Ralph Watson’s Open Letter on Diet Madison Avenue’s Defamation Against Him
Dietmadisonave. I’m waiting for my 24-hour post to go away.
In Homer’s The Odyssey, Odysseus must choose to sail between Scylla, a seven-headed monster, or Charybdis, a whirlpool that would take the ship down as they passed. Odysseus chooses Scylla – losing only a few sailors instead of the entire ship. That really is his only choice.
Yes, the metaphor is going somewhere. Let me back up.
Three months ago, out of nowhere, I went from being Chief Creative Officer of a high-profile advertising agency to someone being falsely accused of sexual harassment by an anonymous Instagram account, Diet Madison Avenue (DMA).
I have never, in my 24-year career, sexually harassed anyone.
In just nine business days, without due process, my response, or my defense, the campaign that Diet Madison Avenue (DMA) recklessly unleashed against me essentially destroyed my ability to work in the industry that I love. All of this was done without identifying any actual claim against me, much less providing any proof.
Now I am left with only two choices – staying silent or speaking out. Scylla or Charybdis.
Choice 1: Staying silent in the face of unsubstantiated false rumors and watching as the ship sinks under the weight of whispers. Some people do assume because no one has refuted or fought Diet Madison Avenue’s accusations, they must be true. So, staying silent is not an option.
Choice 2: Choosing to speak up and risk bringing even further defamation, attack, and harm onto myself, especially considering DMA’s threats to “take down any challengers.” While I’m not a confrontational person, and this path is unpalatable, it’s the only option left for me. After all, Scylla had only seven heads.
The first DMA listing of my name appeared in mid January. I had never been more shocked and hurt in my life. By January 25th, without identifying any facts or supporting evidence, DMA openly called for my firing. Their character assassination and pressure tactics were highly successful – I was summarily terminated, despite having given my heart and soul to CP+B for almost four years. At no point in this nightmare process was I ever presented with any evidence of any harassment, or allowed a fair chance to respond or defend myself. I saw people’s faces change overnight into suspicious glances and furtive smiles, even among previously close coworkers.
The judgment passed by DMA and the agency was both swift and devoid of any semblance of due process or the right to a fair trial, hearing, or anything close. My career and reputation were erased overnight without a shred of actual evidence in far less time than it takes to get a traffic court date to defend a parking ticket.
I understand, and applaud, the wide net that has been cast, and it has caught some bad fish. I wholeheartedly agree that no one should be subjected to sexual harassment. But when that net is cast too wide, too indiscriminately, there is a real possibility that some dolphins will get hauled in with the tuna.
We need to put an end to all sexual harassment, but I don’t believe DMA’s way is the right way, and my situation is the ultimate proof of that. We live in very heated times. And everyone fears the DMA catch phrase “up next…” being typed and targeted at them. No one will risk publicly questioning their tactics, much less speaking up for anyone. Look how DMA blasted the group of female agency veterans when they tried to offer a different opinion. Most people are just happy that it’s not them. The last thing anyone wants to do is invite this inquisition into their own houses.
To my friends I say, I totally get it. Hypothetically speaking, if an angry mob were coming down your street and waving torches, would you make a sound?
I am nothing like what DMA has called me. And, I’m hurt by the fact that hundreds of people I’ve worked with haven’t been asked for their opinion. And thousands more who don’t know me will now have their opinions framed by this.
Again, I have never sexually harassed anyone.
I support equal rights for all in the workplace and am proud of the work I have done in the advertising industry. I know that anything I could write will bring a wicked smirk to some pre-judging faces, but I have nothing to hide.
I will admit that DMA has managed to bring to the fore an important issue in record time. However, I don’t believe fear and negativity is the way to effect positive change — and history has proven that out time and time again.
How do I go about asking for honesty and justice in this environment? I’m seriously asking.
I won’t lie. It’s scary to speak out in this atmosphere. And, when the time comes to hit “send” on this file, I will no doubt hover my finger over the button for an extra few seconds. But that very fear of further attacks is what convinces me I’m doing the right thing, and at the right time.
It’s the only way forward for me. At the moment, even some in the industry press have taken to sensationalizing, speculation and what appears to be self-promoting motives. In the current atmosphere, the only fair forum that seems to remain is a court of law, where they are accustomed to dealing in due process and evidence.
Rumors and defamation against me have been brought to Instagram. Now I can bring the truth to court and out into the open. Although DMA operates anonymously, our legal system allows me to bring their defamatory tactics into light. I have sued DMA for defamation and other torts in Los Angeles Superior Court, Case No. BC707278.
Yes, I’ve had a one-sided trial by social media, but now I’m looking for actual justice in a real trial by bringing DMA into a public forum and requiring them to state their claims, and more importantly, their supporting evidence. I’m here to tell you they won’t be able to do that. It’s one thing to make reckless and anonymous accusations. It’s quite another to back them up with evidence in a court of law.
Let me ask you something: what social media outlet would you like serving as your judge, jury and executioner? I choose to be one of the first to face the fiery torches being waved, and to say, I deserve fairness, and we all deserve better.