(This is a reply to a CuriousCat ask. If you want to ask me things, you, too, can pelt me with anonymous interactions at curiouscat.me/ask_mistyf. )
Someone asked me, years ago at this point, what my thoughts on cancel culture were. At the time, I had no idea. Now? This is the kind of shit that makes me want to stop doing anything social—Hell, the stress of it is part of why I stopped writing regularly. Fandom (and to an extent kink) culture has become a panoptic black hole; everyone is wary of everyone else. No piece of media can be trusted not to be a “cautionary tale”. Everyone is responsible for every other person they know and bear their sins as well. We police the shit out of each other like we are responding to some misplaced fear that our toys will get taken away from us.
We, the second and third generations after "the golden age" have had every aspect of our culture packaged up and sold back to us in tiny, unsatisfying chunks. We have been programmed to need those chunks, to believe that we must do anything to obtain them. The chaos of trying to secure these little bites makes it (deliberately) impossible to form a broader opinion. We are now, in this Age of Information even more ignorant of the world outside our social groups than the first farmers in The Stone Age. So much happens every day that there is never time to process anything than what is right in front of us.
I have a whole treatise in my mind on how taking a stance has come to mean that one must confront every example of it; because failing to do so every single time can be viewed by one’s reactionary peers as tacit approval. Thus creating the panopticon I mentioned.
Anyway, I took a bit of time to answer this because I feel what I say and how I say it is important—not that it will ultimately matter. Nuance is a causality of the Internet in the same way God was a causality of the Enlightenment. Both are dead, and my answer of "No, I'm not unfollowing Gretchen because she was a hateful bitch" will be the only thing most people take away from this.
Where was I...? Oh, right. Among all of the social media platforms, Twitter is a fascinating experiment. Someone once compared it to being at an endless, infinite house party. One can scroll through their timeline and see snippets and snatches of dozens of other conversations. If one feels up to it, they can even join those conversations; however, one need not feel obligated to opt-int to everything either. See something disagreeable? Does it present a vector for harm to others? If so, report and block; otherwise, block and move on to join a different, more comfortable conversation.
Blocking is the social grease that keeps Twitter going. Being adjacent to the Reylo fandom, I have seen (and blocked) some truly vitriolic spew. Still, I have yet to—and hope never to—reach the point where I have to, by default, consider that every engagement with a new person is going to be an exercise in self-defense. I legit fear the day when I gain even an ounce of notoriety as someone who writes genderfuckery erotica and people start trawling through everything I have ever said or done so they can get me canceled. There is a part of me that forever worries someone hateful will send a story of mine to all of my coworkers somehow.
What does that have to do with GFM? Well, for one, she does not seem like she would be that someone. In all the screenshots of her being awful, I have never seen her be the one looking for a fight. Yes, she can be an absolute troll. Yes, she punches below the belt. But her vitriol is no more intense than anyone else who is both marginalized and done with having a constant barrage of bad faith flooding into her life just for being vocal and visible.
As for the exchange in question… It was immature and in bad taste; however, coming back to my point about how Twitter is a voluntary conversation, the other party had to insert themselves into the conversation for this to happen, and then, they had ample opportunity to hit ‘Block’ on GFM once they realized she was not going to engage with them in a productive way. Further, if the other party is who I think it is, I find it hard to believe ANYONE in that argument is interested in seeing the other's point of view.
And, really, that's on both of them. Gretchen could have also used the block button instead of being toxic, but chose to lash out.
Ultimately, Gretchen is not a na*i, a fas*ist, a te*f, or a member of a dozen other overtly harmful groups (and neither is Pat, so far as I can tell). She is an instigator, true, but she does so in the same way a raven would antagonize. She is drawn to what fascinates her and possesses no compunctions about picking it apart and biting back. She is incendiary, yes, and I even hated her briefly after the infamous essay because there was a point that was not well stated. However, outraged as I was about the implication that being gay was just as deviant as being a pedo, there were still elements of the piece I took with me to consider—also, she has since edited said point to be more clear.
Regardless, it was not a piece of intentional hate. It was not a call to attack anyone, but it was one to maybe consider there is another viewpoint beyond one’s own. Which is why I started following her after the essay. Turns out, she and I have similar opinions on a lot of things, but with varying degrees of intensity. She is far more radical than I am, which gives me the opportunity to consider my complacency towards the media I consume and the culture from which it arises.
Working on this reminds me that I really should, like, do some actual philosophical work and come up with some sort of cohesive treatise or something. My thoughts in relation to these points are only little dribbles in comparison to the full extent to what I have floating around in my mind. I know I am not the only person on the autism spectrum—who is also queer and has a complicated relationship with their birth gender and has more depression and ADHD than any one person deserves—that has a graduate degree, but it sometimes feels like I have a world view that… just does not make sense to most other people.
Anyway, I have been stewing over this for almost a week now and I am tired of pushing it around on my plate like that extra helping of spaghetti I should have passed on. So, yeah. Happy to take follow up questions.