You’d have to be a pretty rotten person to criticize Lea Delaria, also known as the ONLY famous butch lesbian, ever. Luckily for you though, dear readers, I am just such a rotten person.

The video above, which shows Delaria engaging in a shouting match with a confused sounding elderly Jamaican guy has been celebrated as Delaria showing her “Big Boo attitude” and demonstrating the right way to deal with annoying subway preachers to the rest of us. But when I watch the video, I see something different. I see a rich, famous, powerful woman bullying someone who is poor and powerless. I see a dark skinned foreigner, who may be suffering from mental illness or dementia, being harangued about the bible by someone with an agenda he doesn’t understand. The guy has no response, beyond attempting to continue with his spiel. He is not a theological scholar. He is not the leader of any church or the holder of any political position. He may very well be homeless- the only street preachers I’ve ever met in person were members of the homeless community, whose ranting gave a sense of status and purpose to their otherwise grim existence. When I see one, I feel sorry for him, and try to treat them patiently and with compassion- and I’ve got a hell of a lot less power and influence than Lea Delaria does.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had this feeling about a viral video. I’ve felt it every time I’ve watched the ones that show an affluent, attractive white woman confronting, shaming, or publicizing the inept catcalling of poor black men in the name of feminism. I’ve kept quiet because I’ve never experienced any substantial amount of street harassment, and because I don’t want my objections to be taken as pro-catcalling. But those videos give me a sick feeling in my stomach, because the women who make them and the women who share them don’t seem to understand who actually has the power and privilege in our society, and who actually doesn’t.

Racism is real. Sexism is real. So is homophobia. We could argue for days about which out group has it worse, but in the time we spent doing that we’d be pretending that these isms exist in a classless society, (or, worse, using poor people as tools as we deployed our arguments). It should be clear to everyone that a homeless person, of any race, sex, or orientation, has vastly, unimaginably less power than any affluent person. It should be beyond dispute to say that a poor person with mental illness or addiction issues is in the very lowest strata of our society. And yet, somehow, our belief in the power of racism, sexism, and homophobia allows us to cheer when a privilege person berates a poor one. It makes us blind to what is really going on, which is the exact opposite of the thing we think we’re seeing.

People in power are intimidating. It’s HARD to speak against them, or stand up for yourself in the face of them. So, it’s understandable that activists would rather find some poor unemployed schlub and have him stand in for all the Wall Street bankers, all the political leaders, all the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and leaders of religious factions. But just because something is understandable doesn’t make it acceptable. The role of activists is to fight for the weak against the powerful. It’s simply not good enough to go and find a Judas goat among the homeless, make a viral video of somebody haranguing them, and then call that a victory over oppression.

What would you think if there was a hot new show on Netflix with a school shooter as the hero? He’d travel the country, enrolling in a new school every week, uncovering evil plots and conspiracies among high school students and solving them with in a mass shooting that targeted only the real bad apples. Although the police would often come close to catching him, our hero would narrowly escape each time, freeing him to start fresh at a new school which he would, inevitably, shoot up and terrorize while still somehow retaining the viewer’s sympathies.

Does that sound unlikely, maybe even horribly insensitive and tone deaf? Well, that’s pretty much the plot of the popular Showtime series Dexter, only with a good-guy school shooter substituted for Dexter’s titular good-guy serial killer. A show like Dexter could never have been made in the 70s and 80s, when media accounts of serial killers shocked and terrified the American public. Serial killers were national news, and people took them very seriously. Along with the attention came a concurrent rise in numbers. But over time serial killers have been tamed, made funny and even, with Dexter, cuddly. Is it really a coincidence that their numbers have dropped as our obsession with them faded. The mass media attention inflated the numbers of serial killers, and as that obsession has faded, these killers have become less common.

In the meantime, we’re found another group of violent white men to be afraid of: spree shooters. Before the shooting in Columbine, CO in 1999 mass shootings of this type were individual tragedies, terrible for their communities, but rare, and not widely covered in the national media. After Columbine, however, school shootings became something more. Columbine captured our imaginations, coming to be seen as a symbol of something deeper, a black pulse beating within the veins of our suburban idylls. Today, each incident sets off a national media obsession, and we see more and more incidents. This is no coincidence. The media coverage takes root in the imaginations of ordinary people and future killers alike, perpetuating the cycle. The sorts of people who would once have taken on the role of the basement dwelling cannibalistic murderer become the basement dwelling weapon hoarder who will one day explode into immortality by shooting up a mall, a movie theater, or most compelling of all, a school filled with media friendly children.

Human societies have darkness, sickness and evil deep within them. A society without violence and crime has never existed in human history. But, the exact form our darkness takes is largely molded by the fears, beliefs, and obsessions of a culture. We made school shooters our new villains, and more and more villains have complied with our will by becoming school shooters. As unimaginable as it may be today, in a decade or two we may all be watching the cuddly exploits of Gareth, the good-guy spree shooter, while wondering why spree shootings have declined so rapidly and cyborg rapes are becoming an national epidemic.

If you weren’t a socially isolated, disaffected nerd who came of age in the internet era, then you don’t know how to deal with trolls. It’s not your fault- how could you know? You grew up in the real world. You didn’t form the majority of your peer relationships in a two dimensional, text based format. Instead, you learned to navigate sports teams, school buses, dances, and how to walk the halls of a middle school unafraid and unmolested. You know nothing of forums, message boards, chatrooms, and comments sections. So now the internet has gone mainstream, and you’re freaking out, because sometimes people are big ol’ doody heads. It must have come as something of a shock to you, huh fella?

So, here’s a quick primer. Trolls are people online who think it’s funny to make you feel bad. Some of them just want to poke you a little and get a rise, and others want to fuck up your world in any way possible. Many of the first sort are really lovely people who you’d enjoy socially, who are seeking nothing more nefarious than to make you think for a goddamn second before you spew an unconsidered, knee-jerk political position. (And yes, even Democrats like you can be guilty of spewing unconsidered, knee-jerk political positions. I know that may be hard to take on board, but you’re just gonna have to trust me.)

What trolls do is terrible, I know. After all, you’ve never condescended to someone just to make yourself feel big. You’ve never swapped insults because you’re clever and it feels good. You’ve never delighted in acts of mindless destruction, or felt so powerless and frustrated that you stopped caring whether the people you were hurting were the people who deserved it. Not you. You’re a nice person, so these emotions are foreign to you.

But, what you’re going to have to understand is that when you lose your shit, when you stay up all night arguing with strangers, when you complain loudly about the tone of online culture or write articles calling for the end to anonymity, you’re doing a thing that we, the socially maladjusted misfits who grew up online, would call FEEDING the TROLLS. Trolls want attention, disorder, chaos, and strife. When you make a big stinking deal about how horrible they are, and how somebody ought to do something about them, you’re giving them what they want. These are terrorists who hate our freedoms, and you’re playing right into their hands when you seek to curtail the freedoms of the rest of us in the name of stopping a few bad actors. You’re ruining the chance of everyone to have something amazing, and you need to cut it out, already.

Luckily we, your online forebears, came up with a better solution years ago, that doesn’t involve abridging anybody’s freedom of expression. Just STOP FEEDING THE TROLLS. When you realize someone is acting trolly, block them or ignore them. If they up the stakes or come up with creative ways to try to suck you in again, ignore those too. If there’s a place online where you know they like to gather, don’t go there. Go back to Facebook. Go back to Pinterest. Leave the wild west to us cowboys.

Trolls love food, and you are chumming the water. So just cut it out and stop feeding the trolls already.

I’m looking at you, Amanda.

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Image  —  Posted: September 10, 2014 in Tiny Butch Adventures
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(Still experimenting with different ways of making multiple panels given my limited options on the ipad)

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Image  —  Posted: August 11, 2014 in Tiny Butch Adventures
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Image  —  Posted: August 4, 2014 in Tiny Butch Adventures, Uncategorized
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