Trigger warning: this post is discussing stalking, harassment, and gaslighting, specifically relating to recent events concerning Ana Mardoll, Xavier Damman, and the individual known only as “ElevatorGate.”
If you do not wish to read about this, please do not click the “more” link. If you’re reading this through a feed and do not wish to read the rest, here is a giant picture of a cute kitten to act as a buffer while you close this:
You’re not being stalked.
You don’t really have PTSD.
You’re making this all about you.
All this stuff was public anyway, what’s the big deal?
You’re belittling REAL stalking victims!
You just want attention.
You’re vilifying an innocent man!
You brought this on yourself.
You’re being too emotional. If you just looked at it LOGICALLY…
Just stay off Twitter if it bothers you!
FREEDOM OF SPEECH!
You’re belittling REAL sufferers of PTSD!
You’re just making this up because you’re mad you didn’t get what you want.
You just WANT to be a victim!
…This is a small sample of the sort of stuff I’ve seen thrown at Ana Mardoll (whom I feel very lucky to call a friend) over the last day and a half. Would it make you angry if people said things like that to a friend of yours? It makes me angry.
For those unfamiliar with the context, let’s start at the beginning:
First of all, you are all at least somewhat familiar with Twitter, yes? Ok. Well, Twitter only “stores” ~3000 tweets at a time on an individual person’s timeline – after that, the oldest tweets fall off and are lost in the internet ether. This makes it hard to reference older tweets. (3000+ may seem like a lot, but depending on usage, a person can go through that pretty quickly.) Also, the way Twitter is set up makes it difficult to share conversations with others.
So that’s where Storify steps in. Storify is a separate website which allows users to collect and post tweets on a more permanent basis. It can be used in many ways: Ana, for instance, has used it to document the Twitter conversations going on during the Texas filibuster, as for many of us, Twitter was our main source of both information and support during that event and it’s nice to have a record of it. It can be used to document conversations and share them with other folks who might be interested, or to refer back to them. It can be used to collect interesting and funny tweets for your own enjoyment. If someone has a history of making racist, sexist, or otherwise bigoted remarks, it can be used to compile their bigoted tweets so as to make others aware of them. All of these are common and valid uses of Storify.
At this point, I would like to make a rough analogy. Yes, Twitter is a public forum; anything said there is said publicly and so it shouldn’t be a problem for someone to repost those tweets elsewhere. Similarly, if someone is in a public place, it is legal (in most areas and with certain restrictions) to take their picture. They’re in public. So if a news reporter is covering an event and takes my photo, that’s fine. If an art student is taking pictures at the park and gets a picture of me, that’s fine. If a photographer is doing a project on, say, LARPers or new mothers or women who wear floor-length skirts, and takes a bunch of pictures of me, that’s cool. (If he makes money off them that might be different but LET’S NOT COMPLICATE THE ANALOGY JUST YET.) If someone suspects me of wrongdoing and hires a PI to photograph me in public places to prove or disprove whether I’m doing that wrong thing, that’s annoying but it’s still legal, and a valid tool to catch me if I AM doing something wrong. So far, so good.
However. If I found out that someone had an entire, like, photo album completely full of pictures of me – pictures of EVERY TIME I went into a public place, every time I stepped out of my front door – y’know, I think I’d find that a little creepy. Strike that – I think I’d find it scary as fuck. I’d want to know why he was collecting all these images of me, all this information about my day-to-day life.
I think I’d call it stalking. And if he sent me a passive-aggressive creep-o-gram every time he added some new photos of me to his collection, just to let me know he was still watching me EVERY DAY and recording everything I did, I think I’d call it harassment.
And I think I’d be right to do so.
Which brings us tooooo… ElevatorGate. (The name, in case you’re not familiar with it, comes from this incident and the following uproar.) EG is essentially the Storify version of the creeper with the pictures, above. His MO is to target people (often feminist activists and trans* activists) and Storify EVERYTHING that they tweet. Like, literally everything. Just collecting every single thing they say and putting it all in one place, where he (or his legions of creepy followers and yes-men) can find out everything about that person with ease.
This is the sort of thing where a difference of degree becomes a difference of kind, and that’s what I don’t think a lot of EG’s defenders quite understand. No, nobody is saying that retweeting someone’s tweets is automatically stalker behavior. That’s the whole POINT of Storify. But retweeting ALL of someone’s tweets is a little different. If you don’t get why, go read the photo analogy again. Finding out that someone has collected EVERYTHING you’ve put on Twitter is absolutely scary and unnerving, and would make pretty much anyone wonder why someone would do that and what they intend to do with all this information they’ve compiled about you. And sending email notifications through Storify (which he does) every time he adds new tweets just adds a layer of harassment to the stalking, making sure that the people being stalked don’t feel safe.
Whew. Ok. Everyone on the same page here? I’m sorry to spend so much time on what should be pretty basic concepts, but as there are quite a few people who simply can’t grasp them, it seemed necessary.
So. That was the background. Our story begins – no, y’know what? I’m not gonna tell the story; I’m going to link to where Ana tells the story, because a) she tells it better, and b) this post is going to be long enough as it is. So go read it, and then I want to move on to the subject of THIS post: the reprehensible response she’s gotten, and what, in fact, is reprehensible about it.
Y’all read it? Good. So to recap: Ana and quite a few others are now being targeted by EG, as a direct consequence (arguably) of the actions taken by Damman.
And here are the things people have been saying to and about her since then, and my responses to them. If you have thought or said these things, please consider this a handy guide to why you are wrong and should fuck off at the first opportunity:
You’re overreacting! No one’s stalking or harassing you!
This one is funny, because it inevitably comes from people who by their own admission had no idea who Ana was until EG started compiling her tweets, at which point they immediately felt the need to come trolling her blog, filling up her Twitter mentions with abuse, and starting their own triggery Storify compilations of her tweets. My irony detector, she is melting.
This is the catch-all, and the most popular. Funny side story – I made the mistake of getting into it on Twitter with a particularly odious shitweasel, who abused and insulted Ana on Twitter, trolled her blog, and then got whiny when I and the other mods came down on his ass with the Banhammer Of The Gods. In his conversation with me, he insisted that Ana must have been lying about EG targeting her as a result of Damman’s tweet, because she was in the conversation about him prior to that happening. (And of course, those activists, they NEVER get involved in issues unless that issue affects them directly, AMIRITE??)
And then in answering interview questions for a Salon reporter (which he posted on a blog, which I won’t link to because fuck him), he claimed that it’s Ana’s own fault for getting involved in the first place, because EG never targeted her before this.
Geez, pick an accusation and stick to it, will you?
Anyway. This one has a few super-special subcategories:
You’re lying about having been stalked before!
…Really? Really. How the fuck would you even know this? How could you know this? Ana has specifically said that she doesn’t talk about this very often, because she doesn’t feel it’s safe to do so. So you have literally zero information on which to make this claim. What, did you just psychically intuit it with your magical internet powers? Or is it your default stance to claim that a woman saying something that makes you uncomfortable MUST be lying about her own past and experiences?
You’re lying about having PTSD!
First of all, everything above applies. You are not her goddamn psychiatrist and you are NOT qualified to determine what disorders she does or does not have. Beyond that, I think a lot of people misunderstand what PTSD is. People mocked her, saying “Oh, what war did you fight in?” and “If she was really having a panic attack, why would she be blogging?” PTSD can be caused by a wide range of events, its manifestation can take many forms, and different people can and do cope with it and find at least temporary relief in many ways. And now you know.
You’re belittling victims of REAL stalking/REAL PTSD!
This implies that what Ana has experienced is not real. Please see above.
You’re just making a big deal out of this because you like the attention.
Given that the attention is causing actual literal panic attacks, and has caused Ana to withdraw (hopefully only temporarily) from a community she enjoys being part of in an effort to protect herself and others, I think it’s safe to say that NO, she doesn’t actually like the attention. Moving on.
Damman didn’t do anything wrong! You’re just a big meanie poopyhead for picking on him!
This one is usually accompanied by the insistence that EG would have seen the convo eventually anyway (MAN, I gotta get me some o’them internet psychic powers!), as if that makes it ok to just make it easier on him and point him straight to it. Alternately, it’s accompanied by the insistence that EG was banned from Twitter at the time and therefore COULDN’T have been alerted to the convo by Damman’s use of the @ symbol. Y’all… I’m gonna admit here, I am not a techie and don’t pretend to be, so I’m not gonna speculate on the how. I’m just gonna point out that within MINUTES of Damman giving EG a mention, everyone even tangentially connected to that conversation was suddenly being Storified by EG when they weren’t before. MAYYYYYBE it was just a big honking coincidence, but Occam’s Razor says he was probably notified in some way.
Regardless. I have not seen Damman claim that he knew EG was suspended (and really, it would have been a pretty unassailable defense: “I’m so sorry, it said he was suspended, I had NO IDEA he could be notified by me doing that,” so the fact that he didn’t says volumes), so I have to assume he did not take that into his calculations. So he acted thinking that EG’s twitter account was live and active. Which leaves two possibilities: either he just didn’t think about the possible (probable?) consequences of his actions, in which case he was breathtakingly, irresponsibly careless; or he’d thought about it, and decided he just didn’t give a fuck. In which case he was actively malicious.
(Another bit that comes up here is that Ana’s name wasn’t in the specific tweet where Damman mentioned EG – although it was in the extended conversation – so obviously SHE wasn’t targeted as a result, and she should stop making it all about her and claiming she was. Ok, Chuckles, sure – maybe the timing was just a huge coincidence, AGAIN. But even if so, Damman STILL put the women he DID include in the tweet in EG’s line of fire, and that is STILL NOT AN OK THING TO DO. You don’t get to excuse his behavior by saying “well, he only did that despicable thing to those other women, not to this specific woman who’s complaining about it, so it’s all good!”)
You’re just attacking Damman because he didn’t cave to your demands.
…This is just a reading comprehension fail. How did you people pass your SATs?? Look: Ana and others were and are upset, yes, that Damman didn’t seem to take their concerns seriously. They are ALSO upset that he then pointed a known stalker their way. These issues do impact each other, but at the core, they are TWO SEPARATE ISSUES. Humans have this amazing ability to hold more than one thought in their head at a time – they can be angry about both things. (This line of argument also implies that you still don’t think Damman did anything worth being angry about, but you’re trying to hide that because you don’t feel like you can defend that point so you’re going on the offensive instead.)
You hate freedom of speech!
Hey, noisemongers. Storify is not the government, and they have the right to delete content or ban users that are being abusive. It’s a private company. Not a freedom of speech issue.
If it bothers you so much, just don’t use Twitter anymore!
“If being stalked in public bothers you so much, just don’t go outside anymore!” I shouldn’t have to change my behavior because someone else is being an asshat. I don’t deserve to be punished for someone else’s bad behavior.
You’re too emotional to look at this logically.
…actually, this one was directed at me, by the aforementioned shitweasel. For context: over the course of the conversation, he had claimed Ana was lying about her PTSD. When I got him to accept that he had no grounds to make that claim, he said it didn’t matter because the REAL issue was that Damman didn’t do anything wrong. When I explained that yes, he did, he said it didn’t matter because the REAL issue was that Ana wasn’t included in the damning tweet. When I explained that EG could and did still target her because she was included in the larger conversation, he said it didn’t matter because the REAL issue was that EG’s account was suspended. When I pointed out that the timing made it plausible that he somehow got notified anyhow, he said that it didn’t matter because the REAL issue was that EG wasn’t even a stalker anyway, bitches be crazy, yo. But he didn’t want to debate that issue because Reasons. (I’m leaving out, for my own mental well-being, the times when he looped around to previous arguments and pretty much demanded that I cover the same ground I’d just covered, Because.)
And when this stirring feat of rhetoric failed to convince me of the rightness of his position, he declared that I was just a stupidhead and was too empathetic and emotional and blinded by friendship to see his LOGIC!!1! *all of the eyerolls*
In conclusion, if someone online is talking about having their PTSD triggered because someone is stalking them, and is angry because the stalker was pretty much pointed towards them by someone who should have known better… just… consider not being a dick. Just think about it for a little while. Do you have alternatives to being a dick? Try exploring those.