Because I live on the west coast and am therefore three hours behind whatever the east coast sets as The Daily Agenda , I often open my browser in the morning fully girded for whatever fresh hell the day has already brought forth or for whatever outrage has been ginned up because, just like nature, the internet and those who write upon it (within it? all over it? ) abhors a vacuum. Outrage sells and outrage is monetizable as exemplified by Michelle Malkin who took her rightwing-roid rage, made it flesh in the form of Twitchy – which dumbs down and misrepresents practically everything that happens ever into bite-sized chunks for an audience that has to sound out words with two or more syllables – and then cashed out.
I wish I could say that all internet foofaraws were limited to the conservative side and their need for validation because of their deeply held belief that they are the real victims here, but … no. On the other side (my side) of the ideological divide there is also the occasional tendency towards the circular firing squad, the piling on, the I-will-use-this-outrage-du-jour-to-promote-my-pet-cause, as well ax grinding once removed
For example, during the holidays when things were a bit slow in DC, feminist folk singer Ani DiFranco came under fire for plans to hold her annual songwriting retreat at a plantation in Louisiana.
Ani DiFranco has been a feminist musical icon for a generation, but her choice of venue to host an expensive songwriting retreat strikes some black feminists as supremely tone deaf.
DiFranco announced earlier in December that she planned to hold her annual Righteous Retreat songwriting camp in June on Nottoway Plantation in White Castle, La. The plantation once housed hundreds of slaves under brutal conditions.
After a massive public outcry, DiFranco announced Sunday that she was cancelling the event.
During a brief 36-hour period, after the ForHarriet post went up, Twitter was on fire with what can best be described as a wilding of DiFranco whose sin of agreeing to host the event at the plantation was compounded by the fact that she she didn’t respond quickly enough when the frenzy began (It is the internet. NOW NOW NOW REFRESH REFRESH IMMEDIATE SATISFACTION NOW) to cancel it, although she did just that the next day. DiFranco ended up being the pinata for the low-simmering long-time conflict feminists of color have waged because they have been given short shrift by white feminists over the years when it comes attention paid, panels invited to, respect given.
ForHarriet is up quite front about it:
In yet another example of white feminist cluelessness, Singer Ani DiFranco will hold her annual songwriting retreat this year on Nottoway Plantation in Louisiana. Righteous Retreat Song Camp is billed as a feminist songwriting retreat, and DiFranco’s choice to hold the event at this locale has drawn ire from Black women who note the offensiveness of the location.
Black women feminists and allies took to the event’s Facebook page to express their concerns, yet neither Difranco nor anyone on her team has responded.
The thought of women choosing to luxuriate at the sites of historic brutality against black bodies confounds, but even more outrageous is the refusal of so many women to listen to those whose lived experiences continue to be mediated by the legacy of chattel slavery.
And then the pile-on began (with what DiFranco termed “high-velocity bitterness”) as DiFranco’s misstep became not only an affront to black feminism, but also to black queer individuals and their allies and everyone:
Ani DiFranco, a well known white “feminist” and queer singer songwriter, is holding a workshop event on a plantation in a town founded by racists. This is insulting to black feminists and black queer individuals and is a very blatant display of racism on her part. In order for this event to be canceled, this petition has been formed so that feminists and queer individuals of all races can express their disdain for DiFranco’s racist and oppressive gestures, not to mention the obvious exclusion of/disregard for her black fans. Holding an event on the site of the genocide of black people is no way to show inclusion and intersectionality, both of which are important tenets of feminism.
Welcome to the overkill.
Or take the case of Melissa Harris-Perry who felt compelled to issue multiple apologies to the Romney’s and America after she and her guests commented on the picture of Mitt Romney holding his adopted African-American grandson amidst a passel of white-bread Romney progeny. Brought to Matt Drudge’s attention by right-blogger Caleb Howe, who reconstituted his soul years after mocking Roger Ebert’s cancer, the left joined forces with the right to condemn her insensitivity to multi-racial families (not that Harris-Perry would know a thing about being raised in a multiracial family) when it was fairly obvious the point of the comments was the incongruity a black child amongst Romney’s; a family so white they make the Duggars look like the Jacksons, but the twitter storm and CNN demanded their pound of flesh. and it was handed over along with a side order of tears.
Which brings us to Bill Keller’s column today which has set hearts aflutter, veins a’bulgin’ and brains a’splodin’, particularly amongst people whom I respect and read and enjoy on a daily basis (Death Panel! Bully! As bad as FishBowlDC!) and, to be frank: I don’t get the outrage. Keller’s column about Lisa Bonchek Adams takes off from one his wife wrote over at The Guardian (since taken down presumably because Emma Keller quoted private DM’s from Bonchek Adams without permission, but you can read it here). To my reading, Bill Keller is writing about how we choose to prolong or not prolong our lives, economic consequences, and how the modern tendency to ‘live out loud’ via social media informs others. Emma Keller’s piece, on the other hand, is primarily devoted to the social media aspect, particularly how, even though it is presented freely for our consideration, it can make us feel like a voyeur. She also addresses our propensity to over-share. I think it is possible to argue the merits of their views as well as their tone but, in light of their effusive praise of the courage and fight in Lisa Bonchek Adams, I’m hard pressed to find the shaming, the bullying, and the death-wishing. If there is something to complain about, it is Bill Keller seemingly using his NYT column to defend his wife’s column published elsewhere. Poorly played, Bill.
What I am seeing is grabbing at straws, particularly among those who hold a grudge against Bill Keller for his slipshod stewardship of the NY Times during the run up to the Iraq war, or from others whose lives have been touched by cancer and don’t feel that those who haven’t should have any voice in the discussion. More importantly I see signs of a generational divide between an older cohort for whom health issues have traditionally been kept private and personal versus a younger generation who feel that there is nothing from an Instagram of a lunchtime Chipotle burrito to a minute by minute GPS update location that shouldn’t be shared. Also, too, there is much general piling on because it was the twitter outrage of the day and Bridgegate is kind of played out from the weekend.
In short: much ado, but not much there unless you’re really really looking to get your aggrievement on.
… One last thing before everyone starts accusing me in the comments of “mansplaining” (as if cancer isn’t an equal opportunity destroyer), or “heathsplaining” or “mortalityplaining” or whatever catchy dismissive neologism bubbles up to the surface this week. I had no small part in an Internet mob in 2012 when I posted a tweet from George Tierney of Greenville, South Carolina for being a dick to Sandra Fluke. It was all fun and games with his request to be taken off the Google until it kind of exploded and then people starting harassing his parents and posting his address and phone number and being every bit as douchey as George. At that point, as awful of a person as I thought he was, I wished I could have taken all of it off of the Google.
Just because a mob is on the internet, doesn’t make it any less awful than the pitchforks and torches shouty kind.