The Polarized Generation

By Catherine Geissler

SNL star Leslie Jones awoke the morning of August 23rd unaware of the targeted media attention making waves across the internet that had many people wondering, how far is too far for an internet troll?
Hackers replaced the content of her website with sexually explicit photos of Jones and videos comparing her looks to a gorilla. However, this isn’t Jones’ first time having to defend herself from online harassment.

Since her role as a co-star in the remake of ‘Ghost Busters,’ Leslie Jones has been the victim of online harassment. Why, you may ask? For simply filling the role of a character once played by a Caucasian actor. Comments written online by anonymous users show little to no restraint, with racist and misogynistic insults that all shared a disturbingly similar discontent – we do not accept a woman who doesn’t fit America’s idea of quintessential beauty.
Alt-Right conservative journalist Milo Yiannopoulos was blamed as the instigator for such targeted attacks when he publicly sent a series of tweets to Jones in July 18, 2016 including,
“If at first you don’t succeed (because your work is terrible), play the victim,” said Yiannopoulos. “Everyone gets hate mail.”
Jones responded to his tweet by replying, “You have been reported I hope they lock your account.”

Milo Yiannopoulos
Milo Yiannopoulos

These actions led to his suspension from Twitter, and speculated to be the source of migration of his followers from liking his Trump-esque uncensored comments to leaving hateful messages under Jones’ Instagram photos and tweets.
The harassment took a toll on Jones after she showed her dismay by taking to twitter to announce that she was quitting social media.
“Ok. I have been called Apes, [people] sent pics of their asses, even got a pic of semen on my face. I’m trying to figure out what human means. I’m out,” said Jones. “I leave Twitter tonight with tears and a very sad heart. All this cause I did a movie. You can hate the movie, but the shit I got today… wrong.”
Shortly after, prominent celebrities, and even presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, came to Jones’ defense, attempting to saturate the hate with a positive backing that grew to a trending hashtag #IStandWithLeslie. Katy Perry even introduced her young demographic of fans and social media followers to an unfamiliar term that not only showed these attacks to be racial, but also an attack on women and her appropriated role in society.
“Do not give your eyeballs to this racist, hate-filled, misogynoir crime. #IStandWithLeslie,” Perry tweeted.

Malcolm X
Malcolm X

The human race, even as far back to ancient civilizations, show a darker side to the human psyche that loves to watch the downfall of another person. Jones’ current experience with social media is comparable to throwing her in the fighting pit, as spectators wince and cheer in anticipation to see whether she triumphs or is defeated. Either way, the audience is captivated by whether the fighter will be triumphant with little to no concern for their personal circumstances. The real world is an ugly place, and it seems not much has changed in the American experience for a black woman. As Malcolm X famously preached, “The most unprotected in America is a black woman.”
Luckily, Jones seems to come out the victor, as she eventually returned to Twitter. Her reaction shows a level of class, strength and integrity that sends a valuable lesson to fame-seeking individuals who put themselves out there on the Internet that resonates with the age-old advice – you must have thick skin to survive in the public eye. This is evident in her comeback tweet:
“Thanks to my fans and friends! I’m soooooo ok really. And I will always be funny been funny through a lot in my life and I ALWAYS GET BACK UP!”


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