Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

A blog about words, wordplay, and etymology, with slightly more than occasional political rants.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Ignoring the wolves at our doors

I saw something that shocked me today. A Facebook friend posted an article from The Daily Stormer about Heather Heyer, the woman murdered for participating in an anti-Nazi protest, titled "Woman killed in road rage incident was a fat, childless 32-year old slut." The headline itself wasn't the thing I found shocking. I am sure tons of hate sites ran similar stories today. What I found shocking was that other people were surprised by this.
And that made me realize I've been harboring a hideous, toxic secret. For years the prevailing online wisdom has been to ignore the trolls. Don't reward the online Nazis and white supremacists with attention. It's wisdom along the lines of "don't engage the trolls" and "don't read the comments."
That seemed like a good idea at the time. But now that the knives are out, I realize that I've kind of known about the Nazis hanging out in the bowels of the Internet for years and I guess I thought everybody else knew too.
The Huffington Post ran this story today about a televised exchange between CNN's Symone Sanders and conservative politician Ken Cuccinelli. The two were brought on to discuss the events in Charlottesville this weekend. At one point in the conversation Sanders interrupts Cuccinelli's attempt to justify the actions of the Nazis, and Cuccinelli says "Will you just shut up and let me finish, Symone?" 
Well Sanders just lets him have it, saying "Under no circumstances do you get to speak to me in that manner. You should exhibit some decorum. And understand that you were trying to defend and excuse white supremacy on this program. And under no circumstances will I sit by while that happens." 

If you followed the conventional wisdom and didn't read the comments, you wouldn't know that the vast, vast majority of the comments attacked Sanders. She was a "typical" bobble-headed Black woman. One user said that Sanders had demonstrated everything that was bad about "these people," and another blamed "people like her" for the events in Charlottesville. There were attacks on her race and attacks on her gender and attacks on the Left and there was vitriol and hate. HuffPost has since closed the article to comments.
And the thing is, these commenters could be anyone. They could be an ER doctor. A hiring manager. The guy in the next cubicle. 
They could be cops.
I should have told you about these people. I should have told you how often you can find them spouting off their racial hatred in YouTube comments sections and on news websites and on homegrown forums where they meet and collaborate with other hateful people.
I should have told you about the forum on Reddit, the one with hundreds of thousands of followers, the one where men who could be your coworkers or neighbors how worthless women are, how they are only good for one thing, and how to get that thing come rape or high water. I should have told you how many of these people there are. I should have told you that women have to interact with them every day. How they are raising their sons to be just as hateful as them. I should have said. 


I should have told you about 4chan, the asshole of the Internet, where Nazis and white supremacists scheme and plot and claim when they are called out that they are only joking. That they are doing a "social experiment." 
I should have told you about the Nazis. Then maybe you wouldn't think that we live in a post-racial America. That racism is over and the pendulum is swinging too far in the other direction. If I'd told you sooner about the Nazis you'd understand that people aren't just being oversensitive when they talk about systemic racism - maybe you'd know that there are millions of racist dirtbags hiding in every corner of the Internet. Maybe if you read their words you'd understand.
I should have read the comments. I shouldn't have told you not to read the comments. I shouldn't have ignored them. I shouldn't have let you ignore them. I should have said. 
I should have said.

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