OPINION: The Internet—Empowering the idiots who should not be heard at all

HabaneroA couple weeks ago, I posted a tongue-in-cheek article titled “Dark Faith–Four Tips to Woo the Editors.” I had several reasons for doing so…

First and foremost, I know the editors well… they are two of my best friends (Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon), so any opportunity that allows me to take digs at them… I take it. I’m a good friend that way.

Second, it was an opportunity to bring up the submission guidelines in a semi-entertaining manner while reminding readers of some of the common tips I give when it comes to getting published.

Third, it was a shameless ploy to publicize the book couched in a tongue-in-cheek article.

Most people took it as it was.


I had one individual leave a rather asinine comment that I let sit in moderation while I figured out whether I should let it go public so that others could ridicule him, or just trash it as spam. I trashed it as spam. To paraphrase, the comment suggested I was racist, that I was a braggart, and that Apex was the epitome of mediocre fiction.

I get this type of shit all the time. Much of it is posted in comments that are moderated away (Here and on the Apex blog.). I also get it in emails… usually one or two a week. I stumbled across it on other blogs and on message boards, as well.

So… do you notice a trend about the location of all the hate? It occurs online. Behind the protection of a keyboard and a screen. Face to face, I’ve had a lot of people share opinions with me about decisions I’ve made, stuff I’ve published, jokes made… but this stuff has always been shared in a civilized and professional manner. Why is that? I’m not a puny pushover in person, but I’m far, far away from being an intimidating presence.  So we can exclude physicality. It’s because when around others, most folks follow mature standards of behavior.

That falls away for some people when they have the protection of perceived anonymity. This anonymity allows dicks to be dicks without fear of being caught and having to deal with the consequences. These assholes play out their insecurities, their need to self-aggrandize and make themselves feel more important than they can ever hope to be.

Sadly, cyber-bullying is nothing new. In fact, it’s currently a hot topic in the country’s news media. My hope is that it’ll get enough airtime so that someone, somewhere, will figure out some way to deal with this nuisance in a legal and powerful manner.

John Scalzi currently has a great post about this sort of stuff… except that he’s way more eloquent talking about the social dynamics in play (hey, there *is* a reason he’s considered a world-class writer and I’m… an editor). It made me realize that the stuff I deal with he gets at least tenfold… maybe one hundredfold. And he points out that while he gets plenty of dumb shit, it is nothing like the abuse dealt to female bloggers by the anonymous bullies.

John links to this (scroll on down a bit past her trip details) rather disturbing post. Shawna James Ahern runs a nice cooking blog. Has been for the past five years. In the post that John links, Ms. Ahern shares some of the insanity she receives:

From those brief 25 hours, I received emails that said, “Don’t you know that processed food is killing Americans? How could you have posted a photo with Velveeta cheese?” or “What kind of a mother are you, leaving your child for another trip? Selfish bitch.” or “Sausage? Andouille sausage? You don’t think you’re fat enough already, you have to stuff more sausage in your mouth?” There were complaints about where I ate, how much I ate, how happy I was to be with the people I sat with, that I was bragging by listing the people with whom I had dinner. There were comments about my weight, comments about my parenting, comments about the way I spend money, comments about the farce of gluten-free, comments about my photographic skills, and comments about how often I posted on Twitter (for some, that answer was: too much). Nothing goes undiscussed as being disgusted in my online world.

Wow. What is wrong with people? This sort of stuff makes me want to become a bounty hunter, bring these people bound and gagged to Ms. Ahern, so that she can perform some type of appropriate retaliation to these jackholes. I’m thinking along the lines of habanero extract to the eyes.

I don’t even know Ms. Ahern and I would gladly offer my bounty hunting skills to her. But what happens when a personal friend of mine receives this sort of stuff? Well… it becomes machete time.

I read this upsetting post from Seanan McGuire today that still has me ready to call down a habanero extract rainstorm.

I make a controversial comment, I get death threats, comments about my weight, accusations of bitchiness, comments about my weight, offers to “fuck the stupid” out of me, comments about my weight, insults, comments about my weight, and, best of all, people swearing up, down, and sideways that I deserve whatever I get. It’s been a few years since I’ve had a really bad troll problem, but when I had one, it was…

It was bad. It was “Kate monitored my journal and deleted comments before I could see them” bad, with a side order of feeling sick every time I considered getting online. I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat, and I was scared all the time. It’s invasive, and it’s scary. Cracks about my weight aside, I’m not that big, and if someone wanted to fuck me up, they could. Easily. (Is this a motivator for my large and oft-discussed machete collection? Possible! Anybody comes to my house with the intent of doing me a mischief in the woods, they will not be thrilled by the results.)

I do believe I will be buying the sharpest, finest machete I can find to present to Seanan for her next birthday. I’ll dedicate it to all the cowards making the threats, posting the insults, and generally being despicable human beings all because they feel safe behind the internet.


11 responses to “OPINION: The Internet—Empowering the idiots who should not be heard at all”

  1. maggiedot Avatar

    It really is disgusting what people think they can do and say just because no one can see them. It’s gotten to the point on most news sites that I just don’t even bother to read the comments because they’re typically so full of people like these. 🙁

    1. jasonb57 Avatar

      I will read the comments people make on my local news site. It makes me nervous thinking so many of the idiots live around me.

      1. maggiedot Avatar

        Isn’t it frightening? @_@

  2. Christine Purcell Avatar

    I was reading this and thinking “he’s talking about deindividuation.” I knew grad school would come in useful some day. Researchers have been studying this for quite sometime, even before the age of the internet. It’s amazing what people will do when they’re anonymous. There are probably better explanations, but hey, who doesn’t love Wikipedia?: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deindividuation

    1. jasonb57 Avatar

      Ah, probably the subject of my next post. 🙂 Thx for the info, you brainiac!

      1. Christine Purcell Avatar

        You’re welcome!

  3. silverstairs Avatar

    Not that a positive comment erases a negative, but a shared experience from an honest memory might keep you from actually putting a machete to some stupid flamer’s neck.

    I first purchased Apex in its print form with volume 1 at a cruddy second hand book store in Lexington Kentucky. I knew the guy that worked there and he would let me “borrow” any sci-fi I wanted. When I saw Apex and asked to “borrow” a copy he said “no.” When I asked why he said, “The guy that brings those around (Jason Sizemore as it turned out) looks like a serial killer and I’m usually alone here.” So I bought a copy. It changed my life. When I realized that this one guy, for the love of the genre, could make his own magazine and make it well, then I had no excuse for sitting on my own attempts at fiction. I have sold stories at all levels since then, but the greatest sale I ever made was to Apex. Jason Sizemore unknowingly got me off my ass and into writing fearlessly. How many people can say they ever even made an impression?

    That is my bit of positiveness. A true story. Hope this counteracts some of your “machete moments!”

    1. jasonb57 Avatar

      “The guy that brings those around looks like a serial killer and I’m usually alone here.”

      Classic. 🙂

      1. Janet Harriett Avatar

        You look like a serial killer, and I accepted the invitation to your basement? I really need to re-assess a few things about my life.

        I’ve had the opportunity to meet in person some of the folks from a message board I frequent, and I was floored by how different one of the more troll-y members was in person. We had a polite, civil conversation about controversial issues, but the whole time, I was thinking how differently this would have played out at a keyboard.

  4. Kary Avatar

    Sorry I’m late. Commenters are why I write under a pseudonym. They get real scary, real fast. The ones that call me a f-ing bitch, a fat whore or a socialist moron don’t bother me that much, but mixed in with that third group, I often find an element that likes to post a writer’s hometown, family status, names of spouses or children, etc. Those are the scary ones.

  5. Dana Avatar

    Coming in real late…

    I think part of it is that if you’re seeing words on a screen, that doesn’t feel like a real person to you, or if it does, only after much cognitive effort on your part to *remember* it’s a real person. That effort probably gets easier with time for some people, but for others it never even occurs to them to start.

    I know that for me it feels different interacting with a person IN person than it ever does “talking” to them online. It’s like two entirely different universes.

    I can see how that would lead to antisocial behavior. Easily. Especially with someone skirting up on sociopath to begin with.

    Doesn’t make it any easier but it makes me very glad that a lot of online services (websites, social media, etc.) have a blocking function.

    While we’re at it, you haven’t lived til you’ve faced this harassment from people whose supposed mission statement in life is to be more inclusive and more emotionally supportive. At least you expect it from the asshats, and it doesn’t hurt as much then, even if it can be more scary. But we’re talking about harassment to the point of starting online communities for the express purpose of trash-talking an individual, and not even having the courtesy to put it behind a privacy filter. I’ve gotten to the point I pretty much don’t trust anybody anymore, if the jerks are going to be jerks and the nice people are going to be… well, jerks.

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