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Interview With the Vapid

27 Mar 2012

written by Carolyn

internet_trolls_by_vanisher72-d3a5cd9

The Trayvon Martin case has brought racist backlash to a new low. Apparently, my Trayvon Martin post on CNN enraged those who insist that a teen walking home from 7-11 with a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona Iced Tea was a hardened thug who deserved to be shot, even if he wasn’t doing anything wrong at the time. I wound up spending my day exchanging ideas with a couple of them, who emailed me through my blog’s contact form.

We commonly call them “comment trolls.” The term “comment troll” makes me think of the troll from the Three Billy Goats Gruff. It’s hard to take a guy seriously who gets outsmarted by billy goats.

But the people we dismiss as “comment trolls” are not fighting with billy goats. They are real people who listen to Rush Limbaugh, watch Fox News, and read the New York Post. They create “Don’t Re-Nig in 2012” bumper stickers and shout out “Pretend it’s Obama!” to Rick Santorum at a campaign event at a  firing range. They are the base of the Republican Party, and their views influence the Republican Party platform. It’s important for all voters, regardless of party affiliation, to know who they are.

I’m reposting part of my exchanges with these two gentlemen below.

From: “Dave”

To: Me

Subject: If I had a son…

…would he look like a “P***y A** Cracker” (see attached photo)?  Do these come with a hoodie?  I will treat you with the respect a woman deserves – why does this misfit not offer the same respect to those women who pass him on the streets?  Perhaps he doesn’t believe in decency, manners and civil discourse.  I will let you come up with some lame excuse for this disgusting loser.

By the way, I am sure you are going to dismiss me as a bigot.  But keep in mind, thinking people know that playing the race card is cowardly.

Your favorite “white caucasian” person.

Dave

[City Redacted, but you can figure it out from what follows], Birthplace of Hope and Change.

Here is the photo that offended our friend Dave so much. The t-shirt is pretty stupid:

My response, in part:

“You are so misguided it’s sad, really. There is no “race card” at play. The Trayvon Martin case is about race. Talking about race is not racist. One need not call Zimmerman a racist to recognize that when an entire group of people is constantly characterized as “criminal,” bad things can happen to the innocent. This Esquire piece says it much better than I can.

“As for that picture: sorry, I don’t answer for all black people and I don’t speak for bigots. If you are a bigot, then you understand that guy in the picture much better than I do.”

Dave’s reply:

“I feel empathy for this young man – it is a sad tragedy.  There was probably a crime committed by Zimmerman, but can we let the legal system take its course rather than have bounties and 21st century lynch mobs?  Where is the racism you guys are so desperately seeking?  Do you have the bona fides on Zimmerman’s time in the Klan?  His time as a nazi skinhead?  Or horror of horror’s – that he is a Republican?  The fact is the only thing we know about him is that people of different races that know him are saying that he is not a racist.  And we know that he is a registered Democrat!!

“We also know that Trayvon’s mom is no less exploitive than the Jackson and Sharpton hucksters.  Seeking patents before her son is even buried? [Martin was buried on March 3.]  Shame on her.”

My final response to Dave:

“Go back and read my prior emails and blog posts. I haven’t called Zimmerman a racist, ever. I care not one whit about his political affiliation. Zimmerman need not personally be a racist for race to be a factor here. Let the legal process play out. That’s all I’ve asked.

“And clearly you don’t know much about trademark law. People are already trying to exploit Martin’s name for profit. Filing for trademark protection allows the family to stop others from profiteering off their dead son. Please don’t slander a grieving mother. Don’t email me again.”

Talking to Dave from the Birthplace of Hope and Change was a lot of fun, but then there was Nick.

Nick emailed me the following:

“Martin tweeted under the handle “NO_LIMIT_N****,” an account that was closed shortly after his death.

“***** my edit.

“What does “NO_LIMIT” imply?”

My response:

“Nothing at all. Good day sir.”

Nick didn’t like that, and wrote back with what I’m sure he considered a scathing put-down:

“You are so frightened of opposing views I am startled that you even step into the fray.  Of course CNN and MSNBC are not exactly hostile ground.  Get out of the echo chamber.  Have some independent thoughts.  Step out on your own.  Don’t be a mime.”

Of course, I haven’t been on MSNBC (yet). I wonder if Nick was confusing me with Goldie Taylor, or Melissa Harris-Perry. Or perhaps he’s projecting into my future reality. In any case, I decided Nick’s question about “No Limit” deserved a more fulsome response, even as I wondered – why didn’t he ask me about the “N****” part of Martin’s Twitter handle?

My reply:

“You didn’t express an opposing view. You are attempting to slander a 17-year-old kid. What does his Twitter handle have to do with the fact that he was walking home, that he had a legal right to be on the property and never should have been bothered in the first place?

As for your question, “No Limit” is the name of a hip hop label founded by Percy “Master P” Miller, a man so threatening that both he and his son Romeo appeared on “Dancing With the Stars.” It is also the name of an engineering school, a lacrosse camp, a media consultancy, a publishing group, and a song by a Belgian-Dutch music group, 2 Unlimited.”

“So when I said the Twitter handle signifies nothing, I meant it. There are many other No Limits out there. Your Google works as well as mine. Zimmerman wasn’t tweeting Trayvon, he was following him. His Twitter handle is irrelevant. What you’re doing is shameful and despicable. Good day.”

*** UPDATE***

Nick apparently wasn’t done. He sent this one final response. I did not respond and do not intend to. My experiment in trying to reason with bigots is over.

“Everything you say below is correct.   The problem? You and Spike Lee and others are part of a lynch mob.  I simply want the truth to be revealed and the appropriate actions taken.  You want a human sacrifice.”

So telling that this man used the words “lynch mob” and “human sacrifice” to describe black people calling for justice. SO revealing that “justice” is equated with “lynching” and “sacrifice” in the mind of a bigot. As @Only4RM said on Twitter, “It would be funny if not so sad when folks put their bigotry on full display WHILE arguing others are playing a ‘race card.’”


12 Comments on Interview With the Vapid

  1. Magda

    Wow. I’m sorry these people exist, and sorry they’re spewing at you. I admire your ability to take the high road.

  2. Nathan

    Carolyn, your posts are a true example of the fact that “words are power”. Your posts that have expressed simple truths and facts have been able to cause probable closet bigots and quiet racists to expose themselves in ways they would have likely avoided. Simultaneously they are exposed as less than insightful and unable to view clear facts without emotion or reason. Only the power of language can cause the hidden throngs to emerge in mass. Well done and keep up the good word.

  3. Klysha

    I get comment trolls like this on my super small time blog every now and then so I know how tough it is to take the high road when talking to them. They’re persistent and they often get downright nasty. Before I got into the blogosphere I had no idea people with their views existed. It is important for people to know where the other sides base’s head is. I know I was shocked when I found out.

  4. Elliot

    Hello, I just came upon your site through a series of links and I wanted to put in my two cents. It seems that both of you have a good point (and ultimately, are saying the same thing): You want the legal process to be unhindered. I also don’t think “Dave” is saying that race DOESN’T play a role — I think he’s saying that race is just one of the many complexities of this situation. Perhaps he believes, like I do, that with this specific case, we can never know if race played a part, but if we simply look at the basics of the case, Zimmerman should at least be arrested on some charge.

    I say “basic facts” and mean this; a large adult man shot an unarmed 17-year-old boy. That the boy was an African American would be a factor — a reasonable element to the case — if Zimmerman or Martin had some race-related activities prior to the case to establish precedent. As a lawyer, I would think that you should base your opinions on the facts, not on your gut. You were telling “Dave” that he needed a more open mind, that he is a “Don’t Re-Nig’ing, billy goat Republican.” Maybe you need to open your mind as well and look at the facts. Everyone has been so caught up in the race element that the crime has been swallowed into this political, social justice BS. An unarmed kid was killed by a large adult man, and that’s what we know. Base justice on that.

  5. Denene@MyBrownBaby

    My God, I love you. Your responses were absolutely brilliant and spot-on. Arguing with the trolls, though, serves no purpose; they’re too thick-headed to care and they’re not interested in discourse—only in accusing you of being one-sided. I get these letters, too, everywhere I write; it’s infuriating. But after 20 years as a working journalist covering African American issues—from politics to culture to entertainment—I’ve decided to save my words for what counts. Chin up, my love. You’re a helluva writer and thinker, and I’m proud of you!

  6. Carolyn

    Thanks, Denene! I ignore the comments, but when they came into my inbox, I decided – as an experiment – to respond. Lesson learned.

  7. Carolyn

    Why don’t you try taking a look at the CNN post that brought Dave to my site, which applied the Florida statute to the facts as they were reported in the media at the time I wrote my post? And why are people so afraid of admitting that race is one of the reasons Zimmerman found Martin suspicious that night? That’s not my gut, that’s based on what he said on the 911 tapes. And “social justice BS”? I will point you to read the same Esquire piece I recommended to Dave, because I don’t have the patience to school you on centuries of history. We need to stop the color-blind pretense and deal honestly with race in this country, period. And to repeat what I told Dave: talking about race isn’t racist. Base justice on that.

  8. RR

    Eliot,

    I agree with you that the letter writers aren’t dismissing the racial angle in this incident. After all, this encounter has been deemed noteworthy by the press precisely because of the interracial (white/black) angle. If Zimmerman had been black (or even accurately categorized as Hispanic) this incident would have already been forgotten about. Blacks slaughter each other every day without so much as a peep from the mainstream media or the black establishment. Reporting black on black crime is unhip, boring and depressing, so why bother.

    You made a couple of misleading statements in your reply to Carolyn. First, George Zimmerman, the person whose actions are being investigated, is not a “large man”. He is a over-weight fellow of average height. And Trayvon Martin was not a “boy”, but a young man who happened to be a 6’2” football player with about 1% body fat. It is true that Trayvon Martin was unarmed during the encounter, but that does not mean that he was not dangerous. Young men, especially young black men, assault others with their hands and feet all the time, sometimes fatally.

    The point here is that Zimmerman’s account of the shooting is plausible and his not being arrested by the Sanford police is also plausible with respect to Florida law. It may turn out, after a thorough investigation that Zimmerman is a liar and will be arrested and convicted. But at this point we should all be a little circumspect in our accusations, which the author of this piece clearly is not.

  9. RR

    Carolyn,

    You wrote:

    We need to stop the color-blind pretense and deal honestly with race in this country, period.

    How are we supposed to deal honestly with race if very few people, including you, are interested in having an honest dialogue about race? Sure, we can talk about things like institutional racism and white privilege, and most blacks would be inclined to limit the discussion to those topics. But the dialogue would have to also include a discussion of black crime and black illegitimacy, which most blacks are loathe to talk about. The few blacks who are inclined to discuss black pathology ultimately end up blaming wayward black behavior on whites. Instead of accepting responsibility for our crime rate and poor family structure, we blame whites which, ironically, weakens our efforts at improvement and backhandedly complements whites, thus strengthening supposed white privilege.

    All is not lost though. At least you saw fit to respond to Dave and Nick and actually elected to publish part of their letters. Perhaps dialogue is possible after all. But you can’t limit the discussion to only those issues you are comfortable with. Let us truly have a free-wheeling discussion on race (which must include talking about the bad stuff…..black crime, black sexuality etc.). Until we actually talk realistically about race, we are doomed to repeat tragedies like the Martin/Zimmerman shooting.

  10. Mitch Mitchell

    First, I don’t entertain trolls longer than one comment most of the time, and I’m glad I rarely have to deal with them to begin with. No one gets to hide behind false names or links and expect that I’m going to talk to them, which I noticed with the two people who kind of disagreed with you. Those folks never get my time; my blog isn’t a democracy.

    Second, truthfully, the Trayvon Martin thing really isn’t about race, per se. Sure, a young 17-year-old black kid was killed by a 30-something either white or Hispanic person; the media says he’s white, he doesn’t look white and his family says they’re not white.

    In my mind, what this is about is someone who was a volunteer called something in, he was told to not follow and let the police handle it, and he ignored that advice. He became a vigilante and a stalker, and at that point he lost any right to say it was self defense. I’m imagining myself at 17 and having some man start following me when I haven’t done anything. I either run or I fight, and based on my history I probably would have at least threatened violence at that time.

    That’s why Zimmerman needs to be arrested and sent to jail. Not because he killed a black child but because he disobeyed advice and took the law upon himself without the training to do so. Hero? Absolutely not. He initiated everything that happened, and if his father was a real judge then he knew better and knew what he was doing.

    And there’s the real crime.

  11. mimi torchia boothby

    what disturbed me the most about this conversation was the guy’s references to a “lynch mob” So far as I know there’s never been a lynch mob of people of color hanging a white guy. Most lynch mobs in this country have ended up with a black guy dead. ugh
    Demonstrations all over the country do not make a lynch mob. They are proof that this country has a soul.


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