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What Rachel Moss Did

This past weekend I was in Wisconsin for the WisCon convention. I have a lot of posts to write about that, including some ruminations on panels and some stuff about POC at WisCon. But this post is about something that happened during the convention that is contributing to my angry blackness and making me so angry I want to hurl gendered slurs in this woman’s direction for a week.

A woman named Rachel Moss put a post on Something Awful mocking attendees not because of their politics or their feminism or their willingness to come to Wisconsin, but because they were too fat, too white, too male, or too black for her taste.

However, the problem reaches beyond just what Rachel Moss did. It’s now what other people are doing because of Rachel. And though she can say “I don’t have control over what those people do,” the responsibility for starting this whole mess rests squarely on her shoulders. Being a veteran of online snark circle jerks, I know that had Rachel not pointed WisCon out to these people, had not mocked fat people and 9 year old kids, had not put up pictures to go along with that mocking, and had not set the tone for whatever came after, others would not have attacked us in exactly this way.

Let’s start at the beginning. A few days ago the post went up on the Something Awful forums, a site dedicated to making fun of shit. Rachel Moss, the post’s author, has some serious issues surrounding fatness, her own self-image, and understanding the difference between snark and being a total asscrab. I’m going to quote extensively here for reasons I will explain afterward, but I’m putting it under a cut for your pleasure:

[WisCon] is like any other sci-fi con, except that well over half of the attendees are female, about a third of the panels are political, there is no gaming, and absolutely everybody is a huge bitch.

Thinking Ahead: Feminists thinking about possible near and middle futures and feminist responses to them
Panelists:
Moondancer – A white woman who is Native American because she wears a cowboy hat and has wolves all over her shirt. And because she calls herself Moondancer. [glad you can make that scientific determination there, Rachel! –abw]

Feminism is making progress, because Moondancer’s son is a little pussy who gets beaten up by his sister and takes it. [I’m going to give you a moment to decide if the words “a little pussy” are Rachel’s or Moondancer’s. –abw]

The Joy of Fat Sex
I noticed immediately as I entered the room a lot of labored breathing.

Fat is Not the Enemy
Fat activism is, in my opinion, one of the stupidest types of almost entirely online-only activism there is. I’m sitting at a computer, and I’m super fat (well, not me actually), and I can’t get a date, so therefore I AM OPPRESSED. [note how she was quick to add: I’M CERTAINLY NOT FAT, this will be important later –abw]
But I can’t tell them that [their heroes are full of shit]…because they’ll eat me.

Fighting the Good Fight with Limited Resources
Panelists:
Cynthia: A polyamorous woman in a group marriage with [the fake disease] fibromyalgia [I am so glad to know that you’re here to tell us who is white, who is not, and also which diseases are real. You must be some sort of psychic doctor, Rachel! –abw]
Nabil: Seen earlier in that fat joy facillitator picture as “the skinny one.” “He” is a non-op transgendered person…a person who looks like a woman, talks like a woman, likes men, but says that I AM A MALE AND YOU WILL REFER TO ME AS SUCH. It’d be easier if he/she just drew on a beard or something. Geez. Try harder.
Marna: Another fat activist. BLEGH.

Dissecting Privilege — Let’s Look At The Guts
Boring talk. White guy #1 talks about all his patriarchally-imposed privileges, then apologizes for them. The audience gets mad at him for being arrogant enough to sit high-and-mighty at a panel and have the privilege to talk about his privileges. Audience attacks audience for being privileged enough to sit here in chairs at a convention and have the choice to talk about privilege. Panel gets mad at audience for steering the discussion away from their own stories of privilege, because we’ve only got an hour here and there are two more white guys to go. Black man reminds people that he’s black. [There are times when “Bitch, I will Cut You” really feels like an appropriate response, no? –abw]

[this bit really fucking pissed me off. –abw]
Some of Us Are Brave: Identity Intersections in an Election Year
Description: Blah blah blah Obama Hillary hiss blah.

This is what I had come to the con for, and what I had hyped here. I got there early to sit proud in the front row.

Panel:
– A sophisticated, older African American writer…Well, duh! She has to be there to prove that not all black women vote Obama.
– Two young black lesbians who organize slash conventions…Gay! Obviously pro-Hillary, on the panel to drive the point home that black women do not necessarily vote with their media-designated demographic bloc.
– An Asian man who is an elected state delegate for Barack Obama. This must be to even it out.

But, no. All for Obama. All of them.

Where in the world are all the old, dumpy women that were at the fat panels when I needed them? You’ve ruined this con! I had to hear about your awful joys of awful fat sex, and now you’ve killed the public election bitchfest I came to this thing for! YOU HAVE RUINED THIS CON. [No, honey, I’m pretty sure that was you. –abw]

Screw this. This con blows and I’m going home. Screw taking pictures of more fat people at the Fancy Dress party, and screw taking pictures of all the losers at the Livejournal party, and screw the “Gaylaxicon” party, whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. The awesome post I made at SA is going to have to be updated with a whole bunch of unfunny CRAP, and there’s nothing I can do about it, so screw all of this! [if only! –abw]

Let me make sure you understand. Rachel Moss paid $45 to attend a convention for the express purpose of stirring up shit and making a nasty post on the web (not to mention leaving nasty notes). She secretly took pictures of people. She made fun of “fat” people. She decided who is POC and who isn’t. She called a 9 year old boy a pussy while naming his mother, thereby naming him.

All for the lols.

What kind of fucked up lowlife must you be to engage in these activities?

Apparently one who has struggled with an eating disorder for a long time, which goes a long way in explaining just what her deal is. And as Liz Henry points out, it is really sad for her and it comes from a place of deep hurt. But you know what? I know a lot of people who are hurting, who have disorders, or mental illness, or physical ailments that affect their mental well being. And the majority of them deal with these things without attacking children.

You can do some Googling and poke around her LJ to find out more, but if you do so you might miss her useless apology. You won’t miss her threatening to call the police because people have been making threats of violence against her person.

Now I definitely am not down with physical threats. Especially not against female bloggers. But if Rachel Moss feels scared, hurt, embattled, and like she can’t walk down the street without someone having something nasty to say about her, all I can say is: good. She deserves it. Because that’s a slice of what she did to others for no other reason than she thought it would be funny. I would not wish actual physical harm on her ever. But you know that feeling in the gut you get when you’re anxious and upset and freaked out? I hope she feels that every day for a year. It still wouldn’t be enough.

Because people found out where she worked and said they would send letters to her boss, she had the post taken down from Something Awful. Google cache of it still exists for now, but more importantly someone on a forum of people who’ve been banned from Something Awful for being too awful decided to crosspost the first half of the original post. The comments on the OP were bad enough, but these secondary dickwads took it a step further. They started pulling pictures from the WisCon flickr pool to mock the women in them. And now they’ve moved on to photoshopping the pictures. There’s even one member named Cleon who is using a picture of me as his avatar with the words 100% Nigger above it.

Again, Rachel Moss is not directly responsible for this. Also again, this wouldn’t have happened but or her. And thus my anger is tenfold.

How dare she? How dare she add to all the stuff people who come to WisCon already have to deal with in their lives by bringing bullshit like this to their space? How dare she do it in such a way that it brings us to the attention of a community of known and proven assholes who spend a huge amount of time online being cruel and stupid? How dare she attempt to disown her culpability in that? How dare she?

And though I know this is a horrible thing to say, I can’t help but think: How dare she complain about physical threats? You called a 9 year old boy a pussy you depraved sicko! You’re lucky no one knew enough to pop you in the mouth. It’s wrong, yes, but what more can you expect when you talk smack about someone’s child you don’t even know?

Here’s what I want. You can do any or all of these things or not.

Firstly, I want a bunch of people to register at SASS and start posting to that thread. But not attacks. Because attacks won’t do any good, not unless we can find some pictures of THEM to make fun of. No, instead I think we should just start posting nothing but pictures of horses and kitties and puppies and baaaaaby animals.

And some gay porn.

We need to flood them with so much noise that they abandon the thread. If they start it elsewhere, we just do it again.

[ETA: you know, it’s sad but I got bored with that really fast :) I think I got distracted by all the baby animal pictures. And it actually seems less important now than the stuff I want below. I also realized just how pathetic those people were last night and, while I certainly don’t feel compassion, I don’t care enough to really worry over them. If only there was a way to just shut them up all at once. Ah well, who cares!]

I also want people to know what Rachel Moss did and I don’t want them to forget it. I want any Google of her name to bring up this and other posts about this issue. I don’t want to ignore it, I don’t want it to blow over, and I don’t want to moderate my feelings on the subject. What she did was wrong on so many levels.

Blog about this. Blog about why it’s wrong. Ask others to do so. Use her name. (After all, she used other people’s.) Write to her. This post has an email for her at the bottom. No threats of violence, obviously. But she needs to know just how many people know what she did.

We can’t stop every instance of this on the web, I know. But I spent a lot of time this weekend talking about the importance of having the back of other people on the web and in real life. Be that other POC, or feminist allies, or women who, because they are bigger than some random person thinks they have a right to be, are mocked, ridiculed, hurt, and harassed. I can’t fight the internet, but I can fight this shit. Will you help?

140 thoughts on “What Rachel Moss Did”

  1. the angry black woman says:

    You obviously do!

    and don’t you know there are other folks posting about how over the top and wrong the response has been to her. They mostly mean the threats of violence, but also think it’s just so terrible that we’re using her real name and such. meanwhile, it’s starting to become clear that the people actually making threats are most likely SA/4chan folks. *my eyes roll forever*

    As much as Rachel annoyed me with her bullshit, I’m starting to wonder if she’s regretting even stepping a toe into something awful and its environs. Not because of us, or not just because of us, but because they did not immediately think she was awesome the way she hoped and now have turned on her.

  2. A. says:

    Claire, the IPs may possibly be dynamic or proxies.

  3. claire says:

    Claire, the IPs may possibly be dynamic or proxies.

    i’m still getting record hits on my blog but nobody’s commenting, so i think the IP threat is working. that’s pretty much all i care about. ;)

  4. Mish says:

    I’ve never even heard of WisCon until this whole mess, which is bad since I’m a feminist and I’m from Madison. But, I’m ashamed to say I go to school with this woman. Ugh.

  5. Sable says:

    yup. we’ve honored rachel at sableverity.wordpress.com…check it out.

    And keep exposing the truth!

  6. brownstocking says:

    All I’m going to say is, if certain people are going to threaten filing charges, then the ORIGINAL victims should work on filing charges, as well. We’re seeing precedent established this year behind netstalking. Which I would classify this as. Press charges, folks. I mean, everyone deserves safety from harrassment.

  7. Shweta Narayan says:

    I was at Wiscon for the first time this year, and the space felt safe; but beyond that I was amazed at how many brilliant and knowledgeable and well-read people were sharing their thoughts and insights. I know privilege is a loaded word, but I -did- feel privileged to be in there.

    I didn’t actually make it to any of the political panels, but I was glad they existed, and that we’re talking about the things we care about. Sure, it’s an SF con, but SF is a community as well as a cluster of (fictional) narratives.

    I will be going back because it was fuckin’ awesome. And Rachel Moss and her ilk will not stop me. I hope one bigot won’t keep other people away, and I hope Ms. Moss gets the help she needs. Not only because she needs it, but also because it’ll stop her from lashing out and hurting other people with her ignorant hate.

    And I’m very glad to have met you, even briefly, ABW. I’m terrible at saying this sort of thing in person, but I admire you deeply.

  8. BigLiberty says:

    Just found your blog! Great post. If it makes you feel any better, my blog has also been mined for posts (specifically my discussions of the physical abuse I suffered), and the posts have been put up, whole, on the SASS forums to be mocked.

    Sick people, there.

    Like I said on The-F-word Rachel’s blog, I feel sorry for Ms. Moss, but I’m way more sorry for the people she hurt. I’m tough, I can take mockery (who cares about mean schoolchildren pointing their fingers and laughing at those things they refuse to understand, anyway?) but some people haven’t come to this place yet, and they might read what was said about them and have it stick, for years. Those kinds of comments are dangerous…I’ve dipped in and out of an ED based on such simple, hateful comments (no more, though).

    They haven’t bothered attempting to comment on my site, though, they keep their cowardly sniveling to the safe hate-haven of their messageboard. lol!

  9. Blackamazon says:

    I am agog . It’s that special entitlement swan in . I am gonna say something evil and cruel and DUMB and hope that my ( please insert looks, power, privilege ,syncophancy, whiteness etc.etc) will garner me approval , and power to control dialogue and embarass people. If it does not I will faster than you can say ” SOMEONE COME GET THIS FOOL” plead no power , learning, inexperience while having great pride in showing credentials that meant while i could have been learning i was more concerned with ” important things” .

    oops no the geeks and the POC and the outre control a good bit of the fun important things ! HAVE FUN!

  10. the angry black woman says:

    bifemmefatale said: “ABW, I’m really surprised you would use the word “lame” like that. I was totally with you until I got to that comment. It’s ableist.”

    I want to know if you’re being serious or if this is meant as snarky. I can honestly not tell, and I don’t want to respond without knowing. Thanks!

  11. the angry black woman says:

    totaltransformation said: “Now I definitely am not down with physical threats. Especially not against female bloggers”

    That seems like odd wording. If she were a male blogger you would be “down” (or down to some greater degree) with physical threats?

    No, just that I know female bloggers get threatened more often with physical harm. It’s a subject that hits close to home with me and that I’m hyper aware of. I don’t want any blogger to receive violent threats, but I am likely to be more upset about it if that blogger is female or POC because I am female and POC. A white male blogger getting threats would not get brushed off, tho.

  12. totaltransformation says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful response to my question ABW.

  13. BetaCandy says:

    ABW, I learned about a year ago that “lame” IS indeed considered ableist. Check out Tekanji’s explanation: http://forums.theirisnetwork.org/viewtopic.php?t=437

    And we had a little discussion here: http://thehathorlegacy.com/forum/index.php/topic,29.0.html

    Re: Rachel Moss. I think it’s really interesting – and actually makes an ironic point about the need for cons like Wiscon – that the people who supported her turned on her SO QUICKLY and in such a gendered way the instant she stopped attacking people for their entertainment.

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  16. the angry black woman says:

    BetaCandy —

    Thank you. That’s not something I was aware of, but now I am and will do my best to not use lame in that way in the future. I’m sorry that my use of it offended some folks :(

  17. yyzian says:

    You just called out the whole 4chan, something awful, encyclopedia dramatica crowd. You so totally rock.

  18. Brinstar says:

    This was the first WisCon I’d been to, and I found the environment very welcoming and accepting of all people. I’m surprised and disappointed that something like this happened there.

  19. rhiannonrevolts says:

    BetaCandy noted: I think it’s really interesting – and actually makes an ironic point about the need for cons like Wiscon – that the people who supported her turned on her SO QUICKLY and in such a gendered way the instant she stopped attacking people for their entertainment.

    That’s very, very true, actually. It’s symptomatic of the combination of self-hatred and misguided vitriol of that set. I’ve always suspected SA was like Lord of the Flies. This just confirms it.

  20. Kittie says:

    Calling out Anon? I’d say it’s gutsy, but they’re rarely all that scary. Mostly they bore the hell outta me.

    Good post, though. Cheers! (Yes, THAT Kittie)

  21. CassandraSays says:

    Wow. What a vile, mean-spirited, pathetic excuse for a human being that woman is.

    Amusing how quickly the SA dudes turned on her, though. There is a lesson for her in that if she’s smart enough to learn it.

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  24. Deirdre Saoirse Moen says:

    It’s really difficult to know what to say when someone, like Rachel, takes out her self-hatred on other people. Thank you for pointing out her eating disorder; it makes it something different than simple bigotry.

    I haven’t been to Wiscon (I took my middle-aged obese white ass to BayCon, where I was a panelist), but someday I hope to go.

  25. Tom Head says:

    Speaking as someone with Crouzon Syndrome, who once belonged to a Crouzon support group that had to be taken offline because of people who bear a spiritual resemblance to Ms. Moss, who grabbed children’s pictures and ridiculed them, a million thanks. Obviously Ms. Moss has never been driven to the verge of suicide over stuff like this, but many people have. This sort of thing represents pretty scummy behavior, and there’s no gentle way to respond to it.

  26. Lady S says:

    I’ve been following this. Rachel Moss is banaly evil. Looking forward to your post on harassment.

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  35. Quietus says:

    Whilst I don’t condone Rachel’s actions in this matter in the least, I think the widespread backlash against her is extremely ill-advised. Really, the best thing to do with anonymous is ignore them. You can’t argue with them, you can’t change their opinions, you can’t stop them. Every time you mention them or respond to them in any way it’s a form of victory for them. They have no racist, sexist or homophobic gender; they simply want to get people riled and provoke amusingly indignant or outraged reactions, and these are the shortest routes to such an outcome. If you ignore them, they’ll quickly sweep on to another target of the moment, and this whole thing will be forgotten. However, if you keep trying to fight them (which is like trying to cut jelly with a chainsaw) all you can expect is to keep tempers flared, insults flying, get insulting captioned and photoshopped pictures of every single convention goer bouncing round the chans, along with the home addresses and telephone numbers of everyone involved (can I maybe mention how EXTREMELY ill advised it was to move actions against Rachel Moss into ‘meatspace’?) If you like getting harrassing phonecalls, email boxes full of spam and suddenly finding someones ordered a hundred different takeaways to your house, that’s great. If you don’t, I’d advise you to leave them alone. They hold no real animosity against anyone from the con, although posting IP addresses and phone numbers may change that. They cannot be defeated except by ignoring them. I have direct experience with this through dealing with a board invasion by anonymous. If you make them bored, you can defeat them. It sounds defeatist, but seriously, it’s the best thing you can do here. You can’t really do anything to them, legally or extralegally, you can’t make any sociopolitical gains out of them, but they can destroy your life. Remember that anonymous is a completely unregulated, unorganised, chaotic organisation. Individual anons might do almost anything. Seriously, had no one from the con found out about Rachel Moss’s post, or had found out then said nothing, then it would have been forgotten in a week. I absolutely know that this sounds like rolling over and giving in, but as a queer goth dude with long hair, piercings and a transgendered boyfriend I’ve learned both in real life and in cyberspace that there are some times its simply better to just keep on walking by. You simply have to ask yourself this question: what can I gain by this conflct? No one from Wiscon has anything to gain from this. Ignore these twazzocks. Let them chuck around some crude humour; are they really creative enough to actually be insulting? It’s hard to be strong sometimes, I know, but simply being who you are can provide its own inner strength. Rising above petty shitheads like this is as much a matter of dignity as anything. They’ll try to push all your buttons; in your case ABW, they know very well simply from a skim-through of your blog tags exactly what will make you mad. Don’t get mad. Every community that has severely suffered from the depredations of anonymous has been the ones who let themselves get outraged. At the end of the day, these bozos aren’t worth it. They’re anonymous. They’re insignificant. Ignore them.

  36. littlem says:

    I absolutely know that this sounds like rolling over and giving in, but as a queer goth dude with long hair, piercings and a transgendered boyfriend I’ve learned both in real life and in cyberspace that there are some times its simply better to just keep on walking by

    Quietus, even as you describe yourself, you are a DUDE, which can mitigate the effectiveness of generally offering the advice “ignore it” to women and chlidren.

    There are people for whom proportional and reciprocal deterrence is the only understandable language. If you don’t fight back, they will escalate. If you do fight back, that is the only way they will back off.

  37. Quietus says:

    This isn’t some dark back alley. In cyberspace, physical factors do not apply. Anonymous are not fuelled by their hatred for you or anyone else, or even really their desire to do harm, but by their quest for sick, cruel amusement. If you refuse to provide them with this amusement by ignoring them, they will go away, rather like dermatitis. It really is as simple as that. The sad truth is, they don’t actually care about you, or anyone really, everyone here is just the target of the moment. Also, just how to you propose to ‘deter’ anonymous? Here we see the kind of factors that come into play in cyberspace: anonymous is an amorphous organisation with maybe as many as 10,000 ‘true’ members, and potentially unlimited resources to wage information warfare. You are all individuals. Named individuals. This is not a fight you want. They can silence you, and for what? Absolutely no reason. This is the reality of the situation. Ignore them.

  38. the angry black woman says:

    One note – I think the only people who dealt with Rachel Moss in meatspace are the sass people and not anyone from WisCon. Unless you mean the contacting of her boss.

    Otherwise, I’ve found the anonymous trolling of me to be a little pathetic when compared to recent events. (If you weren’t around for the stormfront thing, try searching the site.) They seem to think that I’ll be upset if they keep calling me “fatty” and “nigger”. They also don’t get how the moderation works around here, and I’m probably frustrating them more than they’ll admit by not allowing their comments up. I think you’re right in that eventually they will wander away and find some other shiny thing to poke at. And littlem, while I definitely get you, I think that Quietus is somewhat right in saying that you can’t fight the hordes of anonymous unless there was a way to track them all down and get them all carted off to jail, which won’t happen. Nor do I care to spend my time making such a thing happen. What I care about is making this space free of them, and I did that :)

    In the end, they don’t have access to this space. they can only do their thing in their space. And while their thing is meant to be hurtful, I just can’t find any way to be hurt by some dateless boys with mad photoshop skillz. That first day I was very angry about it, then I woke up the next day and realized that I have a life and actual awesome things going on in it. Am I going to go on living that life or am I going to worry about them?

    answer is clear.

  39. Rebecca says:

    The great thing is that, even though right now we’re all angry and upset that our safe space and trust was violated, next year we will all be together again, talking, laughing, dancing and yes even eating the way we always have. On the other hand, she will be stuck with herself and her viciousness for the rest of her life. The best revenge is, indeed, living well. My love to everyone who has been hurt in this incident, and I hope to see you happy and confident at WisCon 33!

  40. littlem says:

    That first day I was very angry about it, then I woke up the next day and realized that I have a life and actual awesome things going on in it. Am I going to go on living that life or am I going to worry about them?

    U R a roll moddle. :-)

  41. claire says:

    i think that quietus is right, too, except that”how to get back at them” thing is pretty obvious: out them. they are “anonymous,” so make them UNanonymous. post their real names on the internet.

    you really don’t have to do it to all of them, just a couple of ringleaders, plus the explanation that you could have done it to everyone, but didn’t have the time or the inclination.

    the point is, they’re afraid of only one thing, and that’s being outed. all i had to do was post two ip addresses on my blog for all outright sass comments to stop. they even stopped harrassing me on the sass board (as far as i can tell. i did a quick sweep. although i do have to say i was never one of their primary targets.)

    i’m not advocating doing this, i’m just saying: it’s not that hard, and these really are cowards. they don’t want their real names on the internet.

  42. Xavier says:

    Claire,

    I am offended by threats of outing. Post my IP, it won’t help you bring me under control. It won’t even anger me because it won’t work. The same goes for most anons.

    If you think anonymous can be stopped by outing the ringleaders ask yourself this: Why haven’t the scientologists, who have millions of dollars, excellent lawyers and an army of fanatics at their disposal, done this?

    Quietus is right. You can’t fight the anonymous hydra. The best way to assure that Wiscon is forgotten by the internet goons like so many other internet fads have been is to ignore them. Because they’re either kids or arrested development cases their attention span is limited.

    However, if someone who identifies themselves with Wiscon outs even one of their less anon friends and causes them trouble in meatspace it will keep their attention for as long as the ‘battle’ rages and the convention will reap the whirlwind.

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  45. Sin Verguenza says:

    re: Cleon’s avatar

    totally off topic but…

    you=beautiful

  46. StealthBadger says:

    She was doomed from the moment she posted. SA/channers love to make fun of ANYTHING, most often in outrageous, horribly offensive, and shocking ways – but that’s just marking time for when they get to REALLY let go on a deserving target. A few examples would be pedophiles, white supremacists, and self-hating people generating drama who try to turn the forums into a personal army for said individual.

    Not excusing; just sayin’.

  47. StealthBadger says:

    Claire: Your idea on outing as a tactic is not going to do much. Anons are outed *all the time,* especially in Internet Fites like this, and trying to go after “the ringleaders” would literally be like playing the largest game of whack-a-mole ever.

    It won’t scare them; the equivalent reaction might be “heads up, we’ve got a live one!”

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