself.
I know what you’re probably thinking. Lauren why the hell did you trust a journalist in the first place. Believe me I have asked myself that many times in the last year. I was sipping some serious stupid juice.
Actually, to understand why I would trust a journalist you have to understand the entire pitch Daniel gave me in early 2017. I was in Washington DC and he took me for lunch to a steakhouse across from the Washington monument and sweet talked me for a good couple of hours. He’d been pitching the idea of including me in a documentary for the last year or so. I’d already rejected him for months at this point just telling him I didn’t trust the press. Good thinking Lauren, you shoulda stuck with your gut.
He continued pressing, telling me, listen Lauren, the hit pieces about you and other right wingers making you appear as villains have already been done. The Atlantic isn’t interested in doing some cartoonish approach to conservatives, that’s for less serious outlets like Buzzfeed or Slate, websites he mocked routinely as nonsense news, clickbait and essentially bullshit. He always would imply that he was above them. Brave words for a man who essentially wrote an article which should’ve been titled “TOP 5 CRAZIEST men Lauren Southern ever dated, Number 3 will SHOCK you.” It was a funny read if anything, but also nonsense, clickbait and essentially bullshit.
Back to his pitch though. He was right, even at the time hit pieces on the alt right were getting old. And certainly by 2020 when this was finally published the term alt-right is full on geriatric. No one cares anymore, they’re not relevant.
So what did he want with my (at the time) 21 year old self? Well apparently The Atlantic wanted to understand why people are actually on the right, they wanted to know the human side of the story. He told me this was going to be the defining movie on the right wing and at this point all they had was Richard Spencer to be in it, and he didn’t think that summed up all conservatives. Which he’s right, especially considering Spencer himself isn’t a conservative. They wanted someone who was closer to the regular right wing experience, someone more moderate.
I finally agreed. I said okay, but this better be what you say it is, no nonsense. No nonsense Daniel assured me, there wasn’t going to be any slander, no deceptive editing. No secret recording. Everything in this documentary was genuine, and anything I wasn’t comfortable with I didn’t have to do or talk about. I was okay with this. If I could go back in time and slap myself, I would.
Now you might say a journalist could easily lie about all this. Let’s think about it for a minute though. One of two things is true about what he said. Either he was lying in which case he was bad mouthing other outlets, repeatedly, knowing I could tell other people what he said after the fact. Or he was telling the truth, in which case the reason for his documentaries failing is obvious. The Atlantic knew what they wanted and he wasn’t talented enough to make it.
My cardinal error in trusting Daniel was not in thinking journalists were trustworthy, it was in thinking they were smart. I didn’t count on him being so unthinkably dense.
And boy did his movie ever bomb. They submitted it to almost every single film festival in the United States and overseas. It was continually rejected. He had high dreams of premiering at Sundance, and kept discussing that he was in negotiations with Netflix. He eventually got it into one small documentary festival that I’d never heard of in my life, nor had I heard of any documentaries featured in it. And after trying to sell to Netflix and various other websites and channels, they eventually went straight for pay per view. Pay per view that every single person can put their movie on. No one wanted to buy it.
On top of this, Daniel had lost his job. The Atlantic, the outlet for the working man! Had laid off a large number of their staff in order to save some cash. Very progressive.
And this is where Daniel and I’s friendship ended. Once again, he will try to deny that we were ever friends… but how many monsters that you genuinely believe are neo nazis do you spend hours over the evening chatting with about your breakups? How many monsters do you talk about your favourite day spas in New York with while exchanging suggestions? How many monsters do you chat about playing legend of Zelda in quarantine with, and heart react their suggestions to download Animal crossing next? Though to be fair to Daniel, Animal Crossing would be a great match for his style of journalism, in that it’s 80% fishing.
I know I may sound a bit bitter here, and perhaps I am. I never imagined I would be writing something like this about Daniel Lombroso, because to be honest I think Daniel was genuine. I think he genuinely enjoyed my company, enjoyed me as a person and was a friend. In fact, I know he did…for as long as he had a job. But as Bertolt Brecht’s “Threepenny Opera” tells us, “first feed the face, and then talk right and wrong.” The failure of Daniel’s documentary, and the loss of his job made him unable to feed the face, and as a result, his true face emerged. There is nothing more dangerous than a desperate man with nothing to lose. In fact, as I was soon to learn, the only thing more dangerous than what Daniel calls “one young person with a knack for social media,” is another young person with no knack for filmmaking, staring down the barrel of exposure.
Daniel’s original project was the stuff that good filmmaking can be made of. It would’ve been risky. Daring. Original. It would have humanized where other people’s first instinct was to vilify. In fact, many of those people are still angry at Daniel for not vilifying his subjects enough. The only thing certain Leftists love more than talking about their boundless capacity for empathy is the thrill of denying that empathy to people who challenge them. Daniel knew that by humanizing those people’s enemies, he would be lumped in with them, and he didn’t have the balls to be a second Cassie Jaye. So instead, he betrayed not just me, but his own artistic integrity, by producing the exact kind of clickbait bullshit that he mocked buzzfeed for creating.
But unfortunately for him, where the market for humanizing portrayals of social pariahs was too dangerous, the market for clickbait denunciations of those social pariahs are too saturated. So, what’s a documentarian of barely existent talent and nonexistent balls to do? Turn to sensationalism. Libel and mock those with more integrity, and more courage than you. Release prurient, personal details of no political relevance, and hardly any honesty under the cover of high-handed moralism. “Look at all the weirdos Lauren Southern dated. Do we know when Lauren got pregnant?? Isn’t it a sign of how toxic she made our politics that I had to talk about this? XoXo Gossip Goniff.”
This alone would be bad enough. Flagrantly disrespecting a source and repeating every single thing that you promised that source would be “off the record” would be a death sentence for most journalists, even if the quotes were accurate. But Daniel apparently is not content with that ethical violation, because he compounded it by flat out lying about things I said. For instance, when the fact checker from The Atlantic called me initially, she asked me about a quote where I supposedly said, “I guess I’m a hypocrite for marrying my husband.” I have never said anything like this, and asked her where she got the quote. She said Daniel had linked an audio file. She then proceeded to listen to that audio file and discover that not only had I said nothing of the kind, but the conversation never even mentioned my husband or my family. To her credit, she apologized and said she would fix it. Daniel has a serious fixation with trying to attack my family to the point of trying to inaccurately guesstimate my pregnancy and marriage dates. In reality he has no idea, and I don’t know how this even went to publication.
As a professed descendant of Holocaust survivors, Daniel should know the dangers of using “big lies” to damn popular scapegoats. And if not, you would think the Atlantic would be more careful. Sadly, his expectation that he would get away with this lie makes total sense when you consider the litany of other misrepresentations and flat out fabrications that litter his article.
To give one particularly hilarious example, Daniel claims to have an in-depth knowledge of my personal life and cites my having dated a “Croation neo-Nazi.” In actuality, he’s misremembering a conversation where I told him I had dated a Croatian and then jokingly mentioned that the Croatians had been on the side of the Nazis as a form of self-deprecation about my reputation. But the man I was dating was not a Nazi, even if he was a Croatian. I know they probably all look the same to Daniel, but blaming an entire nationality for the actions of one subset is still wrong. What next, will Daniel accuse me of marrying a communist because my husband is part-Asian?
Or, to show you an area where he so badly misstates the truth that it might as well be a lie, consider his story about meeting me “at a chateau an hour outside of Paris, which she’d booked to recharge while her crew was off shooting around Europe.” In reality, the only reason I booked that Chateau was because Daniel suggested it as the most affordable option. For context, when I was filming “Borderless,” it became prohibitively expensive to find hotels in Paris during our shooting schedule. Daniel told me that the Atlantic team had holed up at a chateau and hour outside Paris at much more affordable rates than Parisian hotels, and offered to arrange for us to stay with them. I was grateful, and I accepted. I still had to spend an hour of every morning on a commute to scope out migrant locations in Paris, but it was a far more reasonable financial commitment than the thousand-Euro-per-night hotel rooms I would have otherwise had to book.
Daniel transmogrifies this into a tale of me booking that chateau as an extravagant waste of my subscriber’s money, presumably so I could lounge about and cackle like the Bond Villain he’s turned me into. “Thanks to the proceeds from her work, Southern could afford this retreat in the French countryside,” Daniel sniffs. I assure you, it was not a retreat, and I only took it because it truly was the cheapest alternative on offer. It’s too bad that Daniel, apparently having realized his “talents” will make sure he never sees the inside of a chateau again, has decided to live instead in this flimsy journalistic house of cards he has constructed.
This is one example of many, that for the sake of The Atlantics damaged integrity, I’m hoping they edit along with the long list of other clearly false statements in the article that I have sent them.
These might seem like petty little instances of journalistic malfeasance to you, and by some lights, I suppose they are. But Daniel and his ilk run a grift that relies on the notion that they are brave opponents of authoritarianism, of fascism, of intolerance. They cast themselves as truth-tellers opposing ideologically biased disinformation. Whatever garbled nonsense he spews in public, he knows that I also loathe authoritarianism, fascism, and intolerance, and that the truth matters more to me than any ideological spin. The point in rehearsing his many, many sins against journalism is not merely to embarrass him personally, but to make a significant and important point: That in judging the professed opponents of authoritarianism and supporters of truth, you must consider what their methods say about them.
Daniel emotionally blackmailed a 22-year-old girl at her most vulnerable moments. He threatened her with sexual shaming if she wouldn’t cook up a story about his political enemies. He lied about what she’d said, and what she’d done, for professional advancement, and when that advancement failed to materialize, he revealed intimate secrets from a friendship for the sake of a few arid days at the top of the clickbait pyramid. If this is what opposition to fascist, ideological disinformation looks like, then I’m sorry to say the call is coming from inside the house.
Anyways. If you thought this was going to get rid of me, if you thought it would demoralise me, all you’ve done is inspired me. You’ve made me more ruthless, you’ve built me up and helped me learn a very important lesson about sociopaths in politics. I’m glad I learned it young. It will help in my long years of creating content ahead of me. Creation that I hope you know you have directly inspired and invigorated a fierce need in me to counter the lies of your works in the mainstream. My new documentary Crossfire will be out soon, and I’m proud to say I have not misquoted a single person in it, I leaned on honesty, integrity and genuine journalism to create a fantastic movie. I wish that were true of everyone working in this space.
PS. Those are not my damn blinds in the photo, nor is that my house. That photo is the real crime here, atrocious.