why.i.hate.dc’s Liz is right—she did reply to my interview request, but I missed the e-mail among my daily barrage of spam. We’ve exchanged a couple of e-mails since I wrote Thursday about the the nasty comments on her site, where she seems to have replaced D.C. as the object of some readers’ hate.
Liz didn’t know the blog’s previous author, Rusty, before she entered the contest to succeed him. After she won, Rusty’s girlfriend, Liz says, “wrote me to describe some of the things the trolls had done to she and Rusty. She told me to be careful.”
Hence the paucity of personal details. In one of her first posts, Liz says, ” I did answer a commenter who asked about me with some general answers ‘I’m from the midwest, I moved to D.C. because…’ and they spent the next forty posts dissecting that information and speculating about what I wear. After that, there was no way I was going to give them anything. They still post things every day like, ‘You’re fat, arent’ you? Aren’t you!’ (I delete those comments) trying to get me to say something about the way I look, and it’s very creepy. No one ever asked James what color his hair was…”
Liz says she uses “use the same criteria for trolls that I always have for dates….if everything they say is negative and personal, if they yell or call me names, then they’re out. I delete the comment and move on. Some trolls have ended up being interesting once they stop yelling. Most of them, though, are just constantly whining and then whining about the fact that I removed their last whine. It’s boring.”
I asked her whether she thought the trolls are former fans of the blog or if they’re the same people who Rusty’s girlfriend warned her about. She says her “worst offender” is the latter but that one of her “most persistent” detractors says he was a friend of Rusty. “Both of them sounded like first-class jerks though,” she says.
Finally, I told her I was often surprised at the tenor of the comments directed at women online. Nobody talks about Cherkis‘ looks or his ethnic background when he pisses them off. But, well, check out some of these charmers.
Liz isn’t buying such facile explanations, at least not in her case. “I don’t think I get anger for being a woman. However, I think the anger I do get is more likely to be expressed in a certain way because I’m a woman. When trolls comment about women, it seems like stereotypes provide a common thread that different people can relate to.”
After all, Liz says, “trolls just want to be heard no matter what. Rusty left up all comments, so they posted death threats. I took down the death threats so then they posted personal comments. I took down the personal comments so THEN they posted complaints about the writing. I left those up, and they started posting personal comments paired with complaints about the writing.”
In the e-mail before that one, I asked her if she in fact hates D.C. “I think something the trolls respond to is that I tend not to deal in absolutes,” she says. “James was very much, ‘You sir, are a MORON, if you don’t agree with me.’ I’m more, ‘Sheesh. This is such a mess…’ But the one time I use the word ‘Moron,’ (I was just feeling grouchy) the trolls fall all over themselves to say my writing has improved?”