Friday, April 06, 2012

Creative response

From the YouTube description for the video above:
“In early March, the hashtag "#tomyunbornchild" became a worldwide trend on Twitter. By and large, these tweets were loving, hopeful messages to the next generation—but many people saw it as an opportunity to express hate speech towards LGBT children…

Reading their bile, the only thing I could think was: how would we feel if we heard actual parents saying this to actual children?

I got the idea on a Thursday. By Sunday, we—me, my boyfriend, and whatever friends we could find to help us—had it filmed.

It's easy to dehumanize hate speech online because we've gotten so used to seeing it. We tell ourselves that it's the product of trolls, of random, anonymous strangers.

Except they're not. They're real people. Many of them will be parents. And some of their children will be gay.

But what can we DO about it? I don't think there are any easy answers.

Whenever you believe life begins, I hope we can all agree: life is essential, and rare, and precious. We can't stop anyone from having kids. But we can resolve to stop this toxic cycle. We can wish better for our own children. And we can support the kids who weren't so lucky.”
It puts an entirely different level of disgustingness onto hate-filled comments to see real people actually speaking them. But that’s the thing about Internet hate speech: It’s anonymous, completely separated from the real people who spread real hatred and bigotry. Such unbridled—and often unhinged—anonymous hate speech is, in my opinion, the worst thing about the Internet.

Last year I posted a similar video in which some Australians performed actual anti-gay comments. It, too, put a human face on bigotry.

The problem isn’t just the hateful comments, bad as they can be, but also that it’s impossible to tell if they’re real or not. Some people think it’s fun to make such comments just to get a reaction. This sort of person is a “comment arsonist”, lighting a spark so they can gleefully watch the conflagration they caused.

Other times, people will make such comments to stir up trouble for their adversaries. For example, supporters of the anti-gay industry often go to GLBT blogs and make hate-filled comments, and even ones that advocate violence, so that they can they quote those comments as “evidence” of how hate-filled and pro-violence GLBT people are. Yes, this does really happen: I’ve seen it personally.

Both of these performances can be seen on sites like Twitter, where people set up fake accounts to play or to incite. It’s kind of sick and twisted, but it happens.

I’ve learned over the years to ignore comments on some blogs and, especially, on online news sites, and I seldom participate. When I do post a comment, it’s almost never in response to someone else (except on my own sites). This is merely self-preservation, of both sanity and blood pressure.

In a perfect world, people would comment and interact under their own names, and would never post comments just for the sake of causing trouble. As I put it on my “About stuff” page when talking about comments on this blog, “If it would be inappropriate to shout it through a megaphone in a crowded shopping area, then it's probably inappropriate here, too.”

I wish people would follow similar advice when commenting on the Internet. When people don’t, and hatred and bigotry rise to the top, then creative responses like this video, and that earlier Australian one, are probably the best way to respond.

That, or write a blog post about it. Obviously.

Tip o’ the Hat to Joe.My.God.

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