Tag Archives: racism

Politics & The Act of Clicking

You may have heard this before, but in today’s world, the most powerful currency you have is your attention. It’s also the thing most internet content producers (*waves* Hiiiii!) covet: to know that, for a few moments at least, they have your undivided attention. Websites use metrics like “unique visitors” and “time spent on page” and “shares” and “likes” and “friends” and more to quantify the size, demographic and engagement of their audiences. And in the case of for-profit websites: your Facebooks, your Huffington Posts, your random looney conspiracy theory sites – these metrics translate directly to ad sales. Hell, even unprofitable outfits like mine benefit from being able, for example, to pull in sponsors for blog posts, or prove to theater companies and authors that I have readers who’ll pay attention if I review their product/ions. And if you’ve ever seen me go ballistic on poor customer service or a bad product (Aereo, anyone?) you’ll know that social media reach tends to be helpful in those areas, as well.

Which brings us to the question of how websites get these clicks. In some cases, they’re purely organic. People list a search term and Google points them at my site. Some people click through from my Facebook page. Others have subscribed to the blog, or follow me on Tumblr or Twitter (most of my hits come from Twitter).

Once in a while, a random reader will repost or link to my site and suddenly I’ll see a surge of traffic – examples of this include my post about Amanda Palmer’s fundraising efforts, David Tennant’s accent in the US series of Broadchurch, or my essay on how much I can’t stand the Hunger Game novels.

Now, here’s the thing. While I don’t run this blog directly for profit (though there is that donate button in the upper right hand corner, hint hint), many websites are profit-generating machines. The Gawker family of sites, Buzzfeed, and others far more offensive – they’re notorious for “clickbait” article titles – titles that try to lure in readers by posing inflammatory questions or statements. You click, they get another unique visitor, their readership numbers go up, and they look more attractive to advertisers. While you don’t fork over cash to read their content, you do ultimately compensate their efforts with your attention.

Screenshot 2014-10-18 12.40.01

A screen grab from the Jezebel article on one toxic website; this link directs the reader to a separate write-up on the topic — one that doesn’t take place on the individual’s website.

Which brings us to what I’m going to call toxic clickbait. This goes beyond the annoying top-twenty lists that make you click through fifteen slides of celebrity haircuts instead of featuring them all on one page (more pages, more clicks) and beyond news-neutral articles from hysterical hate-spewers masquerading as news organizations, and involve people actively posting inflammatory, offensive and outright disturbing material for the purpose of getting as many clicks as they can. Even when this is a secondary purpose, and they actually believe the garbage they’re spewing, the mere act of clicking on their page actually helps support what they’re doing.

We talk a lot about affecting corporate ethics with our dollars – boycotts of socially liberal or conservative businesses, supporting small or local operations, etc. – but what people don’t talk so much about is affecting the tone of discourse on the internet, in whatever minor way possible, by consciously and actively deciding what we support with our clicks.

This was all brought up the other day when a friend posted a horrible and offensive piece she’d found from a horrible, offensive blog, talking about why women with tattoos were worthless, damaged “sluts.” She posted it on Facebook with a comment about how awful it was, and before you knew it, there were a dozen or more comments from those of us who read it and realized the post had been made by someone who was not only a deeply disturbed misogynist, but who was probably profiting off our outrage. After the first handful of comments, a few people started chiming in with admonitions not to click the link – and the discussion turned instead to sites that critiqued the piece and other posts made on the same site.

Most of those critiques refrained from posting links to the article in question, although many referred to it by name. Why? Because most people are too lazy to go to Google and seek out an article that isn’t right there for them. Which, in these cases, and in my opinion, is a good thing.

Not citing the piece you’re writing about or commenting on is antithetical to most of us who grew up writing in hyperlinkable text. And yet, there are some pieces and people that are just so toxic that to direct others towards them is just spreading their pollution. What’s more, people who are used to having rational, informed debates and engaging in discourse with those who don’t agree with them are trained to consider both perspectives, so deciding not to click on a potentially offensive story seems like playing the ostrich; sticking your head in the sand and just ignoring the problem instead of engaging it head-on.

And yet there is no way around it: avoiding engagement of any kind with toxic sites might be the only way to deprive them of the “oxygen” of unique page visitors, and the only way to ensure their writers don’t get rich off the bile they choose to spew.

It’s a problem I really don’t have a solution to: “spending” my attention on sites one agrees with only contributes to the increasingly narrow set of views we’re all exposed to, creating silos and echo chambers and over-curated content streams. And while many of us enjoy reasonable discussion with those who don’t agree with us, being exposed to new points of view and considering the perspectives of others, it’s hard to tell whether the “opposing side” is willing to have a civil conversation until you’ve already started to engage with them.

How do you handle the darker side of internet opinion pieces, websites and political arguments? And I mean the really ugly stuff: misogyny, racism, homophobia, toxic nationalism, class prejudice…? Do you avoid it entirely? Do you read links from The Daily Mail and shake your head? Do you pass links on to your Twitter followers and Facebook friends in order to shred the “arguments” put up by bigots and monsters? How do you balance talking about issues that need to be called out with not supporting those who spread hate?

I’m interested in hearing how others deal with these issues; if you have any thoughts or want to talk about how you approach the political act of following hyperlinks to toxic clickbait sites and other “hate speech”-style articles, please share in the comments.

(Note, please, that that is decidedly not an invitation to post toxic content. I will be the judge of what constitutes toxic content. Toxic content will be removed.)

Within that framework, I look forward to hearing from you.

Why It’s Not Okay To Call A Nine Year Old Girl A Cunt

$1D7FBBEA90888EAI didn’t think my blogging-brain would be dedicated to telling people, today, that calling a nine-year old girl a cunt, in any context, is not okay.

But apparently some people need to read this.

First of all, if you’re not aware, this appened a little after the Oscars.

Here’s a screen grab of @BlackGirlNerds’ RT of the original tweet from @TheOnion:



This isn’t okay. It’s not okay because – contrary to all the guys (and so far, lest you think I’m exaggerating, they have – with one exception- all been guys) – this isn’t satire, it isn’t on par with the way women are picked apart by the media, and it isn’t funny. It’s also f*cking racist (nblo.gs/IFrim).

“Cunt” is a word that’s used to silence women. It’s regarded (rightly or wrongly, and I lived for a while in a country this isn’t the case, so my opinion on its use is somewhat more liberal than most people I’ve encountered in America) as one of the worst words our American-English language has when it comes to reducing women to their gender and excluding them from the conversation. (Interestingly, a major plot point in Netflix’s new “House of Cards” revolves around one character calling another this word, and even there, it was uncomfortable – but there, it was being used by fictional characters to prove a point, not flung by an anonymous intern at a child.)

An anonymous writer for a major satirical publication calling a woman (or a nine year old child) a “cunt” after a program in which a host known for racist and sexist “jokes” has been standing in front of America telling just those for three hours?

That’s not humor. It’s reinforcing the power dynamic of Hollywood and putting Wallis “in her place” for standing out. For being a child with distinctive early talent and the personality to express it. Intended as such or not, the message when reading The Onion’s tweet is, “keep your head down and your mouth shut, or we’re gonna shame your ass back to where it belongs.”

I leave it to you, dear readers, to imagine where The Onion’s anonymous Twitter-updater would think this should be.

There’s also a wave of people saying (again, I’ve seen mostly guys saying this) that it’s dumb for people to focus on one tweet as opposed to focusing on discussion of Anne Hathaway’s attire and how it did or did not ascribe to fashion culture and its demands.

Uh, fuck you. Women deal with this kind of discrimination every single day, we are not okay with it, and if you paid attention to campaigns like @EverydaySexism or @MissRepresentation (or, say, almost any piece of feminist writing for the last 30 years) these “nice guys” would see constant and vitriolic indictments of the ways in which media misogyny hurts women and girls in society. It’s not okay, and Hathaway has already been in the spotlight for inappropriate sexual commentary in the past, and as fans and women, plenty of people have had issues with it then, so don’t hold this up now as some kind of thing we ought to be paying more attention to than we already are.

If for one second you think it’s acceptable to tell me that The Onion’s tweet about Quvenzhané Wallis is less worth getting upset about than the hard time Anne Hathaway (a personal favorite, as celebrities go) got for her dress…well, shut up, save your breath, and learn how to be offended by more than one thing at a time.

As far as the people who say that raging about this because of Wallis’ age isn’t okay because it sends the message that it’s okay to use this word against women (as opposed to children): Uh. No. That is also not okay. But it’s especially disgusting that this word was used to attack a talented young woman of color on a night that should have been all about her professional accomplishments.

In some ways, The Onion’s “satirical” (read: chauvinistic and from within the power structure, not attacking or challenging that power structure, i.e. not fitting the definition of satire) is proof of what feminists have been arguing for years: that media slamming of women creeps ever more obviously into the limelight and becomes more “acceptable” with every airbrushed magazine cover that’s published.

What else is disgusting about The Onion’s attack on Quvenzhané Wallis? (Aside from the blatant misogyny and undercurrent of racism, which is better explored in the multitude of tweets @BlackGirlNerds has been RTing.) I could go on about it all day.

But following after a three-and-a-half hour session wherein Seth MacFarlane made clear his feelings on my gender and other races, let’s leave it at this:

This is probably the last time I’m going to bother watching the Oscars, and while they’ve now (as of noon today) issued an apology on Facebook (not that I can find a link to it on the front page of their website, where it belongs) I don’t think I’ll be reading much of The Onion for a while.

Is it because I have no sense of humor? I like to think not. It’s because I’m sick of reading things that denigrate my gender and having to take a step back and try to see things from the POV of the “satirist” in order to laugh. I’m tired of it. I want to watch comedy that’s actually funny, not comedy that spews insults and terms of abuse in order to prop up the insecurities of the comedian.

Update: While I haven’t posted this entry yet, The Onion has issued an apology for their tweet. It can be read at “http://www.theonion.com/articles/the-onion-apologizes,31434/” and undercuts the argument of anyone who thought this tweet fell under the umbrella of satire:

“On behalf of The Onion, I offer my personal apology to Quvenzhané Wallis and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the tweet that was circulated last night during the Oscars. It was crude and offensive—not to mention inconsistent with The Onion’s commitment to parody and satire, however biting.

No person should be subjected to such a senseless, humorless comment masquerading as satire.”

Damn straight.

(At the same time, a friend who called their offices to complain mentioned they’d redone their message machine to include a note to those inclined to rant re: reading the first amendment, so it would appear the spirit of apologetic remonstration is spreading through their offices in uneven fits and starts.)

It’s important to remember what’s happened, and what’s happening: 9/11/2010 at Ground Zero (#9/11, #peace)

Yesterday was the 9th anniversary of 9/11. I went to Ground Zero and photographed/filmed protestors, demonstrators and the general public. In the interests of making this experience viewable to a wider public, I’ve uploaded the photographs to Flickr.

 Edit: Full album now available on Flickr.






Edit: Prefer video?

Edit 2: I’ve been having a hard time finding a way to upload the 20 minutes of video during which I walked through the pro-mosque rally; it was a really inspiring walk and something I’d like to share. If anyone has suggestions on a good program to use to break the video in two (I’ve tried loading Windows Movie Maker – really just looking for a quick and easy solution) please email me or comment. Alternatively – what are some good places to host videos that run over 20 minutes?)