By Kim Thore
I was driving in the car last weekend, enjoying the warm weather, looking forward to a screening of Miles Ahead and listening to my local NPR station…all was good and then it all became bad. NPR was doing a story on Julia Ioffe –you may not know the name but you more than likely know more than you may care to about her subject: Melania Trump.
Julia recently did a piece on Melania for GQ—and the trolls are coming out en masse attacking her. Apparently it is all because Melania had expressed her displeasure over the piece…and journalists—no new news here—her husband has been rather public about his hatred of journalists….but this was different. You see Julia is Jewish and her subject is married to what I like to refer to as the walking virus with shoes Donald Trump. After the piece was published and Melania had a comment, Julia suddenly became a target. Her phone has rung off the hook with threats, her twitter page has been a target of …you guessed it—anti Semitic rants, photo-shopped pictures, people claiming she should be made into a lampshade…… all because she published a fully researched article that was run by Melania Trump’s camp and a team of lawyers, etc and she wasn’t even sure what Melania was referring to.
As I listened to Julia tell the interviewer how her life has been threatened, I was disturbed…but then I became angry when she stated, “as a journalist it comes with the territory”. Does it? Well maybe if you’re dealing with a troglodyte like Trump but it shouldn’t.
No journalist should have to be the subject of attacks and feel unsafe and I wonder how we got to the place in this country where as journalists we accept attacks on us as just part of the job. No it’s a part of a society where social mores and appropriate behavior are unicorns and bullying and meanness are the norm.
It is still mind boggling to me and embarrassing as well that we actually have someone so reprehensible as Trump leading as the Republican front runner. Let me be clear, it doesn’t say anything about Trump, or even the Republican party but it does say something about our society. Trump is waving in the wind a banner of a society that has decided to accept the lowest common denominator, to hate others who are different, to judge people based on the color of their skin or their religion. But at the end of the day, if anything – Trump has done most of us a favor –he has pulled back the skin on the underbelly of the beast and shown us that hatred is still alive and well in America.
What is worse is that people like Julia have been conditioned to accept it. She is doing her job and she cannot do so without a backlash of hatred. What is even more sad and disconcerting is that the online attacks against Ioffe, though religiously charged, aren’t so different from those targeted at many other women. Brianna Wu, a game developer, spoke out about gamergate and she then began receiving multiple, specific rape and death threats including her address, forcing Wu to flee her home. Alison Rapp, who worked in marketing at Nintendo, has also been the subject of relentless online harassment. No man or woman should be the target of threats and fear for their safety because they chose the career of journalism or expressed an opinion.
I have been rather fortunate—I’ve only had a couple of run ins but I won’t lie to you, I always wonder if it’s really worth it? I once wrote a blog about why I thought Kim Kardashian and Kanye West were a bad choice for the Vogue cover and the trolls came out and called me a racist. I wasn’t quite sure how my disdain over someone’s fashion choices equaled to me being racist but there it was staring me back in the face.
At a club I was once approached by a man who didn’t agree with my assessment of a Corrosion of Conformity show. Really? A music journalist’s opinion means that much to you that you’re going to corner them in a bar and force them to discuss their article?
I could write an entirely new blog on what I’ve received when I have commented on Trump. No big surprise there –a man who spews hate speech would more than likely have followers who do the same. But to have someone tell me I should die because I disagree with Trump’s views is unfathomable. Yes that happened.
And just this morning I received a comment on a fashion blogging site that I follow. I love seeing the red carpet looks and commenting on my thoughts of what looks good and doesn’t. But this morning my inbox had a notification from an internet troll who went so far as to create a fake disqus profile with my name as a rude phrase to attack me because I said Kendall and Kylie Jenner didn’t look bad in their Met dresses considering… I kind of stared at the comment for a minute and thought wow that much hatred and effort was summoned over a back handed compliment? I can only imagine if I had been actually critical.
I don’t make my living as a journalist—it’s something I do as a freelancer, I do it because it’s something I love….most of the time.
For those who do it as a full time profession, there shouldn’t be fear for publishing an opinion. Feeling threatened and enduring racist hate speech shouldn’t be part of the territory. Ever.
SO why is it becoming more and more common? Well..as I have often said Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have given people a screen to hide behind while they lob over insults and hatred. I’m fine with people not agreeing with me…that’s a natural part of open dialogue –what I can’t stand nor do I think anyone should, is attacks and threats.
It would appear that our continued foray into social media has made us, well…..antisocial.