Tag Archives: social justice

Forgiving Sexual Misconduct (And Why We Should Try It)

When someone says they’re sorry, how do you decide whether or not to accept their apology? Some are easier than others. If someone uses your toothbrush by mistake, it’s not a big deal for them to say they’re sorry, buy you a new one, and move on with your lives. It’s only when someone does something that’s really egregious that we find out how forgiving we truly are.

When it comes to egregious behavior, though, sexual assault and sexual harassment are near the top of the list. Recent news surrounding celebrity sex scandals have only solidified that sentiment. Just being a dick to someone is bad enough. Being a dick in a way that makes someone feel violated, used, and abused takes it ten steps further.

As bad as those lurid misdeeds can be, should we still accept their apologies when they express remorse? It’s a hard question to ask and one I’m sure evokes a lot of difficult emotions, especially for those who have been victims. However, forgiveness is a powerful force, more so than most people realize.

I’m not saying that everyone should forget about someone’s crime or overlook how awful it was, but it’s still a question that’s worth asking. Our ability to answer it will reveal a lot about our society and the kind of people we are. Knowing those risks, I’ll say it outright.

Should we forgive those accused of sexual misconduct if they apologize? 

I ask that question with the understanding that some people will never forgive someone for their misdeeds and for entirely understandable reasons. I don’t blame animal lovers for refusing to forgive Michael Vick for what he did to innocent dogs. I certainly wouldn’t blame victims of sexual assault to forgive the likes of Harvey Weinstein or Bill Cosby if they ever came out and offered a heartfelt apology.

However, even if certain people can’t forgive, that doesn’t mean that we, as a society, shouldn’t make the effort. Human beings are flawed creatures. They make mistakes. They do bad things, some worse than others. They may not think of their actions as bad. They may just see what they do as their own twisted version of “normal.”

It’s only when the breadth of their crimes are shoved in their faces that they stop making excuses. For those with power and influence, those excuses can be pretty egregious, as I’ve mentioned in my discussions on excuse banking. Despite those factors, these people are still human, at the end of the day. Provided they’re not sociopaths, they do have feelings and they do experience remorse.

Even if we, as a society, hate what they’ve done, should we give them the benefit of the doubt when they apologize? That may be harder to do for certain celebrities, but I still believe it’s worth doing.

It reflects a sentiment I expressed a while back on our growing lack of faith in people, as a whole. We’ve become so jaded, so cynical about the world that as soon as we see a public figure’s name trending, we instinctively assume the worst. I admit that whenever I see someone on the top trends of Twitter, I brace myself for news that’s going to churn my stomach.

It’s that kind of cynicism that really poisons our perceptions, leading us to assume the worst in people. Beyond making us miserable like extra in an old grunge music video, it numbs us to the possibility that someone can be capable of redemption. If we’re just too cynical, we don’t even bother giving them a chance.

That’s a tragedy, in and of itself, because if we don’t at least try to forgive people for their crimes, then what reason do they have to apologize in the first place? It just gives people more reasons to make more excuses, as Kevin Spacey tried and failed to do when his scandal broke.

Those excuses just leave us more jaded, thereby making those accused more defensive. It’s a brutal cycle that ensures people will become more focused on not getting caught for their misdeeds rather than rectifying them. That’s not a healthy mentality for any society, be it one that exists online or one from our caveman days.

I don’t deny that forgiveness is a challenge, especially as we’ve become more sensitive to certain types of crimes. It’s also a two-way street in that the celebrity and/or public figure has to actually apologize in the first place. That doesn’t always happen. Some people are incapable of such humility.

Some, however, do make the effort. Shortly after news of his scandal broke, Louis CK issued a statement admitting the allegations were true and expressed remorse for them. He didn’t file a lawsuit or go on a PR blitz to quash the story. He confronted it directly and owned up to it. That’s something even non-celebrities struggle to do and for that, he deserves some credit.

Again, that’s not to say that the things Louis CK did weren’t egregious. If possible, he should face the same penalties that any non-celebrity would face if they were in his position, whether that be a hefty fine, a restraining order, or jail time.

However, once he pays his price and admits his guilt, the ball is then in our court. It’s up to us to give him another chance to make amends. Yes, it’s a risk because if he does it again, then there will be another victim that suffers. We still have to ask ourselves, though, what good can possibly come by punishing someone like Louis CK until the day he dies?

Excessive shaming can have some pretty debilitating effects on people, some of which can inspire even more misdeeds. Think back to what I described with learned helplessness and Al Bundy Syndrome. At some point, a person subjected to too much punishment just stops trying to avoid it and does nothing to change their behavior. That too can lead to more victims and more crimes.

That’s why, in the grand scheme of things, it’s in our best interests as decent human beings to give those who express remorse for their sexual misdeeds a chance. First, give them a chance to confront and apologize for their actions. Then, once convinced of their sincerity, give them a chance to be good again.

That means not belaboring or hounding them for their past crimes. That doesn’t mean ignoring them either. What happened in the past is bad, but it should remain in the past. The focus should be on the present and the future. If both sides are on the same page, in that respect, then that’ll do much more to improve our sate of affairs. Let’s not lie to ourselves. We kind of need that right now.

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The Unpersoning Of Celebrities (And Why It’s Happening)

These past few weeks have been rough for celebrities, at least to the extent that anyone rich, famous, and powerful can have it rough. Between Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Louis CK, it has been a bad time for male celebrities who have used their fame to justify showing their dicks to women who didn’t ask for it.

I’ve already talked quite a bit about the impact of these scandals and the sexual dynamics that guide them. I don’t want to spend too much time belaboring the severity of these accusations, if they’re true. Some have already been verified. I don’t doubt that more will find their way into the headlines as we collectively agree that celebrities harassing women is not something we’ll overlook anymore.

It’s hard to say how far this probe into the sexual misconduct of powerful men will go. It may very well be the case that celebrity culture is facing an overdue purge of perverse assholes who think their fame gives them a convenient excuse to put their hands and dicks in places they don’t belong. However, it’s the way in which we go about punishing them that I find most revealing.

In George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece, “1984,” he introduced a number of concepts that one too many authoritarian governments have taken to heart. I’ve talked about a few of them before, but one in particular that stands out is that of “unpersoning.” It’s a phenomenon that many of these accused celebrities are learning about the hard way.

In “1984,” the concept of unpersoning is as nefarious as it is pragmatic. When someone becomes a malcontent or a threat to the established order, it’s not enough to just arrest or kill them. They have to be utterly erased from history, society, and common knowledge.

It’s not just that it becomes illegal or taboo to mention a person. To unperson someone is to remove their existence from the collective consciousness of society. It’s not just that people forget about these individuals. They have to forget that they forgot so that anything this person may have said, done, or thought might as well have never happened.

While our society isn’t quite on the same level as Big Brother in “1984,” that hasn’t stopped us from making a concerted effort. Since the recent revelations, Harvey Weinstein has been ousted from the company that bears his own name. Kevin Spacey has been fired by Netflix and erased from his recent role in a Ridley Scott movie. More recently, everyone seems to be cutting ties with Louis CK.

It’s not quite the same level of unpersoning that we see in “1984,” but the concept is the same. It’s not enough to wait for the courts to sort out these accusations. Public opinion, public perception, and an increasingly low tolerance for this sort of behavior is putting once-powerful people on the wrong end of the social justice equation.

It’s still not clear just how true some of these accusations are and, as a rule, I don’t assume the worst until it is proven in a court of law. However, there sheer volume of the accusations lead me to believe that there’s some truth to the story. Despite what “Ocean’s Eleven” may have you believe, groups of people aren’t that good at subverting the law. Usually, one of them cracks under the pressure.

Even if only a fraction of the accusations turn out to be true, the unpersoning of celebrities is understandable to some extent. Please don’t take that to mean that I’m overlooking the possibility that some accusation may very well be fabricated or exaggerated. With celebrities, though, the situation is a bit different.

If an ordinary, non-celebrity person commits sexual harassment or sexual assault, it usually doesn’t make the news. Most of the time, it’s handled by the police, an HR department, or vindictive friends who put cherry bombs in the perpetrator’s toilet. That’s just basic justice for a functioning society.

The problem, for both celebrities and non-celebrities alike, however, is that proving these kinds of crimes is hard. Our justice system is built on the idea that those accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The burden of proof is very high and it’s a big reason why people like O. J. Simpson are acquitted.

It’s for that very reason, which O. J. Simpson himself proved, that it’s even harder to convict a celebrity. Unlike most ordinary people, celebrities like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey have the power, money, and influence to hire the best legal defense that money can buy. It adds even more difficulty to securing a conviction while giving victims even fewer reasons to come forward.

That’s where unpersoning comes in. Multiple generations have watched as celebrities like O. J. Simpson get acquitted for heinous crimes because they had access to resources that most people can only dream of. As such, our collective faith in our rigid justice system is understandably low.

In a sense, social media and the internet has given people a mechanism for doing what the legal system can’t and won’t do. It gives society a way to punish those deemed guilty of crimes that their high-priced legal team and PR consultants won’t allow. In a sense, it’s the only way to ensure celebrities face some form of justice.

Unlike previous eras of Hollywood scandals, it’s not as easy to sweep an incident under the rug. If a celebrity does something horrible, it only takes a few people with functioning cell phones and social media accounts to expose those crimes. Just ask Mel Gibson how bad this can turn out.

A part of me still feels uncomfortable with this form of justice because it’s not hard for it to go too far. It’s both possible and likely that someone will get accused of sexual harassment or sexual assault who is entirely innocent. We saw it with the infamous UVA case and the Duke Lacrosse case. So long as people are willing to lie, there will be false accusations.

At the same time, though, a part of me understands why this is happening. We humans have an innate sense of justice, even as babies. When we feel there’s a serious injustice in our world, we feel compelled to right it. With celebrities, we’ve had precious few recourse that don’t involve overpriced lawyers. Now, through the use of unpersoning, we have a way.

It’s still not on the same level as Big Brother in “1984,” nor is it to an extent that a celebrity will go to prison. At the end of the day, a well-off celebrity will still have millions of dollars and mansions full of servants willing to cater to their every need. Sure, their lives and reputations will be damaged, but they won’t exactly suffer the same as an ordinary person convicted in a court of law.

It’s not perfect. It’s not even wholly consistent with all the tenants of justice. For the moment, though, unpersoning is becoming the new way in which we punish celebrities who commit injustice. Until we find a better way to deal with issues like sexual harassment, it’s the best recourse we have. Only time will tell whether it proves effective.

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Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, Current Events

The War On Horny Men (And Why It’s Doomed To Fail)

I won’t deny it. Men do stupid things when they’re horny. That’s just a cold, hard fact. I realize I’m inviting any number of dick jokes by saying that, but it’s still worth saying. It’s partly because of that fact that there’s a market for the erotica/romance novels I write in the first place so I have more appreciation for it than most.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where facts are about as relevant as a giraffe’s shoe size. It doesn’t matter how true or vindicated something is, be it a scientific theory or a documented observation. Unless it makes people feel a certain way or allows them to push some sort of agenda, it either doesn’t matter or gets twisted to suit a purpose.

When it comes to horny men, though, evolution and global warming got nothing on them. It’s not so much that they exist that’s the problem. It’s that they are now the face of all that is wrong and evil in the world.

Look at any controversy or social issue in recent years, from Hollywood scandals to trends in feminism, and chances are a horny man is involved and that man isn’t the good guy in that narrative. I’ve seen it become more magnified in recent years, but in a sense, there has always been a war over horny men. It takes many forms and has gone to disturbing extremes, but it rarely succeeds in the long run.

In the past, you could argue that battling horny men was a frustrating, but necessary endeavor to some extent. Up until the 20th century, the status of women in society and concerns over the spread of debilitating diseases gave society a valid reason for wanting to temper men’s desire to bone everything in sight. A society full of diseases and children without fathers is not a stable society.

On top of that, organized religion had often tried to play a part in that war. In general, they espouse traditions that value modesty and restraint. Naturally, some try to take it too far. Some have gone so far as to create a special circle of Hell to endlessly punish those who give in to readily to their horniness.

There are time when it’s worth questioning the motivations of organized religion in this war, though. As I’ve pointed out before, religion has an incentive to want people to bone only for procreation.

For one, they want all that pent up energy reserved for helping out at the church/temple/mosque/synagog. Second, they know that children of adherents tend to adopt their parents’ religion so they want them making as many babies as possible. More children means more adherents. More adherents means more money. Even when deities are involved, it often comes back to money.

However, as the influence of religion has faded and the status of women has improved, the war on horny men has taken a very different form. In some respects, it has been escalating lately. It’s not just a matter of horny men cheating on their wives with their secretary anymore. Horny men have basically become the de-facto enemy that are determined to hold women, minorities, and society back.

It’s horny men who become sleazy Hollywood producers that try to get sex out of ambitious young women. It’s horny men who demand that the women in comic books, video games, and movies be beautiful, thereby contributing to the objectification and degradation of women.

I won’t get into the issues I have with the concept of objectification, but it’s becoming increasingly taboo for a horny man to like and appreciate sexual imagery. It has become especially taboo to voice that appreciation, so much so that some countries are looking to criminalize men who cat-call women. That’s right. It one day might be a crime to say how sexy you find a beautiful woman.

For an aspiring erotica/romance writer, it’s a distressing trend. I get some of the logic behind it. Men still commit the majority of the sexual assaults in this world. That’s another cold, hard fact that can’t be denied.

It’s also a fact that sexual assault, as a whole, is on the decline. That’s a good thing, but thanks to the rise of mass media, terrible stories about sexual assault are easier to come by. It’s even easier to sensationalize, sometimes to the detriment of the truth. Whatever the statistics say, though, there’s still a horny man with poor impulse control at the center of it all.

At the moment, it’s not illegal to be a horny man or express some of that horiness. We don’t live in the days of John Harvey Kellogg and most horny men have access to abundant free porn, giving them an outlet for their horiness. However, even with all that free porn and a lack of uptight religious figures demanding that men not pleasure themselves, horny men are still subject to shame and ridicule.

If you like your female superheroes wearing chain mail bikinis, then congratulations! You’re a sexist, misogynistic pig.

If you like admiring beautiful women and go to strip clubs to exercise that admiration, then congratulations! You’re a sexist, misogynistic pig.

If you like having sex with beautiful women and seek to do so with every resource available to you, then congratulations! You’re still a sexist, misogynistic pig.

Are you seeing a trend, here? Whether it takes the form of porn or involves casual flirting, there seems to be no way around it. Any effort a man makes to get with a beautiful woman, sexually or otherwise, is somehow vilified. Just the act of wanting to sleep with a beautiful woman can now be construed as sexist, misogynistic, or whatever the hopelessly outraged can scream at the top of their lungs.

A man just looking for sex or some kind of sexual outlet garners no sympathy. Even a man looking for love is somehow prone to ridicule, as evidenced by the prominence of the beta male in shows like “The Big Bang Theory.” A man can’t ask for sex because he’ll get accused of being a creep or worse. He can’t even admit he wants sex because that somehow means he sees women as glorified sex objects.

There seems to be no way around it. No matter what a man does, he’s practically doomed himself and his reputation for daring to admit that he’s that horny. If he just masturbates to satisfy his desires, he’s a loser. If he eagerly pursues sex, then he’s a creep. If he just tries to repress it all, then he’s a dork who can’t get laid. Unless he’s a rock star with a foot-long dick, the average horny man has no hope.

This is an issue and it affects both genders because both genders are wired to seek love, sex, and everything in between. Nature, itself, gives us plenty of reasons, considering the various health benefits of orgasms. All those pursuits are effectively undermined if one side is overtly shamed for wanting something so basic and beautiful.

I’m not saying horny men don’t do stupid things. They most certainly do. I’m also not saying horny men don’t do heinous things too. They do that too and it’s become major news. People should be mindful of crimes like sexual assault and issues like consent. The problem is that the outrage over scandals and sex in the mass media is overshadowing the basic desire behind it.

Men, and humans in general, are sexual creatures. No matter how much people try to temper sex in society, whether by forcing women to cover their faces or designing video game characters to be less sexy, it’s impossible to subvert basic biology.

That’s the ultimate tragedy of the war on horny men. It can’t succeed in making men less horny. It can only ever succeed in making men feel guilty about feeling something that they’re hard-wired by biology and evolution to want, pursue, and enjoy. Guilt can keep us from stealing a cookie as a kid, but it can be downright debilitating if heaped on someone to excess.

All that guilt can make people angry, depressed, desperate, hopeless, and irrational. For a man that is already irrationally horny, that can be dangerous and frustrating. That kind of mentality is not going to help in efforts to curb sexual violence. If anything, it’s going to make those efforts even harder.

For now, I don’t see the war on horny men abating, nor do I see one side claiming victory over the other. I’ll just say that the hostilities are doing a lot more harm than good. They’re hindering those seeking love, sex, and all the good stuff that comes with it. As an aspiring erotica/romance writer, that’s a dangerous trend.

To those who still insist on fighting this war, claiming horny men are the bane of all societies in all times, I have one simple message for you. For several centuries, the Catholic Church wielded immense power throughout Europe. If even they couldn’t stop horny men, despite being armed with the Spanish Inquisition, then what chance do you have?

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Filed under Current Events, gender issues, Marriage and Relationships

The Lessons (And Misguided Agendas) Of The Harvey Weinstein Scandals

I promise I’m going to stop talking about the Harvey Weinstein scandal at some point. I know everyone is probably sick of it. Make no mistake, I’m sick of writing about it. Unfortunately, it’s one of those issues that grows way beyond its original context.

It’s not enough to highlight the sheer breadth of the transgressions committed by such a powerful man. It just has to be part of a larger issue that brings out the best and worst of all those eager to comment on it, myself included. Never mind the fact that Weinstein is being punished severely for his many transgressions. People just have to make it part of a much larger agenda, and not necessarily for the right reasons.

It’s that component of this tragedy/crime/outrage that compels me to keep talking about it. Make no mistake, I’d much rather be talking about resolving love triangles in superhero comics and products made specifically for female breasts. However, I see the massive uproar over the Harvey Weinstein affair as entering dangerous territory.

Now, I don’t deny the good that this scandal has inspired. Sexual assault is a serious crime and powerful men like Weinstein have too long a history of getting away with it. In a just and peaceful society, these kinds of crimes shouldn’t be overlooked. That said, there’s a big difference between pursuing justice and a misguided moral panic.

To provide some context, there’s plenty of recent history that should provide some perspective to the ongoing outrage. Back in the 1990s, before hashtags and dick pics, there was a huge outrage over the impact of violent video games and the role they played in mass shootings like Columbine.

Never mind the fact that there’s no established causal link between violent video games and actual violence. Never mind the fact that all available data has shown an overall decrease in violence over the past several decades. The moral panic allowed people with agendas to pursue those agendas to the utmost, even when the truth isn’t on their side.

This brings me back to sexual crimes committed by men like Harvey Weinstein. What he did was egregious. What he did to his victims, if even half-true, warrants full prosecution to the utmost. Unlike the panic over violent video games, this issue involves real people who were subjected to real harassment. That’s beyond dispute.

Unfortunately, the media, the public, and everyone with a Twitter handle aren’t content to just ensure that Weinstein faces justice for his crimes. They just have to turn it into a kind of rallying cry that exposes the depths of misogyny, corruption, and abuse. It happened with video games in 2014. Now, it’s happening again.

It’s getting dangerous because people who express concern about the implications of taking every accusation of sexual assault seriously are being labeled sexist, misogynist monsters. Like many moral panics before it, there comes a point where anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the panic is guilty of thought crimes that deserve the kind of scorn that even George Orwell would find excessive.

We’re already seeing this happen as everyone gets in line to voice their outrage and virtue signal, accordingly. In wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, everyone seems eager to become the hero in the battle against powerful men abusing vulnerable women. I’ve mentioned before how that kind of mentality is dangerous and misguided. We’re seeing a similar mentality emerge as everyone seeks to push their agenda.

Among those pushing that agenda include our friends at Cracked.com, a website I usually enjoy and often cite on this blog. They’ve already jumped at the chance to push an agenda, conflating the Harvey Weinstein scandal as an indictment of all men who ever dared to lust after a pretty woman.

It’s not just websites like Cracked either. There’s already a hashtag on Twitter called #MeeToo that has people recounting their experiences with sexual harassment and sexual assault. I don’t doubt that there are plenty of these stories that are both disturbing and true. However, there is a context to consider.

Sexual assault is a crime. It’s prosecuted like a crime. Like all crime, there are standards by which to process it. Chief among those standards is evidence. Those voicing outrage over the fact that neither Weinstein, nor Bill Cosby, are being charged with a crime is seen as a failure of justice. However, there’s another point to consider.

Sexual assault is hard to prove. So much of the evidence relies on testimony and in a court of law, that often gets conflated with anecdotal evidence. Science has revealed, time and again, that eyewitness testimony is among the least reliable forms of evidence you can have. Without better evidence, the high burden of proof that comes with a justice system that presumes innocence takes over.

In a sense, I can understand why those lamenting over men like Weinstein are so furious. It is frustrating to think that a man can commit such crimes against women and get away with it. In that frustration, things like facts and context tend to lose meaning.

I still don’t doubt that men like Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly are guilty of making life miserable for women. However, the extent and veracity of that misery is hard to quantify. The fact that they haven’t been charged with sexual assault tells me that the evidence just isn’t strong enough, even if it occurred. Where the justice system fails, though, mobs of hate and disdain will fill the gaps.

While that can help the voices of victims, it can also be dangerous. It can, in some respects, drown itself by claiming everything is harassment, everything is sexist, and everything is some sort of agenda to silence women. People want to believe that they’re Superman and men like Harvey Weinstein are the Lex Luthors of the world.

At some point, though, outrage burns itself out. Our collective capacity for emotional catharsis has its limits. Once it reaches that limit, we start rolling our eyes and become numb to it. For something as serious as sexual assault, we cannot and should not let that happen.

That’s a challenge, though, when everybody is so eager to virtue signal and ally themselves with the so-called right side of history. By over-blowing the outrage, victims of true sexual assault get lumped in with those who just didn’t like the person flirting with them.

Since harassment is so subjective and some people are more sensitive to it than others, the context will often get skewed. However, a scandal like Harvey Weinstein provides a sense of clarity on an issue that is so frustratingly subjective.

Therein lies the issue, though. Harassment, unlike assault, is subjective. Sexual assault is not. One is an emotional reaction. The other involves real, physical harm. Conflating one with the other is a dangerous precedent that will make people more reluctant to interact. As a fan of love, intimacy, and sexy novels, that’s not a world I want to live in.

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Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, gender issues

Why The NFL Protests Matter Less Than You Think (And How To MAKE Them Matter)

Whenever I talk about football, the NFL, and how much I love it, I usually do it to lighten the mood. Sure, sometimes football inspires talk of some less pleasant issues, but in general I try to avoid them and focus on the parts that make my Sundays so enjoyable.

Then, the real world has to come around and shit all over it, compelling me to talk about it when I’d rather be talking about my sexy novels or movies involving Sophie Turner and Jennifer Lawrence. I wish I could resist that temptation, but as many of the characters in my sexy novels can attest, that’s not always possible.

Unless you were in a coma under a rock inside a cave on Mars, you probably heard about the mass protests conducted across the NFL last Sunday. What exactly were they protesting, you ask? Well, that’s a hard question to answer and the fact that it’s hard to answer is pretty telling, in and of itself.

Officially, the protests were a stand against social injustice and a response to some trash talk by some high-ranking government official whose name I refuse to say, primarily because I don’t want to give him more attention than he deserves. Unofficially, it was the rhetorical equivalent of two colliding shit storms that only succeeded in creating a bigger storm.

There are many ways to protest injustice, corruption, and everything Gordon Gekko stands for. One of the perks of living in a relatively free society is that you get to attempt and experiment with a variety of ways. Sometimes petitioning works. Sometimes viral videos work. Sometimes just being Mr. Rogers and talking to people with unwavering kindness works.

Unfortunately, there are far more ways that fail instead of work. That’s just the nature of the world we live in. What Colin Kapernick did last year and what multiple NFL teams did last week succeeded to the extent that it raised awareness. While awareness is an important part of the process, especially in the era of the attention economy, that doesn’t mean that it achieved its goals.

More than anything else, it divided people within two tribes. In one, Colin Kapernick and the NFL are patriots in that they’re protesting in the name of the justice that the flag and the national anthem stands for. In the other, Colin Kapernick and the NFL are self-absorbed, virtue signaling drama queens who are disrespecting a symbol that many brave Americans fought and died for.

These are two irreconcilable ideas that kill any substantive conversation. They’re seeing the same picture, but interpreting it in wildly different ways. Instead of highlighting the egregious disparities in how the justice system treats certain minorities, it’s now a discussion about who has the a more patriotic hard-on for all things American.

That begs and important question. Which interpretation is right and which side is wrong? Who can truly say they’re being more patriotic than their counterparts? Well, here’s where it gets tricky and where I’m probably going to upset both sides. Bear with me, though. I promise I’ll try to inject some substance that both sides can use to further their cause.

First, I’ll answer those two questions definitively. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my answer, but I suspect I’ve already upset both sides already so I won’t bother making excuses.

“Both sides BELIEVE they’re true patriots. Both sides BELIEVE their opponents are anti-America. Neither side is inherently RIGHT, but BOTH are valid in their beliefs.”

I know. It sounds like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth and a little out of my ass. Ignoring the influence of my ass, here’s where I’m certain I’ll upset both sides of the debate.

Regardless of how patriotic you feel, the American flag and the national anthem are symbols. No matter how universal you think they are, symbols are always subject to interpretation and those interpretations are rarely, if ever, agreed upon by every person in a society. Just look at all the symbols whose meaning has wildly changed over the centuries.

It’s because of this subjectivity that it’s possible for two people to look at it and interpret extremely different messages. That’s how one side can look at a flag and see the beauty of America. That’s how another can look at a flag and see the ideals America stands for and realizing that the people haven’t lived up to those ideals.

It seems impossible, but when you remember that irrational, tribal nature of the human species, it makes sense. In that context, the NFL and its players are patriots for telling Americans that they have not lived up to the ideals their flag stands for. The people booing them are patriots too for pointing out how they’re disrespecting the symbols and traditions that bind society together.

In either case, both sides can’t claim to be entirely objective. Those claiming that the NFL players are spoiled and using their positions of power to divide people probably wouldn’t feel that way if they were protesting something they agreed with. Change the message and the context and suddenly, they’re on the same side.

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Again, it’s an irreconcilable disagreement, as is often the case with such extreme tribalism. There’s nothing either side can do to convince the other that they’re the true patriots. It’s a downright tragedy because racial injustice is an important issue if we want to improve as a society. Once it becomes a discussion about who is more patriotic, then the protests and outrage behind them no longer matters.

That finally leads me to the practical part of this article. If you’re bummed out or frustrated at this point, then I thank you for sticking with me this long. I imagine some of you already hate my guts and think I’m trying to solicit money from George Soros and the Koch brothers.

I promise you I’m not doing this to win any favors with one particular political agenda. The suggestion I’m about to offer is being offered free of charge. Sure, I’ll kindly request that you buy one of my books or make a donation, but I won’t expect it. I’m still offering free insight into fixing a major problem.

With that said, and knowing that nobody in the NFL or their critics are listening, here’s how you protest social injustice effectively. It can be accomplished in one easy step.

“Make the protest easy, fun, and rewarding to join.”

I know that sounds easy on paper and for once, it kind of is. Granted, it’s not the same kind of spectacle as Colin Kapernick’s protest, but that’s kind of the point. It shouldn’t be that kind spectacle. It should be something else. Moreover, it should be fun.

The best example I’ve seen in recent years is the ice bucket challenge that briefly swept the nation a few years ago. For a brief time, celebrities and ordinary people alike participated in a fun show of solidarity that helped raise money for a worthy cause, namely the treatment of ALS.

It worked too. The ALS Association reported a record $3 million in donations because of this goofy ploy that was fun, easy, and entertaining to join. If it worked with ALS, why not racial injustice?

I’m not saying people should usurp the ice bucket part. I think the ALS folks have already branded that. Instead, protesting racial injustice should involve something different. Maybe it involves hugging someone, popping a balloon, or hitting yourself with a pie. It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to make sense. It just has to be fun, easy to join, and make people feel better about themselves.

Think of it as a way to weaponize the power of virtue signaling, making people feel better about themselves by doing something inane. In this case, there would be some substance behind it. In addition to the inanity, there would be a donation to organizations like the ACLU, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, or The Sentencing Project. It doesn’t have to be much, but if it’s more than zero, it helps.

If Colin Kapernick had taken this route instead of protesting the national anthem, would he be the poster child for all that is wrong with professional athletes not named O.J. Simpson? I don’t know, but it would attract more attention for the right reasons.

It would make his stand against racial injustice matter. It would get people to participate rather than remain numb or indifferent. Now that kneeling for the anthem has just become this never-ending argument about who’s the real patriot, the protest no longer matters. However, I don’t think it’s too late to change that.

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Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, Current Events, Jack Fisher's Insights

The (Dark) Secrets Of The Millennial Mind

In recent years, it’s become a popular past-time to hate millennials and anything associated with them. Browse any non-pornographic part of the web for more than five minutes and you’re bound to find some angry anti-millennial rant about how their hashtags, safe spaces, and compulsive need to take selfies is ruining the planet.

I tend to roll my eyes at those articles, just as I tend to roll my eyes at any rant that bashes a particular generation. I’ve read enough random crap and talked to enough bitter old people to know that every generation bashes the other to some extent.

The World War II generation whined about all the hippie types in the Baby Boomer generation. Those same Baby Boomers whined about the brooding, selfish, cynical, I-don’t-care-and-I-don’t-need-anybody attitudes of Generation X. In many respects, the millennials are just next in line. It was bound to happen because it’ll always happen, for as long as old people complain about young people.

Never mind the fact that the millennial generation is the most education generation of all time. Never mind the fact that the millennial generation is the most diverse generation of all time and are coming into a world with the lowest crime rates in modern history. Let’s also not forget that, unlike any other generation before it, millennials are the first generation to have unlimited, near-universal access to information.

No matter what type of world the millennials inherit, or what sort of advantages they have, older generations will find a reason to complain about them. It’s not so much that young people actively rebel against old people, as we see in one too many teen movies. It’s more the fact that they’re young and old people are older. I know that sounds inane, but that’s usually the heart of the issue.

Young people don’t have the same life experiences as old people. They can’t understand their perspectives because they haven’t lived them. Their world, and how they see it, is just so different and that frustrates older people because they can’t relate to it. Some will try, but successes will be limited, at best. As such, every generation is going to seem strange, deviant, and/or frustrating to one another.

I’ve certainly experienced this myself, at times. I think everyone has to some degree. They’re young, they talk to an older person, and that older person tells them all about how much better their generation was. They overcame so much more and did it without the aid of smartphones. Somehow, that makes them inherently better and then they wonder why young people tune them out.

In general, I try not to have those kinds of arguments because they’re pointless. As someone who falls in age range of a millennial, I know there’s nothing I can say or do to convince an older person that my generation is as good or better than theirs. That’s not not an argument anyone can win. It’s also pointless, in the grand scheme of things.

However, I do feel as though the millennial-bashing has gotten out of hand in recent years. It’s not so much that older people are complaining about millennials constantly texting on their phones. It’s more a matter of them conducting themselves in such a strange, erratic way that neither Baby Boomers or Generation X can make sense of.

Anyone who has worked with millennials knows this first-hand. This new crop of young adults are incessantly needy, easily offended, and overly emotional about trivial issues. They are the kinds of people that John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, and Madonna would’ve made fun of at every turn.

Now, I’m not going to try and dispel every myth and stereotype of the millennial crowd. Again, that’s not an argument anyone can win. Since I am a millennial, though, and I’ve worked with many my age, I feel like I can offer some context to the general weirdness of my kind.

I have to warn you, though, that context has some dark undertones. Even other millennials don’t always understand it. In a sense, there are some distressingly subversive forces that inspired many of those annoying stereotypes that other generations despise. Some of them have a basis in events that took place long before their time. Some have a basis in simple human nature.

Whatever the case, the mind of a millennial isn’t all hash-tags and cat videos. It’s actually governed by some pretty dark forces that older generations don’t even try to understand. While I doubt this will earn millennials sympathy from Baby Boomers or the Generation X crowd, I hope it provides some critical insight.

With all that said, here are five dark secrets of the millennial generation. These aren’t necessarily guarded secrets, but they are very much a factor in how they see the world. If you know or work with millennials, I sincerely hope this fosters a greater understanding.


Secret #1: We Are Paralyzed With Uncertainty

This is the first and most critical secret that every generation, including millennials themselves, need to acknowledge. It will help make sense of so many of the weird, annoying things they do, albeit for less-than-flattering reasons.

If you’re wondering why uncertainty is such a big deal to us, then stop for a moment and think about how much or how little you knew about the world in your youth. Before the age of computers and smart phones, your world was small. Everything you knew and needed to know could fit in your street, your city block, or your farm. The only uncertainty you dealt with was what you would have for dinner.

For millennials, the world is much bigger and much more accessible. They are connected, plugged in, and in tuned with mind-bogglingly huge amounts of information, from news to personal insights. On top of that, and this is worth repeating, they are the most educated generation of all time.

While that’s great for trivia games, it does have a major side-effect. As a result of so much education, millennials are basically walking examples of a Socratic Paradox. The more they know, the more they realize they don’t know. It’s a byproduct of learning more than what your limited brain can handle.

I’ve felt this first-hand. Just getting into something like superhero comics is daunting when you start to learn how vast and convoluted their history is. That’s just comics, though. Apply this to the world, as a whole, and millennials are utterly paralyzed by knowing so much and realizing how much more they need to know.

That’s why it’s not uncommon to hear millennials constantly asking for clarification, certainty, or reassurance. They think they know, but they don’t know for sure. With so much information, as well as growing trends in “alternative facts,” it’s almost impossible to be totally certain of all the information at a millennial’s disposal.

Keep that in mind next time a young person is constantly checking their phone. It’s not that they’re detached or inconsiderate. They’re just plagued by uncertainty of not knowing what’s going on, what’s happening with their friends, and how everyone is reacting to them. All that uncertainty kind of requires them to be plugged in all the time and it can be exceedingly stressful, among other things.


Secret #2: We Have (Extreme) Trust Issues

This feeds directly off the crippling uncertainty that millennials deal with. It’s not just a by-product. It’s an inescapable obstacle that comes with being educated, informed, and connected.

Millennials have serious trust issues. I’m not talking about the kind of paranoid, conspiracy theory, the-CIA-put-a-chip-in-my-brain type trust issues either. The extreme trust issues that millennials have is more subtle and, in many ways, a side-effect of trends that began in previous generations.

It was the Baby Boomers and Generation X that began rebelling against authority. They were the ones that started youth protests, giving the finger to authority, and brooding with unending cynicism. They helped exposed leaders and icons as hypocrites, crooks, and frauds.

They exposed multiple presidents as liars. They exposed celebrities as monsters. They exposed the corruption of once-cherished institutions. While all that might have been important with respect to pursuing justice, it also created a world where millennials cannot or are very reluctant to trust anyone.

Thanks to all the information at a millennial’s disposal, they can find out that great figures of history were also racist slave-owners. They can find out that beloved scientists and inventors were bullies. They can find out that the celebrities they love are real assholes. In essence, they can’t trust anyone to be true or genuine.

You want to know why superhero movies have become so huge with millennials? Well, that’s because they have no real-life heroes anymore. They’ve all been destroyed or discredited. They’re basically stuck with fictional heroes. That’s all they have left.

Beyond a lack of heroes and leaders who aren’t total frauds, millennials are so flooded with information that they have a hard time trusting the source. Everything seems biased. Everyone has an agenda. There’s fake news everywhere and nobody seems to know what the hell is going on, which I’ve noted out before.

So when you’re dealing with a millennial and they seem detached, that’s part of the reason. It’s also why they seem misinformed and misguided. They don’t know what or who to trust because every generation before them has given them way too many reasons not to. Add unlimited access to abundant information, fake and real, and how can anyone expect them to trust anything?


Secret #3: We Are Drowning In Debt (That We Can’t Escape)

This is one of those quirky issues that does get reported fairly regularly, but not everyone truly grasps the implications. It’s an undeniable fact that millennials are the most indebted generation of all time. A lot of that has to do with the growth of student loan debt, which recently surpassed credit card debt. There are all sorts of factors that led to this growth, but I want to focus on the effects for this.

Now I’ve seen some Baby Boomers and Generation X people roll their eyes at this issue, claiming that young people are stupid for taking out so much debt, just to get a useless college degree in underwater basket weaving. When most millennials hear that, though, assume they’re gritting their teeth to hold back their blinding rage.

That’s because a huge consortium of parents, guidance counselors, and raunchy movies have glorified college as this important next step that ever young person needs to take after high school. If you don’t take it, then something must be wrong with you. You must be stupid, lazy, or unambitious.

Since so many young people now feel inclined to go to college, that drives up demand. When anything is in that much demand, it gets more expensive. That’s just basic economics.

As a result, millennials have no choice but to take out student loans to go to college, just like the older people said they should. Then, those same people give them crap for taking out so many loans in the first place.

Beyond the frustration, those debt loads can be downright debilitating. When I was in college, I had a friend who had around $120,000 in student loan debt. In years past, that wasn’t a student loan. That was a goddamn mortgage. That means there are entire generations of people coming out of college who basically have to pay the price of a house without being able to live in it.

On top of that, millennials still get crap for having to live with their parents. They are in multiple no-win situations, both in terms of stigma and their overall futures. Unlike most other forms of debt, student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. A millennial is stuck with it, no matter what they do.

If that weren’t enough, and it’s already too much, the job prospects for anyone without a college degree are abysmal. If you don’t have a college degree, then your ability to get a job that keeps you out of poverty is very low. Sure, you can point out that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates didn’t go to college all you want, but they never had to pay off a goddamn mortgage before they were 25.


Secret #4: We Have No Margin For Error (Or Offense)

A lot has been made about how easily offended millennials are. That’s how the term, snowflake, actually became an insult. Now, I don’t deny that young people take political correctness way too far. I’ve even talked about it a few times on my blog. However, like most things, there is a context and it’s kind of dark.

A big part of the millennial desire to not offend anybody comes from the self-esteem movement that began before they left the womb. An entire generation has been conditioned to have a bloated sense of confidence in a world where they can’t trust anyone, are constantly uncertain about everything, and have huge debts to pay. Naturally, that’s going to cause some inner conflict.

It’s not just that millennials hate bullies, racists, sexists, and bigots. For one, millennials are a far more diverse cohort than their predecessors, thanks largely to the efforts of previous generations. They have to be a bit more sensitive and understanding to others who are different because there are so many different perspectives to consider now. Millennials have to temper their sensibilities in order to get along.

Beyond that, and this is where it gets dark, the consequences of screwing up are enormous. Entire lives have been ruined by one off-hand tweet. A single off-hand comment has ruined reputations. In a generation that’s plugged in and connected all the time, nothing you say or do goes without scrutiny. You can’t have any private sentiments. If you do and they’re somewhat problematic, then you’re in trouble.

It’s another reason why millennials are so obsessed with their online life and how people perceive them. They live in a world where one text, one tweet, or one offensive image that they shared on social media can destroy their reputation, their friends, and their livelihood.

People get fired for offending others. Peoples’ lives are ruined, both financially and socially. When you’re young and you have a massive amount of student debt to pay off, you have to walk on egg-shells every day because if you mess up, there’s little recourse. Once something happens and it’s documented on the internet, it’s there forever.

Millennials didn’t create the world that made such hypersensitivity necessary. They also didn’t create the technology that they obsess over either. They were just born into a perfect storm, of sorts. If they dare rock the boat in any direction, then they’re tossed overboard without a life preserver.

Remember this next time a millennial obsesses over offending or not offending someone. It’s not just out of hypersensitivity. It’s basic survival. Older generations who have already carved a place for themselves can afford to be offended, literally in some cases. Millennials don’t have that luxury.


Secret #5: We (Have To) Rely On Our Passion

With every new generation comes new circumstances and with those circumstances comes a need to adapt. The Baby Boomers had to adapt to the generation that won Wolrd War II. Generation X had to adapt to the generation that protested Vietnam. The way they adapted shaped a great deal of their culture and identity. With millennials, it’s no different.

With the other secrets, I’ve described a pretty rough set of circumstances for millennials to adapt to. They’re uncertain, can’t trust anyone, drowning in debt, and living in constant terror of offending someone in a way that will ruin their lives. How can anyone adapt to that?

Well, human beings are nothing if not adaptable. It’s one of our most defining traits. With millennials, the options are limited, but they’ve made the most of them by becoming a very impassioned, very vocal generation. Whereas the Baby Boomers had their rebellious streak and Generation X had their cynicism, millennials have their passions to guide them.

By that, I mean the millennial crowd will put a lot of passion into whatever they do, be it protesting pronouns or posting videos of their cat. Due to debt, uncertainty, and trust issues, there are a lot of boxes they need to check before they commit to something. That’s part of why millennials aren’t getting married and why they’re having less sex. They can’t afford to be too casual, literally in some cases. There needs to be passion.

That’s why millennials will make a big deal about making whatever job or hobby they enjoy having some sort of passionate undertone. It’s how they can fill the many gaps left by so much uncertainty and such limited trust. It’s also how they can justify working a job that they know probably won’t help them pay off that massive debt they have. Without that passion, why would they bother?

The most tragic part of that element is that having such passion is really the only option millennials have in some cases. It’s a big part of why they’ll make such a big deal about certain issues that seem trivial to older generations. The older crowd has options. Millennials don’t.

Having passion, and a lot of it, is a big part of how they drive themselves. Sure, they can get annoying about it. I’ve lost track of how many overly passionate arguments about Wonder Woman’s costume I’ve heard on comic book message boards. When that’s all you really have, though, then that’s what’ll drive you.


While I doubt this will make millennials seem less annoying to older generations, I hope it provides some insight into what makes this generation tick. I don’t claim for a second that these insights are definitive. Millennials, like every generation that came before it, are a diverse group of people full of many variations, some more annoying than others.

However, this is their situation. This is how the world is shaping them. It’s a never-ending struggle, one that’s sure to plague the next generation just as much. I’m sure millennials will find an entirely different set of excuses to whine about that generation. I don’t doubt those excuses will be every bit as petty. I just hope I can sell enough of my novels by then to not care.

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Filed under Current Events, gender issues, Jack Fisher's Insights

Comics, Milkshakes, And (Failing To Fight) Internet Trolls

Before I say anything, I need to make one thing clear. I am extremely reluctant to talk about an issue that’s still fresh, so to speak. In general, I prefer to wait until he uproar has died down and/or the angry masses of the internet have tired themselves out over an issue. I usually find it easier to sift through the rubble after the storm has passed.

This may very well be the most hesitant I’ve ever been to talk about a particular issue. Think about that for a moment. I’m someone who has talked about sex robots, awkward boners, and his own circumcision. If I’m reluctant to talk about a topic, then it must be pretty nasty.

Well, don’t adjust your gag reflex just yet because it’s not that kind of topic. This isn’t something that just sparks revulsion or passionate disagreement. This is the kind of stuff that just brings out the worst in everybody. It’s like licking the shit stains on a toilet before they’ve dried. It just makes a bad topic that much worse.

However, I’m willing to suck in my gut, brace myself, and ignore my reluctance because I feel like this is something that needs to be said while certain people are still listening. Plus, it involves comics and the comic book industry. Other than the erotica/romance industry, few are quite so near and dear to me.

Even those who don’t follow the industry probably noticed an unusual hashtag trending in the news recently. It involved an incident with some of Marvel’s editorial staff. When I first saw it, I had no idea it was a controversy. I thought it was some new promotional effort. Marvel, and most comic companies, do that all the time.

For once, I’m sad to say that this had nothing to do with an ad gimmick. The hashtag in question was #MakeMineMilkshake and it was inspired by this innocent-looking tweet from Heather Antos, who happens to be an editor at Marvel.

I actually saw this on my Twitter feed. I thought it was a nice moment. It put a smile on my face. It involved milkshakes, comics, and cute girls in the comic book industry. I honestly can’t think of something more appealing to me without adding pizza, the beach, or free tickets to a football game.

Then, some asshole internet trolls, of which there are many, had to look at this happy little moment and mess it up for everyone. They did this by replying to the Tweet with a bunch of crude, vulgar comments. I won’t get into the substance of those comments because they’re not worth spreading. I won’t even make an assessment over how bad they were. I’ve been to the many toilets of the internet. I know how bad it can get.

However bad it was, it created a hashtag that has spread like a wildfire and burned away any faith you might have had in humanity, comics, or peoples’ ability to discuss an issue rationally. Like other hashtags before it, #MakeMineMarvel has become a catalyst for two sides of a pointless debate to whine and moan endlessly about how right they are. It’s a debate that nobody can ever win.

The hashtag, which I doubt Ms. Antos intended to start, has created this rage-filled rant on toxic sub-cultures like comics. On one side, you have those claiming that it’s full of angry young men who don’t want to see women screwing up their favorite toys. On the other, you have those who feel like they’re being demonized for comments that just a few idiot trolls made. Again, nobody wins that debate.

It was frustrating to me because, being a man, it made me feel like I’m being lumped in with the same group of assholes and I want no part of that. I didn’t respond to Ms. Antos’ tweet. I didn’t respond to anyone who asked me to respond. This was just a hornet’s nest that I didn’t want to poke.

An abandoned hornet's nest my dad found in his shed that he hadn't been in for a couple years. The head is apart of a wooden statue it fused with.

Then, the hashtag kept trending and people at Marvel and DC, two rival companies mind you, began responding to it. They even made milkshakes into counter-protest, of sorts, using it to fight against internet trolls and toxic subcultures. Considering some of the other protests we’ve seen this past year, I think that’s a fairly innocuous method.

However, the mere fact that this is even a thing speaks to a much larger issue. It’s one of those things where neither side, be it Ms. Antos or those who now despise her, can see the forest from the trees. After it started trending, Ms. Antos posted this tweet and understandably so. There are just certain parts of the internet and certain people who use it that completely warrant that sentiment.

Now, here’s where I start saying things that I know will rub certain people the wrong way. I’m going to try and be very careful with my words here.

I don’t want to start a new hashtag or anything. I also don’t want to get blocked because I follow people like Heather Antos on social media. I’ve said enough dumb things in the past and I’m trying to limit that, especially in these sensitive times we live in. I’ll do my best to be polite about it, but I’m not going to shy away from the truth. I’m just going to add what I hope is meaningful context.

With that in mind, I’d like to send Ms. Antos an important message that I doubt she’ll never read. That same message should apply to others who supported her since #MakeMineMilkshake started trending. Here it is and excuse me while I brace myself with an adamantium shield.

“The trolls have already won. You’re letting them win with every word you say about this issue. PLEASE change the way you fight them.”

I’m going to keep that adamantium shield up just in case, but I know this will probably take some uncomfortable explanations. I’ve talked about dealing with internet trolls before. I’ve also talked about professional trolls who go out of their way to start digital shit storms like this for their own benefit. What I’ve seen with #MakeMineMilkshake is basically a case-study in how not to respond to trolls.

Now, that’s not to say that Ms. Antos’ intentions are misguided. I don’t doubt for a second that she responded to the comments she got in the best way she thought possible. Maybe she didn’t intend for it to start trending. Nobody can really know whether or not something will become a thing, especially if it doesn’t involve cute animals.

Even if #MakeMineMilkshake didn’t start trending, though, Ms. Antos’ response would’ve already ceded some form of victory to the trolls. Like punting on third down in a football game, she didn’t adapt her game plan. Given how quickly this unfolded, I doubt she thought she even needed one.

The problem with turning her response into a hashtag, albeit indirectly, is that doing so gave the trolls exactly what they wanted. With every retweet, response, and cute quip, they get even more. That’s because trolls don’t deal in the traditional currencies of shame, sorrow, and basic human decency. They only understand one form of coin and that’s attention.

It may very well be the most important currency of the digital age. It may even be more than just a currency. It could very well be the life force with which trolls need to sustain themselves. Like Galactus, devourer of worlds, the hunger is never sated. Lacking heralds or The Power Cosmic, these trolls must resort to the lowest lows of the internet to feed their hunger.

With #MakeMineMilkshake, they basically got a free buffet and a complementary desert. I guarantee that once this hashtag started trending, they didn’t cower with fear, dread, or remorse. They’re probably still grinning and twirling their fake mustache. If they could make a collective statement towards Ms. Antos and everyone who came to her defense, this is what they would probably say.

“Ha! I did it! I got under her skin. I made this person who is more successful than I’ll ever be cry out for help, play the victim, and seek validation. They can call me a racist, bigoted, sexist pig all they want. It doesn’t matter. They just proved they’re a bunch of thin-skinned, hyper-sensitive snowflakes. Now, thanks to the hashtag, the world knows it! They know it and it’s all because of me! Mwhahahahahahaha!”

I concede that the evil laughter might be an exaggeration, but since this involves comics, I think it’s appropriate. Internet trolls are the closest thing most of us have to villains. Other than former child stars and the IRS, it’s hard to think of anyone more devious.

It pains me to say it, but the trolls won this round. Ms. Antos, whatever her intentions might have been, gave them what they wanted. She gave them attention and they’re using it. They’re already turning this misguided hashtag into Round 1,283,285,206,809 of the angry alt-right versus the bossy progressive left. It’s a fight that never has any winners.

Again, I know Ms. Antos is never going to read this post. I’m not successful enough or smart enough to have that kind of audience just yet. I’m working on it, but Ms. Antos is so far ahead of me that I can totally understand her not responding to every aspiring writer who tries to add his thoughts to an overly-complex issue. She’s an editor at Marvel. She has far more awesome things to do with her time.

If I could send her a message, though, I would offer her a simple bit of advice. When dealing with trolls, you have countless ways to lose and only a few with which to win. Anything that gives them the slightest bit of attention, no matter how negative, counts as a victory for them and a defeat for you.

To defeat the trolls, the best thing you can do is ignore them. Don’t just instinctively block them, though. Let them whine, yell, and complain with the worst digital drivel they can come up with. Either they’ll get bored or they’ll make an ass of themselves. In either case, you’ll save yourself the frustration and not embolden those who would frustrate you.

If ignoring them isn’t possible, then the second best thing you can do is fight them with kindness. I know that sounds cheesy. I know that sounds like something Superman, Captain America, or Spider-Man would say in an after school special. It still has merit, though. Your capacity for kindness, even to those who insult you, shines a brighter light on the kind of person you are while also exposing the kind of person the troll is.

The worst thing you could do is take what these trolls say and turn them into a rallying cry, of sorts. That doesn’t just give the trolls even more attention. It gives them a larger target to hit. It’s the digital equivalent of Newton’s Third Law. For every action, there is an equal an opposite reaction. With respect to trolls, poking them just makes them poke back harder.

If Ms. Antos is still with me at this point, I thank her. I know there are some who have already decided to block me at this point. I’m hoping I can still reach those willing to listen so here’s my final thought.

Trolls, in whatever form they take, should never be used as a basis to judge larger swaths of a population. Using these trolls to condemn all men, comic book fans, and Twitter users is a huge mistake. It’s basically a bonus to the trolls on top of the attention because it means more will identify with the trolls than their victims. That’s the last thing you want and the last thing the internet needs.

I don’t doubt for a second that there will be other misguided hashtags like #MakeMineMilkshake. I suspect there will be far worse trolling down the line. That’s because people are always going to say stupid shit, both online and in real life. It’s just part of the package that is the human condition. It’s how you react to it that determines whether you’ve saved the day or aided a Skrull agent.


Update: Well, I wrote this post under the assumption that Ms. Antos, or anyone else who is many times more successful than me, would ever read it. I was wrong and I’m more than relieved to say that. Ms. Antos did actually read this post. As a result, there’s something I need to clear up. Several hours after I posted this, Ms. Antos issued the following tweet.

I sincerely thank her for her response and I apologize for the impression that my post had given. In reading it over again, I realize I had implied that she was the one who started the #MakeMineMilkshake hashtag. She did not. I never thought she did, but I implied otherwise. For that, I sincerely apologize. Apparently, I was not careful enough with my words. I’ll try to be mindful of that in the future.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes