Read more Bureaucracy for Breakfast HERE
In real life, I’ve managed to avoid crossing paths with the intensely racist right wing crowd. Well, I guess there’s no difference between “intense racism” and racism, but stay with me here. I’m no stranger to anti-Semitism or Confederate flags, but besides a few unpleasant moments the people who hold these beliefs have basically been crazy abstractions. They’re on TV, but at a safe distance – so safe I can yell back at the screen while they rant (who doesn’t want to scream when Bill O’Reilly or Ann Coulter open their pie holes? Well, a lot of people actually). Recently, though, I found myself with a free pass to their club, so to speak, and I almost walked right inside.
Here’s how it went down. I came across a writer I had admired for several years. I read and loved a book of his and knew nothing of his politics or his beliefs. He kind of reminded me of Lenny Bruce – offensive, funny, and smart. A recent online interview with him led me to this innocent looking website. He was a contributor. For some crazy-ass reason I imagine that any hateful, racist publication will wear their dark thoughts on their sleeve – or their home page – by boasting a shadowy, brooding, menacing color scheme. Pretty pastels and a cute logo put me at ease. These must be my kind of people, I thought. I like pastel pink and yellow just as much as I like making fun of politics, which is basically the vibe the site gives off, and a brand new post skewering a politician I personally can’t stand was all it took. I emailed the editor with a pitch.
Hit the Jump to find out whether The Elf had to wield a crossbow…
“What if they storm my apartment with crossbows one night? This is when lawyers come in handy…”
I sent in some clips, and after a few “that topic isn’t quite right” responses I got a yes. I was in! Judging by the crazy number of comments each of their posts got, I was in some good company. After a little celebration dance I planted myself in front of the laptop and pounded out an article I felt proud of, then sent it their way. They responded by saying they would publish it that week and that they were excited, telling me I was the first funny woman writer that has been on their site, which led to another little celebration jig. NOTE: I now know why no funny women writers published with them but at the time I felt like the love child of Tina Fey and Kristen Wiig. Embarrassing.
Anyhoo, in this elated state I decided to Google the head honcho of this pastel paradise. I pasted the name in and hit search. La-di-da, I thought, who is this awesome person I’m writing for?! Probably some cool Pulitzer winning journalist or maybe Christiane Amanpour’s daughter or something. After a millisecond of scanning my eyeballs landed on this person’s name followed by that age-old hyphenate that causes every Jew’s eyeballs to bug out of their head like Beetlejuice: Anti-Semite. Being a card-carrying gefilte fish eater, my elation immediately morphed into full-blown panic as I read endless articles about this person’s allegedly extreme, racist, NeoCon beliefs. How did I miss this? Well, OK, I didn’t fully research the site or its editors so that’s my (big) mistake. But really – pastels and a girlie logo? Where were the swastikas and heartfelt odes to Charles Manson?
In full-on Veronica Mars mode I went back to the site and decided to scan the last names of everyone who has ever written for them. “Please let there be a Jewish sounding name or two or ten,” I prayed. “Please don’t let all the photos be white people named Chad Honeycut.” Maybe if there are a few Goldbergs or Greenblatts it’s all OK and I’m just panicking for no reason. I imagined my ancestors, risking their lives and fleeing the Cossacks, all so their great-granddaughter could experience freedom and join forces with a cyber Hitler. I found a woman with a vaguely Jewish name. “Could be German though,” I reasoned. When engaging in this type of hardcore detective work logic is important. Sadly, when I read this woman’s articles and found her own site I discovered her rants made Ann Coulter seem cuddly. Remember when Coulter said, “we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say”? This was much, much worse.
“The article in question was so obscenely racist I blurted out “Are you fucking kidding me?!”
To make it more horrible, this website was the subject of a huge cyber controversy involving a certain article, which I then read. When I say controversy I mean everyone from the NY Times to Forbes to The New Yorker to Slate was writing about how terrible and offensive this article (and this site) was that very week. Great. The article in question was so obscenely racist I blurted out “Are you fucking kidding me?!” several times. He was not kidding me. It wasn’t some ironic and hilarious joke about racism, some genius satire worthy of John Stewart. It was official. In twenty-four hours my name, face, and words would be linked to this dark abyss of hate and awfulness. Getting published on this site could wind up being one of those, “I didn’t realize he was the leader of the KKK when I campaigned for him,” situations. I had two choices:
1. Email them, tell them I’m Jewish and if they publish my article I’ll… do something drastic! But what if they decide to sabotage my “career” or come find me or ruin my life like the mafia? (logic had left the building that is my noggin at this point)
2. Just let them post it, don’t Tweet it or acknowledge it in any way, and let it blow over. It would get a freaking ton of hits, judging by the zillion comments all of their articles seem to get from creepy hate mongers across the world… what to do…
When in doubt, call your mom. “Honey, do not tell your father and don’t you dare post that with them!” OK then. But what if they storm my apartment with crossbows one night? This is when lawyers come in handy. “I’m in a pickle,” I eloquently texted a lawyer I know. He helped me craft an email nicely demanding they pull the post. “I’ll tell them I’m Jewish and can’t be associated with them!” I wrote. “No. Then you’re calling them anti-Semites. Blame it on your publicist.” Lawyers are neat.
In the end they were nice about it (no crossbows), told me I could use a pseudonym (no thanks) and that was that. Maybe I overreacted a wee bit but that world is damn scary! What if your name was forever linked to that kind of hate and intolerance — I say forever because I doubt the Internet is disbanding anytime soon. Next time I’ll look a little deeper and I won’t be fooled by a My Little Pony color scheme. I’m a firm believer in the saying “It takes all kinds” and definitely don’t think we all have to have the same beliefs, but these people and this world give the term HATERS a whole new meaning. Kind of makes me want to hit up Hello Giggles and pitch: Top 10 Reasons Glittery Cupcakes Are Awesome. Sounds kind of nice.