NYT contributing writer Julie Ioffe just published a profile of Donald Trump’s wife Melania in GQ.
The profile, by all accounts, was quite fair, and far from a hit-piece. But that didn’t stop Donald Trump’s supporters from savaging Ioffe in her Twitter feed.
Their problem with Ioffe? She’s Jewish.
I’ve been on the receiving end of a Twitter-swarm, and it ain’t pretty. The Internet does things to people. It liberates them. But not always in a good way. People feel free to say things they would never say to your face. And they’re all the more emboldened by hundreds of like-minded others who are just as vicious, and usually just as off-base about the underlying accusation that set them off in the first place.
I’ve been called pretty much everything. Sexist (for supporting Obama in 08), misogynist, racist (for criticizing Obama in 09), Islamophobic, transphobic, biphobic, and my personal favorite, since I’m gay, “homophobic.” I was even accused of being dog and cat phobic because I like to post funny pet videos.
The Internet has no inner-sphincter. It doesn’t know when to hold its tongue. And sadly, large online communities like Twitter (and YouTube, whose comments are a cesspool of vileness) have yet to figure out how to help its own users handle cyber-bullying. One almost wonders if the challenge is technical, or principled — the Internet loves free speech, so long as the speech is in accordance with the will of the angry masses.
Which brings us back to Ioffe. While the Internet is an equal-opportunity bully, it has a special place in its heart for women. I’ve received some pretty vile comments over the years, but nothing like what Julia Ioffe is receiving right now in her Twitter feed from Trump supporters. It’s unbelievable, yet all too believable.
Ioffe, to her credit, seems to be taking it all quite well. But still.
There’s a video going around the last week or so of men being asked to read back to female sports reporters the nasty comments that have been left for them online. It’s hard to watch, and illustrative. Have a look:
A part of me thinks that people have always been this way — a bit too angry and nasty for their own good. The only difference today is that it’s easier for them to mouth off. In the old days, the perpetually-angry had to write a letter (often in all caps), find a stamp, mail it, and then always wonder if the victim of their ire ever really saw it. Today, online hate is the new graffiti. You can bear public witness to your seething rage, while finding catharsis in the unhinged anger of thousands of anonymous brethren. It’s virtual therapy at its best and worst.
Here is a sampling of a bit more of what’s going on right now in Julia Ioffe’s Twitter feed from the swarm of anti-Semitic Trump supporters. Trump will likely do nothing about this, but Twitter really should. It’s unconscionable that the big Internet companies have yet to figure out how to help protect people from online bullies.