Some words on Milo Yiannopoulos – talia jane –
Well, mostly words about me. But I’ll tie them together. I promise.
Milo Yiannopoulos, a writer for Breitbart and troll for vitriol (vitritroll?), got banned from twitter tonight after engaging in targeted harassment against comedian Leslie Jones on, arguably, the biggest weekend of her career. Her movie Ghostbusters came out Friday. Not to detract from the topic at hand, but I loved it and I think if you want to support her, go buy a ticket (or several) for her film. Because you’ll love it too. It’s extremely fun. That said:
When I first caught wind of the harassment Leslie was dealing with, I instantly saw red. For the average person, that’s a reasonable reaction. But the intensity of my anger lasted a lot longer than I expected — I ended up spending the whole night actively cruising her tweets to report accounts sending her hate, reminding others to do the same, and sending her messages of love and support. I’m talking hours of this. A year ago, that would’ve been a tall order for me. I mean, I would’ve tweeted out my support, but I wouldn’t have acted on it. What changed?
Well, this past February, I went viral. And a majority of that “virality” was extremely negative. It was terrifying. I didn’t have the platform Leslie has. I didn’t have the insulation of managers and friends who’ve been through it that comes with celebrity. I was just me, completely alone, terrifyingly out of my depth. At first, the support and the hate were balanced. Literally 1:1 ratio of negative to positive tweets. Then, very quickly, I became a target. I could feel the tides shift from just casual comments to a full-on dogpile.
Someone set up a website with my entire name with “proof” that I’m a fraud. I go by Talia Jane, because that’s literally my name, but these people felt it was necessary to include my last name so any potential employers googling me will see this terrible, stupid website. A group of twitter accounts religiously spammed me with hateful rhetoric on every tweet I did. They became a community dedicated to discussing all the ways in which I’m terrible. People literally made memes of my face — selfies I’d taken at work that unintentionally displayed how worn down I’d become were used for quick laughs. Reddit blew up with conspiracy theories. I even heard something that I was from Louisiana, a state I’ve never been in, and that I had a kid that I’d abandoned (which I think was because I posted a selfie with my friend’s baby?) to go manufacture this PR stunt on behalf of Yelp. People were calling my grandparents, saying they knew me, hoping my grandparents would give them my phone number. I had to coach my grandparents who don’t even know how to use the internet on how to react to these calls. “If someone asks for me, don’t tell them “she doesn’t live here” because that confirms you’re related to me. Just tell them you don’t know who that is and they have the wrong number.” Calls at all hours of the day. I even had someone email me my own address. The worst part was as much as I wanted to just tweet “Stop calling my grandparents,” I couldn’t address any of it. I knew it’d signal to them that they’d struck a nerve and that’d inspire them to keep digging, potentially putting my family in serious danger. I couldn’t even block people because I knew it’d show them “proof” they’d gotten to me. I wanted to scream, but I knew if I screamed, they’d laugh at how much they were succeeding at bringing me down. It was insane and infuriating.
Yet, as the pile-on continued, I knew I couldn’t stay quiet. As Yelp released statements claiming the letter had nothing to do with my being fired and the narrative started to shift, I shifted it right back. They outright told me over the phone they were firing me because the letter violated their terms of conduct, two hours after it was posted, and I made sure the internet was well-aware of it. I wasn’t going to let them lie about that even if it meant the promise of the harassment dying out sooner (I dominated the news cycle for a little over a week, which is insane because usually Friday news is dead by Monday). As a certain woman rode my coattails into her own virality, hoping it might make her famous enough for people to want to read her bad writing, I took it in stride and told people to hire her if they thought her Bootstraps Jesus (But Ignore The Fact That I’ve Had Every Luxury Talia’s Never Had) story was so great. I killed the promise of a catfight, from which I would have rose victorious because her whole letter to me was wholly off-base, because it would lower the potential of my voice. Instead, I pivoted and used the global visibility to highlight the legitimacy of my claims — and the hypocrisy of my critics. I spun nothing into gold. I changed and shaped the narrative others had thrown on me. This was not an easy feat, and not something I ever should have had to do simply because I spoke up. But trolls like Milo were committed to shutting me up. And, fortunately, there’s just one problem with that goal.
When you sic trolls on someone or you contribute to a dogpile, that someone (aside from likely being a woman, person of color, LGTBQ+, or the Triple Threat of ALL THREE!) has likely dealt with some form of criticism and hate. We’ve been raised to speak up and fight back. That inclination of ours is how you found us in the first place, silly. Your hate, your threats, your ignorance — these aren’t new. The volume of the hate is new, yes. But we’ve seen and heard it all before. And widespread attacks against someone brave enough to be unabashedly good trends toward one conclusive move: We will always use your stupidity to shine a light on a legitimate issue, and you will always become completely irrelevant in the process.
That gal who tried her darnedest to ride my coattails? She’s got zero lined up for her. Last I checked she even went to LA hoping “I wrote garbage about Yelp Girl” would get her a writing job. She came home empty handed. Michelle Malkin, who wrote a dizzyingly misinformed piece about me for the National Review and got all the old people complaining about millennials? She’s a punchline. Yelp quietly raised their wages and the Silicon Valley at large was pushed into a massive discussion about compensating lower tier employees rather than just glorifying their Glamorous Tech Bro Lifestyle. Me? I’m chillin’. I was named Business Insider’s top 100 “most amazing and inspiring people in tech” for 2016. Oh, and I’m speaking at XOXO Fest in September. You should come!
Let’s spin back around to Leslie Jones, goddess extraordinaire, and bleached psychopath Milo Yiannopoulos. What’s the score? Leslie Jones pulled back the curtain on the sexism, racism, and cruelty targeted at black women in media and smashed open a discussion on the meaning of harassment. By fighting back, she forced people to see the overwhelming hate women, and especially black women, are forced to experience online.
Leslie Jones: 2,000,000,000,000
Milo & Trolls: 0
Jack Dorsey, the founder of twitter, intervened and permabanned Milo for inciting and engaging in targeted harassment.
Leslie Jones: ∞+2,000,000,000,000
Milo & Trolls: 0
Because Leslie spoke up, there’s a massive onus on twitter to make immediate, serious strides in how it handles targeted harassment (∞+1 for Leslie). Milo went from fairly unknown Breitbart bitch boy to a known vitriolic monster (-∞ for Milo). He’s in the twitter afterlife with Chuck Johnson, who was permabanned after he threatened DeRay McKesson’s life and posted a rape victim’s personal information. They’re crying together as they struggle to accept that they’ve done irreparable damage to themselves. Their narratives have been assigned and cannot be shifted. They are on the wrong side and the ball is never going to be in their court again. But their stupidity and negativity prompted an even greater reaction of love and positivity.
And that’s the thing about trolls. It’s not okay that you use your existence to hurt others. But until you learn to get over your childish drive for hate, the strong, intelligent people you’re targeting can just keep using your stupidity to their advantage. You’re not good people, but you’re giving good people validation in their convictions and helping them do more for the world. You are not good, or worth attention, but the volume of your hate only inspires a surplus of love and support for the voices you’re trying to silence. So, good job getting the opposite of what you want done, I guess!