Let’s Be Angrier in 2014

9 Jan

I think I’m a nice person. In a lot of ways mom did raise me right. I say please and thank you, I open doors for ladies too without even thinking about it.

I’ve also never sent anyone a rape threat or a murder threat, though I always chalked that up more to common sense than to being  polite.

It’s with this attitude that I read the “Let’s Be Nicer 2014” articles such as this one from Jill Filipovic. And there are quite a few similar sounding essays floating around tumblr and wordpress land. What’s interesting about them are the way they spread around the blame for meanness, often comparing rape and death threats (!!!) to some people on tumblr who called them out for something. The world of niceness 2014, despite its claim to nuance, doesn’t make too much of a differentiation between cases such as the calling out of Justine Sacco vs the rape threats that followed her over twitter.

But most of the arguments against meanness overlook the actual meanness embedded in society. Before we got here, before we took up this space, and before the voices of the unheard swelled online, this country was already mean. Justine Sacco’s very public AIDS joke follows a long and storied history of white heterosexual Americans laughing off AIDS (both here and abroad) starting with then President Reagan laughing over AIDS even as thousands of people died from the disease in America.

But hey! The jokes continue from South Park to Family Guy. The meanness was already here, we just found it. That’s why I called this blog meanhood.

And I can’t help but wonder over the timing of these Let’s Be Nice 2014 articles. Where were you when AIDS was a joke over public television airwaves and in the oval office? And why are you here now waving a finger to the public that dare finally fight back?

That’s one thing I want to preserve, and it is Anger. There are very few things so moving to me than the anger of a people who have had enough. I didn’t know anything about trans people until I felt their anger, their frustration at being excluded in LGBT spaces, and then I learned.

But, there is a separate issue, one that I don’t think has much to do with anger, but a lot to do with meanness: threats.

Can we do anything in the United States of America without someone, somewhere deciding to send a rape or murder threat? Violence is also a large part of our culture and so is rape . I very much doubt people that send death or rape threats have much interest in the content of someone’s argument or in having a debate. The issue with violence, particularly in online spaces, is that there is no system in place to report it, no standards for either dissuading it or monitoring it. The threats go unchecked because the systems we use for communication are owned and operated by the people making the threats. 

For me, the articles on niceties and niceness do very little in addressing the problems of violence and do more to make the author just look above it all. I see the difference in the anger of a people and in the problem of violence, there is your nuance, your starting point. Let’s be angrier in 2014, let’s reach righteous heights, but let’s also find strong technologically focused ways of stopping threats of rape and murder across every social platform.



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