The Strange Social Media Witch Hunt For Michael Calamari

Two Saturday nights ago at the Barbary, a typical dancefloor incident occurred: One reveller, wittingly or unwittingly, elbowed into another and an altercation ensued. What happened after that, however, has been anything but typical; and it’s resulted in a controversy that for the last week or so has variously pushed buttons, threatened to ruin reputations and a business, plus ruin the life of one young man who may or may not have had it coming. Oh, and there’s a black eye and broken leg, too.

Having spoken with a number of sources close to the scene — but not the victims or the alleged attacker, for whom the incident is now a police matter — here is as best we’ve been able to surmise what happened: At around 1:45AM or so on the morning of June 19th, a local scenester named Michael Calamari was dancing with friends. At some point, he came into contact with two young women, either by accident or on purpose, words were exchanged, and a melee ensued. When it was all over, punches had been thrown and minor injuries were sustained; it was all over, according to everyone we spoke with, in a matter of seconds. And that was where the confusion really began.

Though stories vary, all contend that Calamari, one way or the other, was at the center of this mess. And pretty much since the moment he was identified, a campaign has begun to basically destroy the man, with little regard for the usual process of letting the law and those actually involved sort this all out. Early last week, posts began appearing about the incident simultaneously on Facebook, Twitter, and local messageboard BCO. From there, the narrative of the incident quickly got away from those who were actually on the scene; a kind of social media mob mentality gathered steam, and soon, two major threads had emerged: One demanding that Calamari be brought to justice for his alleged crimes, be that justice of the street or legal variety, and another insinuating that the Barbary staff and management were somehow (and for some unknown reason) trying to protect Calamari. (Full disclosure: The Barbary is a Philebrity advertiser.) Meanwhile, some members of BCO had begun a sort of online hearsay inquest as to whether Calamari had had a history of violence toward women. By the end of the week, the flyer you see above was plastered all over Fishtown and Northern Liberties. Calamari had been convicted by an ad hoc court of his peers.

But even as everyone within earshot was being alerted to the incident and every variety under the sun of shit-talk on Calamari, confusion still ran rampant as to what actually happened. It eventually emerged that one of the women involved in the incident had actually injured her leg after the incident had happened — which went counter to the previous rumor that Calamari had injured two women. Barbary proprietor John Redden spent a large part of the week talking with everyone he could, including one of the victims, a friend of his, to ascertain what exactly happened — and what measures he could and should take. He eventually released the following statement:

I can tell you that when it happened, that we took the necessary steps we always would during any type of altercation. It is completely up to the parties involved as to what further steps are taken. I am a personal friend of one of the girls involved, and have been talking to her since the incident occurred. I do not condone any type of violence at the Barbary or in general. I will continue to make the Barbary as safe and as comfortable as possible.

Meanwhile, the debate and attendant witchhunt on BCO and Facebook and elsewhere grew more and more unseemly. Finally, over the weekend, one young woman, who’d emerged as possibly the only person who’d actually witnessed the altercation, released a statement on Facebook:

The night of the incident Michael and I were dancing for a good part of the night right in front of the stage. At one point I saw him bump into someone, we kept dancing, I heard her say something to him, (I’m not sure what it was) we just kept dancing. Out of nowhere I saw two girls start coming after him hitting him in the head. Being in shock I stood there for a second. I then saw Michael push the girls off of him. I walked onto the stage to get out of the middle of it and by the time I turned around they were all gone. Everything happened very quickly in less then a minute. As far as I know, from what I’ve been told I am the only witness besides the people involved.

Shortly thereafter, a comment was left underneath saying that she probably didn’t see the whole thing.

Updates: Your Michael Calamari News Minute

  • marc

    Full disclosure, I re-posted something related to this guy on my Tumblr…

    Yet, I didn’t do so because I immediately thought the guy was guilty of what he was accused of doing. But because after reading PW’s recent cover story, and the horror stories that pop up every couple months, I thought that maybe it’s time to come out of my little bubble.

    I suspect most people who posted to Facebook (or whatever social media they use) were merely trying to be good citizens. I’ve only seen one or two posts openly calling for violence against the guy (which of course is not excusable).

    The bottom line is that nobody wants to read in the near future that something really bad went down and could absolutely have been preventable had the community woken up in time.

  • tips

    @marc: Well put.

  • heydenberk

    I feel inclined to respond to this out of fear that some poor sap may confuse this for journalism despite its obvious deficits.

    “… pretty much since the moment he was identified, a campaign has begun to basically destroy the man, with little regard for the usual process of letting the law and those actually involved sort this all out.”

    This is simply false. The posters and postings on the subject have all indicated that people with knowledge of the incident should provide information to the police. Accompanying the article is a poster which is plain evidence of that.

    “Early last week, posts began appearing about the incident simultaneously on Facebook, Twitter, and local messageboard BCO. From there, the narrative of the incident quickly got away from those who were actually on the scene”

    I assume whoever wrote this does not actually have an account on BCO. Allies and friends have been providing updates straight from the attacked women. Much of what happened in other social media outlets were directly informed by first-hand accounts. There are many mentions in the article of a lack of first-hand accounts, which is either the result of very poor research or a deliberate attempt to muddle the truth.

    I’m not sure why Philebrity, which excels only at snarky commentary on local government if it excels at anything, has decided to wade into this issue, and I’m even less sure why they’d do that without a strong purchase on the reality of the situation. The only way to dismantle a culture of rape and violence against women is to build a community and culture around opposing it. And seriously, even if Philebrity wants to cast doubt and aspersions on the survivors of violence and their allies, the language of “witch hunt” is incredibly histrionic and rhetorically impoverished.

  • schmapty

    Running the guy’s picture is quite a thing to do if you aren’t sure what happened and you think it is a witch hunt, isn’t it?
    i’m not defending anyone here, but I have yet to hear any story about what went down. This isn’t even a “he said, she said” it’s a “she didn’t say, he didn’t say”.

  • herbie s.

    heydenberk’s post is definitely right on. I’d like to underscore this point again: The only way to dismantle a culture of rape and violence against women is to build a community and culture around opposing it. And seriously, even if Philebrity wants to cast doubt and aspersions on the survivors of violence and their allies, the language of “witch hunt” is incredibly histrionic and rhetorically impoverished.

  • jseipp

    “And pretty much since the moment he was identified, a campaign has begun to basically destroy the man, with little regard for the usual process of letting the law and those actually involved sort this all out.”

    YES a campaign to destroy this man! With little regard for letting the law sort this out! By asking people to contact the police if they have information. Seems contradictory. What a shoddy piece.

  • Lake 4

    The reality is that this flyer constitutes slander against this guy if he didn’t do what he’s accused of (and I’m sure very few of the smarmy bloggers posting on this have any firsthand info). I know he looks like a douche bag and we all have the best intentions, but the fact is if it isn’t true his reputation is permanently fucked.

  • tips

    What @Lake 4 said. Also, welcome BCO-ers.

  • gozer

    “YES a campaign to destroy this man! With little regard for letting the law sort this out! By asking people to contact the police if they have information. Seems contradictory. What a shoddy piece.”

    That’s not really what the flyer is saying.

  • bangs

    I kind of think this spread so fast because people love gossip…not necessarily because they want to be “good citizens”.

    Bummer either way – if it’s true, or if it’s not.

  • djlynnabraham

    “The only way to dismantle a culture of rape and violence against women is to build a community and culture around opposing it.”

    Are you suggesting that this post is condoning rape and violence? Please. That’s quite a stretch. It’s a conversation about the mechanics of social media as it relates to real-life incidents, and how when whisper-down-the-lane becomes whisper-down-the-networks, it can spread faster and be even more ill informed.

    This guy has been condemned by his peers based mostly on the way he looks. It’s Hipster Profiling (the pic of him wearing that tiger get-up that’s circulating didn’t help his case). Everyone wants to hate this guy because he looks like a douchebag. He probably is a douchebag. But being a douchebag doesn’t make you a rapist or an assailant.

  • rgl

    this spread ‘so fast’ (over the course of two weeks, and to a limited audience) because there are people in this community who actually care about women and their safety, and want to do everything in their power to protect them. people have been extremely proactive in getting information out to urge people to cooperate with authorities (see the flier you posted above).

    that said, the legal system is imperfect, and cases of abuse against women often go uninvestigated and unprosecuted, and it is the duty of our ‘scene’ to police itself and try to protect its members against men who have a history of abuse. to use the term ‘witch hunt’ to describe women coming forward with stories of how this man abused them and people supporting the victims, for a change, instead of the abuser, is disingenuous, melodramatic, and juvenile.

    i am extremely proud of philly punks and ex-punks for protecting their own, and hope that efforts are made in the future to educate men about abuse and misogyny- after the tragic murders of two women in our community last summer, people seemed to drop the thread between the kind of misogyny and apathy about misogyny that led to those murders and recent events.

  • rgl

    djlynnabraham, being a douchebag doesn’t make you a rapist or assailant, but the fact that he did assault several women actually does make him an assailant. he was condemned by his peers for abusing women, not because he uh, dresses poorly- if dressing poorly were the only criteria, everyone at the barbary would be a ‘victim’ of a ‘witch hunt’.

    and, yes, misogyny is actually the reason behind people making excuses for abusive men or accepting the idea that a dude (with a history of violent behavior) could have somehow acted in self-defense when two women who do NOT have the same history of violent behavior were physically harmed in a manner very, very inconsistent with ‘pushing’. it is not a stretch, and the use of social media among people who know the victims, witnessed the assault, and attend events at the barbary IN REAL LIFE is not especially compelling, nor is it a ‘witch hunt’.

  • djlynnabraham

    @rgl, You have Incontrovertible proof of his multiple assaults and his history of violence? I assume by now you’ve brought it to the attention of the police, right?

  • mufffin

    ugh. . .fuck off all of you.

  • dbritt

    This whole thing sounds like a bar fight blown way out of proportion.

  • herbie s.

    What constitutes “incontrovertible proof”? No the fact that women said that he assaulted them, apparently….

  • the_ill

    @dbritt: methinks this is what happens when a bar fight meets keyboard warriors

  • rk

    uggh…today’s philebrity has a case of the mondays.

  • schmapty

    The problem with the flier that some people aren’t admitting is that it is not just a plea to cooperate with authorities. A plea to cooperate with authorities would say something like “if you have any information about the physical altercation that occured at the Barbary on 6/18 please call…” No picture. No name.
    If you know who he is and you are attempting to bring him to justice and there is reason to do so, the police will be able to find him. Giving out his name and posting a picture is encouraging people to act gainst him. If that’s what you want, that’s valid, but cop to it.
    A good course of action “policing your scene” if you will, which I’ve heard is happening is making venues aware of him. Tell KFN, 700, Barbary, Johnny Brenda’s, assorted MakingTime and R5 venues, etc.

  • cerulean

    Well, congratulations philebrity on successfully twisting the course of events until it met your highly ambiguous criteria for a witch-hunt. Another way of describing the course of events: Calamari violently attacked two girls at a party who affirmatively identified him as their attacker. When they lacked information about him other than his name they turned to their friends and their friends’ friends for help, at which point several other victims of Calamari’s violent behaviors came forward and established a trend of disturbing and threatening actions in his past. In the hopes of finding more concrete information fliers were put up around the city in areas where he might reasonably have been seen before with the police’s phone number written on them so that these victims, reasonably nervous about putting themselves in Calamari’s line of sight again, could call in tips anonymously.

    This article and the comments on it establish quite clearly the national and global trend, which is that everyone is much more willing to bend over backwards to give a guy who hit a girl the benefit of the doubt than they are to lend the girl a helping hand. Most violent crimes against women go unreported and most of those that do get reported don’t result in convictions. Don’t you get it? There’s no way this guy’s life is going to be ruined in any way, shape, or form by this. The least you could do is spread the word in such a way that girls feel empowered to protect themselves rather than call them liars and spin Calamari as some kind of victim of cyber-bullying.

  • deadly_lettuce

    Not to mention that the flyer doesn’t say “this man is accused of…”, it states that he “has violently assaulted multiple women.” That strikes me as a statement of fact. Of violent crimes against quite a few women for which he’s been convicted.

  • Timo

    So what has become of Mr. Calimari? Has anyone acted on their impulses or is this all just and exercise?

  • b1ff

    Does it seem really weird to anyone else that whenever a white guy rapes or beats the shit out of a woman, everyone freaks out over whether or not his reputation’s going to be ruined? You’d think people would be worried about whether it might wreck a woman’s life to get her face pounded in by some stranger, and whether it might ruin the lives of other women to have to worry about whether or not they can safely go out to a dance club without getting beaten up by men.

    But no, let’s not worry about any of that. Instead, let’s report that the victims definitely maybe started it, or were at least asking for it, and anyway that it wasn’t such a bad beating, and that shit like this happens all the time and isn’t a big deal, and that all the other people who say he assaulted and stalked them are probably just liars. You know how groups of total strangers like to get together and lie about getting assaulted and stalked by some poor innocent white dude. Let’s trust the Philadelphia Fucking Police to handle it, because they do such a great job with everything else. Let’s remember that a victim’s desire to get the word out about a guy who punched her face in should be trumped by a man’s right to have his reputation protected from angry women.

    Personally, I’m curious whether the author is friends with Mike, or if he’s just defending him out of bro-solidarity.

  • tips

    @b1ff: To clarify. I do not know Michael Calamari at all and entertain no “bro-solidarity” with him. In point of fact, after this piece ran, we were offered an “exclusive interview” with Calamari, which of course we immediately declined. In the post above, I tried to be as impartial as I could, but if you’re looking for my own personal feelings, I, too, have a sneaking suspicion that this kid might be a piece of shit.

    HOWEVER, what I also can’t cotton to is the notion of half-assed punk rock messageboard justice replacing the real thing — which, flawed as it is, is still better than the BCO option. The irony here is that, if/when Calamari is charged and tried, it’s the actions of these fucking knuckleheads that could actually get him off.

  • b1ff

    @tips: okay, fair. I’m not a member of BCO so I have no idea what kind of weird shit is or is not hatching over there, but I know one of the victims and assumed the “social-media mob mentality” was referring to the shitstorm aggregating around her asking her internet friends if anyone knew anything about the guy who pounded her face in, and her internet friends passing his picture around to find more information.

    There’s a pretty big difference between telling BCO not to u-lock some dude before the cops get a shot at him and telling women not to talk about their attackers on the internet. For those of us who have been in touch with the victim and not just some alleged internet circle-jerk, the tone of this article sounded much more like the latter.

    SIDEBAR: If he’s looking to give someone an exclusive, you should tell him to email tmurtha@philadelphiaweekly.com. She’s working on a piece about the incident and I’ll bet she’d love to hear from him!

  • tips

    @b1ff: In fact, we passed along to his go-between that he should definitely get in touch with Tara. And of course, none of this should suggest any type of discouragement whatsoever in victims of violence of any kind speaking up. But at some point, the social media mob — not anyone actually involved here — seems to have crossed a line. That’s what this post is really speaking to.

  • b1ff

    @tips: Is there anything I can say that would inspire you to clarify that or give some kind of a shoutout to the real live victims of violence up there in the actual post? More voices of support for the victims = less need for self-appointed vigilantes to take up the burden.

  • tips

    @b1ff: We can certainly do something like that. Can you recommend some good resources that we can link to?

  • schmapty

    how many comments does it take to get to the center of a Philebrity post?

    a 1, a 2, a 29!

  • philllllllllladelphia

    This could very well be girls who’ve been through abuse in their own past unfairly accusing him. Everyone involved should go to counseling.

  • schmapty

    NOOOO Phillllllllllaphia!! You’ve just undone it all!

  • b1ff

    If you’re a woman who’s been raped, assaulted, stalked, or harassed and you need help, contact the Women’s Law Project: http://www.womenslawproject.org/

    Why law enforcement isn’t a reliable ally in preventing violence against women: http://whereisyourline.org/2011/05/why-we-dont-trust-you-nypd/

    What men need to do about violence against women: http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/news-and-opinion/cover-story/QA-with-a-Leading-Male-Voice-Against-Sexual-Violence.html

    Privilege, and how it helps dudes not care about ladies, and what to do about that: http://graceyrself.tumblr.com/post/6732670499/acknowledge-your-privilege

  • isl

    There were thirty two people shot in the last three days in this city.and in related news,there was a fight in a bar two weeks ago..
    Did you people just move here yesterday from fucking beet truck kansas!? There are shitty people in this town! There are shitty people everywhere.They go to bars,they walk the streets,they take the train,they drive your cab,they punch girls in the face.If you see this happen,either call the cops or beat the shit out of the guy,two very simple options.Don’t waste weeks of your life speculating on what did or didn’t happen at some bar you weren’t even at.You wanna raise awareness and help women that were assaulted,raped,stabbed,and murdered? Put up posters of people the police are actually fucking looking for.People who are actually wanted for crimes that took people away from there family’s.People who caused unknowing amounts of pain and suffering.Your purpose for these posters and non-stop internet ranting is to raise awareness in our community about men who have violently assaulted women and THIS is the fucking guy your warning us about!? Well thank you,i will make sure to tell all my girl friends that he may or may not punch them.Even though I’m sure no one will ever see that guy again,ever.

  • heydenberk

    “The irony here is that, if/when Calamari is charged and tried, it’s the actions of these fucking knuckleheads that could actually get him off.”

    This of course is a reference to US Code Title 18 Section 2249 which states that “In the event that the assailant is targeted by a supportive group of allies (hereafter referred to as ‘knuckleheads’), the assailant shall not be eligible for assault under this code” because that’s how the law works!

  • fichadelphia

    isl: SAID.

  • cerulean

    If we targeted only things that were #1 priority on a global level nothing would ever get done. Assault would not be a big deal because of rape which would not be a big deal because of murder which would not be a big deal because of serial killings which would not be a big deal because of mass murders in history which would not be a big deal because of current violent revolutions in the Middle East which would not be a big deal because of all the innocent children starving in Africa which would not be a big deal because the poles are reversing and we’re all going to die anyway.

    It’s flawed logic and it doesn’t hold up.

  • j_l

    It’s disgusting to not see that violence from men is what leads to rape and assault. Ignoring a man beating two women because they may have bumped into him is not okay. It’s exactly this sort of mentality that makes it next to impossible for any woman to get justice when a man attacks her in Philadelphia. No one speaks up or says anything, and nothing changes.

  • kussyblodd

    Sorry but regardless of what he did this guy is just gorgeous. I’m surprised no one has pointed that out! Every time I see this poster I get moist! Hot jacket too!