This is not a post about what has or has not transpired between two people who were in a relationship that ended badly. I don’t agree with name-calling, and am on the record about how I feel about anyone calling anyone a c-nt. This post isn’t about that.
It’s about the opportunistic secondary drama hatched from what began when one party reached out to her “support group, online.”
Support systems are wonderful.
Mobs are not.
You can read all of the backstory on the catalyst for this secondary drama here, here and here. At this point, ongoing conflicts have less to do with the original cast and more to do with surrogates and other conflicts being played out through this one.
Bear with me as I try to understand why the subordinate players in the ongoing Matt/Shoq/Jessica/vdaze drama have such an investment in calling people enablers while minimizing their own abusive behavior in order to make egregious and in some cases, libelous accusations. Ordinarily, this kind of nonsense should be consigned to the “ignore it and it will go away” drawer, but not this time. This time it appears there will be no quarter and no end because it’s just too convenient for the supporting cast.
Drum Majors in the Parade of Shame
I’m still not sure what the goal behind the endless Parade of Shame is, but the ongoing display has gone far beyond righteous indignation. If virtual tar and feathers exist, they’re being slathered on with impunity. The goal may be unknown but motives seem clear, at least when it comes to some Defenders of All Things Feminist In The Whole Entire Universe.
For example, in the case of this drum major, participating in the Parade of Shame daily inures to the benefit of her cause. If one is promoting a women’s rights PAC, what could be more beneficial than crusading for women, even at the expense of another person who she used to call a friend?
Then there is the ongoing conflict between Matt and another high-profile blogger. This is a three-year old grudge match that has been exacerbated by behind-the-scenes machinations. That particular missive was sent to a mailing list comprised of high-profile bloggers. It is a prime example of how unrelated people are recruited and dragged into a mudslinging match simply because of their associations.
As a friend of Matt’s, I’m one of the people she refers to as a “sycophant.” At the time that email was sent, she and I still followed each other on Twitter and elsewhere, but that little behind-the-scenes effort was intended not only to taint him, but also me. It worked just as she had hoped it would. Note especially her call to arms, which would explain why when I have met some of the people on that list in real life, their reaction has been guarded until they realize she is not someone I discuss ever. I’ve made a limited exception for this post.
In all my years online, this is the first time that I have had to terminate an association with someone I’ve actually met face to face because of what was done behind my back. It wasn’t about Matt. It was about painting people who associate with him with the same tar brush she used on him. That continues to this day, because it wasn’t enough for her to loathe him or to believe that someone didn’t loathe him as much as she did, I suppose.
Nevertheless, recruiting efforts by her surrogates continued as recently as July to get me to join the parade. If I had, all would have been forgiven, I’m sure. By choosing not to, I have been branded as everything from an “enabler” to an idiot. So be it.
Mob rule is ugly. I resist it, especially when I see what can only be described as a continued grudge match that now requires some sort of blood sacrifice to end, either by Matt himself or anyone who dares to defy the mob.
In February of this year I received (unsolicited), 38 direct messages campaigning for me to shut up and sit down and quit defending someone I call a friend. At one point, they took on a tone which implied that speaking out would result in harm to my reputation and even endanger my writing gig (C&L’s owner is the last name on her list.) Indeed, it has done harm to my reputation. Banging the drum — even a hollow tin hand-made one — hard enough can do that.
These different campaigns emerge from the same conflict between the same two people, and for three years have reached into the broader online community in order to continue a grudge match. Same names, same issues.
Usually accusations require some kind of evidence to hold up, so let’s have a look at what evidence has been supplied to support this behavior that was so egregious I should turn my back, smack a friend and be a “real feminist”. These excerpts were sent to me by said blogger as a complaint about Matt in 2009.
That exchange captures the gist of what was perceived as negative and abusive, with one exception. There was a point where I was quoted as saying something I had not said to emphasize a point, leaving her with the impression that this was a topic of discussion behind her back. It was not and I took care of that directly and swiftly with her and with him. I have redacted the name of the person who appears as the user “me” in the exchange because that name is not public knowledge, and I have a real problem with outing people who choose anonymity, whether or not we’re friends. Her pseudonym online is @GottaLaff.
My response at the time was to suggest that everyone calm down and breathe, then deal directly with one another to sort it out. That didn’t happen. Shortly after this exchange things fell apart completely between the two of them, right when she launched her newly-designed site on her own domain.
I am a believer in dealing with people one on one, and when you can’t do that or they’re not inclined to listen, then shut the door, walk away, and never speak of it again. I had hoped their falling out would at least leave room for neutrality.
That didn’t happen. Instead, over the past couple of years, the backchannel has flowed freely with regard to the wrongs she perceives as being done to her. Every few months or so it overflows into the public conversation river, gathering momentum as more and more jump into the fray.
If you feel like you’re back in high school, welcome to the crowd. The backchannel, the appeals, and the exaggerations of his sins have elevated high school snark and backstabbing to the level of a new art form. I think it could possibly be worthy of some strange and obscure award for nursed hurts writ large. The hurts are real. Pain was inflicted. But instead of letting them heal and grow some scar tissue, they’ve been nurtured and groomed, placed on a pedestal for everyone to admire and put on display every three or four months.
The Band Plays On
Today is September 19th. Since the day the original voice recording was published, a steady stream of hate toward one person has flowed freely into the conversation with unwronged surrogates crying out in one unified voice, right and left alike. Rushing to the side of anyone who has been aggrieved at any time in the past five years, they offer a seat on the bandwagon and hand off the reins for awhile. Everyone is aboard now, even if they don’t really know the players that well. Those who have actually raised the army complain about how horrific it has been, or about how a failure to publicly attack is some sort of enabling act, yet seem to have no problem whatsoever with the use of the original abusive language in other situations as long as the one using it is someone they call friend and the one it is directed toward is called enemy. Or stranger. This is not enabling behavior, of course. It’s simply what friends do for friends. As long as they’re part of the parade, such behavior is perfectly acceptable and unworthy of defense.
That’s called projection.
If a different path is chosen, if private discussions take the place of public excoriation, then the failure to join the parade is regarded as enabling behavior by this vocal cabal. This gaggle of self-appointed experts has taken it upon themselves to escalate their response to the level of an international incident worthy of a three-brigade response.
Playing the B side
Every single has a flip side. For three weeks now, side A has been getting all the airplay. This is Side B: The current cadre of Side A DJs aren’t clad in angels’ robes, nor are they as interested in defending one person as they are in using her pain to act out their own anger in public. Side B is unlikely to receive the same attention as side A, but it is equally valuable to understand the twisted dynamic driving ongoing narratives and campaigns.
Simply put: If you’re not with them, you’re against them. A false choice while all the while doing real harm to real people with exaggerated, unproven claims.
In the end, reality is that two people have hurt one another and it’s being played out in the court of public opinion with a scorched-earth strategy. The drama heightens in order to ensure that everyone has and will maintain an appropriate level of outrage toward their designated enemy. Theater of the absurd and the obsessed.
The links in this post provide some documentation for why it’s all being played as a proxy war. I don’t expect it to stop anytime soon but there should at least be some B side play of this record of reality as an answer to the inflated and heightened self-righteousness taking place right now.
I wish them both peace.
And the grace to forgive one another.
Because I am an optimist, I also hope for an end to the drama. At some point, enough needs to be enough.