Being in the public eye—to however large or small a degree—carries with it consequence. What you say has reach, and that reach can take you to exciting or terrible places. A renowned game writer was summarily fired this week for engaging in a Twitter spat with a fan. I understand her frustration, and even her response, as a professional, as an artist and a writer, as a minority constantly subjected to mistreatment and the judgments of others. The firing itself seems harsh, a punishment unfit for the crime. But that’s how most reactions are these days: swift and brutal (and backed by an internet hate-mob in this case). The age of nuance and diplomacy is gone, swept away by tyrants and braggarts whose stormy behaviours even the Left have begun to mimic. Dangerous and dark times, my friends. Where’s the reason? Where’s the discussion? Where’s the forgiveness and growth?
Earlier in my career, I occasionally contemplated replying to a negative review. You know: those especially personalized and toxic critiques that call you names and question if you even know the alphabet; those random one star reviewers on Goodreads whose accounts only give one stars except to that curious, and glaring, book that they or their friend has written. I’d thought about setting those people straight, defending my case, characters and world. Although, like gremlins, you should never feed a troll—they just get fatter and fatter from your engagement. Quickly, you realize that a war on social media isn’t one with a clear victor. At best you are a painted as a white knight or a troll, since the internet is a place of polarities and little in the way of moderate discussion ever makes the rounds. Whatever you say will be amplified, distorted and spun into memes, hyperbole and rhetoric—likewise can you do the same to your opponent, should you choose.
Which leaves artists with this unpleasant acquiescence: that we must accept the pain others inflict upon us as well as our own torments. Be tough. Suck it up. I am, I do, but fuck…there has to be a better way, because this new negativity is crashing down upon us harder than a biblical flood. Cyber bullying isn’t just something that your child suffers, or that myself and other artists suffer: it’s a situation that you—as an adult—will most likely suffer in your career and personal life. And you’ll engage or disengage; neither action seems to have much of an effect on the global outcome, really. We’re approaching (or living in) a future where we attack, then block and ridicule opinions, people, places and ideologies that are not our own. The internet was supposed to bring us together, though it seems most efficient in unifying us through our hate and in curating out any voice that we don’t want to hear. Isolation not globalization.
I feel for Jessica. I wish that she both had and hadn’t opened her mouth. Had, because every person regardless of gender, stature and power dynamics deserves a right to speak, and some—like Jessica—have a strong message and personality that should be heard. And hadn’t, because that’s not the world we live in and the consequence of her talking was unemployment and continued harassment. I’ve no doubt she will land on her feet and unlike some of my shadowy opponents, I only wish her the best. I wish my haters—all haters—the best too, because the fewer unhappy people cowering behind keyboards and seething poisonous words, the more tolerable the internet and world will become.
All my love,