Archives

Diagram Of An Internet Fuckup

Diagram Of An Internet Fuckup

A little while ago Neil Gaiman fucked up. on Tumblr. Shortly after, this post went up and I reblogged one of the replies because it’s so very true:

‘dude…stop, you, you don’t know where you’re at, this is tumblr, we will wreck your shit in this place for such a bad response to a matter of social justice.’ … This is like thunderdome, you gotta know what’s up before you open your damned mouth.

Because I need to be up all night for reasons and because I think I’m going to be asked shortly what exactly is wrong with what Neil Gaiman said, I decided to take it chunk by chunk and extrapolate. Not because Gaiman is particularly special, but what happened here happens so often I figure this makes a good explainer post in general.

The drama starts here, when Neil gets an ask in his box:

Recently, many promising Youtube vloggers such as Anita Sarkeesian and Laci Green were given death threats (taped to pictures of their homes and addresses!) and just plain internet hate for doing what they do (Anita does a feminist web series and Laci does a sex-positive web series.) According to, John Green, the Internet hate is forcing more and more brilliant young women to leave the internet because these are strong women speaking out, rather than strong men. Thoughts, sir?

Whoever sent this ask needs to be banned from the Internet for 24 hours because this person led Gaiman right into the middle of a conversation he didn’t need to be in the middle of.

Gaiman’s response was pretty general about how it’s terrible women are being harassed. Then someone decided to tell him why any defense of Laci Green is problematic:

No. Laci, at least, received hate and criticism for using a slur against trans* people, for posting fat-shaming videos, and for a particularly problematic post in which she said she hated Islam and thought it was misogynistic. It’s not right to go that far and send death threats, but the people giving her criticism for that are NOT trolls.

I’ll pause here to say: If you don’t know what’s been going down about Laci Green recently, there is some context here, here, here, and here. It’s clear that Gaiman didn’t know any of this. Yet he decided to respond.

The only one I’d researched was the Anita Sarkeesian case – from the New Statesman, here.  I’m utterly ignorant on Laci1.

You seem to be saying that sending hate across the internet is okay as long as it stops short of death threats, if the person is saying something  wrong or stupid or evil or misguided.

Problem #1 – The asker didn’t actually say this. Gaiman misinterpreted the askers words and, coincidentally, misinterpreted them in a way that mirrors much of the conversation about Laci from those who are defending her.

I can’t believe that hate is justified even if you’re sure you’re the good guys and even if you’re hating the right people.

As I said, we should call people on their shit: that’s criticism. It’s one of the things the Internet does. But we shouldn’t hate.

Problem #2 – This right here can easily be construed as patronizing, especially when it’s coming from a white male in Western society. Here we have someone with a bunch of privilege markers telling someone else that a person who has done real harm to marginalized people that the marginalized shouldn’t hate.

Not-hating is harder than hating. Rational discourse and persuasion, and, if people are not prepared to listen to persuasion or to discourse rationally, going away and not rising to their bait, these are things that it’s hard to do, but which might make the internet a safer, saner, more pleasant online place for everyone.

Problem #3 – This is the Tone Argument. Classic TA, actually. Like there’s a handbook next to his desk.

I think that’s why I responded to, and linked in the last post to, Erin Kissane’s essay on How to Kill A Troll. She quotes Martin Luther King in there, and talks about love. I hope people will read it.

Problem #4 – White people quoting Martin Luther King is almost always a red flag because they often like to quote the bits that suit their need to dismiss angry reactions as if King never got angry or ever condemned white people for doing exactly this. (Hint: he did.)

Problem #5 – He quotes a white woman who is professing one way to deal with situations like this that may well work for her, but doesn’t necessarily work for people who are not white. He does this without realizing (apparently) why his privilege leads him to think that this is some sage advice that must be followed instead of some other path. Everything about this post speaks of unexamined privilege, including the things he quotes from someone else.

Problem #6 – He’s lecturing people without understanding the situation at hand, without knowing the background of the person or why people are being critical or “hateful” of her. He’s inserting himself into the conversation not in a way that indicates that he wants to listen and understand what’s going on, but instead indicates that he wants to set the Internets straight, despite his lack of knowledge on the particulars of this case.

Problem #7 – Gaiman seems to think that this lecture is applicable to Laci Green’s critics despite all of the above.

I don’t think Neil Gaiman is being intentionally privilege-y or douchey in these posts. But intent and $0.25 might buy you a piece of candy. Maybe.

But hey, people fuck up sometimes. And as many of us always say: It’s not that people fuck up that causes a problem, it’s what they do after they fuck up that’s usually a problem. This time, maybe not.

Since his initial post went up Gaiman did change the wording, as I indicated, and he posted this apology2. That’s a good step towards making up for an Internet fuckup. And it didn’t take days nor require seven fauxpologies. Thumbs up.

It will be interesting to see where this goes from here. Judging from the replies to the apology post, certain people are already upset that he dared apologize to those awful people (that they know nothing about). It looks like Gaiman is ready to let this one go and and let his apology stand.

Footnotes

  1. He added this later to clarify the post and possibly to head off the “He’s defending Laci” people. []
  2. Plus we had a short back-and-forth in which I explained a slice of what I just posted here about why I had problems with what he said and he acknowledged that he made a mess of things. []

7 comments to Diagram Of An Internet Fuckup