In connection to Laurie Penny’s piece about the conservative convention and Milo Yiannopolous’ banishment from Twitter, the piece Penny wrote faced some criticism, not in the least from Yiannopolous’ victims.
In short, we shouldn’t humanise someone who caused so much grief. To see the human face of Yiannopolous behind the callous troll out to provoke and seriously hurting people in the process is a bad thing, something that he doesn’t deserve, and that detracts from the pain and suffering that these people have endured.
I certainly don’t want Yiannopolous victims to feel even more abandoned than they already have been – considering Twitter’s very lame attempts to stop the steamroller that was Yiannopolous before he turned his sights on Leslie Jones, I don’t blame all these people for feeling cast aside. Twitter has some serious issues with dealing with trolls who don’t care, like Yiannopolous. The damage he has done is disastrous, and considering the Twitter circles I move in, very noticeable. One troll has been permabanned, but so, so many are still around, gleefullt hurtful and disruptive.
I’ve seen countless people leave the service due to Yiannopolous and his ilk. Banning him was a good thing, regardless of if he wanted it or not. I wish, for the sake of his victims and the victims of his followers, that this is the first step Twitter is taking to clear up the underbelly of the service.
But – and this is the crux and the hard part, because I want to get this right without disrespecting Yiannopolous’ victims – dehumanizing him and his troll brethren is not the way to go in my opinion.
We need to know – I need to know – that behind every trollface there’s a human being.
For me, I cannot afford to ever lose sight of that fact. For every interaction I have with trolls, with harassers, with idiots and stalkers, I need to remind myself that these faceless drones coming at me for no other reason than that I am there and saying something they don’t like, are actually human beings. They have thoughts and feelings and dreams and hopes. These are real people.
If I don’t remind myself of this, I end up hating them. Hating their stupidity and idiocy. I turn them into demons and ghouls. I dehumanize them so that I can loathe them and wish them dead for all the hurt they’re causing. I other them. I set them apart, turn them into subhumans. And then I have become them, capable if hating without reason or remorse. That’s how evil is born.
I welcome the opportunity to see Yiannopolous as a human being. He scares me, his attitude scares me and his methods. I don’t understand him at all. I think he is using despicable methods to provoke and get what he wants. Judging from Penny’s piece, he sees very little, except himself. He’s inexplicable to me. He might as well be a martian. But he’s not, and Penny’s piece brings that home. He’s not a monster that I can revile, he’s human. That hurts. How can another human being be such an utter douchebag and not feel bad about it? Has he no conscience? How can he do the things he does without giving a shit?
I don’t have any answers for those questions. I suppose I never will. But I do know that I will never, ever stoop to his and the troll army he commands levels. I’m trying so hard to see people behind the Twitter handles, or I’ll be consumed by hate. I’ll be just as bad as they are, and that is something I never want to have happen to me.
The trolls are taking everything. They’re a swarm of locusts, bent on eating every last shred of decency, but they can’t have mine.
I see them. I see all the normal people out there, carrying this rage and hate around, or just the inability to care about what they’re doing. The net psychopaths who have a dual identity – one as a human being, the other as a monster. For me, I can never allow myself to lose sight of that, and this has very little to do with honor or superiority. I don’t believe I’m better than them. I know I’m not. I’m human too. I want to hurt maim and verbally tear these people apart. I want to turn them into demons so I can’t hate them indiscriminately. I want to pour all the bitterness and anger all over them. I want them to feel my pain, my hopelessness, my loneliness and my apartness. I want them to be the victims for once.
But I can’t. Because I can see them. I can see that they are human beings, no matter how misguided. I won’t give them the victory of turning me into them.
We’re all the good guys in our own story, we all have biases and issues and wants. For me – personally – I can’t stoop to their level and still think of myself as “good”.
This is a war of attrition, and just as Laurie Penny, I know I will lose because I care and they don’t. But at least I have something to believe in. A higher purpose if you will.