No Shame in Your Game: An open letter to BuzzFeed

WARNING:  The following letter contains the word asshole several times. Sorry, Roget’s has no other words for people who behave this way.

Dear BuzzFeed:

Let’s talk about the internet.  Now, I love you and your quirky listomania.  You’ve pinned me as an introvert, an extrovert, a Gen-Xer, a dog lover, even (erroneously) as a hipster (gasp!).  In so many ways you have done right by me and my idle hours on the internet.

At this moment, though,  I want to talk to you about giving a platform to racist assholes.

Full disclosure:  I am a white woman and married to a man who is Indian and Colombian. I am pregnant with his baby boy.  When I first started seeing these posts shaming racist idiots on the internet, I was like, damn right, shame the hell out of those people.  I cried (I said I was pregnant right?) when Sebastien de la Cruz was harassed on the internet for not being American.  I worried that my little boy of Latin American descent would be equally ridiculed in the world (read: on the internet) and I reposted your article with some deep words like, “I hate the world.”

I was all about shaming these assholes.

And then I found out that they did it to Marc Anthony, and Cheerios, and the Hunger Games.   Shame, shame, shame, we are all so smug, reposting and SMHing all over the internet.

And today, they did it to Nina Davuluri, the first Indian American woman to win the Miss America contest.

So here are the questions I have for you BuzzFeed–and to be clear I don’t have the answers either, but I would like to know whether or not SOMEONE is thinking about them:

What is the point of these posts?  Is your editorial goal to point out that there are terrible people in the world who still harbor disgustingly backwards racist view points?

Are you link-baiting?

What is the signal to noise ratio?  How much digging does your editorial team have to do on Twitter to find 10 racist tweets.  I imagine not TOO much digging, but of the total tweets about Nina Davuluri, how many  of them were awful and racist?  Are we broadcasting noise as if it is a signal?  If so, that’s dangerous.  If it is a signal and not noise, well, then we should be doing a hell of a lot more.

Of course, I believe that everyone needs to be aware that there are awful people in the world, but how much are we magnifying the problem by reposting and re-reading this garbage?  Are we hurting the populations of all races, by encouraging them to believe they will never be accepted?  As my mother always told me–if someone repeats something bad someone said about me, I should wonder not only about the person who said something bad about me, but about the person who chose to repeat it to me.  Which leads me to my final question:

Do you really want to be the publisher providing further amplification to these disgusting, ignorant points of view?  I understand the motivation to shame, and I am fully with you on that.  Let’s make them look stupid.  But, as a couple of philosophers have acknowledged,  attention is a form of respect, some might even say love.

“Attention is the most basic form of love; through it we bless and are blessed”

-John Tarrant

“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”

-Simone Weil

So, what are we doing giving a megaphone to people who exercise their right to free speech by being idiots?  Don’t we out number them?  Shouldn’t we be showering the victims of their tirades with attention instead?

Shouldn’t we give the megaphone to those who speak the language of justice and equality. Hand it over to those who are trying to heal our divisions, and celebrate our differences.  Give them a foghorn while you’re at it.

You can start with these guys & gals:

Questlove

Dan Savage

Stephen Colbert

Malala Yousafzai

Mildred Loving

I’m not saying I have the answer, or that I want to live in a fantasy world that ignores all the assholes in the world.  I’ll still be side-eyeing those mofos, while I do a peace dance.

Just think about it this way:  if we were still living in the age of the printing press (yes, I’m aware that there are still some printing presses), would you waste ink and paper on reprinting these morons’ statements?  Probably not.  So why are we giving them our time and energy now?   Is the shaming working or are we just rubbernecking?

Think about it BuzzFeed.  I’d bet we could make a list of 32 reasons NOT to reprint idiots.

Let’s talk about it at least.

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4 responses to “No Shame in Your Game: An open letter to BuzzFeed

  1. I agree with you – I am uncomfortable with public shaming, it just seems to create a greater platform for this idiocy and also encourage people with these views to band together in the face of “persecution”. Not to anyone’s advantage, and even people who are too smart to consciously buy into the bullshit can’t avoid internalising the fact that it exists.

  2. It’s always the person that does the teasing that sees no problem with it. But equally there is a need to take care we aren’t creating a space where nothing can be said. How many time over the last 13 years have we heard when some intrusion into civil liberty is enacted by government or internet providers that the only people that need to worry are those being targeted by the pre-judged assessment/profiling.

  3. I agree! the only posts I saw about the win were those shaming others who were disgusted over this win. Now, when she won, I assumed there would be some ‘disappointment’ on behalf of these types of “individuals” (I’m a mom now so I’ve had to make heavy cuts to the negative vocabulary). But I never saw any of it. The sole sources of my viewing of the ‘individuals’ comments were brought to me, courtesy of my Indian friends and family who were outraged. Without their acting as an avenue of communication, the sad comments would have fallen on deaf ears..

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