The Good Place, Gotcha-Style Philosophy, & Me

No spoilers for the TV show alluded to in the title of this post lie below. Content warning for references to the Holocaust, infanticide, abuser tactics, and bullying.

This post was written under the influence of suddenly-necessary sobriety from alcohol and caffeine, ContraPoint’s concept of digital self-harm, the solid credentials of a certain TV show, a whole lot of therapeutic re-framing in favor of the resilience narrative, and sleep deprivation.

I am very good at spinning the shit of my life into comedy gold. Self-absorption, the men who dumped me and the trolls who talked to me more than my colleagues at the time call it.

Meanwhile, the rest of you laughed, and I could laugh too, because it was a comfortable laugh I granted you rather than some nervous chuckle I inadvertently elicited from you.

This time is going to be different. I hope you’re still here.

Continue reading “The Good Place, Gotcha-Style Philosophy, & Me”

The Good Place, Gotcha-Style Philosophy, & Me

Wit Against Misogyny & Various *-isms: A Beginners’ How-To

Don’t you just hate it when you think of the perfect thing to say after the fact? There’s a term for that: esprit d’escalier (or “staircase wit”). Then there are times when you can’t think of anything to say at all, which can be just as annoying. This can happen with friends, family, or strangers, online or off.

Nearly no one is born issuing snappy comebacks at the drop of a hat. It’s a skill that can be practiced and improved upon and worked on over time. If you want to join in the war of the wits pitted against oppressive jerks, you can, no matter how unfunny or dim you think you are (because you probably aren’t that bad). Getting started means training yourself to more quickly recognize situations ripe for a comeback, surrounding yourself with people who can inspire your courage and give you ideas, and practicing your newborn-to-newfound skills in lower-stakes spaces.
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Wit Against Misogyny & Various *-isms: A Beginners’ How-To

At Least Four Internet Jerks Are Not Nice People Offline

Many thanks go out to those who helped me with editing and revising this: Stephanie, OpheliaDanny, and especially Alex, who generously copy-edited this for free and could really use some help right now.

There are some who claim that if only we were all away from this Internet thing, everything would be alright. According to this theory, perfectly nice, decent people suddenly morph into complete monsters lacking any and all humanity online. Trolls, their defenders, and people who hate technology all chant this “He means well” and “I’m sure she’s nice if you get to know her not-on-the-Internet” bullshit.

And it is bullshit.

What’s after the jump might count as drama-blogging and discusses some very unpleasant things using appropriately unpleasant language. It is an account of the in-person time I have spent with John Rael, Emery Emery, Heather Henderson, and Ryan Grant Long.

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At Least Four Internet Jerks Are Not Nice People Offline

Women in Secularism Making You LOL: Lindy West

Women in Secularism is sooner than my overbooked schedule would like to admit. I am incredibly excited to meet, for the first time in person, the fellow speakers, con attendees, and ex-Muslims I’ve known online and through their work. I have been following Lindy West‘s feminist, body acceptance, and comedy work for years. Eighteen-year-old me would squee herself to death if she knew that, 8 years later, she’d be interviewing the likes of Lindy West, Susan Jacoby, and Lindsay Beyerstein.

Here’s Lindy on troll reformation, crunchy spider legs, and cupcakes.

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Women in Secularism Making You LOL: Lindy West

On Being “One of the Good Ones”

So it’s come to this: I must express the most bizarrely meta think I’ve ever thought.

One’s openness to engagement with hostile and/or contentious individuals is not necessarily a sign of superior strength, intellect, moral fortitude, or anything at all like that. It’s generally a function of many, many other mitigating factors.

Some of these relevant factors include, but are not limited, to

  • Relative notoriety: Is the name the sort that has a dedicated contingent of individuals who insist on heaping blame onto the holder of said name no matter what the topic at hand might be? Is every word written and/or uttered by the individual scrutinized by those who are against them? Does this person deal with large amounts of people coming at them every day on various media?
  • Timing: Is the person in question among the first to speak up and out about a topic, smoothing the way for subsequent individuals?
  • Context: Are they making statements that only make total sense within a specific framework or subculture?
  • Interpretation: Is their statement aspirational or descriptive? Resigned or excited?

To my knowledge, no one but me has a Google alert for my name and all variations of it thereof; my name alone is not a lightening rod in the first place. I’m generally rather flattered when people tell me that they read something that I wrote. I say things that are contentious, radical, and at least a little off-putting fairly often. People coming at me online still are few enough to be amusing rather than a life-altering nuisance to me (although Monday did give me a taste of what it’s like to be piled-upon by the Twitter troll patrol). I follow in the footsteps of the initial bad-asses rather than count myself among the first to speak up. I often speak within and for particular subcultures and rarely speak aspirationally.

If any of the above were to shift, change, or even be slightly tweaked, my approach would likely do the same, i.e. be altered. I do not deserve praise for not usually blocking (and sometimes interacting with) dedicated trolls, assholes, individuals of ill repute, purveyors of haterade, even the simply unrelentingly contentious, on Twitter and elsewhere. Not having people fixate on my every word as they lick their lips and salivate in anticipation of tearing apart, misconstruing, and decontextualizing everything I express — how is that a reason to consider me praiseworthy? Save the dubious praise for said individuals for collectively not targeting me very much. It’s no feather in my fedora.

As it is with almost everything else ever, any judgment of someone’s approach should be based on an informed assessment of their individual situation, not on some idealistic principle so far removed from reality that it practically denies reality. Engagement with the hostile is best left to those of us who’ve only done this a hundred, rather than a thousand, times before. Expecting everyone to be open to every conversation at all times is a recipe for activism burn-out — and I’m not there yet. Not even close.

Many thanks to Zinnia for talking to me about this and helping me to get my thoughts together about it last week.

On Being “One of the Good Ones”

But, It’s Just a Troll!

The most recent Rush Limbaugh debacle has brought to the forefront an argument that those of us who engage in activism both online and off often face from those who style themselves as our allies: that we should ignore those who make arguments against us that seem ridiculous, because the person obviously doesn't mean it, and we validate him or her with our attention. Ignore it, these people declare, and, like a zit, it will go away.

Can we truly discern what the motives of such "trolls" are, and should we simply ignore them lest we do the unthinkable and *gasp* "feed" them?!?

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But, It’s Just a Troll!