Award-winning author John Green was recently the subject of a bizarre, and largely unsubstantiated insinuation made on his Tumblr.
The post did not specifically accuse Green of anything, but rather implied that because Green’s writing is appealing to many young women (and young men. And adult women. And adult men etc.) that must mean that Green is guilty of some wrongdoing.
The trolling continued, apparently with the sole goal to make Green have to respond to the accusations.
They got their wish:
You want me to defend myself against the implication that I sexually abuse children?
Okay. I do not sexually abuse children.
Throwing that kind of accusation around is sick and libelous and most importantly damages the discourse around the actual sexual abuse of children. When you use accusations of pedophilia as a way of insulting people whose work you don’t like, you trivialize abuse.
I’m tired of seeing the language of social justice–important language doing important work–misused as a way to dehumanize others and treat them hatefully.
So we all seek (and seek to share) the jolt that accompanies outrage and anger. As studies have shown, the complicated dopamine rush that comes with righteous indignation is very powerful, and I’m indulging it simply by responding to the outrageous accusation that my work is somehow evidence of sexual abuse.
But the outrage cycle is exhausting, and while there are wonderful examples of outrage fueling long-term, productive responses to injustice–We Need Diverse Books and the UPLIFT both come to mind–too often the Internet moves from jolt to jolt, from hatred to hatred, ever more convinced of our own righteousness and the world’s evil. And getting caught up in that is very painful.
I realize that will seem privileged to many of you (and it is), or like an excuse (maybe it’s that too), or lacking in empathy (maybe so), and I’m sure there is plenty here to deconstruct and reveal my various shortcomings (which are legion).
But this stops being a productive place for me to be in conversations if I’m not allowed to be wrong, if my apologies are not acknowledged alongside my misdeeds, and if I’m not treated like a person.
I think at this point it’s impossible to continue to use tumblr in the way I’ve used it since 2011. My life is different (in ways that are both good and bad); this community is different (in ways that are both good and bad); the world is different (in ways that are both good and bad).
So if this blog begins to look more one-way, with more original content and less reblogging/commenting/answering asks/etc., that’s why.
I want to emphasize that I am ridiculously lucky to work on stuff I love, from Crash Course to The Art Assignment to writing books. And I trust that many nerdfighter communities–whether vlogbrothers or Dear Hank and John or the Wimbly Womblys or the kiva group–will continue to be open and collaborative and constructive.
Also, I’m not angry or anything like that. I just need some distance for my well-being.
Thanks for reading. DFTBA.
EDIT: To be clear, sending hate to people who say this stuff is counter-productive and only continues the outrage cycle, so please don’t abuse anyone. Thanks.
John’s brother, Hank, also weighed in on the accusations and bullying culture in response to an anonymous user’s comment.
Anonymous asked: Man, I don’t know what’s going on with tumblr lately but if you left the site I wouldn’t blame you at all. You’ve been an awesome person to follow and your videos are always a joy to watch. You guys don’t deserve this, pardon, bullshit from other people after what you’ve accomplished. I know a part of being extremely exposed to the internet community at large can create this sort of hatred, but this is ridiculous.
I mean, eh, kinda. It’s also pretty normal. Bullying happens, and I would much rather it happen to us than to someone less privileged. John and I are both extremely secure and receive constant validation both from wonderful friends and family and a bunch of strangers on the internet.
It can be frustrating and sometimes I get weird flashbacks to middle school, which makes me defensive and scared. It’s amazing how close to the surface that stuff still is, even 20 years later.
But the hate that we get is usually about people trying to exercise power in a world where they feel powerless and distinguish themselves when they start to see their former selves as uninteresting or unexceptional. I understand those feelings. I understand lashing out against things that other people like, or that I used to like, in order to help differentiate my adult self from my child self. There are healthier ways to do that, but I don’t expect every person to find them. If I avoid getting drawn into it (which can be hard) it becomes very clear that it has nothing to do with me, and the only proper response is, again, compassion.
Both John and Hank Green have received support from fans and friends on Twitter and other social media as the hashtag #SquarelyBehindJohn gained traction.
While the internet can, at times, appear to be a dark place, as long as one light is shining it will never be without hope.